Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | ANN staff

Seventh-day Adventist world church leaders are increasingly turning to prayer and divine power in the face of what they say is a seemingly impossible task—sharing the church’s message of hope in a secular, urban world.

More than ever, they said, church leaders are seeking God’s guidance as they make decisions that will steer the course of the church in the future. Many said they were struck by the spiritual tone of this year’s Annual Council, a biannual business meeting held in mid-October.

“A number of [delegates] this year shared how they were moved by the spirit of unity, purpose of mission and desire for the Lord to change our hearts and empower us to accomplish the mission, which is much too great for human wisdom, power or plans,” said Jerry Page, secretary of the Adventist world church’s Ministerial Association.

Ella Simmons, an Adventist world church vice president, said current trends in demographics are “sobering.” Research indicates that most of the world’s population now lives in cities instead of rural areas, where the church has historically focused its outreach. In recent years, Adventists have redoubled efforts to minister to the world’s major cities, but secularism and skyrocketing population growth are persistent challenges.  

Still, church leaders say they remain hopeful. 

“The climate of the Annual Council appeared somewhat solemn in wisdom, yet above all optimistic in what the Lord can and will do through the church in the coming years,” Simmons said.

G. T. Ng, executive secretary for the Adventist world church, observed a similar enthusiasm among Annual Council delegates.

Despite the jetlag dogging some delegates, “the latest emphasis on urban mission has kept many leaders at the edge of their seats. I believe there has been a tremendous amount of buy-in,” Ng said.

Ng was also impressed by the “palpable” spiritual emphasis that he said defined this year’s Annual Council. “It’s incredible that in the midst of a hectic business schedule, world leaders took the time to pray and read the Spirit of Prophecy,” he said. 

For several years now, Annual Council has ended with a 10-minute reading from the writings of Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White.

There was ample time for discussion and planning, too, but leaders say they have recognized that planning is “nothing without the outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” said Armando Miranda, a general vice president for the Adventist world church.

That outpouring, Page said, comes only through “much prayer.”

More than a hundred young adults volunteered to pray for the delegates for three months before and during Annual Council, Page said. Numerous other prayer chains sprung up, and the accumulated prayer, he said, “was used by our Lord to make this Annual Council something different in terms of the spiritual impact it had on us all.”