I’m excited about what God is doing across Canada! I wish you could join me as I travel throughout our country from St. John’s to Victoria and hear the stories God’s people are telling about His power and His ability to change lives.
Today, however, I’d like to share with you four fundamentals that I believe are vital to our church in 2011. If we spend time and energy in these four areas, I believe that God will bless our church across Canada in a remarkable way.
The first of these is evangelism. God’s people were reborn to bring people to Christ. All through the history of Christianity and specifically within the Seventh-day Adventist Church, God’s people have gone out of their way to spread the gospel. They have preached the gospel, they have taught doctrine and they have baptized new believers. I am encouraged as lay people and pastors alike share with me stories of their evangelistic ministry.
In Canada we believe and have practiced evangelism throughout our history. Today we have over 60,000 Adventists from coast to coast. But that is not enough.
We must continue to use tried and true methods of evangelism and also experiment with new and unique ways of preaching the same gospel to reach groups of people we’ve never touched before.
I hope that during 2011, as many of our people as possible—seniors, young adults, middle-aged people like me and yes, children—will find a way to lead out in an evangelistic activity of their own. As we do this, new men, women and children who love God and believe in Him will become a part of His church. You and I will have the joy of welcoming them into church homes that will encourage and support them in their journey to Christ’s Kingdom.
Secondly, Adventist education is one of our church’s greatest assets. My parents made it possible for me to enjoy a Seventh-day Adventist education; for this, I owe them a great deal.
I’d like to encourage every Adventist family to seek an Adventist education for their children. In this way, we can affirm faith, provide tools for life and provide excellent instruction as well. From kindergarten through university, Canadians are able to access Adventist education. And it is worth noting that many who are not Adventist but who are looking for high-quality education are choosing to send their children to our church-sponsored schools.
One of the greatest predictors of a church’s ability to grow is the presence of an Adventist school in their community. Leaders and parents, please consider establishing an Adventist school in your community if there isn’t one already. And until you have a school in your community, why not investigate Adventist Distance Learning? It is a tremendous resource. Ask your conference educational superintendent about it or contact the Office of Education here at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada national headquarters.
Thirdly, I want to speak about diversity and culture. Within Canada, we are blessed to have many cultures and the insights that those cultures bring. We need to learn from one another the lessons of faith and the lessons of practice which that diversity brings. It is my great hope that in 2011 we will involve more people of a variety of cultures within each of our congregations and organizations. This is vitally important if our churches are to be a place where people from around the world can hear the gospel and feel welcomed and at home. It is our privilege to share the gospel with many cultures and people groups today without even leaving our homeland of Canada. What a blessing of God this really is!
Finally, I want to think with you about communication. We live in a time of unparalleled opportunity and great change in the way we communicate. Our church has been blessed with the radio station VOAR, with studios in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Many of you are aware that its programming can be heard on rebroadcast stations in various communities throughout Canada and via the Internet. I appreciate the important work that the dedicated staff of this Christian station are doing.
While we continue to minister through VOAR, we must seek and adopt new ways to communicate the gospel to people who will not be reached in traditional ways. Through social media, Internet presence and a host of other means that we have not yet explored, we need to continue to reach out with Christ’s timeless gospel. We also must use these new technologies to make news and resources available to those who already are a part of the Adventist Church. As we do this, we will not change the DNA of Adventism; we simply seek to become more effective in our witness.
None of this would be of any significance were it not for Jesus and salvation. It is His sacrifice and His invitation that are important.
And so it is that in our church, there is a need for renewed seriousness about who we are and what we do. We need to experience a revival and a change of life like nothing we have seen. Our boards and committees can’t vote it. Only the Holy Spirit can bring it. So as we think about our place in God’s church, we need to pray earnestly that God’s Spirit will be poured out and that God’s people will respond.
In Scripture, I read these words: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14, NIV). I can’t wait to see Jesus. He’s coming soon. I want to be ready to meet Him in peace, and it is my greatest hope that each of us will be ready for His return.
May God bless you as you serve Him in 2011.