No verb in the 150-year vocabulary of the Adventist Church has been emphasized half so much as the simple imperative, “Go.” From the organization of the church’s General Conference in 1863 with perhaps 3,500 members to the present world-circling movement of 17 million people, Jesus’ command to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19) has been the watchword of six generations of Seventh-day Adventists.
Feeling the weight of that simple word, tens of thousands of dedicated believers have sacrificed time, money, and careers to carry the gospel to virtually every nation on earth. Many who went out under the impress of that command now sleep in graves far from their homes, some of them martyrs for the faith of Jesus. Others have endured unspeakable hardship at the hands of enemies because they could not forget the call to “go.”
Many imagine Jesus’ command as a linear one, beginning from His last conversation with His disciples in a.d. 31 and concluding only at the Second Coming. But there is another verb—another imperative—that we do well to hear, and it is one that actually precedes the command to “go.” “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus says (Matt. 11:28). Before we pick up the legitimate work of disciples, we must have entered into a personal relationship with the Lord of disciples. If we move out into mission without the sustaining, life-giving power promised by Jesus and found among His people, we are moving in our own strength and will soon become exhausted and discouraged. Like the 70 disciples whom Jesus sent out two by two (Luke 10:1, 2), we are intended to move in a blessed circle of mission and replenishment that keeps the church healthy and energized for its task.
Wherever you are in that cycle of activity and support today, pray for those who are both “going” and “coming” because of their devotion to Jesus.
You can find the value and importance of a thing by learning how rare it is.
Since the first edition of Adventist World reached believers around the globe in September 2005, there have been only two “themed” editions of the 85 issues now published. In January 2011 most of that month’s edition was dedicated to a call to revival and reformation issued by the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Millions of Adventists in more than 140 counties read the solemn appeal to seek the Lord with earnest, open hearts, and to prepare for the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
This seventh anniversary edition of Adventist World is dedicated to an equally vital topic—the Adventist family. As you browse these pages, you will find our focus unmistakable: the editorial staff of this magazine and the leaders of the world church are deliberately highlighting the most important building block of healthy, productive congregations. It’s again our prayer that millions of believers will take these words to heart—that they will pray for and work for strong, stable, nurturing Adventist families.
Healthy families were once the standard assumption of nations, communities, and churches. We naively thought that the virtue, training, commitments, and social strength characteristic of strong families would endure without education and hard work. The family itself would care for those things. But the tolls taken by wars, poverty, disease, media, culture, and urbanization have frayed the sacred bonds of the divinely ordained family. Now as never before we need the support and encouragement of other believers to keep our marriages strong, wisely parent our children, and build characters consistent with life in God’s eternal kingdom.
Pray your way through the pages that follow. In whatever life circumstances you now find yourself, hear the call to love and serve those related to you by blood—and the millions of believer families related to you by the blood of Jesus.
Nothing is more common in the world of Adventist worship and education than reminders of the obligation believers are under to share the good news of salvation and ultimate redemption through Jesus Christ.
Before we walked into the water on the day of our baptism, we were told of our responsibilities as a witness to His power and love. When we emerged, dripping wet, out of the river or baptismal pool, we were urged to share the gospel. In a hundred sermons since then we have heard the biblical imperative to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19).
We have framed the sharing of the good news as a dutiful response to a command. And so we have invested in training seminars, coaching exercises, and practice sessions to make what often seems an unwelcome task more tolerable.
But biblical Christianity knows little of this sense of heavy obligation, in which, with Shakespeare’s schoolboy, we go “creeping like snail unwillingly to school.” An irrepressible joy suffuses the pages of the New Testament: we sense that it was harder for these believers to keep silent than to speak abroad the Name above all names.
Wherein lies the difference? They were reporting a personal encounter they had found with Jesus: words of admiration, praise, and witness flowed from them like “a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14), just as He had promised. They were reveling in a friendship with One who had suddenly made all things possible, including witness.
As you read the striking articles about witness in this edition of Adventist World, pray for an encounter with the Savior that will renew the story you are privileged to tell. No seminar technique, no memorized approach, will ever be even half as compelling as the testimony that begins “Ah, let me tell you what Jesus has done for me.”
The figure is so large that it makes the eyes widen in disbelief. “Who came up with that number?” we ask incredulously. “There cannot be so many. Perhaps it is a typographical mistake.”
But no, the number is not a mistake—unless the Savior makes mistakes. It’s a number larger than the population of the Netherlands, or of Israel and Sweden combined, or of Laos, El Salvador and Liberia taken together. More people than the urban sprawl of Buenos Aires, Moscow, Paris, or Los Angeles. And though startlingly large, it rightly represents the way that heaven views the world membership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Every member a missionary. Every believer a witness. That’s the way the Savior counts. And in the end, only His reckoning matters at all. His mission is not only for paid church employees, or those blessed with eloquence or nerve. “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21, NKJV),* Jesus continually reminds us.
