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Adventist Church president challenges members to minister to the cities during his 2017 Annual Council Sermon

Transcription of Ted N.C. Wilson’s, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Sabbath sermon during the October 2017 Annual Council.

“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.  But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”  Matthew 9:35-38. 

“The message that I am bidden to bear to our people at this time is, Work the cities without delay, for time is short.  The Lord has kept this work before us for the last twenty years or more.  A little has been done in a few places, but much more might be done.  When I think of the many cities yet unwarned, I cannot rest.  It is distressing to think that they have been neglected so long. A few have borne the burden of working in these cities; but, in comparison with the great needs and the many opportunities, but little has been done.  Where is your faith, my brethren?  Where are the workmen?”  Evangelism, page 33. 

“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.’  But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord...”  Jonah 1:1-3. 

Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, was one of the greatest cities of the ancient world.  It had been founded on the edge of the Tigris River soon after the Lord’s intervention at the tower of Babel.  Over time, it had grown so large it took three days to traverse.  It had become an exceedingly wicked and crime-ridden city.  However, as Prophets and Kings, page 265, indicates, God had “…perceived in that city many who were reaching out after something better and higher, and who, if granted opportunity to learn of the living God, would put away their evil deeds and worship Him.  And so, in His wisdom God revealed Himself to them in an unmistakable manner, to lead them, if possible, to repentance.  The instrument chosen for this work was the prophet Jonah…” 

God is still calling His servants today to reach the cities where there are many who are “reaching out after something better” and are willing to listen to Bible truth shared through various methods.  Christ wants us to go into “all the cities and villages” teaching, preaching, and healing in His name.  This is still His plan and longing desire. 

At the 2011 Annual Council, we launched the emphasis on “Mission to the Cities.”  God has been longing for a concerted effort to reach the massive urban centers of the world with His last-day message. The world around us today is crumbling and changing - politically, economically, socially, culturally, ecumenically, and in the natural world.  

My fellow leaders, we are now six years beyond 2011 and in a new quinquennium, with even greater urban challenges.  The world is in even worse condition than it was six years ago.  I believe even more today than ever before that Jesus is coming soon! What a time to reach out to the millions in the cities where the world’s majority population now lives.  Much had been done by the church to reach the cities prior to 2011, much has been done since 2011, and yet we have only made a small beginning in comparison to the swelling populations of the great cities of the world. 

God’s call to the Jonahs of today, you and me, is as direct as it was when Jonah received the call.  Christ’s laborers are still few in the large cities of the world.  God is pleading with us to reach these massive secular fortresses with the life-giving message of the Gospel and the three angels’ messages focusing on Christ and His righteousness.  We are to use Christ’s method of reaching the people as found in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy and we will review that in a few moments. 

However, back to Jonah.  We will not focus on the most well-known and recounted portion of Jonah’s story found in Jonah 1 and 2, his attempted escape from God’s command, the subsequent fury of the heaven-sent storm, his submission to God’s authority, his recommendation to the sailors to throw him into the raging sea, his miraculous and supernatural salvation by a great fish, his soul-searching experience of three days in the belly of the whale, and his being thrown up by the great fish onto the Mediterranean beach after learning his lesson.  Let’s now pick up the really crucial part of the story relative to “Mission to the Cities” Jonah’s second chance and what happened to a great city when God’s truth was proclaimed.  

Jonah 3:1-3 recounts, “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.’  So, Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord...”  Jonah had partially learned his lesson.  He did not want to spend another three days in the “innovation lab learning center” of a great fish’s stomach.  The story reveals that his “conversion” may have been somewhat self-serving rather than truly selfless evangelism.    

Thank you to all of you and many others who have taken seriously the “Mission to the Cities” call from the Lord.  However, are there some among us who have “sailed for Tarshish” rather than fully engage with the task of reaching the cities?  Have we given lip service and only superficial attention to the great task of reaching millions in the metropolitan centers of the world preferring to lavish attention and money on Seventh-day Adventists who know the truth?  Have we truly challenged our members to reach out to others in Total Member Involvement?  Do we really believe what we read in the Spirit of Prophecy? And let me tell you, I make no apology for the Spirit of Prophecy.  The messages from heaven through Ellen White are as profound and applicable today as when they were written.  Yes, of course, we believe in the Bible as God’s Word and our only rule of faith.  We do not in any way substitute the Spirit of Prophecy for the Bible.  However, the Spirit of Prophecy was given to lead us to Christ and the Bible.  We have received powerful, practical instructions from God through the Spirit of Prophecy and we are to be increasingly attentive to those instructions as we see the day of the Lord appearing.  

So, let’s reread Medical Ministry, page 304, that we read at the 2011 Annual Council, “There is no change in the messages that God has sent in the past.  The work in the cities is the essential work for this time.  When the cities are worked as God would have them, the result will be the setting in operation of a mighty movement such as we have not yet witnessed.”

Are we ready for a “mighty movement?”  Are we praying daily for the outpouring of the latter rain of the Holy Spirit or are we focusing on our own independent ideas pulling us away from God’s church and the true mission entrusted to us by heaven?  Are we personally and therefore corporately ready for the extraordinary Holy Spirit power from heaven that will usher in the very last proclamation of prophetic, biblical truth just before Christ’s second coming or are we focusing on personal views and concerns rather than our heaven-born mission?  Do we believe that the work in the cities is the “essential work for this time?”  Even if we are not running away like Jonah at his first calling, are we half-heartedly entering the proclamation to the Ninevehs of today in our second calling with only a self-serving approach using human ideas instead of heavenly-inspired ideas?  Do we have faith in what God can do through a humble and willing people? 

