I was born in India and am looking for a job in the United Arab Emirates. Please pray I get a job before my visa ends. God bless you all.
—Sunson, United Arab Emirates
I have several prayer requests, among which are believers needing a church to worship in; my mother is sick and needs healing; I am having housing problems. God is able, and I believe He can answer these prayers.
—Girma, Nazareth, Ethiopia
I am from Kerala, India. Here we are circled by different beliefs, and we have to address them in school, college, and work. Most people are happy to talk to me, and I tell them about our beliefs. Actually, some people I talk to want to join our congregation but they fear society and their relatives, so I need prayer from our Adventist community all over the world in order to win more souls to Him.
Please pray for a friend who is very sick. She is also depressed and has tried to take her life two times. My friend needs to be saved and healed. Please also pray for another person, a church member who has cancer and, while she survived her recent birthday, is still very sick.
Adventist Culture Thank you for printing David Marshall’s article “Celebrity Culture” (October 2007). And thanks to Marshall for pointing to the elephant in the living room of conservative Adventism. I was rebuked.
We’re great at denouncing the encroachments of popular culture in some areas, but we don’t seem to mind culturing our very own little Hollywood, replete with our very own pantheon of “stars.” But how worldly is that? The author of this long-overdue article skillfully extrapolated this celebrity culture to its final end, which is that “stars” often become fallen stars. Heaven help us if the onus for their apostasy hangs over our idolatrous little heads.
He identified a related problem of “camps.” My prayer is that those of us who value standards, but who are inclined to make them an excuse for separatism, will remember that unity is also a standard (Rom. 15:5, 6; 1 Cor. 1:10; Phil. 2:2, 3; 2 Cor. 13:11; and 1 Pet. 3:8).
Jennifer Schwirzer Pennsylvania, United States
In regard to “Celebrity Culture,” we cannot deny that this is taking place in our churches, not only in the United States, but also here in the Caribbean. And it is not only with preachers, but also with singers/musicians. It seems that a lot of people cannot resist the acclamations they receive from large audiences.
Several of our young people, excellent singers, have drifted away from the church congregations to the worldly audiences.
It is not necessarily true that a “great” preacher is a great Christian. The same may be said of singers. The attention has to be drawn to Jesus, but too many times the “performances and shows” of preachers and singers alike draw all attention to themselves.
The human flesh is weak indeed and too much attention makes being a Christian even more difficult. We should lift up the Talent-giver in place of the talent-presenter.
But we shouldn’t too harsh on these people, they are human just like us. We are probably no better should we stand in their shoes.
Norman R. Boekhoudt Via E-mail
With All Your Mind I consider the article “With All Your Mind,” by Reinder Bruinsma (August 2007), very thought-provoking and challenging. I have always believed that there is no such thing as a stagnant Christian. I am eager to learn new things, but the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. I fully agree that there must always be a close relationship with knowing and doing, believing, obeying, and sharing.
One of my greatest anticipations of heaven is to have a mind capable of learning, understanding, and enjoying the many marvelous wonders God has in store for the redeemed. With the sin factor removed we will have minds capable of and eager to comprehend beyond what we now scarcely imagine. As we pursue our special interests in heaven, we will be capable of handling every challenge. God will be able to answer all of our troubling questions mentioned in the article, and we will realize that His wisdom will always be far beyond our understanding throughout eternity.
Loneta Pauly Texas, United States
Why Lucifer? I’m always interested in Angel Manuel Rodríguez’s section on Bible questions. I was recently reading his article in the July 2007 Adventist World issue. I really like the way he presented the three points; they are very clear and interesting. However, questions will continue to emanate even after such a detailed presentation. Therefore, I suggest that in any of the situations that preachers and teachers face such questions, they should only read the Bible and emphasize the origin of sin in the perfect heaven as mysterious.
Noel Mhosva Solusi University, Zimbabwe
Adventist World on the Internet Hello, I am so glad that we can now access Adventist World magazine online. I’m in Uganda, and it takes a long time to get copies of this very good magazine.
May God bless you all at Adventist World!
Henry Namazima Uganda
Thank you for allowing us to view the magazine on the Internet. Whenever you feel discouraged, just think how many people are depending on your effort. We don’t always write, but we will be here, reading and waiting for the next issue to come. (We don’t always see a printed version: now we have access!)
Andre van der Schyff South Africa
Jesus Is Still Coming I am very happy to have read one of your articles in the June 2006 Adventist World, “The Return of Jesus: Is It Still On?” by David Marshall.
This subject (opinion) really made me very happy because I am one of those who believe that Jesus is coming, and I concur with Mr. Rosario Alburo Choi of Ulsan, South Korea (his letter is published in that issue on p. 29).
