Adventists Urged to Intensify Work in the Cities
Church president Ted N.C. Wilson highlights Mission to the Cities in his Annual Council sermon.
People living in the world’s major cities are longing for something better, and God is calling on Seventh-day Adventists to step up efforts to share the last-day gospel message with them, Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson said.
Wilson, speaking in his annual pastoral address to church leaders, said Adventists have established “centers of influence,” held evangelistic series, and implemented many other programs since the Mission to the Cities initiative began six years ago, but much work remains to be done.
Wilson pointed to the Old Testament prophet Jonah as an example of how God yearns to save city dwellers, and he presented his audience with copies of church cofounder Ellen G. White’s book “Last Day Events” to encourage them in their work.
“God is still calling His servants today to reach the cities where there are many who are reaching out after something better and are willing to listen to Bible truth shared through various methods,” Wilson said in his Oct. 7 sermon, “Work the Cities Without Delay,” at the Annual Council, a yearly gathering of Adventist leaders from around the world.
“Christ wants us to go into all the cities and villages, teaching, preaching, and healing in His name,” he said. “This is still His plan and longing desire.”
The world has been “crumbling and changing” and “even greater urban challenges” have emerged since the Adventist Church introduced Mission to the Cities at the 2011 Annual Council, he said.
“God’s call to the Jonahs of today, you and me, is as direct as it was when Jonah received the call,” he told the packed auditorium at the Adventist world church’s headquarters in the U.S. state of Maryland. “Christ’s laborers are still few in the large cities of the world. God is pleading with us to reach these massive secular fortresses with the life-giving message of the gospel and the three angels’ messages focusing on Christ and His righteousness.”
Underscoring God’s longtime emphasis on cities, Wilson read God’s appeal to Jonah to “go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it” in Jonah 1:1-3. Turning to Matthew 9:35-38, he noted that Jesus Himself “went about all the cities and villages.”
God’s love for the cities is as strong today as it was in biblical times, Wilson said. Reading from White’s book “Evangelism,” he said, “The message that I am bidden to bear to our people at this time is, Work the cities without delay, for time is short” (p. 33).
City Outreach in Action
Church members have implemented many kinds of programs to reach city residents — including centers of influence, Total Member Involvement public evangelism, vegetarian restaurants, and health clinics — and Wilson invited 11 people onto the stage to discuss their work in cities.
Gary Krause, director of Adventist Mission, noted that hundreds of centers of influence operate around the world today.
“The one thing that they have in common is they get us outside the four walls of the church,” he said.
This allows church members to go into the community and lead people to Christ, he said.
Duane McKey, who oversees Total Member Involvement (TMI) outreach, described how 48 Japanese pastors preached their first evangelistic series in the Philippines last summer as they prepared for a public evangelistic campaign in Japan in 2018.
“People said it couldn’t be done,” said McKey, who also serves as president of Adventist World Radio. “But TMI did work, and is working in Japan. One church has already doubled its attendance.”
The results of previous TMI public evangelism, which engages every local church member, have been phenomenal. TMI evangelism resulted in 30,000 baptisms in Zimbabwe in May 2015, 110,000 baptisms in Rwanda in May 2016, and 73,000 baptisms in Kenya in March 2017.
Linda Mei Lin Koh, director of children’s ministries for the world church, appealed to church leaders to remember children.
“May we not forget to evangelize the children,” she said. “Aim lower and think smaller.”
Wilson spoke about the importance of following the Adventist heath message, including abstinence from alcohol, coffee, and improper drugs. Dr. Peter Landless, director of the world church’s health ministries, underscored that in his comments.
“We have to live the message so we can teach the message,” he said.
Call for Commitment
The Sabbath sermon comes after church leaders attended a two-day conference that put the spotlight on Mission to the Cities. The LEAD conference, organized by Adventist Mission, highlighted church efforts share the gospel in cities and with unreached people in every country. E. Douglas Venn, who leads the Mission to the Cities initiative at Adventist Mission, appealed from the stage Sabbath for church leaders — and the young people whom they represent — to recommit to Mission to the Cities.
“We are a movement of Bible prophecy, and from that platform we have something to say to prepare the planet for Jesus’ soon return,” he said.
Near the end of the sermon, Wilson invited church leaders to reach down by their seats to find their own copies of “Last Day Events.” Asking them to turn to p. 208, he read, “During the loud cry the church, aided by the providential interpositions of her exalted Lord, will diffuse the knowledge of salvation so abundantly that light will be communicated to every city and town. A crisis is right upon us. We must now by the Holy Spirit’s power proclaim the great truths for these last days.”
“God,” Wilson said, “is calling all of us to humble ourselves before Him and each other, to put away differences of opinion, to unite in God’s great effort to reach the large cities of this world, and rural areas, with the last message of warning and hope — the three angels’ messages culminating with the loud cry focusing on Christ and His righteousness!”
The appeal is not only for church leaders but for every church member, Wilson said in an interview.
“What will you do to touch the lives of people in the cities or wherever you live?” he said. “The Holy Spirit will guide you in exactly what He wants to accomplish through you and your Total Member Involvement. Pray about it now and then get into action for the Lord! He is coming soon!”