Session presided by Artur A. Stele, General Conference Vice President
Selected Reports on Mission
G.T. Ng, Secretary of the General Conference
Ng offered a brief historical incursion into the value Adventist pioneers placed on foreign missions. From the early phase of its existence, the Adventist church had a foreign mission board, chaired by the general conference president. They had three funding sources: the annual mission offerings (started in 1897), Sabbath School mission offerings, and direct appeals to local conferences. Concerning this latter source, Ng mentioned that the California Conference was the first who responded positively (in 1897), deciding to sponsor the salary of a missionary in Japan for one year, and the Kansas Conference was the second to respond by collecting tithe for a mission expansion program in Jamaica.
In 1901 the treasurer of the General Conference said:
“We do not ask that the Conferences shall give all their tithes to foreign fields; but I do ask, Why not every State Conference consider if they ought not to have as deep an interest in the foreign field as in the home field? Why should I today, if I am located in Iowa or Michigan, surround myself with a strong constituency and let the work in Mexico be barely started? Is it right? Ought not such great Conferences … say, that territory is ours? Why, our tithe is just as sacred to that field as it is to Iowa, or to Michigan, or to any of our home conferences.” (1901:77)
Ng also shared a historic moment in the mission activity of our church. In 1904 General Conference president A.G. Daniells said: “The Lord laid upon us a very strong burden to set before the brethren the needs of our mission fields. Their hearts were touched, and they passed a unanimous vote to send one-half of their laborers and one-half of their annual tithes to mission fields.” One-half of the employees and tithe collections were to missions.
Concerning this topic, Ellen White spoke several times about the “reflex influence” (MS 144-1897, Lt 139 – Oct. 24, 1900, Lt 134 -100.6, Lt 134-1900.24, Lt 134-1900.25, GW 465.4)), suggesting that self-sacrificial missionary work would have a boomerang effect, blessing those who bless others. She writes:
“Much of the home missionary work in this country would be farther advanced in every way if a more liberal, self-denying, self-sacrificing spirit had been manifested for the prosperity of foreign missions; for the prosperity of the home work depends largely, under God, on the reflex influence of the evangelical work done in countries afar off.” (Ellen White, Lt 134-1900.25).
To illustrate this boomerang effect, Ng shared three testimonies. The first came from a division that gave 13 million (2015-2019) to foreign missions despite the political instability and currency devaluation and was blessed in return. A second testimony came from The Church in the Valley (Vancouver, Canada), with a membership of 400-500 and a “Love God. Love People. Serve the World” intiative. This church has engaged in various acts of kindness, such as free dental day, extreme home repairs for those in need, single mom oil changes, and car donations for single moms. For this latter project, part of the church was turned into a three cars garage where qualified church members fixed unneeded cars donated by other church members, which were given to single mothers. Asked how they have the money for all this, pastor David Jamieson said: “Mission first. Money follows.” The third testimony was from El Monte Vietnamese SDA Church of just over 100 members which has its own mission center. They offer free daycare, education for poor children, and even a television studio from which they broadcast in the neighborhood. Asked when they find the money, the pastor answered: “We never worry about money. When we do God’s mission, money will always come.”
In the conclusion of his report focused on encouraging people to put mission first and trusting that money will follow, Ng also shared the numbers for the 2017 world tithe:
NAD: $1, 020,673, 611
World tithe: $ 1,436,607,697
Total tithe: $2,457,281,308
The average amount of tithe collected each Sabbath world-wide in 2017: $47,255,410.
Gary Krause, Director of Adventist Missions at the General Conference, offered a picture of our mission landscape in 2019, introducing his presentation with a quote by Emil Brunner: “The church exists by mission just as fire exists by burning. Where there is mission there is no church.”
If in 2000 there was 1 Adventist for every 519 people on the planet, in 2018 there was 1 Adventist for every 356 people on the planet, remarked Krause before offering a few statistics and numbers, including:
Interdivision Service Employees: 764 + children, distributed as follows:
Deferred Mission Appointees (DMA), a program of Loma Linda University, currently has 23 serving and 61 preparing for medical service in foreign fields.
The Office of Adventist Mission promotes mission offerings, considers ways to reach the unreached, participates in church planting with the help of global mission pioneers, manages six global mission centers, as well as a growing number of urban centers of influence and tent-making programs. The goal of all these combined efforts is always to start new churches, said Krause, noting that the office currently has church planting projects in 68 countries.
He offered the following data on church plants:
Below are also several webpages of interest and support:
- Adventist Mission social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube)
- Mission 360 Magazine (online at https://am.adventistmission.org/mission360-home
- and in print)
- Mission 360 TV, https://m360.tv
Elbert Kuhn, Associate Secretary of the General Conference and Director of Adventist Volunteer Service (AVS), said that in 2015-2019 AVS trained and sent 1,962 volunteers throughout the world (over 30,000 equipped and sent since its beginning), and in 2019 NAD had over 362 mission trips on five continents, involving more than 10,000 young adults.
The volunteers are trained in 31 universities and 53 mission schools worldwide, and most are college-educated, some even holding masters or having begun doctoral studies.
Kuhn briefly shared three stories of AVS missionaries whose lives were changed because they took a year off to serve; they found purpose in life, meaning in religion, and went from living in darkness to being students of theology preparing for full-time ministry. While showing a film, Kuhn said in conclusion: “We kill our young adults when we give them a comfortable church, but we help them lead when we give them a life of sacrifice for Jesus Christ.”
- a growing trend in membership numbers,
- Sub-Sahara regions are growing primarily due to lay involvement,
- Local factors affect membership growth, such as post-communism in Eastern Europe, post-Christian culture in West Europe, and Islam in MENA.
- The highest member/congregation ratio is in NAD, which means the numerous churches in Africa or Asia assigned to pastors are mostly small ones.
In the conclusion of his report, Trim suggested that our church should examine the balance between pastors and administrators, given that the numbers of pastors increased by pastors increased 35% while the numbers of administrators increased 300% (see the images below). If our membership and accession were growing at the same rate as administrators we would not have a problem, noted Trim.
Selected items discussed and voted on:
“To adopt a new policy, GC BA 72 20, Social Media and Social Networking, as follows,
BA 72 20 Social Media and Social Networking – Organizations/institutions at every level should develop and implement guidelines regarding the use of social media and social networking that are in harmony with division working policy and consistent with national, state, or provincial laws.”
The few comments were mostly in favor. One attendee voiced his conviction that, while the Bible states there will always be tares and wheat, people put whatever they feel on social media and harm the committed workers. This is a welcome motion, and it is good that it be implemented differently in each division. Some comments raised the question of what “consistent with national, state, or provincial laws” means; specifically, will it cover “hate speech,” which is illegal in some countries and is also a doctrinal commitment. Hensley Moorooven responded that it would be embedded on a case by case basis. Another comment asked for reference guidelines already offered to some divisions to be made available to all. Lisa Beardsley, Director of Education, affirmed the validity of the concern over the expression “consistent with national, state, or provincial laws” and “hate speech” because some of the disciplinary policies in our church are not consistent with the laws of the land. She noted that we should encourage the exercise of freedom to not follow the law when it is not consistent with our values. In response, Karnik Doukmetzian, General Conference General Counsel, indicated that the Working Policy has a provision that allows for prioritization of belief over national law when there is conflict.
The vote carried.