The followers of John the Baptist questioned Jesus, "Are you the One? Or should we look for another?"
Since I was a young pastor until today, denominational leaders have recurringly called the church to deeper spirituality, revival, reformation, and preparation for the coming of Jesus.
In fact, Adventists have become so culturally accustomed to revival slogans, position papers, urgent reform calls, and soul-winning goals that flow from administrative convocations, that we seem jaded to yet another program.
As one quipster put it, "Whether it's the caring church finishing the work in a thousand days of reaping to reach out for life with the real truth as we are united in Christ through global mission to win the world in our generation with special emphasis on sowing a billion in the 10/40 window, the next great project will appear at upcoming sessions as consistently as the next bus will follow along its established route. It's going forth is as certain as the dawn!"
So what's different about the ACTS! 00 initiative which was introduced at the recent spring meeting of the General Conference committee?
Perhaps nothing! It is entirely possible that this excellent idea could become nothing more than the next program which fades from view as quickly as the slogan makers can devise a new catch phrase.
However, before I share with you what can be different this time, let me affirm the reality that whether or not "this is the one" depends much more upon my response and yours.
You see, it is not the uniqueness of the call for renewal and spiritual growth, but the response of pastors and laity leaders that ultimately makes the difference. If I purpose to prioritize spiritual growth among my church members and begin by deepening my own relationship with Jesus, then results different than "we're still here" will come.
ACTS100 is encouragingly different because it grows out of tragic statistics from a world church survey conducted by Andrews University which showed that only about 50 percent of members regularly participate in Bible study or prayer, that less than 40 percent are involved in witnessing activities, and less than 30 percent are involved in activities which interact with their local community.
With statistics like this, we are delaying Christ's coming for generations. No wonder we must keep the slogan makers active!
ACTS100 (acronym for acknowledgment, communion, training, and service), must not rely on prescriptive "how to" implementation assignments with a "one-size-fits-all" mind set, but rather emphasizes 100 percent involvement with each congregation, pastor, and leader encouraged to develop effective methods for their area.
Acknowledgment of our great need for revival within the church. "A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work." 1 This must begin with the leadership of the church while recognizing that revival is Spirit driven and cannot be programmed or orchestrated. However, opportunities can be created where hearts and minds are open to the Holy Spirit and where He is specifically invited to accomplish His work.
Communion with God through Bible study and prayer. Hearing God's word and engaging in interactive fellowship with our Saviour will awaken our need for repentance and produce the fruits of revival. Our task: Devise attractive ways to encourage 100 percent of our members to regularly study and pray.
Training and Witnessing. Both aspects are necessary. Sometimes we have over trained and under utilized. The objective is that every member be equipped to witness, which Mark's gospel defines as "telling your friends what wonderful things God has done for you," and then deployed to share the good news they personally experience.
Service to the Community. The gospel commission tells us to go to the nations, not merely to await those who might seek us. We must intentionally seek them. We start by becoming involved in their lives and with meaningful activities that interest and benefit the communities in which our churches exist. Imagine the impact if 100 percent of our members become actively involved in their communities as a vital part of their church life.
Our president, Pastor Jan Paulsen, has encouraged every entity of the church to affirm and promote these concepts. The Ministerial Association is beginning a regular feature this month (see page 31) to emphasize Bible study and prayer, and to encourage every aspect of ACTS100.
At some point in time, some leader's call for spiritual renewal will blossom into the final revival before Jesus comes.
This could be the one! Or should we search for another?
1. Ellen C. White, Selected Messages (Hagerstown, Md: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958), 1:121.
James A. Cress, is Associate Director of the Ministerial Department of the General Conference.