Adventist Mission helped plant 80 churches and open 15 “centers of influence” in cities of more than 1 million people in 2017 as the Seventh-day Adventist Church steps up efforts to spread the message of Jesus’ soon coming in major cities.
Gary Krause, director of the world church’s Office of Adventist Mission, made the announcement during a presentation on the progress of Mission to the Cities, a church key initiative, to the two-day Spring Meeting of world church leaders at the Adventist Church’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.
“The cities have grown faster than our realization of the challenge,” Krause said on April 10, the opening day of Spring Meeting.
With more than half of the world’s population of 7.4 billion living in cities, the Adventist Church has been boosting its urban outreach, especially through centers of influence where church members connect with local communities.
Global Mission, which is part of Adventist Mission, helped finance 15 urban centers of influence in 2017, Krause said.
Those included a refugee training center in the U.S. city of Houston, population 2.3 million; a community education center with healthy cooking classes, a language school, clothing charity services, and job training in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, population 1.3 million; and clinics, youth community centers, and preschools in several closed countries, according to Adventist Mission data.
The projects aim to provide physical and spiritual healing to their communities and to lay the groundwork to plant new churches.
Also in 2017, Global Mission helped fund 80 new churches in major cities in Argentina, Congo, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, and a number of closed countries.
Comparable figures for 2016 were not immediately available.
Adventist Mission approved a total of $4.2 million for these Global Mission projects in 2017 and plans to distribute a similar amount in 2018. The funds come from donations and the Annual Sacrifice Offering.
At Spring Meeting, several world church department leaders described their roles in furthering Mission to the Cities.
Women’s ministries director Heather-Dawn Small spoke of numerous initiatives led by women around the world. Most recently, she joined 4,000 women from 11 African countries in taking a day out of a conference in Pretoria, South Africa to distribute care packages in the city of 700,000 people on April 6.
Janet Page, associate Ministerial secretary, said pastors’ wives around the world pray regularly for the cities through a prayer list published in Shepherdess, a Ministerial-produced magazine for pastors’ wives. Other Ministerial media also regularly highlight the cities, including Ministry magazine, Elder’s Digest, and websites such as Revival and Reformation and United in Prayer, said Ministerial’s communication manager, Jarod Thomas.
Thomas reminded church leaders why cities matter. Reading a quote from Adventist Church cofounder Ellen White’s book “Evangelism,” page 414, he said, “Here are the cities … with their millions of inhabitants that have not yet heard the last warning message. How are these to be warned? If the people of God would only exercise faith, He would work in a wonderful manner to accomplish this work. Hear the words of Christ: ‘If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven.’ Precious promise! Do we believe it? What marvelous results would appear if the united prayers of this company were to ascend to God in living faith! Jesus stands ready to take these petitions and present them to His Father, saying, ‘I know these persons by name. Send answers to their prayers; for I have graven their names on the palms of My hands.’”
E. Douglas Venn, director of Global Mission’s Urban Centers, who oversees Mission to the Cities, said in an interview that he was thrilled that church departments and church members were working closely together to make disciples and start new groups of believers in cities.
“We need to work together on the frontlines of urban mission,” he said. “We need Total Member Involvement for Mission to the Cities. We need preachers and evangelists, but we also need doctors, nurses, teachers, professors, and daycare workers.”
Total Member Involvement is another world church initiative that encourages every church member to lead someone to Christ.
Venn said only close collaboration with one another will allow church members to practice Christ’s method of evangelism — mingling with people, sympathizing with them, meeting their needs, and then calling them to follow Him.
“We can’t work alone,” he said. “The cities force us to work together. Everyone has to focus on the remaining mission task: making disciples in the unreached people groups of the cities.”
Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson appealed to church leaders at the Spring Meeting to press ahead earnestly with Mission to the Cities in their territories.
“This should be very close to every heart in this room,” he said.
Geoffrey Mbwana, a general vice president of the Adventist world church, likened the church leaders to Jonah, the Old Testament evangelist whom God dispatched to Nineveh, one of the biggest cities of its day.
“God has a people in the great Ninevehs of today,” Mbwana said. “And you know what? As leaders of the church, you and me today are the Jonahs. And I believe God is challenging us to take up this great responsibility because the people of the cities are waiting anxiously for this message of hope.”