The first generation of Christians approached mission with a sense of urgency, for the apostles' command to "go into all the world" was an imperative that could not be denied. They were compelled by their life-transforming experience with Jesus, by three years of friendship and fellowship with their Savior, and by all they had witnessed personally. The early church was energized by its certainty of the Lord's soon return, "the blessed hope-the glorious appearing" (Titus 2:13).
We are an extraordinary global family, with a specific identity, a clear mission, and an acute awareness of the lateness of the hour in which we live. For the Seventh-day Adventist Church today, this sense of urgency is as relevant now as it was in the days of the apostles. What is our central purpose as a church? As we review the past years and look toward the future, what key values define us as a people?
Compelled to Mission
• Our witness is not optional
Without mission there is no church. As Ellen White writes, "The burning, consuming love of Christ for perishing souls is the life of the whole system of Christianity" (Lift Him Up, page 134). Christ's love compels us to share with others the hope and joy that we ourselves have found. This is our mission.
• Our witness is personal
Lay people are central to all the church's outreach endeavors.
• Our witness is global
During the Year of World Evangelism 2004, more than 30,000 pastors conducted some form of outreach, involving more than 4 million lay members. Adventist News Network, the church's satellite network, continues to grow in programming and global reach.
• Our witness extends to difficult areas
God's Spirit is at work in areas where previously the church has struggled. Adventist World Radio continues to reach across borders to touch lives where the church can't officially operate.
• Our witness is creative
In Hong Kong, two young Global Mission pioneers—Sonya and Phoebe—work in the middle of a high-rise residential area. They operate a center where children from cramped apartments can come after school to study in a more comfortable environment and learn more about Jesus.
• Our witness is long-term
When it comes to mission, discipleship and nurture are not optional extras. When a person accepts Christ and enters into fellowship with his/her family, this marks the beginning—not the end—of their Christian growth. A news life lies ahead, and a new believer must be prepared and equipped for that life.
• Looking ahead
How can we find committed, qualified pastors and administrators to lead a church that is growing exponentially?
How do we anticipate challenges and plan for them? Two new offices, LeadershipTraining and Strategic Planning, have been established at the General Conference, and these will become increasingly important for positioning our church in its mission.
Compelled to Community
• A shared identity
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in 2005 is truly a worldwide community.
Adventist work is now established in 204 of the 230 countries and areas recognized by the United Nations, and our message today is communicated in 882 languages and dialects.
We rejoice in the bountiful range of gifts and talents the Lord has given our church members. But we also have a common identity that we must continue to nurture, a heritage that must be shared with new believers. We are a prophetic movement with a God-given purpose.
It is vital to find ways to more effectively pass on this spiritual inheritance—through our schools, our churches, and our literature; within our family circles; and through new initiatives.
• An inclusive church
In the body of Christ, all members are valuable; all have a contribution to make. Are we doing all we can to ensure that each person is active in church life? Are we utilizing the talents of the women of our church? Are we listening to what our young people are saying?
• Staying close
It is God's plan that we are one around the world—bound together by shared faith and common hope in the soonreturn of our Lord. We need to talk with one another, defer to one another, and consistently look beyond our own four church walls.
Compelled to Service
The "abundant life" Jesus promised has many different facets. Our lives become spiritually full as we experience the forgiveness of sin and the assurance of salvation. Our priorities and values begin to change.
But this quality of life has a broader, physical dimension. Christ's healing ministry and His concern for society's most valuable members call us, His followers, to a life of service. Poverty, injustice, ignorance, and sickness: we are called to proclaim to the world Christ's victory over the evil one and his handiwork.
His Love Compelled Us
May we never forget what it means to be Seventh-day Adventist—living in joyful anticipation of soon return of our Savior. And I pray that each of us may ever be willing instrument in the hand of God.
"May the Cod of Peace ... equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Heb. 13:20,21)
Jan Paulsen, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Adapted and compacted from his report presented on June 30, 2005, in St. Louis as originally presented in the Adventist Review.