Thank you also for your efforts to publish this wonderful magazine. Please do send me some of your articles, and if you offer Bible studies please enroll me as one of your Bible study students.
Alex Stanslaus Mossech Lusaka, Zambia
While we print a Bible study by Mark Finley in each monthly edition of Adventist World, these are solely for the use of readers—we are not equipped to run a program with students/teachers.
Our advice to this reader and others with similar concerns is to contact the Seventh-day Adventist Church union conference or division office in your region of the world. We are gratified that the magazine is filling this important need. In addition, those with access to the Internet may visit www.adventistworld.org.—Editors.
There are days when angels sing, when all of heaven rejoices. At Christ’s birth the heavenly hosts praised God and sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” (Luke 2:14). What thrilled the hearts of these angels so much? Why did angels sing at Jesus’ birth? In today’s lesson we shall discover answers to these questions, and learn how the birth of the Baby in Bethlehem’s manger makes us rejoice as well.
1. What did the angel visitor tell Joseph about his wife, Mary’s, child?Read the text below and write your answer on the line provided. “‘And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins’” (Matt. 1:21).
The purpose of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was to ___________________________________
The angels sang because the Savior of the world was born. They sang because sin would finally be defeated.
2. Circle the specific name the angel instructed Mary and Joseph to name their child. Read the text below and fill in the blank. “‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated ‘God with us’” (Matt. 1:23).
3. Read the text below and list all the different names the prophet Isaiah used for Jesus. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). a.______________________________________________________________________________
5. After Jesus’ conversation with the woman at Jacob’s well, when the Samaritans listened to the words of Jesus, who did they declare He was? Read the text and fill in the blanks below. “Then they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world’” (John 4:42).
The Samaritans called Jesus the _______________, the ______________ of the ______________.
6. How did Jesus identify Himself during His wilderness temptation with Satan? Read the text and fill in the blank below. “Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God”’” (Matt. 4:7).
Jesus used the title __________________________________________________________.
Christ, the child born of a virgin, is both Savior and Lord. He met the temptations of Satan head-on and overcame them on our behalf.
He revealed the loving character of His Father to the entire universe. His death on the cross provides heaven’s ransom from the bondage of sin. Jesus is our Savior and also our Lord. The living Christ dwells in our hearts through His Spirit. He gives us power over the evil one.
7. How did the apostle Paul describe Christ’s mission? What two things will the Savior do for us? Read the text and fill in the blanks. “Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ … gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people” (Titus 2:13, 14).
The grace of God, which appears to all, brings salvation to all who accept it (see Titus 2:11). Jesus, our Savior and Lord, delivers us from both the penalty of sin and the power of sin.
As the old hymn, “Rock of Ages,” puts it so beautifully: “Be of sin the double cure, Cleanse me from its guilt and power.” What a wonderful Savior is Jesus! He saves us from both sin’s condemnation and its control. In Jesus we find deliverance, full and complete.
Look for next month’s lesson for help about how to live the Christian life.
QUESTION: In one of your columns you discussed the union of the human and the divine in Christ. Please tell me how the Adventist view of the Incarnation corresponds to that of other Christians?
This is not a biblical question, but its answer will be based on biblical insights. I will summarize the prevailing view among Christians, then try to summarize what Adventists say about the topic. Of course, with a mystery so profound as this, there is room for disagreement.
1. Christian Controversies and an Attempted Solution:Early in the history of the Christian church, the person of Christ became a subject of heated debate. Some suggested that Christ was two persons—a human being and God—in one human body. Others argued that He was one person with only one mind or spirit—the divine. Still others suggested that the divine and human nature were merged, resulting in a third type of nature, making Christ neither fully human nor fully divine.
In an attempt to resolve the controversy, an ecclesiastical council was convened in 451 in the city of Chalcedon (near modern Istanbul, Turkey). The council put together a statement known as the Chalcedonian Definition. It affirmed, among other things, that Christ was “truly God and truly man,” that He had two natures in one person, and that “the distinction of natures” was “by no means taken away by the union” (Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, vol. 2, pp. 62, 63). Although it is still debated whether this was a true definition, the fundamental ideas it contains have been accepted by most Christians.
2. Adventists and the Two Natures of Christ: Adventists have agreed with this definition because they find it compatible with the biblical information about the incarnation of God in Christ. It is true that the theology of the statement goes beyond what is explicitly stated in the Bible, but it still remains within the parameters of divine revelation. That Christ was fully divine and fully human is a biblical fact. We worship God in human flesh, not two persons—one divine and one human—in one body. Otherwise we would worship a human being! We agree that “the two natures were mysteriously blended in one person” (Ellen G. White, Lift Him Up, p. 76). But in this union the divine nature “was not humanized; neither was humanity deified by the blending or union of the two natures; each retained its essential character and properties” (Manuscript Releases, vol. 16, p. 182). The Son of God indeed took human nature upon Him at the Incarnation.
