MIA: Mission in Action
Where are you headed?
By Ted N. C. Wilson
The man was on a mission—to terrorize, torture, and kill. Saul, a powerful Pharisee, was determined to get rid of every man, woman, and child who claimed that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed God’s Son.
At the trial of Stephen, Saul eloquently and logically convinced the people that the accused was preaching delusive, dangerous lies. For this, Saul was rewarded with membership in the Sanhedrin, giving him even more power to pursue the followers of Christ.
As persecution pressed down on the believers in Jerusalem, they fled to various places, including the city of Damascus. Saul watched in dismay as these believers in Christ “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Determined to exterminate all believers, Saul planned to pursue them wherever they went.
Change in Mission
So he planned a special mission trip to Damascus, a rich and powerful city of trade in the Roman Empire. With authority and commission from the chief priests in Jerusalem (see Acts 26:12), Saul set out on his mission of capturing all who claimed Jesus as their Messiah. But, unknown to this proud Pharisee, his mission was about to change (see Acts 26:9-18).
Because of his encounter with Jesus, “Saul now saw that in persecuting the followers of Jesus he had in reality been doing the work of Satan,” wrote Ellen White. “He saw that his convictions of right and of his own duty had been based largely on his implicit confidence in the priests and rulers. . . . Now that Jesus Himself stood revealed, Saul was convinced of the truthfulness of the claims made by the disciples” (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 115).
Saul also remembered the speech of Stephen, and the many prophecies concerning the Messiah. Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, Saul of Tarsus, the outstanding student of Scripture, realized for the first time that in Jesus of Nazareth all of these prophecies had been fulfilled. Confessing his sins and acknowledging Christ as his Savior, Saul the persecutor became Paul, the great missionary, author, and martyr.
Truth in Jesus
So it has been with all of Christ’s true followers—once they realize “the truth [as it] is in Jesus” (as Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:21), instead of serving self, their lives become one of mission, seeking to win as many as possible to Jesus Christ’s love and promise of eternal life through Him.
We see this dedication to Christ and His truth down through the ages, so carefully traced in that wonderful book The Great Controversy, where we read about the many martyrs who would rather stay true to their Lord and His mission than give it up to save their own lives.
That same intensity of mission burned in the hearts of the early Advent believers as they learned about the soon coming of Christ and their salvation through Him, His work in the heavenly sanctuary, the truth regarding the seventh-day Sabbath, and many other scripturally based truths. They were so eager to share what they had learned that they couldn’t help but live lives of mission, sharing the good news with everyone they met.
Sharing the Good News
In a well-known story about Joseph Bates we hear the eagerness with which our early Adventist pioneers shared their faith. In the mid-1840s Bates returned to his home in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, after studying about the Bible Sabbath with friends in New Hampshire. As Bates walked across the bridge between New Bedford and Fairhaven, he met another friend, James Hall, who asked him what the news was. “The news is that the seventh day is the Sabbath, and we ought to keep it,” Bates told him. Not long afterward James Hall and his family were keeping the seventh-day Sabbath.
The pioneers were so eager to share the Bible truths they were discovering that the little group of Adventist believers grew from just small groups in New England in the mid-1840s to 3,500 believers meeting in 125 churches spread across a wide geographical area in 1863, when the Seventh-day Adventist Church was officially organized.
Go Into the World
As mission awareness continued to grow, the Great Commission of Matthew 28 became more prominent as the church realized the need to “go . . . make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (verses 19, 20).
In 1864 Michael Czechowski, a former Roman Catholic priest, went on his own to spread the Seventh-day Adventist message in Europe. Ten years later J. N. Andrews, along with his son, Charles, 16, and daughter, Mary, 12, were sent to Switzerland as the church’s first official missionaries.
Many more missionaries would soon follow, establishing schools, churches, publishing houses, medical clinics, and hospitals, ministering to the needs of the people and proclaiming the vitally important three angels’ messages all around the world. By the end of the nineteenth century Seventh-day Adventism had truly become global. The church has continued to grow, and today we have a presence in 209 countries around the globe, with more than 17 million members meeting in more than 70,000 churches.
Mission Is a Privilege
But mission is much more than just facts and figures, buildings and institutions. Mission is not a protocol of the church—rather than a protocol, it’s a privilege. It starts with each one of us when we accept Christ and His righteousness and the incredible provision He has made for us. Our natural response to His great gift is to be active in mission and share the wonderful news with others. How could we keep such good news to ourselves?
The pen of inspiration tells us: “A large number of precious souls are groping in darkness, yet longing and weeping and praying for light” (Manuscript Releases,vol. 4, p. 135). When I read this, I think of the more than 7 billion people in the world today, 3.6 billion of whom live in urban areas,* and I wonder how many are living in darkness, waiting for the light we have been commissioned to bring to them.
Reaching the Cities
This summer, as we launch the comprehensive “Mission to the Cities” initiative beginning with New York City, we hope to reach as many of the 20 million people as possible in that enormous metropolitan area. Based on biblical principles and counsel from the Spirit of Prophecy, this outreach involves a wide variety of activities under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, including the use of medical missionaries, health lectures, centers of influence, local churches and pastors, church members, teams of young people from around the world, literature evangelists, small-group outreach, door-to-door missionary work, community services, and social work that follows Christ’s methods.
Following the outreach in New York City, those who have participated will take Mission to the Cities back to their home countries, where plans are being made to reach, through God’s grace, the millions dwelling in the metropolitan areas of Kinshasa, Moscow, Kiev, Geneva, Prague, Hamburg, Munich, Vienna, Mexico City, Bogotá, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Luanda, Sydney, Christchurch, Port Moresby, Suva, Manila, Mumbai, London, and Lagos.
Mission for Everyone
What is your mission? Mission is all about people—whether you live in a large city, a small village, or in the countryside. Wherever people are, that is where we have a mission, a mission to bring hope and healing and relief. And while we minister to their temporal needs, let’s not forget to provide them with the “truth [as it] is in Jesus”—the bread and water of life that will satisfy not just here on earth, but for eternity.
You may not be a pastor or an evangelist, you may not be a medical worker, but no matter how old or young you are, no matter what your educational level, you can still make an eternal difference in the life of someone simply by smiling warmly and handing the person a piece of literature—a Bible tract, a magazine, a book, such as The Great Controversy or The Great Hope, telling them how much this message has meant to you in your own life, and that you hope they will find it helpful in their lives, too.
We are told that no one’s work is to be disregarded in the work of saving souls. In The Acts of the Apostles Ellen White wrote: “Not upon the ordained minister only rests the responsibility of going forth to fulfill [the gospel] commission. Everyone who has received Christ is called to work for the salvation of his fellow men. . . .
“It is a fatal mistake to suppose that the work of soul-saving depends alone upon the ministry. The humble, consecrated believer upon whom the Master of the vineyard places a burden for souls is to be given encouragement by the men upon whom the Lord has laid larger responsibilities. Those who stand as leaders in the church of God are to realize that the Savior’s commission is given to all who believe in His name. God will send forth into His vineyard many who have not been dedicated to the ministry by the laying on of hands. . . .
“Long has God waited for the spirit of service to take possession of the whole church so that everyone shall be working for Him according to his ability. When the members of the church of God do their appointed work in the needy fields at home and abroad, in fulfillment of the gospel commission, the whole world will soon be warned and the Lord Jesus will return to this earth with power and great glory” (pp. 110, 111).
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
* United Nations, “World Urbanization Prospects: The 2011 Revision” (New York: 2012). Available online at:http://esa.un.org/unup/pdf/WUP2011_Highlights.pdf.
Ted N. C. Wilson is president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.