What are these heaven-inspired ideas for reaching the great cities of the world?  According to the Spirit of Prophecy, they are bound up in the practical application of portraying Christ’s character in personal outreach to others and the preaching of God’s Holy Word under the power of the Holy Spirit.  This involves the use of centers of influence, local members, local churches, teams of young people involved in a variety of outreach initiatives such as One Year in Mission and the 1000 Missionary Movement, literature evangelism, small group evangelistic outreach, medical missionary work and Comprehensive Health Ministry, health lectures, vegetarian restaurants, health clinics, door-to-door missionary work, health expositions, community services and social work that follow Christ’s methods involving Adventist Community Services and ADRA, integrated media evangelism and social media, counseling centers, reading rooms and Adventist Book Centers, Bible studies provided by every age group, evangelism by children, evangelism by young adults, evangelism by women, evangelism by men, personal evangelism and witnessing with family and friends, evangelism by educational institutions, public evangelism adapted to every context, outpost centers outside the cities providing homes for urban workers, training centers for urban missionaries, and lifestyle health centers, and many more Holy Spirit-inspired methods.  These are the profound concepts from heaven portraying an “in” and “out” method of working the large metropolitan centers of the world. 

Mark Finley, assistant to the General Conference president, and his wife, Teenie, have developed a wonderful “outpost” training center in Virginia called “Living Hope.”  Teenie, tell us about it. 

Teenie Finley: Well we are very excited about our Living Hope evangelistic center. Thousands of people are flocking to the suburbs.  Northern Virginia is one of the fastest growing areas in the entire state and thousands of people that live within close proximity of the Nation’s Capital are just flocking to these suburbs and small country towns, which 25 years ago were just a few thousand are now become growing cities.  

So, when my husband and I, moved to Dominion Valley in Haymarket, Virginia eight years ago, we believed that God had led us for a special reason, but we really didn’t know why.  I had the growing conviction that God desired for us to establish a church, a training center and a “Living Hope” community center.  Through a series of miraculous providences, God opened the door for us to have a church now that seats 250 people, a media center, a school of evangelism and a community health center.  Pastors and lay people, not only throughout North America but now even around the world are coming for our short-term, five to seven days, intensive sessions on church growth and evangelism.  Many of our pastors and lay members are leaving excited to reach their communities for Christ.  This past year, we conducted 19 separate health programs in our “Living Hope” community outreach center.  Our programs included natural lifestyle cooking, living to a healthy 100, stress management, Bethlehem and beyond and even a health expo. 

We also conducted several biblical, 16 biblical programs which included unsealing Daniel’s mysteries, Great Doctrines of the bible and biblical archeology.  The exciting thing is over 500 people attended our outreach community sessions with well over 250 non-Seventh-day Adventist guests that registered.  Since many of our guests attended multiple programs, we actually had over 150 non-Adventists guests that came to almost all of them and the response has been outstanding in our upscale gated community.  We’ve developed friendships, made an impact in the community and people are not attending our small group and taking bible studies and they’re coming once a week to Our Great Doctrines of the Bible series.  This past week, we just launched a new series in a hotel banquet room in Manassas, Virginia, not far from our center.  Over 100 non-Seventh-day Adventist guests attended.  We’re experiencing the Truth of the Prophets Words, “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.  And then He bade them, “follow me.”  It is our desire to follow Christ’s method and to give the rest of our lives in training others to His selfless ministry, to reach the lost people for His kingdom.  We know, my friends, that there are many, many on the verge of the kingdom waiting only to be gathered in.

Wilson:  “Thank you so much Teeny.”

Gary Krause is director of Adventist Mission and an associate secretary of the General Conference.  Gary has a great burden for “centers of influence,” as Ellen White calls them, in urban areas.  Gary tell us what God is doing through “centers of influence.” 

Gary Krause: Thank you, Elder Wilson.  There are hundreds of Centers of Influence around the world today and there are many different types of centers.  We have vegetarian restaurants, we have lifestyle centers, we have reading rooms, we have cultural centers, we have refugee assimilation centers, we have second hand stores, the list goes and on and on but the one thing that they have in common is that they are getting us outside of the four walls of the church and they are embedding us in the community where we belong, as Teeny said, “to mingle, show sympathy, minister to needs, win confidence and lead people to Jesus Christ.”  

Just recently I was in the country of Chile, and I had the privilege of visiting just some of the fifteen centers of influence in that country.  I had the privilege of meeting this young woman, Miss Shelly, tears came to my eyes as I saw her telling the story of this older woman from the community who she had personally led to Jesus through a center of influence.  A one-year-in Mission volunteer.  Likewise, through a center of influence there in Chile, this philosopher at a prestigious Chilean university came to Jesus Christ and the Seventh-day Adventist church.  A gain through the witness of a One-Year-In-Mission volunteer.  In Argentina, I heard the story of a woman who was ministered to through a center of influence, she said, “I wasn’t looking for anything but I found EVERYTHING.”  That is the purpose of the Center of Influence and that is how God is using them, Elder Wilson, around the world today.

Wilson: Speaking about “centers of influence,” let’s hear about two centers that are just developing and represent many around the world. Sam Saw, president of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, Somchai Chuenjit, president of the Southeast Asia Union, Peter Koolik, volunteer director of General Conference Development and Construction Consulting Service, tell us about what is happening in Hanoi, Vietnam. 

Sam Saw, Somchai Chuenjit, and Peter Koolik: Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, with the population of eight million, it is predicted by 2025, the city will be the fastest growing city in the world in terms of GDP.  Yet we only have forty, Seventh-day Adventist members and until a year ago there was no church there.  We need to find ways to share the gospel, in 2014 we decided to establish a strong presence in Hanoi to meet the needs of the local people.  Most property is sold by word of mouth and over a period of three years we inspected over forty properties without success but the Lord’s timing is ALWAYS perfect. 

Last October, we arrived in Hanoi to look at three more properties, we were discouraged because all of them were expensive and not suitable, but then, out of nowhere, out of nowhere a property fell right into our lap.  An Adventist businessman from Ho Chi Minh city, he contacted us, saying that his son had a friend whose parents knew a contractor in Hanoi who was working for a property developer with a seven-story building under construction.  The following day, we met with this developer and his family, we inspected the property and immediately understood what the Lord was saying to us, “Here it is.  It’s yours, use if for My glory.”  We came to Hanoi, this property was not even on our radar, yet we decided to purchase it immediately upon inspection. 

 Elder, this all happened so quickly and it was so clear that the Lord performed a miracle and led us to this building.  Construction is complete and soon this Community Outreach Center will be serving Hanoi, which is the capital city of Viet Nam, in the northern part of Viet Nam.  It also, this building will include the music book and a half a product store as well as an English language and music classroom as well as the health and wellness centers, as well as an auditorium for the local congregation worship as well as the international congregation gathering there.  We set aside one floor for the ADRA Viet Nam to have their office over there.  Soon this center will be serving the community in Viet Nam.  

Also, we praise the Lord for this building that He has given us.  We praise Him for His guidance and for His provision as we continue to live together with the GC, Unions and Divisions in peace and happiness and His people, we can continue serving the Lord and sharing the message He wants us to share to His people in Hanoi.  Thank you. 

Wilson:  Please pray for the seven plus million in Hanoi and our HANDFUL of Seventh-day Adventists.

Let’s look at another “center of influence” in the making Ramses Square, Cairo, Egypt.  Rick McEdward, president of the Middle East and North Africa Union, and Peter Koolik, tell us about Cairo. 

Rick McEdward and Peter Koolik:
(Rick McEdward):  As you mentioned, Elder Wilson, Cairo, Egypt is the largest city of our Union and the second largest city of the continent of Africa – second only to Legos, Nigeria and in the center of that city, is what we call Ramses Square, right next to Ramses Square is a large building and right there in Ramses Square is what we call the heartbeat of the city.  There is a massive railway station – underground subway, all the people stream right out of there and eventually come right up to the surface of the road where they see our building in front of them.  In the 1960s, Elder Neal Wilson helped to pave the way for the construction of this building along with many others, it has more than seven hundred seats in the center of Cairo, where evangelistic meetings have been held for many years.  Unfortunately, due to the ex-migration of many Egyptians over the years, of Christian background.  There has been a steep decline in this church – attendance, and the last time I visited there, there was a group from South Sudan of about 50 people and a handful of 15 Egyptian Adventists meeting in this massive auditorium, much larger than the one we’re sitting in today.  So, we have been dreaming and praying how will God use this building as we move forward.  

(Peter Koolik):  When I met with MENA leadership in Cairo, last November and again when I visited earlier this year, it became clear that we needed to rethink the purpose and use of this important site to meet the needs of the local community.  The Ramses Center is structurally sound, but it does need major renovations in order to be the relevant presence we know it can become.  As both an urban center of influence and a place to hold two congregations.  At this stage, renovations have just begun, the plan is to demolish the interior, which would then be designed to allow for multiple outreach initiatives that can serve the local people and bring them to know Christ in practical ways.

(Rick McEdward) To be honest with you, we can’t wait to serve the local people in the neighborhood.  It is the hub of the city and in this location, we will house a kindergarten, a language school, a health promotion center, two congregations and many other classrooms and services that will be able to serve the people all around in order to help them know the Love of God and to prepare them for the coming of Jesus. 

Wilson:  Pray for the people of Cairo.  You know we could’ve asked any number of you to give reports of how God is leading in your area, in departments that are sharing the Word of God in the cities, but we’re giving you just a little taste of what is going on. A marvelous evangelistic emphasis is taking place in Jakarta involving special lay teams.  GT Ng, our GC secretary, has taken Indonesia as a special personal evangelistic focus.  GT, what has been happening in Jakarta? 

GT Ng:  Thank you very much, Elder Wilson, what I see in Jakarta is absolutely astounding, considering the Muslim context of the country and of the city.  I think they have the best Urban Mission model on planet earth and I’m not kidding.  Because this group of people called the CMC group, they use the inspiration model of using the health message as an entering wedge.  They exemplify seven principles of Urban Mission.  Number one, they believe evangelism is a way of life.  Number two, they believe that evangelism is a marathon and NOT a sprint.  Number three, they believe evangelism is a process and not an event.  This is the reason evangelism goes on throughout the year.  Every Sabbath is an evangelistic meeting.  Number four, these people understand that evangelism is successful only when we follow Christ’s message.  Number five, the ministry was initiated by lay people and it is maintained by young people and the momentum is also maintained by young people.  Number six, apostasy rate is extremely low because they use Ellen White’s inspiration model of small group ministry.  The last one, the ministry, so far, they have planted five churches and everyone is still going strong.  One of the reasons is that, for the first three years, they will drink their mother’s milk.  After three years, financial assistance will be cut off, they become self-reliant.  So, these are the seven principles they have exemplified and we just Praise God for them.

Wilson: We could go on and on with practical illustrations as to what God is doing in the large cities of the world and interview many others.  However, this massive work is not and will not be accomplished only by paid pastors.  In fact, we need Total Member Involvement----everyone doing something for Jesus!  We have seen Total Member Involvement take off around the world, not because it is a new, innovative idea, but because it is what God has called for in the Spirit of Prophecy for decades.  Testimonies for the Church, Volume 9, pages 116-117, tell us, “The leaders in God’s cause, as wise generals, are to lay plans for advance moves all along the line.  In their planning, they are to give special study to the work that can be done by the laity for their friends and neighbors.  The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers.”  It is interesting, Total Member Involvement, “TMI,” has energized lay people in a marvelous way as it builds on revival and reformation, our relationship with Christ.  In many divisions, it has become a very motivating vision that has transformed churches into powerful soul winning agencies. 