3. Implications of the Union of the Two Natures: The fact that the two natures remain distinct implies that in the Incarnation there are two wills. This helps us understand the possibility that Jesus could have fallen into temptation. God cannot be tempted to sin, but the human nature could. It also helps us understand that although the divine nature was omniscient, the human was not. Christ’s human nature had limited knowledge and grew in understanding the nature and mission of the Son of God (cf. Luke 2:52). The element of mystery remains because even though there are two natures, there is still one person.
Since the human and the divine were united, what the human nature experienced was also experienced by the divine. Here we should make some careful distinctions. Please stay with me. The divine nature experienced the feelings, emotions, struggles, and temptations of the human nature. For instance, when the human nature was thirsty, the divine nature experienced in a unique and direct way what it meant for humans to be thirsty, or hungry, or tempted, etc. The totality of the Person experienced those sensations. On the other hand, when the divine nature used divine power to heal, the human nature became the vehicle through which that power reached the other. When a sick woman touched Jesus’ cloak and was healed, Jesus realized “that power had gone out of Him” (Mark 5:30). The power of the Son of God healed the woman, but Christ’s human nature experienced in a unique way a divine power that it did not possess in itself. This was the result of the union of two natures.
There are many other implications of that union, but those serve to illustrate the significance of the greatest mystery in the universe.
My aunt has recently been diagnosed as having pernicious anemia. What is this problem, and what is the cause?
Pernicious anemia is a condition in which there are inadequate red blood cells. This is because of a deficiency of an essential substance called vitamin B12, or cobalamin. This vitamin compound is very important in the formation of red blood cells. It also plays a vital role in the building of DNA, which is present in all cells. Red blood cells and nerve cells are especially dependent on vitamin B12 in order for them to function normally. As discussed in the November issue of Adventist World, anemia is the condition in which insufficient red blood cells (hemoglobin) exist to carry oxygen to the body for all its needs (energy production, metabolism, and simply staying alive optimally). This places a strain on the heart and many other organs.
In the case of pernicious anemia, associated symptoms and signs of nerve dysfunction are often exhibited. These can include the loss of ability to feel vibration in the limbs and the position of the toes in relation to the feet. This dysfunction usually starts in the legs but then later affects the arms. This is because of spinal cord damage. There may be progression to psychiatric disorders and dementia (loss of ability to think and reason). The tongue is also affected in the advanced stage of the disease and becomes inflamed with a red “beefy” appearance. Ulcers on the tongue may also appear.
Pernicious anemia may be associated with autoimmune diseases such as those that affect the thyroid, adrenal glands, skin, ovaries, or pancreas. Other causes of poor absorption of B12 include stomach and/or bowel surgery, certain cancers, and bacterial infections.
Pernicious anemia is one of a group of anemias called megaloblastic (or large cell) anemias. These anemias may have a variety of causes, including nutritional vitamin B12 deficiency, folic acid deficiency, parasitic infestations, chemotherapy, certain medications, and alcohol.
What is the treatment for this kind of anemia? Pernicious anemia results from the inability of the body to absorb vitamin B12 taken in food or any oral form. It is therefore necessary to give vitamin B12 injections on a regular basis for life. These injections are given into the muscle.
If the anemia is caused by a nutritional lack of B12 in the diet (and there is no absorption problem from the bowel), adding the appropriate foods and/or vitamin B12 supplements by mouth is usually sufficient. The treatment needs to be monitored to ensure an adequate response. This is shown by a return of the red cells to their normal size and function.
Pernicious anemia is a disease condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated in good time. When treated appropriately and in time, not only does the anemia reverse but the damage to the nervous and other systems resolves. If the condition is neglected, permanent damage and even death can occur.
What are the sources of vitamin B12? Vitamin B12 is produced only by microorganisms, and humans receive vitamin B12 only from the diet. It is present only in foods of animal origin (including milk and eggs). Some claim that vitamin B12 can be obtained from vegetables; this is from bacterial contamination and manure in which the plants are grown and is both unhygienic and insufficient. Well-planned ovolactovegetarian diets (plant-based with eggs and dairy products) usually supply adequate amounts of vitamin B12. If one chooses to eat a total vegetarian diet, it is essential to supplement the intake of vitamin B12 in tablet or syrup form. Failure to do so sets one on a sure course for health problems.
The body has stores of vitamin B12 that last up to four years; it may take 5 to 10 years for the deficiency to show in a clinical form. The message is that the diet must be well planned and, if necessary, supplemental B12 should be taken.
Bolivia is a landlocked country located near the center of South America. It is bounded to the west by the majestic, snowcapped Andes Mountains that surround a high, dry, plain. A vast lowland plain spreads toward the north and east.