This month our magazine brings you the story of two remarkable people who gladly count themselves among the 17 million. Like so many others, they serve in a challenging place under difficult circumstances. But they have found—as you will—that the grace of God travels to the places God may call you. As you read the quiet, practical faith of Hein and Melissa Myburgh, you will surely sense that there is something you can do for the kingdom within the orbit of your daily life.
I’m praying that you will see yourself as Jesus already sees you—a missionary for His kingdom. In that special identity you will know the continuing joy of being always in the center of His will.
My Italian grandmother was part of a very large family. With 17 brothers and sisters, she never lacked for conversation or company. None of the children had their own bed, she remembered, and mealtimes were often more competitive than companionable.
Through it all, even when times were tough, the bond that kept the Leonardo family together was the enduring reality of their blood relationship to each other. Arguments might erupt; one sibling might refuse to talk with another for a week or even a year. But over time they learned a loyalty to each other that survived the bluster and the bruised feelings. United at first only by their common parentage, they grew to respect each other, cherish each other, and seek each other’s company.
I have fond memories of early-summer evenings at birthday celebrations and anniversaries, watching them on the front porch, alight with laughter, wit, and song. And I was proud to be a part of them—I still am proud to be a part of them—because we share an indelible set of memories and hopes.
You are also part of a very large family. With more than 17 million brothers and sisters all around the globe, you have been born again into a set of relationships intended to offer you both conversation and company on your way to the Father’s home.
Some family members live near you; and yes, sometimes those nearby relationships get strained by arguments, silence, or bruised feelings. Most of your family is spread all around the world, however. They worship in so many different ways; they sing in hundreds of different languages. But the most enduring family trait is that each one has been bought with the precious blood of our Elder Brother, Jesus. In His name we gather to celebrate the family’s history, bear the family’s sufferings, retell the family’s stories, and anticipate the joy to come.
Scripture says of Jesus that He was “not ashamed to call [us] brothers and sisters” (Heb. 2:11, NRSV).* He is proud to call us family—His own. Now would be a good time to reaffirm your own commitment to the wonderful, worldwide family of this great Advent movement.
Let me admit it: I love the dark, brooding majesty of cathedrals, where everything human seems small and muted. But I don’t want my church to ever build a cathedral.
As a tourist, I have visited dozens of the world’s great cathedrals. Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopalian, Lutheran—even Crystal—these buildings share an immensity of scale that both impresses and distresses me. Even as I admire the “flying buttresses” and vaulted ceilings, my pastor’s heart begins to count the cost of all my eyes take in.
For cathedrals—or similarly large church building projects—are statements about theology and mission as well as architecture. Church historians remind us that the age of building cathedrals coincided with the era of least missionary activity in Christian history. The building—massive, visually impressive—was supposed to attract the wayward and the lost, not seek them. And after taxing millions of laypersons to construct them, there was precious little money left to spread the gospel, and few willing to do so.
As one of the most rapidly growing Christian faiths on the planet, the Seventh-day Adventist Church builds churches—lots of them—each year. Through the genius of Maranatha International’s “One-Day Church” program, and the dedicated labor of volunteers, hundreds of new church buildings go up each year. They give us shade in summer from the unrelenting Saharan sun. They give us shelter and warmth from the piercing winds of Alberta or Ukraine. They shield us from rain in dense tropical climates, and offer a place to worship God together when snow lies deep at the door.
But churches are chiefly places where believers gather to talk a common faith, to bear each other’s burdens, to offer heartfelt adoration to Jesus, and to learn how to more effectively carry the good news—so that other churches will be built in other places, till He comes. It’s all about worship and mission.
As you read this month’s cover story, pray for the eyes to see your church building as the Lord sees it—a storehouse of faith, through faith, by faith, and for even more faith.
It is an assertion that seems to defy almost everything we know about chronology and science, and from everyday observation.
The world’s population is getting younger.
This seems more plausible, even though it still seems to counter our personal experience of aging. We don’t feel or act younger as time passes. For those of us past age 50, our bodies testify in the other direction.
But the facts—carefully assembled by those who know—are unassailable. The median age of the world’s 7 billion souls has been declining in recent decades, and now ranges from a low of about 15 years of age in some countries of the 10/40 window to a high of more than 40 years of age in several regions of Europe.* More of the world’s people are young than at any other time in recorded history.
And what is true of the world’s population is proving true of the population of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Even among a people who practice “believer baptism”—with children raised in the faith often becoming members only after age 10 or later—there are millions of church members around the globe under the age of 30. That fact is both sobering and inspiring. It reminds us that the church’s “energy potential” is vast and still largely untapped—that there are hundreds of thousands of youth and young adults whose Spirit-given gifts can yet be recruited to the mission of telling the world. But it also means that we must quickly develop a special sensitivity to the ministries and methods that will best engage them and their non-believing peers.
