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Wednesday: Into All the World — 22 Comments

  1. Hinduism and Judaism started about 4000 years ago, Buddhism and Christianity about 2000 years ago and Muslimism about 1500 years ago. To a very large extent there has been very little movement between these religions. Certainly, Christianity has moved into and swallowed up some of the animist and other religions but this was largely on the back of colonialism which mixed Christianity with greed and control. Today, there is very little movement between the major world religions. It is against this background we need to think a bit about the Gospel going into all the world, and in particular, the Seventh-day Adventist version of the Gospel.

    We take pride in the fact that we have a presence in so many countries of the world and we like to quote facts and figures about this. What often goes unnoticed in this rather egocentric use of statistics, is that despite our less-than-conservative estimate of about 20 million Seventh-day Adventists, we are largely unheard of. We kid ourselves if we think that we are anywhere near going into the whole world.

    I don’t deny the three angels' messages and the call to preach the Gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. It has been a driver for the Seventh-day Adventist Church mission.

    Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— Rev 14:6 NKJV

    Rather than concentrating on the “extent” there is another agenda in this passage. It is the notion of “inclusiveness” It is not just how far we can preach the gospel but who we can include. And maybe part of the inclusiveness means that we have to jump out of the Seventh-day Adventist vision of winning souls into the church, but rather we expose folk to Jesus and let the church membership thing look after itself.

    Is it possible for us to have Hindu and Buddhist believers who follow Christ within their cultural view? I have suspected for quite a while that Seventh-day Adventists have a rather egocentric view of the Gospel with our idea that we should attempt to persuade everyone to come around to our point of view.

    Remember when Jesus had that discussion with the Samaritan woman, the question came up about where the appropriate place of worship was; Jerusalem or Samaria? Here is the story:

    Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. John 4: 20-24 KJV

    Is the takeaway message from this study that we need to return to a Christ-centred Gospel?

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    • Maurice—Great points! But isn’t a Christ-centered gospel “…teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…”? (Matthew 28:19-20). In other words, the plain truth of the Bible?

      I’m not sure what you mean when you say “Is it possible for us to have Hindu and Buddhist believers who follow Christ within their cultural view? ” Please correct me if I’m misunderstanding your intent, but to me that sounds like a mixture of religions which is no longer Christ-centered.

      I recently watched an interview with an Adventist missionary in a closed country who reported that it was not uncommon to find statues of Mary and statues of Jesus inside the same Seventh-day Adventist church. (And members would kneel before both of them.) Their religious/cultural practices were being brought in alongside the gospel.

      I’d like to hear more about what you mean when you say the gospel within their cultural view. What does (or could) that look like to you? Thanks!

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      • To a large extent the Christian liturgy is much the same irrespective of our doctrinal differences. We sing, we pray, we give an offering and we listen to a sermon. Typically we sit in rows facing the front. Many eastern religions place less emphasis on meetings as such. A lot of meeting places do not have chairs, and meetings typically involve chants and recitation. Buddhism, for example places more emphasis on personal worship rather than collective meetings. Eastern Christianity can be very different to Western Christianity too. Egyptian and Ethiopian Coptic church practice would be quite foreign to us.

        We also need to remember that churches were not a feature of the early church. Worship was typically in small groups around a shared meal. If you wanted to have a large meeting you used an open space.

        I am not saying anything goes. But the heart of Christianity is our love for God expressed in our love for one another. There is lots of room for cultural expression within that.

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      • Sarah, what you report from the missionary interview you watched is, indeed, sad:

        it was not uncommon to find statues of Mary and statues of Jesus inside the same Seventh-day Adventist church. (And members would kneel before both of them.) Their religious/cultural practices were being brought in alongside the gospel.

        That is exactly how the early Christian church slipped into near-total apostasy, when only the "church in the wilderness" kept the true faith.

        And yet, I remember when Jesus spoke to the church of Thyatira (which was in the time of apostasy) he noted "I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first." (See Rev. 2:18-29)

        Jesus is very patient with us, but that doesn't mean that we should not teach Bible truths and confirm that new believers accept them before being baptized. That doesn't mean they are mature Christians, but it does mean that they have a foundation on which to build. And we need to support them in their journey.