The nation is rich in natural resources, and is a leading producer of tin. But frequent wars and unstable political conditions have hampered economic growth.
During the 1500s Spain conquered the native inhabitants and ruled the region until 1825, when Bolivia won its independence. The new country was named after Simón Bolívar, the Venezuelan general who helped Bolivia and several other South American countries win their independence from Spain.
As with most other South American republics, the first Adventist missionaries in Bolivia were colporteurs. Juan S. Pereyra, a former Presbyterian colporteur from Chile, sold the booksPatriarchs and Prophets and Steps to Christ in Bolivia as early as 1897. Imprisoned and condemned to death through the influence of Roman Catholic clergy, he escaped death through the help of a friendly judge who had become a Sabbathkeeper after reading the books sold by Pereyra.
Edward W. Thomann and his wife, Flora, were sent to Bolivia to direct the work in 1907. Two years later Ferdinand Stahl and his wife, Ana, started medical work among the indigenous population. In 1911 they moved to Peru where they spent most of their career. On August 7, 1912, Rosa N. Doering became the first Bolivian to be baptized. Mission work has made steady progress ever since.
Doctors H. E. Butka, Harry T. Pitman, Elmer Bottsford, and others have been involved in medical work in Bolivia throughout the years.
A solid educational system has developed, which includes many elementary schools, and, since 1991, the founding of Bolivia Adventist University (Universidad Adventista de Bolivia). It is located at Vinto, Cochabamba.
La Paz (administrative), Sucre (legal)
Spanish, Quechua, Aymara
Roman Catholic (90%); other (10%)
172,638 (at the end of 2006)
ADVENTIST TO POPULATION RATIO
Located in the same city is the New Time Communication Center (Centro de Comunicaciones Nuevo Tiempo), which operates radio and TV stations and a Bible correspondence school.
The most recent evangelistic event was “The Hope Is Jesus” series, sponsored by the Bolivian Union with Shawn Boonstra from the It Is Written television ministry as guest speaker. All across the nation lay members linked arms with pastors to bring the gospel of Christ to their neighborhoods. More than 2,240 evangelistic campaigns were held as a result. In April, It Is Written participated in a series of reaping meetings. For eight nights Evangelist Boonstra preached to thousands of people who had gathered in hundreds of auditoriums to watch “The Hope Is Jesus” programs broadcast live from the Adventist University at Cochabamba. The result: 12,276 people baptized.
Nine pastors from across North America met with world church president Pastor Jan Paulsen on September 13 for an unscripted, unedited conversation, broadcast live on the Hope Channel. In a wide-ranging discussion these seven men and two women talked with Pastor Paulsen about the challenges of caring for a local congregation. In this interview withAdventist World, Pastor Paulsen reflects on his experience with “Pastors: In Conversation.”
Adventist World: Many people have seen your televised conversations with the church’s young people during the past four years—the Let’s Talk broadcasts. Why did you decide to open a dialogue with pastors? Why is this conversation important? Jan Paulsen: I feel that local church pastors are key—absolutely central—to everything we are and do as a church. They are the caretakers of the congregation. No matter who we are, where we’re employed, where we live around the globe, we all have one thing in common: we are cared for by the local church pastor. We come to church each week, and this is where we look for much of our spiritual nurture.
The pastors I met with represent a group of some 22,000 globally who have this very, very important assignment. It’s an assignment of trust, given to them by the Lord. So I wanted to honor these pastors for the sacredness of their task—for the weight and strength of the calling they have. And I wanted to acknowledge that this group, more than any other within the church, shapes and influences our spiritual community around the world.
The very fact that you convened this conversation implies that there is a communication gap between those in church administration and those in local church ministry. Is this the case? Yes, I think it is. I think that pastors have felt they bear such a heavy responsibility in caring for the church—in nurturing, strengthening, comforting, ministering to the whole Adventist community. And yet they feel perhaps that their voice is not heard directly by senior leadership in the church. And this is a very fair point. I understand this feeling.
I would like pastors to sense also that those of us in leadership wish we had a stronger linkage to them. We wish we understood better their challenges and joys, their frustrations and hopes—for the roles of elected leadership and congregational ministry flow into each other. Fifty years ago I began in church work as a local church pastor. But that’s a long time ago. If there’s a disconnect in my understanding, I would like to heal that.
I hope this recent broadcast is just the beginning of many such conversations in different parts of the world. And I would like to see this dialogue climax at the General Conference Session in 2010 in Atlanta, where we plan to profile the Adventist pastor during five prime-time slots—just as we profiled Adventist leadership at the 2005 session in St. Louis. We will look at the joys, the fulfillment, the challenges, the frustrations, the hopes, and the sacredness of the calling of those in local church ministry. I want the whole richness of that experience to be placed before the church. I want us to acknowledge, publicly, how critical their work is to the well-being of the church.