Read this month’s cover feature, “The Power of One,” with a prayer in your heart that the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s youth ministries will become its most effective tool for sharing the good news of a Savior who changed the world in just 33 years.
It is the question behind every other question a believer asks. While others interrogate the wind to understand the meaning of life or the reasons human beings suffer, those who have the faith of Jesus return to this simple query more frequently than any other. Because we have made belonging to Jesus the central commitment of our lives, we want to know:
What am I called to do for my life’s work? Whom should I marry? Should I pursue more education? Where does God want me to use the gifts He has given me?
And then there are the many times—perhaps weekly, even daily—when the imperative of being aligned with God’s will requires answers deeper than the surface-level thinking that too often dominates our days.
What is the best way to spend this Sabbath? How much should I give to advance the mission of my church? With whom should I share my testimony today?
The Lord we serve has promised to make Himself known to us, both for the foundational decisions that undergird our lives as believers, and for the smaller choices that order our days. His Word assures us, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left” (Isa. 30:21, NKJV).
Like Elijah, who ultimately heard the voice of God, not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, but “in the sound of quiet stillness” (as some of the best translations of 1 Kings 19:12 put it), the quieting of our lives prepares us for both hearing and accepting what the Spirit wants to tell us.
As you read this month’s moving cover story by associate editor Gerald Klingbeil of how he heard the call of Jesus in his own life, pray that your own life will be readied for the answers you are seeking.
Mission stories,” we call them, and for more than 150 years, Seventh-day Adventists around the globe have eagerly gathered around the one who knew the tales of God’s power at work in places exotic or far away. Dense tropical jungles bloom in the imagination; shining angels protect believers from wild animals or fierce warriors; and obstacles bigger than the Iron Curtain fall to the steady advance of the gospel. One common thread unites 10,000 stories: the mustard seed grows; the kingdom expands; the Day approaches.
You will find another fascinating mission story in this month’s cover feature, “The Witch Doctor and the Preacher.” Told by a longtime missionary, it reaches back into the revered history of Adventist mission in South America and brings the tale powerfully to the present.
As with every good story, this one will remind you of another tale—one that you know better than anyone else—a story of how the kingdom is growing because your life is surrendered to the Lord of mission. For mission stories are no longer measured by how far away they happened or how many oceans the storyteller has crossed. Mission stories—at least the ones that heaven pays attention to—begin on your street, in your village, in your apartment complex. The “tweet” you send, the simple tract you give a neighbor, or the conversation you have at the local market becomes the stuff of heaven’s most engaging stories. The Lord who taught so much in stories loves nothing better than taking your faithfulness and connecting it with the stories of others in your church or community who are yielding their hearts and hands to Him. I can imagine that there exists somewhere in heaven a great wall of stories on which all the connections we don’t yet see—but will someday know—are written, cherished, and applauded.
“We are each a tale of mercy; We are each an act of grace,” the hymnwriter reminded us. This month, as you read a heartwarming mission story, resolve to also be the mission story that heaven will one day eagerly tell about your service.
For each of us, there is one special story about Jesus that stands for all the rest—a tale that stirs us well beyond the ability of words to express.
For me, that story has always been the Gospel of Mark’s record of Jesus’ encounter with a deaf-mute man (Mark 7:31-37). Apparently strange, full of seemingly odd bits and pieces, it ultimately unfolds into an unsurpassed narrative of the Lord who will cross any barrier to reach the hurting and the lonely. Through gestures, sign, and pantomime, Jesus enters the silent world of one who could neither hear nor speak: the Word of God became, for this one man, the Sign of God, wordlessly communicating the grace and love that both healed and restored him to his community. Our astonishment as the story ends is not that Jesus can cause a deaf man to hear, but that His compassion is so singular, so focused on this individual, that He will do what no one else in His culture would do to communicate God’s amazing affection.
This story of healing is also a parable for His church, accustomed as it is to thinking of “the greatest good for the greatest number”—of majorities, efficiencies, and what most people want. Jesus intended that the church that acts in His name reproduce the same individualizing compassion—the same attention to unique challenges and giftedness—that characterized His own ministry. Jesus saw the potential disciple in each person He met—women and men, persons of all ethnicities, speakers of all languages, hearing and deaf, sighted and blind—and He tailored a ministry plan adapted to their need.
You’ll be encouraged as you read this month’s cover story to learn how your church is reaching out to the millions around the globe who specially identify with the story found in Mark 7. As you read, pray for a heart of compassion that is willing to cross any barrier with the good news of healing and restoration.