With the end of Annual Council, Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders now face the challenges of ensuring all that has been decided and emphasized is now carried out in their home divisions and unions.
In parts of the world where local churches are “hands-on” and very involved in outreach and evangelism, this is a fairly easy task. However, there are many areas within the thirteen divisions and attached Middle East North Africa Union where local churches are more “hands-off” when it comes to evangelism and outreach.
This makes the task for some of our leaders more of a challenge. However, the leaders that I have spoken with are excited to see what God has in store. As Annual Council was wrapping up, I asked several of them about the difficulties and opportunities they face in their area as well as their hopes for the future.
I spoke with several leaders from the South American Division. They all have great hopes for the future of the church there. It was exciting to see that these leaders are united in the cause of finishing the work in a manner that will glorify Jesus.
- When asked about their dreams for the next five years, they stated unanimously that they want to see even more evangelism in the untouched areas of the division. Also, they want to see Mission to the Cities and Centers of Influence take a larger part in reaching the millions of urban dwellers.
- Asked about the biggest challenge the church faces in their area, they said it is that the passion to truly know God may diminish. Right now, there is a deep hunger to know Him, but as economic conditions change, that passion may diminish. Leaders do not want to see the Laodicean state take hold in South America as it has in other parts of the world.
- Lastly, when I asked these amazing men of God what they are most excited about, their answers were almost identical. They are excited to see youth getting involved in evangelism and outreach as they lead Bible studies, youth and children’s activities, and prayer meetings. The youth are stepping up like never before.
The Former Soviet Union
A leader in the Euro-Asia Division shared his burden for the people in parts of the former Soviet Union that are still very closed off to all forms of Christianity. I asked him the same questions that I posed to the leaders in South America.
- When asked about his dreams for the next five years, he told me he hopes to see prayer taking a more important role in the local churches. In many parts of the division, he said, prayer is an afterthought.
- When asked what challenges the church faces in the area, he told me there are many, but that the leaders all have great hope. By far, the biggest challenge at this point is financial. Due to the ongoing conflict between Russia and the Ukraine, the church has taken a financial hit. The Ukraine is one of the largest sources of tithe and offerings, and at this point there has been a great decrease in both.
- Lastly, I asked what he is most excited about. What brought the greatest smile to his face was seeing new union and conference leadership. These new leaders are bringing in reinvigorated ideas to reach the lost in this vast division. He is also excited to see how Mission to the Cities and Centers of Influence have made a real difference in the lives of those living in the urban areas.
Lastly, I spoke with leaders from the Trans-European and Inter-European Divisions together. These leaders were adamant that there must be cooperation between these divisions in order to accomplish all that is needed.
- I asked this group of leaders about their dreams for the next five years. They expressed a great hope for a rekindling of people’s desire to walk with God. In many areas of these divisions, there is a sense of needing nothing and a strong grip of secularism. This has caused many to become very lax in their walk with God. These leaders are praying and trusting that God will set these divisions on fire for Him again.
- When asked about the biggest challenge they are facing, without hesitation they said it is the refugee crisis. All of Europe is dealing with a mass influx of refugees from the Middle East, and the church is among many groups scrambling to know how to meet their needs. At the same time, the leaders know this is an amazing opportunity to touch lives and show the love of Jesus.
- So what were these leaders excited about? It is to see how God will work, especially as they are dealing with the refugee crisis. They can’t wait to see how laypeople and local churches will work to meet the needs and to see how the refugees respond to God’s love. They are also excited to see how so many of the youth in these divisions are on fire for God and are leading the way in evangelism with innovative ideas and passion for Christ.
Our leaders, from the local pastor to the world church president, all need our support and prayers as they return to the field after Annual Council. I was reminded of this passage from 1 Timothy during Annual Council. If it was true in Bible times, it is even more so now.
Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. 1 Timothy 2:1-3, NKJV
My challenge to you—to us all—is this: No matter how we feel about this issue or that, no matter how we feel about this pastor or that, let us keep them ever in prayer as they serve God to the highest of the abilities that He has given them and called them to use.
[Photo by Adventist News Network from Flickr. Used with permission.]