Many of the questions the pastors asked during this broadcast were very practical in nature, rather than theoretical or theological. Did that surprise you? I had thought that more theological issues might have emerged, but they did not. Yes, the questions they asked related mainly to the day-to-day demands of pastoring a local church. I sensed, for instance, a concern among many for the health of their own family life—that while they dedicate themselves to shepherding a flock, they do not lose their family. And this is so important. They need to make up-front decisions about their schedules, about getting the right balance.
They also raised concerns about ministering to culturally diverse congregations. A few decades ago a congregation was likely to be of one culture, one ethnicity. But today, people are on the move all the time. Pastors are called on to minister to people of many different backgrounds. And how are they to do this effectively? I tried to convey my strong conviction that finding a solution to so many of these issues must take place within local congregations. Take it to your church board, take it to your elders. Don’t ask your conference or union or division: they probably don’t know. And don’t ask me. I am too far removed from many of these things. So the responsibility for fixing many of these things at the local level is huge.
But on the other hand, there are times when it’s important to acknowledge and draw on the broader perspective—that strong connection to the worldwide church family. I feel that, within some cultures, access to the pulpit by church leaders may sometimes be more restricted than is healthy for the local congregation. It’s good for our members to hear from someone whose ministerial mandate extends beyond that of the local congregation. This strengthens the local church’s bond to the wider Adventist community. I feel that pastors need to filter this into their planning and thinking. Some of them don’t; they are too protective of their own local pulpit.
Were there any other concerns that came through strongly? Something I had heard before but which really struck me during this conversation was in regard to women in ministry. It came through clearly that the issue for many women is not ordination; it’s simply being able to function in ministry. Many women train for ministry but are not picked up for service in a local congregation. And it’s not necessarily a problem at the conference office but at the local church, which says: Put a woman somewhere else. This is so regrettable. My response during the broadcast was to encourage a woman who feels that God has placed a calling to the ministry within her heart to go with it; to train and prepare professionally. I have a strong conviction that if you are disobedient to this inner call from God, you place your own spirituality in danger. So the challenges that some women face in ministry—this struck me more strongly than it has before.
Seventh-day Adventists Are Growing Churches, Gaining Members
More than one million joined in past year; member retention is up
By Mark A. Kellner, Adventist World News Editor, with reporting from Taashi Rowe and Ansel Oliver, Adventist News Network
More than 1 million people joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the 12 months ending June 30, world church executive secretary Matthew A. Bediako told leaders of the movement during the ninety-fifth Annual Council of the world church.
World church membership stood at 15,433,470 as of June 30, Bediako said, with the church having added 2,859 people daily during the reporting period.
Bediako reported there is now one Seventh-day Adventist for every 429 people on Earth.
The Adventist Church, Bediako noted, has “never been in such a favorable position to witness for the truth.” But, he added, “This should not lead us into an attitude of complacency and contentment. This is the time to be more alert and active than ever.”
“For the past five consecutive years, over 1 million individuals have joined the [Seventh-day Adventist] Church every year,” Bediako told the gathering. “During the period under review, July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2007, 1,044,315 [people] were added to the church through baptism and profession of faith. Although this is [a] 48,774 decrease from last year, we praise God for these precious souls.”
The membership figures showed a net increase of 681,448 people, after accounting for 362,867 whose names were removed from church membership rolls. In 2006, church leaders said some of these adjustments resulted from audits of local church membership, as well as from reports of members who have died. In the five-year period ending in 2006, according to a review of statistics provided by the church and reported by Adventist News Network last year, deaths have accounted for approximately 10 percent to 12 percent of annual membership losses.
At the same time, the attrition rate seems to be turning around, Bediako said.
“While we were reporting a ratio of accessions to losses [of] around 45.03 percent,” he said, “our records this year show a healthy figure of 24.21 percent. This is a remarkable change, and we praise God for that.”
MEMBERSHIP GAINS: During his annual report, Adventist world church secretary Matthew A. Bediako said positive church growth statistics should not lull church members into complacency. “This is the time to be more alert and active than ever,” he told Annual Council delegates.
Bediako said that while “we are happy to see a new trend, … we cannot sing the doxology until we eliminate from our chart the los[t] and missing column. To achieve this goal, we need to exhibit in every church, institution, and on all levels of church administration, an unconditional love for one another. Let every individual who enters our church and institution feel welcome. We need to respect and accept one another.”
And Bert Haloviak, director of the church’s Office of Archives and Statistics, said this year’s membership growth rate—4.62 percent—is the highest since the 2002-2003 year, when the results of membership audits first showed up in the church’s books.
