The Danish physicist Niels Bohr once observed, "Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future."
While the eminent scientist was speaking tongue-in-cheek, an essential truth is there. So this observer will not offer any forecasts as to what shall, specifically, happen at the Seventh-day Adventist world session starting this week in Atlanta, Georgia.
But I have the feeling this will be a different Session than we saw in St. Louis, Missouri, five years ago. Having arrived here early, I've seen a bit of Atlanta the past few days and my impressions are vastly different here.
Atlanta is a bustling, pulsating city. It is the regional hub of the southern United States, and boasts a vibrant economy. It's a multicultural city, a center of higher learning -- Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia and Emory University are among the schools here -- and it's a place where the Adventist Church has one of its fastest-growing North American congregations, as Adventist News Network has reported.
This is also a city that's home to plenty of churches and plenty of Christians. Though growing, Adventists are not the majority here, but we are known and we are meeting in a community where active and dedicated faith is understood and even appreciated.
All this suggests -- and only suggests -- that while the presence of tens of thousands of Adventists will probably not lead to mass conversions, we do have the potential for making a good impression on the city we visit. It will require discernment, patience, courtesy and even discipline, but we all have the opportunity to impact this city for the gospel and the cause of Christ.
To the extent that we model and show our very best "face" to the world we find in this city, we'll have an opportunity to reach people, now and in the months to come. The ways in which we deal with the people who know us only as another "mega convention" passing through could have an influence -- for eternity.
--Mark A. Kellner is news editor for Adventist Review magazine