I am personally asking that all local fields, unions, and divisions emphasize this amazing TMI method from the Spirit of Prophecy that God envisioned based on a constant revival and reformation approach and active involvement by church members. Let us revitalize our church members in every area of church mission life, including our Sabbath Schools with emphasis on Bible study, fellowship, and outreach both local and global.  Let us tie in our Seventh-day Adventist biblical lifestyle and values in the area of health reform, complete abstinence from alcohol, coffee, tea, tobacco, and improper drugs.  Let us live fully the health message with a careful diet and plenty of exercise.  Let us personally engage in and promote Christian stewardship, sharing God’s supernatural lessons in our personal lives.  Let us champion well-ordered, biblical families, a man and a woman in a loving marriage with a mutually respectful relationship. Christian families grounded in biblical love originating from God, men, women, children, all carrying a responsibility for sharing Christ with others.  All of this is possible as we lean on Christ for our every need, as we realize that Total Member Involvement involves everything we are and have, that giving of ourselves and talents for the good of others produces rich rewards on this earth and in heaven. Total Member Involvement.

Duane McKey is our worldwide TMI coordinator.  Kathy McKey works in Presidential as a coordinator of evangelistic and electronic outreach.  Duane and Kathy, tell us how God is using TMI to “connect the dots” of outreach activities and get everyone involved in doing something for Christ in the large cities and rural areas of the world----tell us about one focal point next year---the world’s largest city, Tokyo, and other large cities of Japan. 

Duane and Kathy McKey:
(Duane McKey):  Thank you Elder Wilson, as you well remember, just last year we had an exciting time as we went to Rwanda where we experienced the largest baptism in the history of the Adventist church with over one hundred thousand baptized. 

(Kathy McKey):  How did this happen, it happened because thousands of lay people were involved in all kinds of outreach from medical to ADRA.  Many felt, well that’s Africa, well what about Europe, what can we do there?    

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(Duane McKey):  Now let’s go to Nepal, where Adventist World Radio is broadcasting, global mission pioneers and Total Member Involvement, bible workers are working and baptisms are taking place in very secret and private places. 

(Kathy McKey): Duane, this is so exciting, we just are praising God for this miracle. 

(Duane McKey): Actually, it’s working in East Africa, just last night we heard that 250 thousand people have been baptized and East Africa is thrilling, we gave them 1,000 video projectors, ASI has given them the New Beginnings sermons with flash drives on them.  Seventy thousand were baptized in Arusha alone. 

(Kathy McKey):  Let’s go to Mandorla?, Philippines where pastors said, “AWR and TMI radio won’t work here.” But it worked with 9 radio stations and 36 lay people who were inexperienced broadcasters. 

(Duane McKey):  First, one village called in and said that wanted to become Seventh-day Adventists and send them a bible worker and then another village and then a third village and actually, Kathy, after the two weeks there were 15 villages. 

(Kathy Mckey): Wow!  I said to Duane, “every day is like Pentecost!”  Just before the end of the meetings we received a phone call and it was from a Chieftains wife and she said, “I am representing a whole island of ten villages, please send us someone to teach us so that we can become Seventh-day Adventists.” 

(Duane McKey):  Japanese pastors were invited to Mandorla to preach in English and we were told, “It won’t work, it won’t work here.  You can’t do that.”  But it did work when 48 Japanese pastors and lay people preached their first evangelistic series resulting in over 1,400 baptisms.

(Kathy McKey):  Our Japanese brothers and sisters did a wonderful job!  We were so proud of them, they said they would never be the same as they prepared for all Japan 2018 Maranatha.

(Duane McKey):  TMI did work and TMI is working back in Japan as one church has already doubled its attendance.  A Japanese lay woman is preaching right now, her first evangelistic series in Japan. 

(Kathy McKey):  As we speak, AWR is getting ready to broadcast to Tokyo, the largest city in the world of 38 million people. 

(Duane McKey):  AWR will broadcast health messages, Peter.  Designed to push listeners to health seminars in local churches by God’s grace it will work in 2018 in Japan with 115 evangelistic meetings. 

(Kathy McKey): TMI will work with the same approach in India for 2019 with 2,000 AWR TMI video projectors and 10,000 AWR Godpods.  

(Duane McKey):  By His grace, TMI will work with the Health message approach, the same approach with AWR Godpod’s in China. 

(Kathy McKey):  Folks, the sky is no longer the limit! 

(Duane McKey): Now we have Reachout Radio, we have Whatsapp evangelism, Facebook radio, what a time to be alive!

Wilson:  Please pray in a special way for the outreach in Japan. Our leaders there are gathering Spiritual strength to reach out to the 124/25 million people in Japan.  I’ll be there preaching next year but primarily local pastor’s and lay people will be conducting evangelistic meetings. 

We need everyone involved. Total Member Involvement.  Let’s start in our existing churches.  In some parts of the world, there are “settled pastors” which is a pattern from mainline Protestant churches as opposed to the original approach our pioneer leaders and pastors had for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  In the early pioneer days, church members were trained and guided by evangelistic and itinerating pastor and evangelists.  After being trained, church members then told the pastor, you go evangelize new areas and we will take care of the church and support your outreach. 