On the missionary front, Bediako reported that 96 new missionaries were sent out on full-term appointments in 2007, and 624 others returned to their assignments after furloughs and annual leaves. A total of 979 missionaries, “coming from everywhere and going to everywhere,” are in the field today, augmented by more than 1,600 Adventist volunteers on 12- and 24-month commitments.
Reports from Bediako and Vernon Parmenter, director of Adventist Volunteer Center, also emphasized the impact of lay member and pastoral outreach in many areas. Evangelistic campaigns in Africa, the Ukraine, Tartarstan, Indonesia, the Inter-America church region, and South America are all credited with adding to church membership rolls.
“I fully believe that the greatest days of accomplishment are still before us,” Bediako said. “Soon we shall see an increasing acceleration of the work on all fronts in the days to come. As a people, we have never been in such a favorable position to witness for the truth.”
He added, “Our church has gained a larger measure of respect than ever before. The publicity that has been given to the church’s worldwide activities has led many to ask what Adventists stand for. Many organizations, other religious denominations, and people in both high and low places of responsibility are ready to listen to our teachings and to follow the truth. It is, for all of us, a day of opportunity.”
Seventh-day Adventists are active in 203 of the world’s 207 nations and territories. Between 25 and 30 million people attend Adventist worship services weekly, a number larger than baptized membership because, as in many Protestant churches, the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not baptize infants.
Church income, mission offerings up An increase in ordinary tithes and offerings lifted the Adventist Church’s financial bottom line by $10 million as of September 2007, compared to the same time last year.
Juan R. Prestol, undertreasurer for the world church, told delegates that as of September 30, 2007, the church’s financial statement reflects “a significant inflow of tithe received during the course of the year, and an increase in net assets.” Tithe for the 2006 calendar year totaled more than US$1.6 billion.
“Annually God’s faithful servants, in small and large amounts, return $1.6 to $1.7 billion a year, and every dollar of that is as important as the millions that come in,” said Robert E. Lemon, world church treasurer.
Conservative estimates of revenue through the end of 2007 will give the church enough resources to recommend additional funding for projects and programs around the world through a supplemental budget, normally voted at the executive committee’s Spring Meeting.
Returning tithe is a “sermon,” Lemon said. “You don’t give unless you believe God is the Creator.”
More than 300 Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders heard President Jan Paulsen’s Sabbath sermon, October 13, at the church’s world headquarters near Washington, D.C., U.S.A. Paulsen addressed leaders as part of Annual Council, the world church’s business meeting.Tithe is not the only place in which the church is seeing increases. Lemon reported that local offerings increased from 23 percent of tithe in 1950 to 36 percent of tithe in 2005.
One of the church’s biggest success stories is the turnaround in mission offerings, which, until recently, had declined by 36 percent since 1950. But for the past two years, mission offerings in North America have increased at a rate equal to or greater than an increase in tithe. Total mission offerings have increased from $51.2 million in 2005 to $55.4 million in 2006.
Lemon also presented a special report on an extraordinary amount of tithe the church’s world headquarters received earlier this year. Council delegates voted to receive it and have it used for the church’s worldwide work.
Lemon referred to the contribution as an “extraordinary” blessing and also as a “unique opportunity for advancement of His work.”
“The reality is, the way we intend to use these funds we will have a greater need than we’ve ever had,” Lemon said. “I think to miss this opportunity to move a half a generation ahead of what we would have been able to do is something the Lord will hold us accountable for if we don’t do it.
“Tithe is for support of the ministry and evangelism; it’s not for endowing and then just using the interest,” Lemon said in answer to a question from the floor. “The Lord, when He rewarded the widow for having fed the prophet, He didn’t fill up her flour barrel and oil every time she used it, but only replaced what she had used.
“We have consulted with many on this issue, and we want it clearly understood that there is no change in our position that tithe ... should be turned into the local conference through the local church,” Lemon said.
“It would have to be an extraordinary amount for us to consider this again.”
The council decided that proposals on how to administer the tithe would be submitted by regional world leaders and administrators at the church’s headquarters before being reviewed by the president’s council in January 2008.
Church leaders envision proposals will include funding for Internet and other mass media communication outreach, initiatives in large cities, and the church’s work in the 10/40 Window—a section of the globe in the eastern hemisphere between the 10 and 40 northern lines of latitude that is largely unreached by the gospel.
Church President Jan Paulsen urged leaders to use the funds for long-term projects. “These are not projects that should have a short-term life,” Paulsen said. “They may, in your planning and thinking, have no end except the second coming of Christ.”
Lemon praised church members for their faithfulness in returning tithe and urged continued commitment.
Delegates also unanimously approved the world church’s 2008 budget of more than $142 million, including a 3 percent increase in across-the-board appropriations for its 13 world divisions and General Conference institutions.
The budget includes the more than $35 million cost of operating the Adventist Church’s world headquarters, fixed at 2 percent of world tithe.
