II n a special live-streamed event over the July 4th weekend, the Seventh-day Adventist Church launched its strategic focus for 2020-2025. The plan, titled Reach the World: I Will Go, is rooted in the Great Commission found in Matthew 28, which calls Jesus’ followers to go and make disciples of all nations. It is a tool to help the Church maintain focus and effectiveness in carrying out its mission.
The plan was developed by the Future Plans Working Group Strategic Planning and Research Oversight Committee, chaired by former General Conference vice-president Michael Ryan, after consulting with divisions and receiving approval from the Annual Council of the GC Executive Committee in 2019.
The I Will Go initiative covers multiple aspects of Church life, and is broken down into three main categories: Mission, Spiritual Growth, and Leadership. Under these categories are various objectives that, by the Holy Spirit’s power and leadership, the Church hopes to fulfill.
In a continuing series, Adventist News Network will be exploring each of these objectives, as well as the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are benchmarks of progress.
Mission: The First Objective
The first objective under the Mission category is: “To revive the concept of worldwide mission and sacrifice for mission as a way of life involving not only pastors but every church member, young and old, in the joy of witnessing for Christ and making disciples.”
Foreign mission service has been an emphasis in the Adventist Church since the early 1860’s when the first missionaries arrived in Central Europe at the appeal of Advent believers who had traveled to America, learned of the Three Angels’ Messages and returned home to share the light they’d received with their friends and neighbors.
Since that time, the Church’s field of reach has touched every part of the globe, from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, to Africa, Central and South America, and the South Pacific. Mission service is featured prominently as one of the main facets of the Adventist faith.
As with many things, however, over the years the sense of urgency and sacrifice for local and foreign missions has dulled slightly. One indication of this is in financial support. In 1930, for example, members shared up to 30% of their income in Sabbath School mission offerings; that percentage declined to just over 3% in 2018.[i] And today, only 3.3% of Christian workers labor among the unreached. The Reach the World: I Will Go strategic focus hopes to rekindle some of the former flame for missions, where service and witnessing is an overall lifestyle.
Mission as a Way of Life
Gary Krause, director of Adventist Mission for the World Church, shares that it’s not about how many events people are involved in. “It’s not so much counting ‘I did this many things for Jesus this week,’ it’s more in terms of, ‘Is my life oriented towards mission and is it reflected in the things that I do, in the ways that I engage my neighbors, and do I intentionally try to put Christ’s method into practice?’” You may not have the spiritual gift of preaching or teaching, but you can use your God-given talents to minister in other ways.
Krause continues, “If someone is gifted in hospitality and shows hospitality to strangers in the community, they’re being involved in mission. The way Jesus talked about it, if someone even gives a cup of water to someone in need, they’re being involved in His mission. There are so many different ways that people can be involved…We’re [the Church] not dictating to you what that is. That’s up to you and the Holy Spirit and the gifts that God has given you to use.”
There is often a common misconception that in order to witness or be a “missionary” you have to travel around the world, or preach an evangelistic series. That ideology is understandably limiting in its scope.
“We need to rebuild this concept of the priesthood of all believers. Every believer, in their sphere of influence, involved in mission,” Krause says. It’s not about programs and events, Krause emphasizes. It’s about lifestyle. “When I am a businessman or businesswoman, am I a Christian? Am I using this as a platform to be what God called me to be?” Krause explains. “Mission is not something I add to what I’m already doing, it is who I am.”
This objective really is about utilizing all aspects of Christ’s method to reach the lost, not focusing on just one point or another. Christ’s method was this: “The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me’” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 143). You cannot focus on just mingling or just asking people to follow Jesus. Each step builds upon another, leading finally to discipleship.
The Strategic Planning and Research Oversight Committee has laid out several target goals to keep this objective in focus and indicate how successful the Church has been in achieving its purpose. These KPIs touch every aspect of the organized Church, from General Conference departments to local church ministries.
Increased number of church members participating in both personal and public evangelistic outreach initiatives with a goal of Total Member Involvement (TMI)
Frontline missionaries speak at major camp meetings and at other large church gatherings.
Each division holds annual mission rallies for church members, involving local administrators; GC officers, departmental directors and associate directors; officers and departmental directors from other divisions; and frontline workers from both their own and other divisions.
Create and make available age-appropriate mission-focused morning devotional books aimed at each grade level of elementary education.
GC Education, Children’s Ministries, Health Ministries, Youth Ministries, and Office of Adventist Mission collaborate in producing readings on mission for Adventist children and teenagers, made available in print, braille, audiobooks, and digital media, as appropriate and as budgets allow.
GC-funded periodicals include at least one story from the 10/40 Window or large urban areas in every issue.
Improved retention rates of audited membership globally.
With all church entities working together, focusing their plans for outreach and ministry on a specific goal, and relying on the Holy Spirit for His guidance and aid, success is achievable!
For more information on this objective, visit the strategic focus website, IWillGo2020.org. There are a variety of resources available for members to view, including a downloadable PDF version of the Reach the World: I Will Go brochure. This short booklet gives a more detailed view of the planning cycle and process for the global Church, and features each of the objectives and KPIs for the strategic plan.