        (8)
    • Maurice – I am very encouraged to read your comments and hope that it falls on open hearts and ears. Yes, I believe that it is best "to return to a Christ-centered Gospel."

      I agree that it would be best to concentrate on the “extend” as well as the “inclusiveness” when reaching others with Christ's Gospel. As I see it, all new believers having been reached to believe the Gospel of Christ ought to be accepted as part of the body of Christ. Then, if so desired, he/she can choose the fellowship of a particular group or denomination.

      The Scripture you selected to support your point tells where the real import lies – learning to ‘worship the Father in spirit and in truth’. Yes, this is the Christ-centered gospel, and this is what ought to be focused on and taught in all churches regardless of denominational identity markers.

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      • There is a tension between "Believing in Christ" and "Joining the Church". I am sure that if Phillip was a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church, he would have had his knuckles rapped for baptizing the Eunuch. My only comment is that baptism is a sign of accepting Jesus, not a rite that recognises a mature Christian. I was baptised at 13 years of age and over 60 years later I still have some maturing to do.

        (9)
    • Maurice, nine years ago I posted a video of an interview with a Muslim Seventh-day Adventist, and I received a lot of push-back from our readers. I wonder if things have changed at all?

      I do know that God is actively working in the Muslim world even where our frontline "Waldensian" missionaries cannot go. (I don't remember the exact name used by a whole army of young adults embedding themselves in Muslim countries in service industries and sharing who "Issa" is with their Muslim contacts. I met some of them at the 2015 General Conference session.) Where our "angels" cannot go, God is using heavenly angels and giving dreams and visions to Muslims by the hundreds and perhaps thousands. (We have no way of knowing how many, but information leaks out. The specifics can never be published, because it would hinder the work that is happening.)

      I know that Gospel Outreach is reporting amazing success among the Hindus in India by focusing on commonalities, rather than differences. Instead of trying to persuade them to accept a new God, they point them back to the one God who is above all the various manifestations of gods in their Hindu beliefs, and then they share what that great God is like. (Gospel Outreach supports indigenous workers who go into new territory to live among the people and share Jesus with them.)

      I don't personally know of similar work done among Buddhists, but I suspect it is happening. I see the Spirit moving all across the globe, with the last message spreading rapidly, largely through supporting Seventh-day Adventist ministries, not only through the church organization itself. God has given this church a job to do, and it is happening - even if many of us in the Western world are not aware of it. I keep remembering that we were told that "the last movements will be rapid ones." In the last several years we have seen how quickly the secular world can change, but God is not caught off-guard; His last message is spreading rapidly as well. There may be some, reading this blog, who are young enough and willing enough to go join God's "angel" army right now. If you are interested in volunteering for this angel army, check out this Mission Resources page. You'll see volunteer opportunities further down the page.

      (9)
      • Yes Inge I remember the post and video well. We often have preconceived ideas about other religions based on media reports and our own history which creates communication barriers. My brother worked in the Muslim part of Sudan for a number of years and his interaction with them showed that they too had similar misconceptions about Christianity.

        It can be very hard to communicate if we are not friends. I had a Muslim co-researcher for a number of years. He taught me a lot about cross-cultural exchange, and in particular, the value of listening carefully.

        (1)
  2. Much about the future is out of our control. As Christians we put our trust in Jesus.

    Our great commission is to reveal Jesus and His teachings....love, joy, forgiveness, compassion, and fairness. When we reflect Jesus by being kind, caring, and standing up for what's right, others will want to know more about Him. I believe it is better to focus more on Jesus and His teachings rather than spending too much time trying to predict the future. Jesus has it all under control.

    We can find peace and hope in knowing that Jesus is always with us. We can talk to Him at any time of the day or night. He is listening and is always there for us.

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  3. What an opportunity you and I have today! We are alive! What a privilege! And because we are alive, we can (yes) make a difference where we are! Make a difference today. Make a difference to someone, to yourself, to your family, to your co-workers, and your friends! We have this great opportunity every day we wake up! Do you want to be part of something bigger than yourself? That's the plan! Show some love to a sick and dying world! Now, more than ever, we need to make a difference!

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  4. There are so many things happening in the world today, and so much more to come, that if we don't know Jesus for ourselves -- if we aren't anchored in Him -- we will be easily carried away and lose sight of who He really is.

