Annual Council 2023 Kicks off by Igniting a Global Passion for Disciple-Making

General Conference

Annual Council 2023 Kicks off by Igniting a Global Passion for Disciple-Making

Adventist leaders converge at the 2023 LEAD Conference to inspire, challenge, and mobilize the Church for Mission Refocus.

Business Meetings | USA | Andrea Lavy, ANN

Leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church convened on October 5, 2023, for the 2023 LEAD Conference, kicking off the Annual Council meetings of the General Conference (GC) of Seventh-day Adventists. The LEAD (Leadership, Education, and Discipleship) Conference explored the theme "Mission Refocus: Disciple-Making" and was designed to ignite a passion for disciple-making amongst those present, echoing the Great Commission's resounding call: "Go and make disciples."

Setting the Stage: LEAD Conference and Disciple-Making Focus

Erton Köhler, executive secretary of the GC, set the stage for the LEAD Conference as he emphasized the primary objective of this year's LEAD Conference was to refocus on disciple-making. Köhler's impassioned words underscored the profound importance of disciple-making through three distinct themes: the call, the journey, and the mission. He drew a clear distinction between "discipleship" as a process and "disciple-making" as an active mission, framing the day's discussions.

Reviving the Dream of a Finished Work

Pastor Shane Anderson delivered a stirring sermon during the LEAD Conference morning worship time, rekindling hope in the concept of a "finished work" within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Anderson's conviction was anchored in the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the foundational role of the Three Angels' Messages from Revelation 14:6-12. He passionately insisted, "If there were no Three Angels' Messages, then there would be no Adventist Church." He urged a harmonious blend of traditional and innovative approaches to discipleship, invoking the transformative power of diverse efforts. His message inspired those in attendance to believe that a finished work is not an impossible dream.

(Photo: Enno Müller / AME (CC4.0))
(Photo: Enno Müller / AME (CC4.0))
Unveiling the Discipleship Imperative

David Trim, director of the Office of Archives, Statistics and Research of the GC, and Gerson Santos, GC associate secretary, reminded us of a critical need—the urgency of active discipleship within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Highlighting the essence of community in discipleship, startling statistics were shown showcasing a growing gap between church membership and active discipleship. Trim's data revealed that only 36% of respondents are involved in weekly Sabbath ministry, and just over one in four participate in church ministry during the week. This disconnect between church membership and active discipleship is evident in the alarming statistic that 42% of church members eventually leave the church. Santos proposed a redemptive membership review as one solution, emphasizing the importance of personalized care and support in fostering genuine discipleship.

The challenge is clear—to bridge the gap between church membership and active disciple-making, caring for one another, and actively engaging in the mission of nurturing authentic, thriving communities of faith.

Transforming Believers into Engaged Contributors

Tiffany Brown, associate pastor of the Revision Church (NAD), addressed the crucial task of retaining new church members and transforming them into engaged, active contributors. She introduced the innovative concept of "C-suite members," likening them to high-ranking executives in organizations, with Jesus as the ultimate Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Brown advocated for a comprehensive membership orientation, cultivating connections, and fostering personal investment. Her insights underscored the urgency of creating a profound sense of belonging and active involvement within the church community.

Vibrant Disciple-Making Case Studies

The LEAD Conference showcased many inspiring case studies that vividly illustrated successful disciple-making journeys in different parts of the world. Atte Helminen, a pastor in the Finland Union of Churches Conference (TED), shared one remarkable story from the OIKOS project, emphasizing the transformative power of prayer, mentorship, community, and unwavering commitment to the mission of making disciples. Meanwhile, Pastor Ricardo Coelho from Alphaville Church (SAD) presented a compelling case study from Brazil, highlighting how dedication and faith had led to remarkable retention rates and vibrant discipleship communities.

(Photo: Lucas Cardino / AME (CC BY 4.0))
(Photo: Lucas Cardino / AME (CC BY 4.0))
Redefining Church and Discipleship for a Changing World

Anthony WagenerSmith's thought-provoking presentation challenged conventional metrics of church success and discipleship. He eloquently stated, "A successful church is not simply filling a building on the seventh day of the week, it’s filling the presence of the community seven days a week." He encouraged believers to transcend the limitations of physical church buildings and embrace a holistic view of church life. WagenerSmith, director for mission and evangelism for the Trans-European division (TED), emphasized, "The church is not a program to attend; the church is an identity to live out in the community for the sake of the world." This powerful message emphasizes that we, as individuals, are called to be God's living temples, reaching out to those far from Christ in our personal lives.

WagenerSmith presents “Mission Everywhere: From Holy Places to Holy People”. [Provided by the Annual Council Live Stream]]
WagenerSmith presents “Mission Everywhere: From Holy Places to Holy People”. [Provided by the Annual Council Live Stream]]
Embracing a Simplified Disciple-Making Process

Köhler concluded the day's proceedings with a passionate presentation. He stressed the urgency of adopting a simplified and adaptable disciple-making process, urging a paradigm shift. Köhler redirected the church's focus toward the "Ds" of disciple-making, prioritizing them over the "ABCs" of attendance, buildings, and cash. His resonating call emphasized the transformative potential of investing in discipleship for growth and fulfilling God's mission.

The Annual Council's LEAD Conference aims to ignite a global movement, urging every member to embrace the mission, rekindle the dream of a finished work, and push the boundaries of what is possible. The call is clear—to step into the future with unwavering conviction, making disciples and becoming living embodiments of God's love and mission.

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