Top regional leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist world church yesterday highlighted evangelism efforts in their territories during the Council on Evangelism and Witness report to Annual Council.
Presidents of many of the denomination’s 13 world divisions gave regional updates on the global distribution of The Great Hope, an abridged version of church co-founder Ellen G. White’s classic book, “The Great Controversy.”
Euro-Asia Division President Guillermo Biaggi said even children there are joining in the effort. He told the story of Oleg, a first-grader who recently spent his small savings to purchase an abridged copy of the title, called “The Great Hope,” for his teacher. Oleg’s classmates followed suit, he added, each emptying their savings to buy books.
“It’s incredible how even children can be revived. If they are being touched by the Holy Spirit and used by the Lord to witness, how much more can we do for the Lord?” Biaggi said.
Adventists in the Euro-Asia Division, which spans 11 time zones, have distributed more than 1 million copies of “The Great Hope” as of July. Church members there also write, publish and distribute 1.5 million copies of an outreach newspaper every month, Biaggi said.
In Ukraine, the church’s official television network in August received authorization to broadcast nationwide on 600 cable networks, marking the first time a Protestant broadcaster has received a broadcast license in the Eastern European country.
In another regional report, North American Division President Dan Jackson introduced Jose Cortes, president of the church’s New Jersey Conference. There, a $1.2 million outreach initiative modeled after the Mission Caleb initiative in South America has seen 86 church plants and small groups established in New Jersey, including Bible study groups on the campus of Rutgers and Princeton universities.
“This isn’t a region that typically comes to mind when you think of church-planting,” said Mike Ryan, an Adventist world church general vice president.
Some 4,000 new believers are meeting in homes and rented facilities, Cortes said.
“Churches sometimes pray for three minutes and then fight for six hours. We decided to stop that [in New Jersey]. It’s good to plan, good to talk, but now the time has come to work,” Cortes said.
Barry Oliver, president of the church’s South Pacific Division, said good internal communication is the foundation to integrated outreach efforts.
“We believe the church is as strong as the communication networks that are set up within the church,” Oliver said, citing Record InFocus, the division’s half-hour news program, and other regional church communication channels.
South American Division President Erton Kohler reported on major outreach and book distribution projects. The region is known for its large-scale outreach efforts. In one day this year, church members there distributed a record 25 million copies of “The Great Hope.”
Next year, Kohler said the region plans to focus on mission to large urban centers, with 79 cities in South America targeted for significant outreach. At last year’s Annual Council, Adventist world church President Ted N. C. Wilson first called on church leadership to prioritize mission to cities, where half of the world’s population now lives.
“Christ’s example tells us that mission cannot be done by remote control, from a distance,” said Gary Krause, director of the church’s Office of Adventist Mission. “Jesus showed us that we can’t expect people to come to us. We actually have to go where they are.”
Krause said Adventist Mission is developing curricula to support local church leaders who wish to establish centers of influence, a term coined by Ellen White that refers to outreach conducted beyond the parameters of the traditional church setting.
Centers of influence, or “Life Hope Centers,” can range from dental clinics and health education centers to language schools and Internet cafes, church leaders said. One church region even has plans to open an ice cream shop with an attached reading room.
“There are so many ways we can bless local communities, whether it’s through literacy training, health screenings, after-school care or small businesses,” said Rick McEdward, who heads up the Adventist Church’s Global Mission Religious Study Centers.
Ultimately, church leaders want to build confidence by meeting needs, Krause said. “We need to build bridges to the community – not preaching at people, not expecting them to come to us, but by going to them and putting Jesus’ method into practice.”