Paulsen Sounds Unity Theme TRUST: During his Sabbath sermon, Jan Paulsen, president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, encouraged leaders to trust each other’s abilities. “What you do as a leader in the church, do it with love for the Lord and with love for His people, do it with integrity, and keep your heart clean,” Pastor Jan Paulsen, world president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said in his October 13 Sabbath morning message to church leaders.
Paulsen, serving his second full term, issued a call for denominational unity: a united movement is a “shared trust for the sake of Christ and the unity of the church,” he declared.
“If the exercise of my freedom causes damage to you, then it was wrong and not in harmony with the will of Christ,” Paulsen said in explaining the words of the apostle Paul, as found in 1 Corinthians. Although Paul’s comments initially concerned food, Paulsen said this was “just the illustration. The real issue is: What should govern the decisions and actions we take? His answer clearly takes us to showing consideration and deferring to others.”
He added, “We are bonded in unity, and we have to trust each other to do right.”
In order to preserve unity, Paulsen said church leaders must resist the temptation to jump into matters beyond their jurisdiction: “The task elsewhere is not the responsibility you were chosen to handle—at least not just now. It is not for me to resolve. Others have been chosen for that role, and the extent to which they succeed or not they will have to answer to the Lord for, just as you and I will for ours.”
He added, “We cannot be fixers of things out there beyond our mandate. I have to trust others who are nearer to the matter and whose responsibility it is to take care of it.”
Although “people write to me about a great variety of things they want me to fix,” Paulsen said, “if there are issues really in need of fixing, it is not going to work for me to try to do it; I have to trust others to do it, as must you. I trust you,” he said to church leaders.
“Mavericks who act independently and by their own wisdom do not make good administrators in this church,” Paulsen declared.
Paulsen said the consistent message of Scripture, the writings of Ellen G. White, and from Adventist history is “that God wants this church to stay united. Let us make no mistake about this.” He admitted, “from time to time issues come up which test our commitment to unity.”
The world church leader also addressed several continuing issues that have sometimes seemed to challenge the global church’s unity.
On the continuing question of the role of women in ministry, Paulsen counseled what may be seen as a middle path: “I encourage young people, men and women, to follow the calling God has placed within them. To deny the calling God may have given them is often at the risk of their own spiritual life. If this is an employment issue which you need to fix in your part of the world, then let’s do that. We are going to need everyone—everyone—to finish our mission, and for God to usher in eternity,” he said.
In his comments, Paulsen also said that continuing controversy over the church’s definition of the nature of Christ will not, “on my watch,” cause a reevaluation by the church.
“I think there is a reason for why we have chosen generous language in describing our position as a church on the nature of Christ. The uniqueness of Jesus Christ (wholly God and wholly man—no one else matches the “only-begottenness” of that One) leads us to say that,” Paulsen said.
He added, “I have to tell you I just cannot imagine a post-modern person in Europe, a businessman in Asia or Latin America, any more than a farmer in Africa will care one iota whether Christ had the nature of man before the fall or after the fall. The realities of the world in which we live have other concerns which occupy us.”
Paulsen said such discussions often focus on the possibility of living a victorious Christian life. However, he added, such victory will not be attained by “settling the precise human nature of Christ; it will be by experiencing the ‘power of His resurrection.’
JAMAICA: Adventist world church president stresses personal empowerment in youth dialogue
LET’S TALK: Paulsen emphasized empowerment and church ownership during the dialogue with young people at Adventist-owned Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Jamaica. He also appealed to Adventists of older generations watching the broadcast to include young people in the life of their church.eventh-day Adventist world church president Pastor Jan Paulsen gave a resounding endorsement of Adventist young people October 27—even offering a “yeah, mon!” in Jamaican dialect—during Let’s Talk Caribbean, the seventeenth such program in a series of unscripted, unedited conversations between the church president and its under-30 constituency.
“You don’t have to be elected to an office to own the church. You don’t have to be a local elder to own the church. The church is a place of mutual ownership—we’re in this together,” Paulsen told nearly 40 eager young people during the conversation, based at Adventist-owned Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Jamaica, and broadcast on the church’s Hope Channel satellite and cable television network.
Paulsen centered his remarks during the hour-long broadcast—as he often does during Let’s Talkprograms—on empowerment and church ownership. While it’s a key message worldwide, he said, it’s particularly important in the church’s West Indies region where young people make up some two thirds of the Adventist Church’s membership.
Early on in the broadcast, Paulsen turned briefly to the camera for remarks meant largely to amend some of the church’s older generations’ opinions of young people. “I’m more preaching—and I am preaching—to those who are watching. You need to make sure that you trust those who are young with responsibility. It is an indisputable fact that if you do not engage those who are young, they will walk away from the church.”