Listen to some fascinating counsel from the Spirit of Prophecy: “Instead of keeping the ministers at work for the churches that already know the truth, let the members of the churches say to these laborers: ‘Go work for souls that are perishing in darkness. We ourselves will carry forward the services of the church. We will keep up the meetings, and, by abiding in Christ, will maintain spiritual life. We will work for souls that are about us, and we will send our prayers and our gifts to sustain the laborers in more needy and destitute fields.’”—Testimonies for the Church, Vol 6, page 30.  “If the proper instruction were given, if the proper methods were followed, every church member would do his work as a member of the body. He would do Christian missionary work. But the churches are dying, and they want a minister to preach to them. They should be taught that unless they can stand alone, without a minister, they need to be converted anew, and baptized anew. They need to be born again.”—Evangelism, page 381.  “It weakens those who know the truth for our ministers to expend on them the time and talent that should be given to the unconverted…So long as church members make no effort to give to others the help given them, great spiritual feebleness must result.”—Testimonies for the Church, Vol 7, page 18.  “The greatest help that can be given our people is to teach them to work for God, and to depend on Him, not on the ministers...There are times when it is fitting for our ministers to give on the Sabbath, in our churches, short discourses, full of the life and love of Christ. But the church members are not to expect a sermon every Sabbath.”—Testimonies for the Church, Vol 7, page 19.

I want to urge church leaders on every level around the world to help churches and pastors focus on the mission outreach of the church with Mission to the Cities being a huge component of our strategic evangelistic plan called “Reach the World.” 

Let us personally encourage all others to aim our attention on the mission of sharing the three angels’ messages focusing on Christ and His righteousness instead of private goals, independent thinking, skeptical pronouncements, cynical criticism, aberrant theology, depreciation of our fundamental beliefs, antagonism towards our prophetic message, misguided social action as opposed to the complete gospel of practical Christianity, false “feel-good” existential religious experiences, substitution of emotionalism for solid Bible truth, cold religious formalism, disastrous false belief in evolution, and so many other distractions that the devil would have us pursue.  Realize that our own personal relationship with Jesus through Bible study, study of the Spirit of Prophecy, and constant prayer is vital to our leadership in accomplishing God’s vision for His church in these last days of earth’s history.  

Mission to the Cities is before you. Evangelize this world through the Holy Spirit’s power before it is too late.  Take the challenge and run with it!  God will bless our evangelistic outreach.  

Use everyone, women, men, young adults, including children in reaching out to the people of the great cities.   Linda Koh, GC director of Children’s Ministries, tell us what children are doing for Mission to the Cities.

Linda Koh: Yes, children need the gospel, according to Ellen G. White and research shows that children are most susceptible and we want to share the gospel with them.  How do we reach children in the cities?  The hundreds and the millions around the whole world church?  Let’s take a look at some of the programs that we’ve been trying to target children in the cities.  One of the most effective is Vacation Bible School or character building school in some places we call them.  Health expos, sports day event, music festivals, messy church, a passion week.

 It is wonderful, it’s heartwarming when I see a little child and all the children who come up to tell me, “I want to make Jesus my forever friend.”  We praise God for that because they attach.  Recently, in Inter-America Division, the Dominican Republic they have for eight months worked with children sharing the gospel, teaching the fundamental belief, reaching out to kids there through Vacation Bible School and notice on August 26, which Elder Leito can testify, he was right there and they just baptized 3,827 children and adolescents. I say, “praise God” because they have accepted Jesus. 

We try to reach them in different ways, we use children’s camp, refugee children ministries – one of our latest.  We are trying to set up preschools, kindergarten, literacy classes.  One I visited in Cambodia and we’re seeing many of them being shared the gospel. Health expo, health is the entering wedge of many of the ministries that we do.  Many children come, even the Muslim children come to our programs of the health expo and in Albania and especially Croatia we find the music camps seem to reach out many of the non-Adventists who want to come and learn about music, but through music they learn about the God who created the music for them.  

As we look at the different resources we produce, many of them are the health ones that we hope to reach them and we hope that we are able through Vacation Bible School to be able to reach our children.  So, brothers and sisters, Ellen G. White tells us in evangelism page 579, “in the children who were brought in contact with Jesus, He saw men and women who should be heirs of the grace and subjects of his kingdom.  He knows that these children will listen to Him and accept Him as their redeemer, far more readily than with the grown-up people.” And so, in His teaching, He came down to the level.  Yes, may we not forget to evangelize children. Aim lower, think smaller. 

Wilson: Thank you, Linda.

Comprehensive Health Ministry is vital as pastors and Adventist health professionals work together in “blended ministry” as outlined by the Spirit of Prophecy.  Denominational entities and supporting ministries are too closely cooperate in soul winning.  Dr. Peter Landless, GC Health Ministries director, tell us how Comprehensive Health Ministry is reaching the cities. 

Peter Landless:  Thank you, Elder Wilson.  The texts were chosen independently but were conducted and brought together providentially.  Jesus preached, taught and healed, He was motivated by love, He was stirred by compassion.  So, he went modeling comprehensive health ministry, which is really meeting people’s needs in a practical way by demonstrating God’s love and compassion and that’s where our marching orders have come as a church from our fledgling days that EVERY member should be a medical missionary, a comprehensive health ministry worker, trained and working everywhere but especially in the cities.  How’s this done?  

Mega expos up to 34,000 people, smaller expos throughout the world are being conducted right now in the 10/40 window with increasing alacrity but also increasing success.  Tobacco cessation and addiction recovery, so people’s minds can understand the call of God’s spirit.  Fun walks and runs which will be an intrinsic part of the Japanese union conference outreach and this is being received with great joy in that area.  Cooking schools so people can learn to eat better.  Hospitals, we have the privilege of rendering and this is a conservative estimate, more than 600 million dollars of charity healthcare, charity around the world each year.  Nursing and medical schools, training people to go out and be Christian medical missionaries in our cities.  Then of course, about 50 million health books, which have been circulated around the globe and continue to be a part of a mission to the cities.  