    Let us gird our armor on and stand firm!

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  5. I tend to agree with Maurice. Too often we think of the number who join us as Seventh-day Adventists. In some areas, we praise pastors who baptize hundreds per year. Recently, we are even looking at growth or non-growth of our churches. This often detracts from the mission of the church. The mission of the church, as I understand it, is to spread the gospel, not to make Seventh-day Adventists. If those to whom we witness, by God’s grace, join us, we praise God. If they don’t, we still thank God that we have done His bidding. Missionary Volunteers had it right: “The Advent Message to all the World in this Generation.” Let us model Christ in all that we do, thus fulfilling His commission. I believe there will be many in the kingdom who never became openly identified with us as Seventh-day Adventists.

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  6. It appears that the aim of “going into all the world” has overtaken the “preaching and teaching of the gospel of the love of the Father for His children. Are Christians becoming competitive in their efforts to reach the ‘lost’?
    What is the heart of the gospel and the prophets’ message? Is it not to learn to love the one and only Creator God with all our heart and being, and to love our brothers and sisters in Christ as we have been loved, also including those who have not yet joined the brother/sisterhood of believers?

    How do we worship God in spirit and truth? The Holy Spirit in us will express God’s Love to our fellow man if we lend our bodies for Him to do so. Truth is the Holy Spirit’s revelation according to the Word of God revealed by His Son, and brought to our understanding in order that we have our life, and live, by it.

    I question the correctness of the statement that “The grace of Christ is given to rescue us from the claustrophobic confines of our own little self-focused kingdom and ‘frees us to live for the eternal purposes and satisfying delights of the kingdom of God’.” I consider that it is the love of God which transforms us to accept/grow/love God and His immeasurable majesty and glory with all our heart, and live according to His Will.

    After all, we are called to have our life in Christ Jesus, the Father’s Son, and are so equipped to worship Him by living according to the revealed will of the Father. It is God’s love, carried by people filled with His Spirit to teach the truth about Him and man which ought to go into all the world, not the humanly designed ‘missions’.

    (3)
    • Hi, Brigitte. Personally, I have no doubt that God desires to work through Spirit-filled individuals, as you have described. However, it seems to me that the lesson author's remarks concerning "the claustrophobic confines of our own little self-focused kingdom" were legitimately intended to help us realise that we need to be part of something much bigger than ourselves.

      Is it possible that the church (with its "missions") is far more than a mere human institution? What if God has chosen to work through groups, and well as through individuals? Matthew 16:18 and Matthew 18:17 strongly suggest to my mind that a part of the earthly mission of Christ was to establish a church. In John 17:20-23, Jesus prays for the unity of those who should believe in Him. Shall we not seek, by our words and actions, to help answer that prayer?

      (5)
    • Hello Brigitte,

      I would encourage all to watch the "Study with the Author" videos, which are presented under the auspices of It is Written. These videos can be accessed in this blog. My impression from these videos is that the objectives of the author of this quarterly align with the sentiments you have expressed. As often happens in the written word, the reader's conceptions may colour his understanding of what he reads. However, hearing the same words spoken by mouth with the body language of the speaker may convey an entirely different understanding. Mark Finley's approach is very pastoral.

      (3)
  7. I will first say that I am a life-long Seventh-day Adventist, and I believe that we have a special mission to the world. Though I had my moments, as a young person, where I looked wistfully at some elements in other evangelical churches, I really do feel now that there isn't a better place to be (though there's certainly room for growth in our church).

    However, I don't know that I like the last paragraph and how it says the commission of Revelation 14 is the greatest task ever committed to His church. First, it makes it sound like the Adventist Church is "the church" which sounds highly arrogant. Also, can we be certain the proclamation of the three angels' messages is really the greatest task ever? Greater than the initial proclamation of Jesus in Acts? Without that, we wouldn't be here to proclaim anything else.

    Sometimes I think we get too hung up on the institution of our church. It is a blessing and I am glad we have a well-functioning organization. We couldn't do what we do without it. But I see it as a vehicle, not an end in itself. The message is more important than becoming formally part of our church. If people learn the truth, I'm not too concerned whether they ultimately end up in the church formally - at the end, perhaps this will be impossible. I think of Gentiles with strong faith, in Jesus' time. Being outside formal Judaism never stopped them from having a strong faith.

