Sometimes we tend to think that Jesus only commissions certain kinds of people, but Matthew 28:19-20 sounds like a pretty inclusive mandate to me. No one is excluded from going into all the world to teach the gospel, no hand is to be held back that could be involved in service and outreach. Jesus commissions all of us! Without waiting for committee action or heated dialogue, Jesus ascended into heaven, expecting His adherents’ complete obedience to His command. 1
Ellen White adds some additional insight:
“In choosing men and women for His service, God does not ask whether they possess worldly wealth, learning or eloquence. He asks, “Do they walk in such humility that I can teach them My way? Can I put My words into their lips? Will they represent Me?” (Ministry of Healing, page 17.)
Let’s consider some questions God does not ask:
- What is your age?
- What is your gender?
- What is your IQ?
- Where did you get your education?
- How much money do you have?
- Are you ordained by men?
- Are you strong?
- Are you articulate?
Three questions God does ask:
- Are they humble and teachable?
- Can I put My words into their lips?
- Will they represent Me
I earned my Master of Arts degree in pastoral ministry at an evangelical university, which I will not name to protect the privacy of the professor whose words I’m about to quote. My professors graciously allowed me to write my Master’s thesis on involving Adventist young people in evangelism, using Youth Challenge as the prototype. This program, which I coordinated first in the Michigan Conference and later in the North Pacific Union, used teens and young adults to teach Revelation Seminars, give Bible studies, and sell gospel literature door-to-door, in addition to participation in community service projects.
After I turned in the thesis project, my major professor called me on the phone.
“Cindy, I’ve read your thesis, and I want to say something to you privately, away from your reading committee.”
That got my interest!
“Did you know that our denomination’s membership has remained static over the last fifteen years? During that same time, the Adventist church membership has grown exponentially. I think I have found the reason in your thesis.”
You can be sure that I was listening carefully to his next statement.
“In your thesis you write continually about the eschaton, about Jesus’ second coming. This is your reason for mobilizing youth to do evangelism. You are expecting them to be heralds of this event. Now, in my church, we still have the second coming in our creed. It’s still in our books. But we don’t talk about it, we don’t preach it, and we certainly don’t prepare our young people to help others be ready for Christ’s coming. And that’s why I think your church is growing, and mine is not.”
I have no idea what I said in response to those startling comments. But I’ve thought about them often in the interim.
And I wonder. Do we Adventists still talk about the second coming? Are we still mobilizing an inclusive church to be heralds of this long awaited event?
I’m thinking about teen Ellen Harmon being disfellowshipped from her Protestant church for speaking too much about the second coming. If I (or you) were on trial for speaking too much about Jesus’ second coming, would there be enough evidence to convict us?
Read Matthew 24:14, and then I have a question for you.
If every Adventist did no more and no less than you did last week to share the gospel in your community, how long would it take for the gospel to go to all the world?
He called Moses, who said, “Not me, Lord! I stutter.” But God sanctified his tongue, and used him mightily.2
He called Jeremiah, who said, “I’m too young! I don’t know how to give a Bible study.” But God answered, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you.”
God called David, who had had a problem with sex and murder, but God brought him to repentance, forgave him, and used him mightily.
God called Mary, who had low self-esteem and an unsavory reputation, but Jesus not only forgave her, He also gave her the wonderful privilege of being the first to announce His resurrection.
In Christ, there is no male or female, Jew or Greek, youth or elderly, extroverted or introverted, Anglo or Asian, all are one in Christ, and may be called by the Spirit to teach, preach, and walk with Jesus.
Our young Adventist pioneers were set ablaze with the thought of Jesus – His life, His death, His resurrection, and His ministry in the Most Holy Place.
What about us? Do we still have that vision, that passion, that urgency to tell the world – Get Ready! He’s coming!
Perhaps it is possible that this current generation of youth will re-capture the vision of early Adventist pioneers and become that segment of the church body who model, lead and inspire the church at large to re-engage in inclusive evangelism.
And as God sees us step by faith together into the symbolic Jordan waters, maybe He’ll part our rivers of difficulty and by His Spirit, bring us together so we can finally enter the Promised Land.