For the Sake of God’s Mission
Despite unfavourable circumstances, a 28-year-old young man was adamant about starting to publish a little paper. Unable to walk properly because of a foot injury, he trudged 13 kilometres back and forth between Rocky Hill and Middletown, Conn., in search of someone who’d be willing to produce an eight-page publication and get paid once the money was raised.
How would that become a reality? And why would a gifted speaker who experienced toil on the farm want to use the printing press in the first place? Why go through such challenges? Where did such determination come from? The short answer is God’s mission!
This young man embraced his responsibility as a follower of Christ, the potential of mass communication, and that “the hope of success was in God.” The outcome of such determination was that in July 1849, that young man—James White—held 1,000 copies of the first edition of The Present Truth.
What propelled James White on his bold endeavour has prompted many followers of Jesus to step out in faith to explore current means of mass communication to introduce people to Jesus. In this article, we will focus on some champions in Canada who embodied the words of Ellen White: “God will have men who will venture anything and everything to save souls.”
After going on air for the first time in the late fall of 1929, Pastor Herald N. Williams reported with great excitement, “125 people called me on the telephone during and right after the broadcast.” In the early days of radio, a few visionary workers in Newfoundland recognized its immense potential for spreading the gospel. Through a clear divine intervention, the drawings and the scarce parts of a small transmitter made their way to the living room of Pastor Williams in St. Johns, N.L. Fortunately, the Minister of Import intervened personally and ensured that no duty was charged on the transmitter components coming from the United States into Canada, which made the Bible Study League (BSL) a reality. Later it became the Voice of Adventist Radio (VOAR), which still operates in Canada today and is now known as Lighthouse FM.
Pastor Williams and many others, such as H.M.S. Richards, who founded the Voice of Prophecy in 1929, as well, explored the medium of radio to reach as many people as possible for Christ. The reality is that going after the lost sheep is not just a church activity; it has deep roots in God Himself and His mission. Christopher J. H. Wright expands this truth in the following way:
It is not so much the case that God has a mission for His church in the world, as that God has a church for His mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission—God’s mission.
It is a paradigm shift to realize that the mission does not originate with the church but emerges from the very nature of God. In other words, mission exists because God is a missionary (John 20:21, 22). God the Father sent His Son and the Spirit into the world, and the Father, Son, and Spirit sent the church into the world for the sake of God’s mission, “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), reconciling human beings to Him (2 Cor. 5:18–20).
Therefore, joining God in His mission is the ultimate goal of the church, and whatever the church may do, it must be for the sake of God’s mission. Corroborating with this heavenly purpose for the body of Christ, Ellen White wrote: “The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world.”
In the early ’70s, Pastor Henry Feyerabend’s radio show, A Voz da Profecia (The Voice of Prophecy), successfully introduced Jesus to the growing Portuguese community in Toronto. Nevertheless, as he visited one of his listeners, a divine insight emerged into how to reach more people for Christ: through a telecast. The Dream-Giver, the owner of the mission, planted a seed in His faithful servant’s heart, and this servant would not let it go until it came to fruition.
Through countless miracles, in fall 1973, the first five-minute episode aired, which led to 29 calls requesting a Bible. “Never again in the time I worked for the Portuguese community in Toronto,” wrote Feyerabend, “was there a lack of interest asking for studies. Never again did we have any trouble attracting new people to evangelistic meetings.” Later on, Feyerabend launched the Destiny telecast in English that eventually merged into It Is Written Canada, which is still a blessing today to the Great White North.
For the sake of God’s mission, Feyerabend made use of and explored another medium for mass communication: television. In a sense, God’s mission has embraced and taken ownership of communication and its wide variety of media as one of the main instruments to accomplish its purpose. Since Jesus commissioned His followers to carry His mission to the four corners of the earth (Matt. 28:18–20; Mark 16:14–18; Luke 24:46–49; John 20:30, 31; Acts 1:8), Christianity has been primarily a religion of communication that places a strong emphasis on (1) the biblical God, who is a communicator by nature and has made use of different mediums (Heb. 1:1–3); (2) the Incarnation and Sacrifice of the Word (John 1:1–14); and (3) the church’s mandate for proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom (Matt. 28:18–20; 2 Tim. 4:1–5).
