Meeting in the city where the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s General Conference was first organized, members of the world church's Executive Committee heard a direct call from Adventist world church president Ted N.C. Wilson, to not forget the lessons learned from Adventist history.
Wilson spoke during a Sabbath sermon on April 13, 2013, at the Seventh-day Adventist Tabernacle in downtown Battle Creek, Michigan, part of a weekend planned to commemorate 150 years since leaders of the then-nascent movement voted to organize the loosely knit confederation of believers into a General Conference.
“This is a very sad anniversary,” Wilson told delegates gathered for the 11 a.m. worship service. “We should have been home by now! The Lord has wanted to come long before this. Why celebrate any more anniversaries when we could be in heaven?”
The early Adventist pioneers, many of whom had survived the 1844 "Great Disappointment" of the so-called "Millerite" movement, which expected the return of Christ on October 22, 1844, still believed in the soon-coming return of Jesus, Wilson noted, but now refused to set dates. Nevertheless, many believed the work of proclaiming the Three Angels Messages of Revelation 14 would be completed quickly and that Christ's return would be imminent.
Today's 17 million-member Seventh-day Adventist Church still passionately proclaims Christ's imminent return, he observed. Wilson, the 20th president of the church since its organization in 1863, asked whether the movement has been as faithful to God's commands and counsels as it might have been.
"Why must we wait on this earth any longer?" Wilson asked. "Why must we observe more anniversaries of the establishment of the General Conference? Are we guilty of not obeying and following our own counsels and going backward and not forward? God has called the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a movement to a unique message and a unique mission. When will we fully embrace it and remember God’s leading in our past and not forget Him? How long will we, like ancient Israel, keep breaking our promises to the Lord and following our own counsel and not His?"
In his Sabbath message, which was also carried live on the "Hope Channel," a satellite network owned by the Adventist world church, Wilson explained why the anniversary was important, not as a time for celebration, but as a challenge for Adventists now.
"We are celebrating 150 years here in Battle Creek because we don’t want to forget who we are, where we came from and what God has in store for us as His people -- a unique people with a unique message at a unique time in Earth’s history," Wilson said. "Jesus is coming soon! All the signs point to the climax of Earth’s history. It is time to proclaim the three angels’ messages with Holy Spirit power. It is time to reap the results from The Great Controversy Project. It is time to enter New York and many other cities with the power of the loud cry with our 'Mission to the Cities' project! It is time to fully utilize comprehensive health ministry to act as the right arm to the Gospel message. It is time to 'Tell the World,'" he added, noting several world church outreach initiatives.
Wilson stressed that world church leaders will continue their role of guiding the movement's many global operations as it continues to work to proclaim the gospel message.
"The General Conference will continue to stand firm for God’s truth as the overall supervising body of God’s worldwide work," Wilson said. "It will not lessen its strong guiding and nurturing role over all Seventh-day Adventists worldwide until the very events of history occur when ultimately religious persecution prevents organizations from functioning. The General Conference, by God's grace and His power, will not be decentralized, neutralized or sidelined."
Concluding his remarks, Wilson said the mission given to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, from its pioneer days and the organization of the General Conference in Battle Creek 150 years ago, is uniquely intended for this movement.
"This message will not pass to another group or church," Wilson declared. "There will not be another remnant church. You and I are part of the final church God has prepared. [The] 150 years of the General Conference is simply a call to move forward on that great journey on that narrow pathway, allowing God to make revival and reformation real and actual in our lives and in the church."