A Letter to My Church Family
A personal message from the church president
By Ted N. C. Wilson
Working in New York City this past summer was an amazing experience! It brought back many memories of working in the city many years ago as an intern and later as a district pastor. Nancy and I feel very much connected to New York City: We invested a number of years in that great metropolitan region, and two of our daughters were born there. New York City became a second home for us.
Preaching at the historic Manhattan church on West 11th Street was especially moving. Forty-two years ago I briefly worked as a pastoral intern in that same church, and along with several others, including the current pastor, Tony Romeo, pioneered a special youth center in that church during the “hippie” era. Greenwich Village [the city neighborhood] was a center for young adults then just as it is now (see “City Lights Burn Out”). It’s also one of the toughest, most sophisticated, most expensive places to live and work in the United States.
New York City’s residents are dynamic and demanding in their search for something better in life. God is working through many dedicated servants to reach them through creative and innovative outreach programs.
Preparing the Way
Shortly before our recent evangelistic meetings began, students from the Northeast Evangelism Training School (NETS) went to Greenwich Village to find opportunities to give Bible studies. Amazingly, in just two four-hour sessions with four teams knocking on doors, the students returned with 106 requests for Bible studies! Even in difficult territories people eagerly seek for Bible answers to today’s questions and are thrilled when they discover the good news of the three angels’ messages and Christ’s soon return.
Many others also helped prepare for the public evangelistic series. Health and cooking schools were offered. Community services—food, clothing, and instruction—were shared. Church members were trained in small-group evangelism and how to use Bible study presentations. Hundreds of Adventist young adults moved out across New York City to witness for the Lord!
Drawn to Christ
Watching hundreds of people coming night after night to the evangelistic meetings was very moving to me. Many non-Adventist guests attended and were drawn to Jesus as Bible truth was presented through the power of the Holy Spirit. I watched lives being changed as they responded to biblical truth and made commitments to baptism and membership in God’s remnant church. Some of these included a Chinese architect and his wife who plan on witnessing to their family in China; a sales executive with a major hotel chain who is now planning on becoming a minister of the gospel; a Ukrainian woman who had someone translate the nightly sermons into Ukrainian; a husband and wife who were baptized together; and a local man who grew up in Greenwich Village and now feels a gospel “burden” for those in his old neighborhood.
When you preach the prophetic, biblical messages explaining the book of Revelation, something happens to your own heart as well as to those who are listening. I found my own heart being renewed by the Spirit as I shared with others what it means to be ready to meet Jesus in peace.
During the month of June more than 100 evangelistic meetings were held across the metro New York area, with a total of nearly 400 evangelistic meetings planned for the entire year of 2013. Many other General Conference officers and department directors participated in evangelistic meetings in New York City and the metro region. The NY13 activities covered a wide range of outreach events and were coordinated by a committee chaired by Don King, president of theAtlantic Union Conference, and involved the North American Division, the Atlantic andColumbia union conferences, and five local conferences—Northeastern, Greater New York,Allegheny East, New Jersey, and Southern New England. There was a tremendously cooperative spirit from all the church entities, and from pastors, church members, supporting ministries, and ASI [Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries] organizations. Through the blessing of the Lord NY13 showed how a united church can work in a harmonious manner to accomplish the Mission to the Cities goal of reaching a great metropolitan area for Jesus.
The International Field School
Another feature of NY13 was the extraordinary International Field School of Evangelism (IFSE), led by pastors Mark Finley and Robert Costa. Representatives from all world divisions participated in the IFSE, attending classes during the day and participating in the meetings during the evenings. At the beginning of the field school, Mark Finley provided a remarkable presentation on the need for evangelism in 2013 that inspired us all.
I wish every pastor, evangelist, and administrator from every division, union, and local field could have attended the IFSE. When you see renewed dedication—when you see leaders rededicating themselves with new fervor to the work they’ve been given—you regain your confidence that we really can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!
Reaching the World’s Cities
Currently the world divisions, unions, and local fields are working diligently on plans for their targeted large metropolitan areas, with the goal of reaching approximately 630 of the world’s greatest population centers—all through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Recently the South Pacific Division sponsored a coordinated evangelistic series titled “The Last Empire” in 27 churches in the greater Sydney area. According to reports I’ve seen, the churches in Sydney were so excited about the meetings that they plan to do it again next year!
I found it an amazing privilege to again be part of frontline evangelistic activity. Although it was challenging to organize time in my schedule for holding a three-week evangelistic series, it was entirely worth it! I wouldn’t trade the experience in New York City for anything! In 2014 I’m planning to be involved with evangelistic meetings in Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, and the Philippines, and in 2015 I expect to preach a major evangelistic meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe.
A Comprehensive, Sustained Outreach
It’s critically important that we encourage a comprehensive and sustained outreach and evangelistic approach to the work God has given us—a work that involves every member. As part of Mission to the Cities, comprehensive urban evangelism can include each local church’s outreach; the establishment of “centers of influence” in the big cities through vegetarian restaurants, health centers or clinics; community service outreach; the distribution of church publications; healthful lifestyle seminars and lectures; small-group ministries; door-to-door personal evangelistic work and Bible studies; engaging Adventist young adults in personal witnessing, integrated media evangelism, and other creative approaches that touch the lives of city residents.
And for those who wonder how to go about it, the good news is that there are wonderful resources available for doing public evangelism. At the meetings in Greenwich Village I used a digital evangelistic sermon series called “Revelation of Hope,” produced by Mark Finley. The evangelistic series has 28 subjects, complete with beautiful graphics that the public sees and written sermon scripts that show up on the speaker’s computer screen or monitor. You can adapt the scripts according to your particular needs and illustrations. The system works amazingly well, and provides anyone willing to try with an opportunity to share the full message in a powerfully effective way.
Thank you, worldwide church family, for what you are doing for the Lord and this Advent movement as we focus on Mission to the Cities. I know God will continue to use you in helping to prepare people for the return of Jesus. Let’s pray for each other as we lift up Jesus, His righteousness, His sanctuary ministry, His Sabbath, His three angels’ messages, and His soon return!
Ted N. C. Wilson is president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.