Therefore, the followers of Jesus ought to use communication and its different expressions and media as they join God in His mission. The church is responsible for communicating for a sublime reason and holy purpose. The Remnant should adopt any kind of contemporary or vintage media to collaborate with God’s mission moving forward!
What about the Christian’s personal testimony? Isn’t that enough to communicate the message of the gospel to others? The concept of preaching through actions rather than words is becoming increasingly popular. I do believe that a life’s testimony can have a crucial influence on others. However, it is important to remember that our testimony alone is not enough to communicate the gospel message. The good news is not transmitted by osmosis, where people learn about Jesus as the answer to their deepest needs only because they interact with Christians and witness their lives. Christians should use their testimony to support and enhance their proclamation.
The apostle Paul wrote, “And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:14, 15, NKJV).
In 1995, when international evangelist Pastor Mark Finley walked onto the stage in Chattanooga, Tenn., the way the Seventh-day Adventist Church accomplished God’s mission acquired a new potency. With 676 churches connected through satellite broadcast, the first NET satellite uplink opened an era of satellite evangelism, which led in 2003 to the foundation of the official global television network of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Hope Channel.
Passionate about God’s mission, Pastor Brad and Kandus Thorp oversaw the NET series and nurtured the birth and development of Hope Channel. In personal communication, they shared that the late Pastor Dan Jackson used to tell a story about an encounter he had while shaking hands at the door of one of our churches in Canada one Sabbath morning. Apparently, a woman paused to confront Jackson to express her disapproval of some message on one of our media broadcasts. Just then another, older woman behind them overheard the comment and interrupted the first woman by saying, “But it’s not for YOU! The programs are for non-believers!”
The Thorps categorically affirmed, “Whoever she was, that second church member had the correct perspective on our mission. Our mission is to reach every person in Canada with the three angels’ messages. We must do our part to invite everyone to prepare for Jesus’ second coming!” And for the sake of God’s mission, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has a 24/7 international television network.
Propelled by the divine mission, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada is launching a new phase of Hope Channel Canada on March 1, 2024, to meet Canadians where they are and proclaim with Canadian content that with Jesus, There is More to Life!
Throughout history, the followers of Jesus have used various means of communication to spread the good news. The church initially relied on oral communication, which later integrated with written communication on papyrus and parchment. Music was also incorporated as a means of communication, followed by visual media such as paintings and sculptures. The advent of printing in the mid-15th century opened doors for publishing books, pamphlets, and papers.
The early 19th century saw the rise of new technologies such as photography (1839), the telegraph (1844), the telephone (1876), and radio (1896), which assisted in mass visual reproduction. Electricity enabled moving pictures when it was linked with photography (1888), which opened the doors to cinema and television. The electronic technologies of the 1980s and 1990s laid the foundation for today’s digital era, challenging the concept of boundaries, speed, and distance and providing the context for globalization. For the sake of God’s mission, Christians have used these and other communication venues. The reality is that the church has remained vibrant by adapting the everlasting gospel message to fit media, the conduit of the day.
Audacity, determination, and vision of using mass communication and its wide variety of media for the sake of God’s mission has been evident throughout the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, particularly in Canada in the accounts of Harold Nathan Williams, Henry Feyerabend, and Brad and Kandus Thorp.
Accordingly, upon the shoulders of these faithful servants, and many others, we should venture into all venues of communication, and in particular, digital communication for the sake of God’s mission. In my humble opinion, the church has not explored digital communication platforms to their full capacity, especially the internet and social media. Additionally, new ways of mass communication are on the rise, and I do believe that “for such as a time as this,” when humanity finds itself on the edges of eternity, God would allow, or even inspire, new technologies with fast and wide communication reach to become a reality to finally accomplish His mission.
In this upcoming year, renew your resolution of communicating and supporting the mass media initiatives of presenting Jesus Christ to Canada for the sake of God’s mission.
 Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White: The Early Years, 1827–1862, Vol. 1 (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1985), 164.
 Ellen G. White, Life Sketches of Ellen G. White (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1915), 213.
 Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (InterVarsity Press, 2006), 62.
 Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1911), 9.
 Henry Feyerabend, Born to Preach (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2005), 140.
 Email communication, Nov. 1, 2023.