So how do we do this?  Because it’s too great a work for us to do alone.  We best believe this message because if we don’t believe the message we will not live the message, we have to live the message so that we can teach the message and so there have to be resources so that people can be trained and there are many of those available and once we teach the message, we can share the message and so we will meet people’s needs in a practical way demonstrating God’s love and compassion from the heart transplant being done in our Flagship hospitals in Loma Linda and Florida and wherever they are being done, to the simple loaf of bread in which there may be more religion than there are in many sermons. 

Wilson: Thank you, Peter.  Let me urge you to do what Peter said, “live the heath message.”  I make a special appeal to you, the health message is not some fanatical belief, balanced health message is YOUR future life, your present life.

Let us continue our large emphasis on Publishing Ministries with thousands of church members distributing Christian literature like “The Great Controversy,” “Christ’s Object Lessons,” “The Desire of Ages,” “Steps to Christ,” “The Ministry of Healing,” and so many extraordinary Spirit of Prophecy and other outreach books and materials.  Let us support Publishing Ministries’ “Missionary Book of the Year” distribution program.  Widely promote the Spirit of Prophecy distribution and reading program for church members called “Growing Together” sponsored by the White Estate and the General Conference’s Spirit of Prophecy Committee.

Our prophetic message is core to all that we do in Mission to the Cities.  The Seventh-day Adventist historicist understanding of prophecy and our historical-biblical approach to hermeneutical interpretation gives us the full picture of what we believe.  Do not succumb to the aberrations of hermeneutical approaches being promoted by some.  Do not fall for the false approach that we really are not much different than other denominations so let’s unite with them.  Maintain strong religious liberty and freedom of conscience initiatives.  Do not accept the bland neutralization of Seventh-day Adventist beliefs by individuals who say you only have to believe in Jesus and not doctrine. My friends, Christ is the center of every Seventh-day Adventist doctrine.  Doctrines are not some legalistic remnant of days gone by, doctrines are Christ’s life and teachings in practical understanding.  Jesus is the center of all that we believe and all that we do in His name. He is the One who accomplishes every good thing in any of us.  We are saved by grace and faith in the One who is our all in all. 

During this 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation reflecting what took place 500 years ago on October 31, 1517, in Wittenberg, Germany, with Martin Luther nailing the 95 theses to the Castle Church doors, let us continue to champion all the fundamentals of Protestantism, sola Scriptura, only the Bible. Sola fide, only by faith. Sola gratia, only by grace. Solus Christus, Christ is our only mediator. Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.  When so many today are making an apology for the Protestant Reformation or saying it is over, let us raise the biblical banner high and realize that Seventh-day Adventists may be the last major wide-spread denomination to remain strongly standing for heaven’s initiative of the Protestant Reformation.  Our biblical beliefs matter and they are all centered in Christ, our Righteousness, Creator, Redeemer, Lord, Savior, Coming King, and Best Friend. 

Let I John 2:24-29 fill you with hope and encouragement in the marvelous Seventh-day Adventist message to be proclaimed to the cities and rural areas of the world.  “Therefore, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning.  If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.  And this is the promise that He has promised us, eternal life.  These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.  But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.  And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.  If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.”   

We need everyone working together under Christ’s longing desire of unity in John 17.  The Holy Spirit will guide every step of the way as we focus on a comprehensive and sustained evangelistic outreach for Mission to the Cities that will be patterned after the urban evangelistic work being done in the city of San Francisco in the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. Ellen White explained this “beehive” of activity in the Review and Herald of July 5, 1906: “During the past few years the ‘beehive’ in San Francisco has been indeed a busy one. Many lines of Christian effort have been carried forward by our brethren and sisters there. These included visiting the sick and destitute, finding homes for orphans and work for the unemployed, nursing the sick, and teaching the truth from house to house, distributing literature, and conducting classes on healthful living and the care of the sick. A school for the children has been conducted. For a time, a workingmen's home and medical mission was maintained. There were treatment rooms, operated as a branch of the St. Helena Sanitarium. In the same locality was a health-food store. Nearer the center of the city was conducted a vegetarian cafe, which was open six days in the week and entirely closed on the Sabbath. Along the water front, ship mission work was carried on. At various times our ministers conducted meetings in large halls in the city. Thus, the warning message was given by many.”  

Please take the Mission to the Cities challenge seriously and submit it to God in prayer for your planning in every city around the world.  I don’t believe that we will get to heaven only to hear from Christ that we could have accomplished much more for the people of the cities but we didn’t take His “beehive” instructions in the Spirit of Prophecy seriously.

Robert Costa, associate secretary in the GC Ministerial Association, is providing evangelistic outreach to cities around the world.  Robert, tell us how God is blessing evangelistic preaching on Sabbath mornings and in direct Mission to the Cities evangelism. 

Robert Costa: Thank you, Pastor Wilson.  Every year we spend millions of dollars to bring people to the doors of our churches, but the fact is, every year we have millions of people attending our churches, many visitors, why not to use our pulpits on Sabbath morning to present the whole truth.  In other words, why not use the pulpits to do evangelism most Sabbaths? I’ve tried for three months, I told the members to bring visitors – these are the subjects for this quarter, they brought many visitors, I was so enthusiastic – I continued for six months, I continued for a year and the church began to grow and I continued for 22 years and I discovered very early in my ministry that this is the most effective way to do evangelize from pulpits and less expensive way.  

