Needless to say, just as in the Protestant mission scene, there has ever been tensions between the three mission emphases and their proponents, we find the same tension of the “old school” of Adventist mission and the newer Global Mission practitioners. With such a large body of believers that comes from various stages or were brought in through various means and schools of thoughts, there will perhaps not come a time when we will have only one emphasis in missions. For the moment though, I am thankful that the direction of Adventist mission is still towards identifying the unreached and finding ways to reach them effectively.
The Adventist Challenge
Actually, the challenge is probably just as great, if not greater, today than when the Adventist pioneers first preached the remnant message. There are 7.13 billion persons in the world today, 4.32 billion of which are non-Christians.[v] As we look at the 232 political entities, we realize that the 24 of which does not have any known Adventist believer and no organized Adventist work[vi] are located in the 10/40 Window or region between West Africa, the Middle East and East Asia (these countries are among the most difficult places to establish Adventist presence in because of the absence of religious freedom). (See table and diagram below).
Religion-wise, Christians (the traditional Adventist target) form only one-third of the world’s population. For every one Christian, two are non-Christian. The ratio of 1 Seventh-day Adventist for every 400 non-Seventh-day Adventists in the world[viii] [ix]may sound good - until we realize that that means Adventists represent only 0.25% of the world’s population. Linguistically speaking, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is represented in over 924 languages and dialects.[x] Again that sounds like a great accomplishment - until we read that our planet has at least 13,000 ethnolinguistic groups. Thus, Adventists work in a mere 7% of all the ethnolinguistic groups of the world. [xi]
Is there Hope for the Future?
There is a saying in the Philippines: “As long as one has life, there is hope!” There is hope for the Adventist Church to eventually be able to unitedly reach the unreached. Today, there are more Adventists who are studying Islam, Buddhism, and Chinese religions for purposes of outreach than any other time in Adventist history. They do not only study mission history and theory but also merge missiological reflection with field practice. What brings me hope here is not the honing of human ability and intellect but the seriousness and commitment with which many Adventists are tackling the task of reaching the last remaining unreached.
I am also hopeful of the results of the current emphasis on revival and reformation in our ranks. This is a painful though necessary step to receive the promised power of the Holy Spirit, who alone can carry us forward to the accomplishment of His mandate. If we as a Church will sincerely desire to receive the promised Spirit, we will be an awesome, undefeatable mission force soon.
Finally, I am hopeful that in spite of the many ills and shortcomings of this Church, we will eventually find the right direction in missions that will pull the larger Adventist body in united action. The Lord has shown over and over again that He can veer it in the right direction at the right time. As the Lord’s messenger reminds us:
- In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what God has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.[xii]
- (2003). 2003 Annual Council Statistical Report. Silver Spring, MD: GC Office of Archives, Statistics and Resarch.
- (2013). 2013 Annual Statistical Report: 149th Report of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists for Year Ending December 31, 2011. Silver Spring: Office of Archives, Statistics and Research.
- Burrill, R. (2007). Reaping the Harvest. Fallbrook, CA: Hart Books.
- General Conference - Adventist Organizational Directory. (2013). Retrieved September 13, 2013, from ASTR: http://www.adventistdirectory.org/ViewAdmField.aspx?AdmFieldID=GC
- Knight, G. R. (1999). A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists. Hagerstown: Review & Herald.
- ________. (1999). Remnant Theology and World Mission. In J. L. Dybdahl (Ed.), Adventist Mission in the 21st Century (pp. 88-95). Hagerstown, MD: Review & Herald.
- Oosterwal, G. (1999). Adventism Faces the World Religions. In J. L. Dybdahl (Ed.), Adventist Mission in the 21st Century (pp. 45-53). Hagerstown, MD: Review & Herald.
- SDA World Church Statistics. (2011). Retrieved September 12, 2013, from Adventist.Org: http://www.adventist.org/world-church/facts-and-figures/index.html
- Trim, D. (2013). Supplement to the 2013 Annual Statistical Report. Silver Spring, MD: Office of the Archives, Statistics and Research.
- Quick Statistics on the Seventh-day Adventist Church. (2012). Retrieved September 12, 2013, from Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research: http://www.adventistarchives.org/quick-statistics-on-the-seventh-day-adventist-church#.UjEM_z9kOpo
- What is the 10/40 Window? (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2013, from Joshua Project: http://joshuaproject.net/10-40-window.php
- White, E. G. (1922). Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen White. In Ellen G. White Writings: Comprehensive Research Edition 2008. Ellen G. White Estate.
- ________. (1952). Welfare Ministry. In Ellen G. White Writings: Comprehensive Research Edition 2008. Ellen G. White Estate.
- Winter, R. D. (2009). Three Mission Eras and the Loss and Recovery of Kingdom Mission, 1800-2000. In R. D. Winter, & S. C. Hawthorne (Eds.). Pasadena, CA: William Carey.
- Winter, R. D., & Koch, B. A. (n.d.). Finishing the Task. Retrieved September 15, 2013, from Joshua Project: http://www.joshuaproject.net/assets/articles/finishing-the-task.pdf
- Yost, F. (Ed.). (1990). 128th Statistical Report - 1990. Silver Spring, MD: Archives & Statistics Office.
- Joshua Project. (n.d.). Joshua Project - World Religions of all Ethnic People Groups. Retrieved September 11, 2013, from Joshua Project: http://www.joshuaproject.net/
[i] SDA World Church Statistics, 2011.
[ii] Quick Statistics, 2012.
[iii] Quick Statistics; 2003 Annual Council Statistical Report, 2003, p. 1.
[iv] Burrill, 1996, p. 19.
[v] Joshua Project.
[vi] SDA World Church Statistics, 2011.
[vii] Annual Statistics, 2013, p. 77.
[viii] Annual Statistics, 2013.
[ix] GC Statistics, 2013.
[x] Quick Statistics, 2012.
[xi] Annual Statistics, 2013, p. 83.
[xii] White, 1922, p. 204.1.