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The Heartbeat of the Church: Sabbath at Annual Council


“Sabbath School is one of the best parts of Sabbath,” President Ted N.C. Wilson told the members of the General Conference Executive Committee. “It is the heartbeat of the church. People can mingle, things can happen. Bible study, prayer, mission. Those three things are vital.” Then he let them know that he has personally taken the SS Department under his wing, because it is so vital to revitalize Sabbath School.

A lively program followed his remarks. Cami Oetman and Sue Hinkle of Adventist World Radio told the story of a primary Sabbath School in Nampa, Idaho that had collected $1800 for Bibles to be sent to an island in the Philippines where Chef Perfecto had listened to Adventist World Radio and requested someone to come to the island and teach his people. As a result, there were many baptisms and the people needed Bibles. That is where the fundraising efforts of the primary class in Nampa came in. They held a bake sale, collected change, donated major portions of their allowances, and raised the money for the Bibles. A video chronicled the children’s joy in sharing with others.

The Apola family string trio, dressed in colorful dashikis, provided the first special musical number of the morning. Later the Massai Group performed a traditional African song with unique harmonies.

Jim Howard, the new associate director of the Sabbath School Department, described the GROW Your Church program with its five grow goals based on planting cycles:

  1. Preparing the soil – finding community need-based ministries

  2. Planting – an active literature ministry

  3. Vibrant growth – active Bible study

  4. Harvest – public evangelism

  5. Preserving of produce – systematic discipleship

Graphic art branding materials have been prepared about this process that can be individualized to a particular church, conference, or union.

After a brief introduction to Romans, the new lesson topic, by Cliff Goldstein, the editor of the Adult Bible Study Guide, the audience was told to form small groups for discussion. At the press table where I was sitting that meant that I was in a group with Bjorn Karlman of Adventist Today, and Gerry Wagoner and Larry Kirkpatrick of Fulcrum 7.  We had a lively time discussing Rom. 15:14: “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.”

The Divine Worship service featured a 90-minute sermon by President Wilson. He began with the story of Jonah, the really crucial part of the story, where Jonah had half-heartedly learned his lesson and experienced a self-serving conversion. “Are there some of us, and I have to include myself,” Wilson said, “who have sailed for Tarshish rather than Nineveh?”

Then he launched into a message about the significance of working the cities that included testimonies of thirteen people. Teenie Finley described the church and training center that she and her husband Mark have built in Virginia. Gary Krause shared his burden for Centers of Influence. Samuel Saw, Somchai Chuenjit and Peter Koolik told the miracle of finding a seven-story building in Hanoi, Vietnam that is being turned into an English language school, health clinic, and auditorium. One floor will be utilized by ADRA.

In Cairo, a building that was purchased by the church when Neal C. Wilson was president is being totally renovated. It will include a kindergarten, health promotion center, and room for two congregations, according to Rick McEdward. GT Ng described how the church in Jakarta, Indonesia has made evangelism a way of life. Duane and Kathy McKey told of the many successes of TMI Evangelism in Romania, East Africa, and the plans for Tokyo, the world’s largest city.

Linda Koh shared ways that children’s evangelism can be done through vacation Bible schools, health expos, sports day, and music festivals. “Think lower, think smaller,” she said. Peter Landless talked about comprehensive health ministry. Robert Costa told how he had used regular Sabbath services as evangelistic missions. Doug Venn told about the eight programs at Sao Paulo University in which students are reaching out to community, including a drug rehabilitation clinic and a program for skateboarders. In between, Elder Wilson read selected quotes from the Spirit of Prophecy, and urged the audience to intensify work in the cities.

“God is calling all of us to humble ourselves before him and each other, to put away our disagreements with each other. The Lord is calling for a united witness,” he said in conclusion.

The morning ended with the singing of “We Have This Hope.”


Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.

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