One hundred and forty million babies are born every year worldwide. That’s more than four births every second. If you take a breath, hold it in, and exhale, in those six seconds about twenty-five babies have just taken their first breath.
One hundred and forty million is mind-boggling.
Capitalists celebrate these 140 million annual births because each new life is another customer to boost revenue. Conversely, environmentalists are concerned by these 140 million new arrivals because each new person will further deplete precious resources.
While many capitalists are excited by the opportunity of exploitation, and many environmentalists fear the exploitation of resources, we as Seventh-day Adventists, dedicated followers of Jesus, also should be very attentive to these 140 million new lives—but for different reasons.
Actually, this number should seize our attention.
We are Adventists. Adventists believe that Jesus will return soon and, when He returns, the dead and the living, in Christ, will become immortal, imperishable, and incorruptible. This is our victory (1 Cor 15:51–55). Everyone deserves to know how they can have this victory.
Adventists know how humanity can have this victory—only through Jesus. The Bible teaches that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, ESV).
But don’t miss these very important points. Not everyone will be saved. Not all will have that victory. Not all will have eternal life.
While we celebrate that our global membership has surpassed twenty-one million, and praise God for every valuable individual, it has taken us approximately 180 years to reach that number. It’s sobering that every year approximately seven times our current membership is born.
The birth rates in so-called Christian countries are declining. Most of those 140 million babies will be born in circumstances that are ambivalent, or even hostile, to Christianity.
That’s 140 million people born every year who are candidates for the kingdom of God, but most will grow up knowing nothing of Jesus, His love, His sacrifice— nothing of His first advent or His soon approaching second advent.
While many are perplexed by dwindling environmental resources, there is a tragic unawareness that the love of God is boundless. There is an abundance of grace to save each precious individual.
If we are going to fulfill the Great Commission, we obviously need to do things differently and—dare I write it—better. Our denominational growth rate is not keeping pace with the global birth rate.
What can we learn from the earliest followers of Jesus, who encountered even more daunting numbers? Acts 1:15 indicates that the total number of believers was a mere 120. They trusted the irrevocable promises of Jesus: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, ESV). “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20, ESV).
They had an experience with Jesus Christ that transformed their lives. Fishing, tax collecting, and other previous occupations were no longer the priority. They were now obsessed with sharing Jesus.
They prayed, studied the Word, sought and received the Holy Spirit, and shared resources. Everything available to them was employed for sharing the gospel—their voices, homes, meals, time, talents, and finances. Even Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:14–15) and Paul’s handkerchiefs (Acts 19:11–12) were used for ministry.
Dear fellow elders, deacons, and deaconesses, do those 140 million precious souls speak to your heart? What can you do to share the grace of Jesus with those who need salvation? Today, God has a role, a special purpose, for everyone—for every elder, deacon, and deaconess. The talents and resources of ordinary people, like you and me, can be used so that others may discover eternal life through Jesus.
ANTHONY R. KENT | General Conference Associate Ministerial Secretary