In a stirring one-hour message to a Generation of Youth for Christ (GYC) convention, Seventh-day Adventist world church President Ted N. C. Wilson exhorted the church's young adults to lives of faithfulness and Christian service.
"There is no doubt in my mind that the Lord is bidding us as a people to 'go forward' with 'no turning back,'" Wilson said, referring to the theme of the five-day event that drew thousands of Adventist youth to Maryland's largest city. Shortly after the morning meeting, an estimated 5,000 -- including Wilson and his wife, Nancy -- boarded 75 buses and fanned out across metro Baltimore to witness door-to-door and invite people to enroll in Bible studies.
During the sermon, which was streamed live on the Internet and broadcast on cable and satellite channels, Wilson placed special emphasis on practical Christian living, including habits of Bible study, prayer, witnessing and reading of the writings of Ellen G. White, a pioneering co-founder of the Adventist movement.
"Among some of our church members there is a tendency to downplay or even dismiss the counsels of the Spirit of Prophecy," Wilson said, referring to White's collected works.
"We hear today that while the writings of Ellen White may have some devotional value, we should not let her 'limited 19th-century perspective' shape our 21st century understanding of Bible truth," Wilson said. "But I believe, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church firmly and unashamedly upholds, that the Spirit of Prophecy is one of God's greatest gifts to His end-time remnant people. Trust the Word of the Lord, and follow the counsel of His humble messenger, Ellen White. Let no one -- local church leader, pastor, teacher, administrator, or anyone -- turn you from that complete trust in the Spirit of Prophecy, which points to the Bible as God's authoritative Word!"
Wilson repeatedly underlined the importance of personal commitment to the truths of Scripture and the mission of the church throughout his message.
"If the Seventh-day Adventist Church is ever going to meet the Lord's ideal of being His end-time remnant, not just 'we' as a denomination, not just 'GYC' as a supporting organization, not just 'the youth' as a particular demographic, but you as an individual must get to work for Christ in service for others," Wilson said. He urged the church's young adults to serve in their local churches, teaching Sabbath school classes, making home visits to encourage members and participating in church business meetings.
"Commit yourself to personal effort, individual involvement that will help your church family finish the work that God has entrusted to it," Wilson said. "As members of GYC, ... continue to work closely with your local church, your local pastor, your local youth organization, church administrators, and your conference, union, and division youth department directors."
He added, "Never allow anyone to accuse GYC of not working with the established church organization. Become so much a part of the outreach of this Advent movement that you are understood to be part and parcel of your local church and conference. Support and nurture other youth initiatives of your local church and conference that are Bible and Spirit of Prophecy-based."
Wilson emphasized the spiritual fruits of such cooperation: "When we each allow the Holy Spirit to change us into the likeness of Jesus, we will automatically begin doing the work that Jesus has commanded of us. In this way the character of Christ will be seen in what we do, not merely in what we don't do."
Wilson, who is the father of three young adult daughters, appealed to the crowd of an estimated 7,000 to make solid moral choices in daily living: "While society bombards you with the idea that youth is a time for reckless self-indulgence, God's Word declares otherwise," Wilson said. "It is my prayer that the greatest examples of our faith and lifestyle shown to the world will be the youth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church."
As he invited young Adventists to come to the front of the convention center and commit to greater service for the church, Wilson shared a personal motive for wanting the Second Coming of Christ to occur soon. The recent death of Neal C. Wilson, his father and a past president of the Adventist world church, he said, has intensified his desire to see the church complete its mission.
"I long for Jesus to come even more than I ever have," Wilson said. "Two and half weeks ago, I lost my precious, 90-year-old father. He went to sleep in Jesus, awaiting His soon return. As a pastor and church leader, my father believed in the young people of this church -- and so do I! This church was started by young people, and by God's grace, young people will play a pivotal role in fulfilling its mission."
Wilson's charge drew an enthusiastic response from many in attendance. Chevene Simmonds, a college graduate student from Milledgeville, Georgia, said it was "great to have the new president [of the world church] talk and reaffirm us. The Holy Spirit is indeed here, and has challenged me to go back and do things better."
Ashley Kanomata, a high school senior from Lewisberg, Ohio, said Wilson's message "was very inspirational. Youth need to take a more active part in the work of the church."
And tenth-grader Heather Braman from Canby, Oregon, said of Wilson's message, "I thought it was awesome; I've never been so blessed before." A key takeaway for her, she said, was that "each person has an influence, [and] if we all work together, it's amazing what can happen."
To read Wilson's message, click here.