    (2)
    • Hi, Christina. I heartily agree with most of your points, especially the one about the church being a vehicle, not an end in itself. I also like your point about ancient Gentiles with strong faith, and we never want to suppose that we Seventh-day Adventists are the only real Christians, or even the best ones. I believe we must always bear in mind that God can and will work with any sincere soul, by any means available to Him. He owes us absolutely nothing.

      That said, I do recall Jesus' statement to the Samaritan woman that "salvation is of the Jews." While pointing this precious soul away from religious controversy, toward the true meaning of worship, He did not neglect to point her to what was then the one true religion -- Judaism -- even though it was largely apostate and its leadership horribly corrupt, and would soon seal its doom with the crucifixion of Christ and the stoning of Stephen. Following that, the noble and faith-filled Cornelius was directed by an angel to connect with Peter, one of the principal leaders of the Christian church. These Scriptures lead me to believe that God prefers to work through His church whenever and wherever He can.

      This brings me to your point that implying the Seventh-day Adventist Church is "the church" sounds highly arrogant. I agree that it could, and we should be very careful how we come across. On the other hand, for those who are familiar with the history of the Advent Movement, and its relation to Bible prophecy, it might not sound arrogant at all. We do seem to have some solid reasons for taking such a position, although we can never find any valid grounds for boasting of ourselves.

      Have a blessed day!

      (4)
      • R.G. – regarding your comment that Jesus “did not neglect to point her to what was then the one true religion – Judaism" .... May I suggest that the statement by Christ that “salvation is of the Jews", is not so much reflective of the organizational structure of their religious observations - Judaism, but the acknowledgement that they worship the only true God, and therefore Salvation is by this God only – Deut.6:1-9; v.4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.

        (1)
        • That's an interesting point, Brigitte, but I would clarify that, when I speak of a religion or church, I mean a community of believers holding to certain doctrinal beliefs. Usually, this community would be organized in some way, but that's incidental.

          You say that what characterized the Jews of Jesus' day, in contrast to the Samaritans, is that the Jews worshipped the true God. But, according to 2 Kings 17:24-41, the Samaritans did worship Jehovah, but not in accordance with His instructions. Neither were the 1st-century Jews, on the whole, worshipping God in spirit and in truth, but at least they had possession of the (Old Testament) Scriptures, and (crucially) they were the faith community that God had established and not yet rejected.

          Based on these facts, I stand by my statement that Jesus was directing the Samaritan woman to what was essentially the true church at the time. And I think that we should do the same for people, after helping them find a vital spiritual connection with Christ, as you so rightly emphasize.

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  8. Matt 28:19-20 All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

    Go -- this is an active verb. Don't just wait for people to come to you, but GO. All power is given unto Jesus in heaven and in earth, therefore GO with courage and purpose.

    make disciples of all nations -- call people in all nations to become active followers of Christ.

    baptizing them -- a symbolic act of dying with Christ to sin, and rising with Christ to newness of life

    in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit -- To be baptized in the threefold name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is to declare publicly that they have forsaken the service of Satan and have become members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King.

    Teaching them to observe all things, that I commanded you, True followers of Christ will keep His commandments. They won't be swayed by false prophets, false christs, false sabbaths, etc.

    (6)
  9. Just wondering about this comment:

    Rather than concentrating on the “extent” there is another agenda in this passage. It is the notion of “inclusiveness.”

    Fully agree the gospel goes to everyone, but do we include everyone as they are?

    If Paul's gospel was love and acceptance (inclusiveness), would he have been persecuted? Or was it because he preached a changed life in Christ? As it is written:

    Therefore come out from among their midst and be separate says the Lord and do not touch what is unclean and I will welcome you. 2 Cor. 6:17

    Be not bound together with unbelievers for what part has righteousness with unrighteousness or what fellowship has light with darkness, or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has the believer in common with an unbeliever, or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God. Just as God said, I will dwell in them and walk among them and I will be their God and they shall be my people. 2 Cor. 6:14-16

    It seems to me that there is more to the gospel than just love and inclusion. Here we have several families from India and surrounding areas, and they are well aware of Hinduism and Buddhism, etc, and are active in preaching the gospel to those people, realizing they do not have the gospel.

    (2)

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