Following a question on civil engagement, Paulsen said Christians should not only ask what they can contribute to the church but also what they can contribute to the communities in which they live. One way to impact society is to hold political office, Paulsen said. But, he cautioned, someone considering candidacy must ask, “Is this something I can do without compromising who I am and my loyalty to God?”
Let’s Talk Caribbean again touched on protecting personal spirituality when one young delegate asked what the church was doing to shield young people from the “ill effects” of the media. Paulsen reminded the group of both the “colossal” good media can do, and its potential to propagate vice. “The church is not going to make the choice you will have to make,” said Paulsen, who often advocates private rather than corporate responsibility while answering Let’s Talkquestions. Entertainment choices, he said, are inherently a matter of conscience. “When you switch on the set, it’s not, ‘What does the church say on this one?’ It’s ‘Is this going to make [me] a better person?’”
During the second half of Let’s Talk Caribbean, many of the young delegates addressed issues of sexuality in their questions.
One student asked a question regarding young women who are pregnant outside of marriage, specifically when a pastor or other church official is accused of molestation or rape and the victim is too afraid to come forward. Paulsen answered adamantly: “Look, if you’ve committed a crime, you go to jail. The church will not provide shelter to people who are abusing their role or engaged in criminal activities condemned by society.” He added that the church should “provide a safe haven and healing for those who carry wounds and scars.”
The conversation then turned to AIDS, and whether the church’s message of abstinence was enough to combat the disease’s rampant growth. “Should we be preaching something else?” one delegate asked.
‘YEAH, MON’: Let’s Talk Caribbean host Deneil Clarke, center, with Adventist world church president Jan Paulsen, right, in a broadcasted conversation with young people in Jamaica, October 27. “Hello,” Paulsen told the group. “No, no,” Clark said. “If you’re doing OK, you’ll respond by saying, ‘yeah, mon.’” Paulsen tried again, this time greeting the group in the Jamaican dialect.“Look, let’s be perfectly frank,” Paulsen said. “Sex belongs in marriage. Promiscuity is never condoned in the Bible as a lifestyle. Let’s not look for ways to accommodate it or make it safer. Save the good things for the right time.”
Following the broadcast, Paulsen said he was pleased by the young delegates’ pointed questions.
Other questions addressed the church’s methods of ministry. When one student asked whether Paulsen thought so-called “tent” evangelism was “outmoded,” he said traditional evangelism still works “amazingly well” in most parts of the world. But church leaders, he said, should not depend on the initial effects of an outreach effort to produce “enduring, in-depth decisions” for Christ, something he said long-term small groups are better at. “For a person to stay in the church, you’ve got to have friends in the church.” He said large-scale events might be better if they focused on celebration rather than conversion.
The church may spend too much time on outreach at the expense of “inreach,” one delegate said. For a new Christian still struggling with drug addictions, the counsel to “trust Jesus” may not be enough, he said, suggesting that the church oversee more addiction and skills training programs. Paulsen agreed more inreach should be done, so long as funds aren’t diverted from outreach.
Let’s Talk tapered off with a lighter question: whether or not Adventist young people should play competitive sports. Paulsen said if sports consume players and fans to the point of ousting God and religion as their priorities, they were certainly not healthy. But generally, he said, sports encourage strong relationships.
—By Elizabeth Lechleitner, Adventist News Network, with AW Staff
It was wedged between the electric bill and a Christmas card when I first spied it—a bright orange Bible Society brochure emblazoned with a memorable slogan: “If they can’t read the words, they can’t read the Word.” For a moment, and then longer, I forgot about the high cost of operating a refrigerator and the friends to whom I owed a holiday greeting. For a moment, I glimpsed a world I found hard to imagine—a world where written language has little meaning, where the progress of the gospel depends on tongues and ears far more than eyes.
It was a good lesson for a future editor to absorb, for I’m accustomed to visually devouring whatever print lies nearest. The orderly progression of letters on a page, by which most of my world is made accessible to me, mystifies and confuses the one who has not had my privileges. And while we justly celebrate the advancing literacy rate in nations all around the globe, we dare not miss the fact that fully one in five adults in our world is still unable to read.* In some regions, only one in five can read.
Access to the Word of God is problematic even in many areas where literacy rates are climbing. Bible translations currently reach only a modest fraction of the world’s language groups. Adventists everywhere ought to remember that the Bible study we rightly urge as the duty of every believer is conditioned by the ability to read the Word in a familiar language. There is a skill even more basic than comparing text with text, and we morally obligate ourselves to support literacy efforts each time we urge men and women to turn to God’s Word.
Two articles in this issue of Adventist World bring home this point—“Empowering Women in India” (cover story) and “Meeting the Needs of Children.” As you enjoy these pieces and are inspired by them, commit yourself this month to sharing your reading skills with someone else.