Treasurers were my best friends, I never asked for money because the power is in the book.  I challenge several people in some divisions, unions, conferences, churches, in India, England, some parts of Europe, the three America’s and they are doing it with remarkable success.  Visitors are coming, they are making appeals and people are being baptized and the church is growing.  Can you imagine that instead of having or expecting just one evangelist to come every few years to the local church, if every pastor, every elder take most of the Sabbaths to do evangelism from the pulpits something is going to happen.  Something is going on, let me tell you that the ministerial association prepare brand new sermons, visit: GCevangelist.com or the ministerial association website – you’ll have plenty of brand new material, state of the art graphics.  

The subject we are presenting, “Pulpits of Hope” that is the concept, we are trying to Tell the World that – my dream, Pastor Wilson is that every elder and pastor to become an evangelist.  Let’s not repeat the story of Jonah, that is disobedience, an act of rebellion against God who said to go and preach the whole message and above all as a pastor we must preach the word. 

Wilson: But, back to Jonah and his own Mission to the Cities experience in Nineveh.  In Jonah 3:4, Jonah proclaimed the Lord’s warning that in forty days the city would be overthrown.  That evangelistic message was effective producing belief in God and humility on the part of the population.  Verse 6 shares that the king, himself, took off his royal robe and wore sackcloth as he sat in ashes showing his remorse and plea to God for mercy.  The Nineveh Mission to the Cities evangelistic effort was completely successful through God’s power.  Verse 10 says, “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them...”  Our efforts to bring people in the great cities to the foot of the cross can prove successful so renew your commitment to Mission to the Cities.

However, don’t fall into the self-centered trap that caught Jonah.  Chapter 4, verse 1 indicates that God’s salvation “displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.”  Prophets and Kings, page 271, says Jonah “should have been the first to rejoice because of God’s amazing grace; but instead he allowed his mind to dwell upon the possibility of being regarded as a false prophet.  Jealous of his reputation, he lost sight of the infinitely greater value of the souls in that wretched city.”  How often do we only focus on our own independent thinking and personal opinions rather than looking at the larger picture and realizing as we humble ourselves God can work through us to glorify His name? 

God provided more lessons for Jonah and for us. God caused a plant to grow overnight giving shade to Jonah but then allowed a worm to destroy it.  Jonah 4:8 explains that the sun beat on Jonah’s head and “… he grew faint.  Then he wished death for himself….”  God spoke in verses 10 and 11, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored… And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred twenty thousand persons…”  God taught us a specific lesson of showing concern for the people of cities before it is too late.  Prophets and Kings, page 274, says, “The lesson is for God’s messengers today, when the cities of the nations are as verily in need of a knowledge of the attributes and purposes of the true God as were the Ninevites of old.  Christ’s ambassadors are to point men to the nobler world…”  Page 276 tells us that “The Lord bears long with men, and with cities, mercifully giving warnings to save them from divine wrath; but a time will come when pleadings for mercy will no longer be heard…”  Page 278 warns that “The conditions prevailing in society, and especially in the great cities of the nations, proclaim in thunder tones that the hour of God’s judgment is come and that the end of all things earthly is at hand.  We are standing on the threshold of the crisis of the ages.”

It is in this environment that Doug Venn, Adventist Mission coordinator for urban outreach, works.  Doug has a great burden for the cities of the world……in fact, he has produced a mission video series entitled, “I Want this City.”  Doug, we need a new, young worldwide group of lay people, young adults, and pastor/evangelists who will proclaim God’s prophetic message in evangelistic outreach in Mission to the Cities.  Evangelism in the cities of the world is alive.  Total Member Involvement is alive.  Doug, challenge all of us and especially young people to engage in Mission to the Cities and Total Member Involvement as we are revived and reformed through the Lord’s power. 

Doug Venn:  Thank you, Pastor Wilson.  I have been moved and challenged and I accept the challenge to be reconverted for Mission to the Cities, for Christ, Mission to the Cities, Pastor Wilson.  As the Spirit of Prophecy said, that too bad there wasn’t a baptistery here today, I would be first to be re-baptized for His Mission to the Cities and I don’t know, but we should do a call here today for these leaders here, how many of you would also join me in being re-baptized for this Mission to the Cities to have our hearts converted for His compassion for those who are lost and those who do not know their right hand from their left.  How many in this house would you join me in reconverting and rededication and re-baptism as it were for Christ Mission to the Cities.  

Thank you for raising your hand, but today, as Pastor Wilson has said, the challenge and the appeal is not for you, it is for the young people who you represent, who are in our schools, our elementary schools, our secondary or academies, our colleges and universities for your young people who are represented in your territories. 

 At age of 19, I answered the call as a Walla Walla student, I went to Micronesia to give my heart and I joined Pastor, Rick McEdward, we were young at that time but that call comes to us again today – the call today, is the call to Nineveh, Pastor Wilson for our young people and that’s the call for a changed heart, a call to care for others and not for ourselves.  It is a call then for mission and that is the call – just like the Ninevites, were a different culture and a different religion and world view.  That call comes to us to reach the Jews, to reach the Buddhists, the Hindus and Muslims because we are a movement of bible prophecy and with that – from that platform, we have something to say about Christ and preparing this planet for His soon return.  We also have the call for joy, the joy of creativity and service and we need to serve like Christ did in holistic ongoing ways, we need to unleash the creativity of our young people as they’re guided and mentored in our church planting and in this Mission to the Cities. 

