It was exactly 12 months ago I recall standing in the gymnasium of Newbold College at our Evangelism Expo, where I addressed over a thousand members of the SEC. I pointed out that as a Church we have been very insular and expressed the need to leave the comforts of our churches and integrate with our communities. I urged us to leave behind the fortress mentality that we have cherished over the years, where we seem to erect walls within our churches, keeping “good members” in and shutting out “non-members”. Every once in a while, we open our churches to the public for evangelistic campaigns and we let a few “non-members” in, but we quickly erect those walls again so that we can feel “safe” in our fortress. As believers, we know we are the salt and the light for our communities, but we have failed to mingle with our communities effectively.
We often quote the statement from Ministry of Healing p143, “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with people as one who desired their good. He showed sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He invited them, ‘Follow Me.’” Mingling with the people goes against the fortress mentality, and so we encouraged members to leave the comforts of the church and get out into their local communities and engage.
Although we were unsure how this would pan out, we were suddenly struck with the COVID-19 pandemic and our churches were closed. However, ministry had to continue, and the pandemic created a great opportunity for us to get into our communities and minister to those vulnerable people in need of our assistance. Each church was encouraged to find out the needs of their communities and minister accordingly. Every week in the President’s update, it was thrilling to hear stories from the video presentations as Area Coordinators shared with the rest of the SEC what their members had been doing in terms of building their communities.
Ministries included cooking and feeding the vulnerable, shopping for the elderly, collecting prescriptions and meeting the needs of those in the communities. Basically, our members engaged in acts of kindness as we mingled with our communities. These activities created opportunities to share our faith which led to some community members accepting Christ and being baptised.
Our theme for the quadrennium “Making Disciples: Building Communities” goes beyond acts of kindness. We are seeking to develop communities of faith in areas where there is no Adventist presence. In response to Jesus’ commission in Matthew 28, to go and make disciples of all people groups, we are encouraging all members of the SEC to participate in the Discovery Bible Readings. This is a simple method of reading a story in the gospels with family and neighbours and asking 5 simple questions:
We are not only to engage in acts of kindness, but we are to seek to build our communities spiritually. Members living close to one another can come together and participate with friends and neighbours in the Discovery Bible Readings. We can pray together and allow the Holy Spirit to teach us as we learn more about Jesus. This was how church was done in the book of Acts; and the church grew tremendously.
The local pastor is also involved in Discovery Bible Readings and has the additional responsibility of ensuring that these groups are functioning well within the district. It is our hope that with several of these small groups meeting around our conference, we will see a multiplication of believers and Adventism reaching unentered territories.