One of the things I like about the Seventh-day Adventist church is that it believes in its mandate to bring the everlasting gospel to the whole world. The seriousness in which this church desires to finish the Lord’s Great Commission is nowhere better shown than when the General Conference launched a Global Mission initiative in 1990. We seldom hear about the beginnings of this very important, paradigm-shifting initiative. Yet how we do things in Adventist mission and what the church seeks to engage in today has been strongly influenced by it.
I began my mission “career” the year before the historic launching of that initiative. The Church, in obedience to her mandate and to fulfill the Lord’s desire “to see the entire church devising ways and means whereby high and low, rich and poor, may hear the message of truth”[iv] launched a very ambitious initiative called Global Mission during the General Confession session in 1990. It was ambitious because its stated goal was “to establish an Adventist presence in each of the 1,800 untouched groups of 1 million people before A.D. 2000”,[v] a task which, statistically speaking, would mean like “planting at least one new church every other day in these unreached areas” within 10 years. [vi] But such ambitious goals translated in plans and action is why I am proud of this church. The goal of Global Mission was an excitingly challenging goal. Young as I was then, I could sense a fresh exuberance over Global Mission among church members and leaders. There seemed to be an expectation that with such massive planning, reorganization and mobilization, the church might be able to accomplish the impossibly huge task of preaching the everlasting gospel to “every race, tribe, language, and nation” (Rev. 14:6, GNB) in ten years’ time!
Many of the young adults of this church now probably think Global Mission was just a department in their conference that overseas mission projects. They do not realize the worldwide movement and shift of emphasis that the Global Mission initiative stood for. They have not seen the excitement, only the waning interest. Perhaps that is why the General Conference decided to change the name of the department to “Adventist Mission” – to differentiate the department from the pivotal Adventist missiological movement called Global Mission. But I think we need to recapture what Global Mission really was all about as well as the philosophy or mentality that pushed the leaders as represented by Neal Wilson in 1985 to call for a global strategy.
[i] (White, 1952, p. 105.1).
[ii] (Burrill, 2007, p. 11).
[iii] (Burrill, 2007, p. 11).
[iv] (White, 1952, p. 105.1).
[v] (Knight, A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists, 1999, p. 149).
[vi] (Knight, A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists).