Bern, Switzerland, June 25, 2014 [Corrado Cozzi; CD-EUDNews]. The Adventist church is founded on the mission given by Jesus two thousand years ago: go and make disciples. With this mission in mind, the first Seventh-day Adventist Mission Advisory in the Inter-European Region (EUD) was held in Cernica (Bucharest, Romania).
About 30 delegates from 6 unions met together from June 19-22 to take part in a program conducted by Pastor Paolo Benini, EUD Personal Ministry and Adventist Mission Director. Those taking part were directors of the local Personal Ministry Department and their assistants.
In his opening speech, Paolo Benini emphasized the need "to promote the great truth and lifestyle that we know, to the post-modern and secularised society of today." A goal that inspired all guest speakers.
Gary Kraus, Adventists Department Mission Leader at the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists (GC), focused on important mission topics and again emphasized that "the mission, as we understand it, is well laid out in the mission declaration of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Its fundamental objective is to proclaim salvation which is possible only through Jesus Christ who forgives, justifies, regenerates and sanctifies.” This is the purpose that gives meaning to all projects supported by Adventist Mission.
Adventist Mission stands behind and sponsors any evangelistic project with the clear goal of establishing a new community in territories and/or geographical, ethical, cultural and religious groups and where there are no Adventists.
During the Advisory, Gary Krause, presented the concept of the 'Centers of Influence', a Christian approach to holistic service with hospitality, education, assistance, promoting health, lifestyle and quality of life. All in an integrated fashion, creating trust and friendship, furthering the Gospel and sharing the knowedge of Christ and His plans for humanity.
Delbert Pearman, Adventist Mission Department planning director, gave guidance, training, instruction and offered relevant material on how to organize a 'Center of Influence' and how to get financial support.
"It's the first time I'm directly involved in discussing the application of the project," Pearman said, "and I'm really impressed by the passion and commitment of everyone involved in this great challenge to evangelize Europe."
"To build a church and the mission, means to confess our faith," said Paolo Benini, and confirmed the five factors of church growth: trained leaders, council of elders, Sabbath School Action Units, family groups and prayer ministry.
As the purpose of this advisory was more political and administrative than educational, all the participants came with the intent to better understand the characteristics, priorities, strategies and finances for the proposed missionary projects.
"It is the first time we have organized such an event," declared Paolo Benini, "even though we had some specific administrative goals in mind, some space was reserved for participants to share their specific programs, experiences, plans and priorities. These were the times that will be mostly commemorated." This is usually the time to share ideas and plans.
General discussion proved that the mission of the church in Europe is not structurally in crisis, nor is the growth of the church, or the recovery of members in the life of the church. Interesting examples were shared from almost every Union where noticeable development evidenced evangelistic conversions and produced positive results.
The project in Spain was very fascinating and effective: the Exposition of the Bible, where hundreds of visitors were informed and instructed on the Bible and its contents. "This is a method that attracts public gathering, it invites interaction with images, models, different versions of the Bible and experiences the atmosphere of the biblical Tabernacle, live" said Javier Moliner, Personal Ministries Director in Spain.
This is a more affordable method for outreach in a country as secularized as Europe. And the results were there.
These examples clearly show us that the Gospel mission in a post-modern and secular Europe is still possible! "I trust that all the Union delegates will bring this challenge to their respective organizations and will give it priority," concluded Paul Benini.
"in addition to the 'successful and well-documented' projects, I would have liked to also discuss at least a couple of projects that have failed, in order to learn even from our mistakes", said Daniele Benini, president of the Central Italian Union.
However, more than errors, (a nicer synonym than failures)... we should talk about statistics, they show a declining growth of the church in Europe. In his presentation, Laszlo Szabo, Professor of Missiology at the Friedensau University in Germany, made a statistical overview of the growth of the church. That which determines conversion, is not so much tied to the traditional methodology, as to the most effective interpersonal relationships. An overwhelming majority of new members enter the church through social programs where personal invitation plays a crucial role.
"This meeting, bringing together departmental directors, experts, practitioners, and leaders was an excellent opportunity to share ideas, projects, reflections, and failures in order to have more efficient outreach in the future" stated Gabriel Maurer, EUD Executive Secretary.
It was definitely encouraging and exciting to see how the unions and conferences are addressing specific needs in their territories and how men and women have accomplished outstanding projects with selfless effort and limited means. The global view of the General Conference delegates, together with the specific focus of the European leaders and experts seem to be the most efficient formula to share the Gospel.
"I was deeply touched and received a lot of encouragement and guidance to improve my ministry," said Bernhard Bleil, Personal Ministry Director at Southern Conference of Germany.
pictures: 1. Gary Kraus, Adventists Department Mission Leader at the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists (GC); 2. The Advisory Committee; 3. Worship service in the church (Credits: C. Cozzi)