I think of so many examples from around the world, when I was in Japan I learned from these young people, could we harness the dog parks of Tokyo to be places where we could minister to those pet owners in Tokyo.  I think of Gaotang 2018, next year in Johannesburg and Pretoria and how we can unleash the young people there to serve in that city, as well as in TED – they have young people doing street art using 100,000 nails of Jesus to bring conversations in that secular city, there in TED.  I also see what is going on here in NAD in one of the cities that I served for many years in Spokane, Washington – there we see one of my physicians, who I mentored as a church planter, he is stepping away from his medical practice, Dr.  John Torcato, and is working with young medical students for two years – for what purpose? For making disciples in the city through church planting.  Again, we see total member involvement of our young people, sacrificing their lives and using their creative service for bring Christ to the cities. 

We also see, for our young people and young adults, a call to engage in the Mission of Christ, a call to sacrifice and what does that mean?  We would like to see every school doing something for Jesus, something for their cities that surround them.  I saw, I was just at UNASP, near Sao Paulo and there I got to talk to the college president, and there I learned that students from that university are doing 30 creative ways that are sustainable in those five cities that surround that beautiful campus. From Skateboarders, they are actually ministering to them – staff and faculty are helping to supervise the student led drug rehabilitation clinics.  That was so thrilling to see, engagement and sacrifice of our young people for mission to the cities, for total member involvement.  I appeal to the young people to engage in the ways that we have – maybe God is calling you to raise something up, but we as and Adventist family have our Adventist volunteer services, one year in mission, One-thousand missionary movement, His hands, project Caleb as well as our supporting ministries who are helping us, if we can align them for following Christ’s method alone, answering that call because right now if we can listen and have our hearts converted and we can see how Christ is calling – should I not have concern, pity, compassion for those in the great city who do not know their right hand from their left.  So, that is my appeal for our young people today that we can engage in Christ’s mission to the city.

Wilson:  Well you’ve heard this appeal. My fellow leaders, the time to work the cities is NOW!  You have heard this appeal.  You have understood the challenge.  What is your decision?  For years we have had heaven’s instructions from the Spirit of Prophecy regarding Mission to the Cities.  Are we listening and pleading in prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in accomplishing these instructions?  God’s directives are plain.  From that marvelous compilation, Medical Ministry, listen to some of the most poignant pleas regarding working in the cities:

Page 299: “The Lord is speaking to His people at this time, saying, Gain an entrance into the cities, and proclaim the truth in simplicity and in faith….We shall gain much instruction for our work from a study of Christ’s methods of labor and His manner of meeting the people……The Great Teacher laid plans for His work.  Study these plans.” 

Page 300-301: “Now is the opportune time to work the cities; for we must reach the people there.  As a people, we have been in danger of centering too many important interests in one place.  This is not good judgment nor wisdom.  An interest is now to be created in the principal cities.  Many small centers must be established, rather than a few large centers…. Let missionaries be laboring two and two in different parts of all our large cities.  The workers in each city should frequently meet together for counsel and prayer. The message that I am bidden to bear to our people at this time is, work the cities without delay, for time is short. In every large city there should be corps of organized, well-disciplined workers; not merely one or two, but scores should be set to work. More attention should be given to training and educating missionaries with a special reference to work in the cities…” 

Page 302: “In this work physicians and gospel ministers are needed.  We must press our petitions to the Lord, and do our best, pressing forward with all the energy possible to make an opening in the large cities…. This is no time to colonize.  From city to city the work is to be carried quickly…. Can we now depend upon our men in positions of responsibility to act humbly and nobly their part?......Let no one continue to be indifferent to the situation…. For years the work in the cities has been presented before me, and has been urged upon our people…. In every large city there should have been a strong force of workers laboring earnestly to warn people.” 

Page 303: “Where are the men who will work and study and agonize in prayer as did Christ?  We are not to confine our efforts to a few places…. In every city there should be a city mission, that would be a training school for workers.”

God is calling all of us to humble ourselves before Him and each other, to put away differences of opinion, to unite in God’s great effort to reach the large cities of this world, and rural areas, with the last message of warning and hope, the three angels’ messages culminating with the loud cry focusing on Christ and His righteousness!  The Lord is calling for a united witness with humble hearts and a willing spirit to focus on Mission to the Cities.  The marvelous Spirit of Prophecy compilation, “Last Day Events,” has excellent instruction for us regarding the time in which we are living, the time just before Christ’s return.  I encourage you to read this wonderful book---one of my favorite compilations.  In fact, for those of you who have not yet discovered it, we have a copy of this wonderful book for you.  Reach down beside your seat and you will find your copy.  I encourage you to read all parts of the book including chapter 4, “God’s Last Day Church.” 

I ask you to turn to page 208, Chapter 14, entitled, “The Loud Cry.”  Page 208 indicates that “During the loud cry the church, aided by the providential interpositions of her exalted Lord, will diffuse the knowledge of salvation so abundantly that light will be communicated to every city and town.  A crisis is right upon us. We must now by the Holy Spirit’s power proclaim the great truths for these last days.”

Ephesians 4:1-6 reminds us that we will be perfectly united in the Lord’s message at the end of time.  Paul entreats each of us in the Seventh-day Adventist Church today at this time just before Christ’s return to humble ourselves in a contrite and committed attitude preferring others and His church rather than uplifting ourselves and our own personal convictions.  Paul says, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” 

Are you willing to be bonded in the peace of the Spirit?  Are you willing to exhibit lowliness, gentleness, and long-suffering endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit?  Are you willing to accept the call of one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Father who will guide us in Mission to the Cities as we look forward to Christ’s soon second coming?  If so, would you quietly stand to your feet in full commitment to our Lord and Coming King? 

I ask you to turn to the person next to you and each of you pray a short prayer of commitment for Mission to the Cities and reaching every place on the planet through the power of the Holy Spirit so that Jesus can come.  Please pray together and then I will close in a final prayer of commitment after which we will listen to the Colburns play “We Have this Hope” and then sing it together as they accompany us.  Please pray together.