Reinder Bruinsma, a great Seventh-day Adventist leader and thinker, is certainly correct when he points out that in many nations, the "face" of Adventism is changing as emigration brings new congregants to our churches. But does that mean we now can ignore a "people group" just because they are in the "old" world of the northern hemisphere, under the pretext that it is in the "Global South" where the church is seeing growth?
Pastor Bruinsma doesn't suggest that in his commentary, of course. And, I'm not advocating for this, either. In fact, there's a very valid reason why we should -- and do -- reach out to everyone. It's because everyone needs to know about Jesus. The 12th chapter of John's Gospel notes, "[t]here were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: 'Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?'" (John 12:20-21, The Message by Eugene H. Peterson)
The task of helping people see Jesus represents no greater need and no higher calling. For decades, Seventh-day Adventist Christians have recognized this, going far and wide to spread His message. Today, via shortwave radio, satellite television, and locally based TV and radio outlets, as well as over the Internet, via books, magazines and through in-person outreach events, Adventists are doing the same thing: introducing people to Jesus, whom to know is life eternal.
What has been an opportunity for two millennia is now, I would suggest, more important in these days. There are too many false gods, false saviors and false religions capturing the hearts and minds of spiritual seekers. Make no mistake: Adventists believe in, support, and cherish religious liberty. But we also know Jesus was unequivocal on the question of salvation: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me," He said in John 14:6 (NIV).
That is why Adventists do what we do to help and to serve others. It is to create an opportunity to share the good news that while man is separated from God because of sin -- Adam's and ours -- there is a solution, and it's found in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The cosmic conflict between God and Satan has an ultimate victor, and His "tent" is big enough for the entire world to find shelter.
How to share this? Not merely by words alone, important though they are. First, we must go to those who are hurting, who are in need of health or education or food, and meet them at their point of need.
Ellen G. White, a pioneering founder of the Adventist movement, said it well: "Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, 'Follow Me.'" (Ministry of Healing, page 143, emphasis added)
In cities, towns and villages around the globe, in ways large and small, Adventists are heeding this suggestion: showing sympathy, meeting needs, and winning confidence as true friends. Then is offered the greatest gift of all, knowledge of Jesus and His love.
No legislation must be passed, no benefactor needs to write a check, no scroll must unfurl from the sky for any believer to do the same. We each -- we all -- have this opportunity almost every day, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly through prayer and financial support. It truly is one opportunity we should not allow to pass by.
Mark A. Kellner is news editor for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines and a weekly technology columnist for The Washington Times daily newspaper in Washington, D.C.