By Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson
The task seems nearly impossible—in fact, it is impossible on our own. How do we reach more than 120 million people living in Japan with the good news of Christ and His soon return? In Japan, less than 1 percent of the population are Christian, and of that, only 15,000 are Seventh-day Adventist. What is that among millions?
Nevertheless, Adventist leaders in Japan decided to move forward boldly, praying and planning to hold more than 160 evangelistic series across the country. Most of the meetings were held in May 2018, with several focusing on Tokyo, the largest city in the world, with 34 million people. The Three Angels’ Messages were proclaimed nightly in venues ranging from large churches to small groups. Most of the presenters were native to Japan.
Much planning and preparation went into this first-ever event for that country. An evangelism field school was offered, and a pilot program with 29 evangelistic meetings was conducted. From this successful experience, leaders confirmed that holding evangelistic meetings was still an effective method of evangelism, even in modern Japanese culture.
Adventist World Radio (AWR) planned to broadcast special health programs, including announcements of upcoming health seminars. Several large radio stations in Tokyo were approached, but all refused to broadcast the programs if they mentioned the Seventh-day Adventist church or hospital. In Japan, radio stations are strict about broadcasting programs with religious content, even if it is just the mention of a church’s name.
An Open Door
But God opened another door. The Adventist church had a small radio program that had been broadcast on Radio NIKKEI, a shortwave station, since 2000. Leaders at the Japan Union Conference decided to approach Radio NIKKEI about the possibility of broadcasting the health programs and announcements.
To their delight, Radio NIKKEI accepted, and even created a website page for the programs at no cost! Furthermore, broadcasting from Radio NIKKEI was significantly cheaper than on the radio stations that had refused to carry the programs.
In November 2017, the first “Health for Every Day” program was broadcast on Radio NIKKEI, and just two months later, seven community FM stations in Tokyo were broadcasting the programs as well. Since that time, the listening audience on NIKKEI’S website has grown to more than 30,000, not counting additional listeners from the FM stations. These health programs played an active role in breaking down barriers leading up to the evangelistic meetings.
On the Other Side of the World
While these events were taking place in Japan, excitement was building half a world away in the U.S. State of Connecticut. Located in the northeast part of the country known as New England, this area is recognized as somewhat challenging for evangelism.
Nevertheless, combining passion and planning, mission and members, Seventh-day Adventists in the Southern New England and Northeastern Conferences came together to reach their communities for Christ.
Through a lay-developed ministry called CHAT (Community Health Advocate Training), members are trained to work together with their churches in a sustained cycle using Christ’s method of evangelism.
Area pastors, local church leaders, and conference officials were invited to join lay members for the initial training event held earlier this year at the Connecticut Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church in South Windsor, a city located just north of the state capital of Hartford.
Even the city’s mayor, Dr. Saud Anwar, attended. During his remarks, Dr. Anwar, a medical doctor who entered politics to improve the health of his community, appealed to the Adventists for help.
“We are working on healthy aging here in South Windsor,” he told the group. “In Loma Linda (California), the SDA faith community made a difference. They’ve been able to increase the lifespan of the people. . . . We should be able to do it here. We have all the ingredients—we have an SDA church!”1
A Sustainable Work
Preparing to meet this challenge, Adventists in the area hosted a “Great Health Controversy” weekend in May. Training was led out by Rico Hill, a lay member from Maryland who developed the program and also does contract work for ARtv developing digital content.
“We put together a cycle of evangelism designed to get our churches working together as one unit, and the Great Health Controversy is the galvanizing method to do that,” said Hill. “We first show to the church that Christ and the Gospel are the heart and soul of our health message.”
The weekend served “as a catalyst for the members to capture the vision of the great work that lays before them to reach the cities with the Three Angels’ Messages,” said Tom Dombrowski, pastor of the Connecticut Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church. “It also helped the members to recognize the nature of this work requires not only every member involvement, but cooperation between churches, so they operate . . . as one body.”
Pastor Dombrowski explained that they are following a plan based on Scripture, Spirit of Prophecy, and statistics provided by sociologists about cities. He plans to have a continual, sustainable work to accomplish the mission of reaching the metropolitan area.
Currently, more than 100 Seventh-day Adventists from 22 churches in the Southern New England and Northeastern conferences are actively involved in reaching their urban communities through healthy lifestyle evangelism.
Pastor Dombrowski believes that “the cooperative work of the members, pastors, and administrators from both Southern New England Conference and Northeastern Conference churches on behalf of the mission in this area can serve as a model for the North American Division, and even the world church as they follow the inspired counsel for how to conduct this work.”
Strong Factor for Unity
Whether in Japan, in New England, or other places around the globe, one of the strongest factors for uniting God’s believers, is when members, churches, conferences, unions, have a clear vision of their calling—a special calling of proclaiming God’s last-day Three Angels’ Messages to the world—and combining that proclamation with health ministry. This is the winning combination that Jesus used, and we are guaranteed success when we, submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, follow it.
Whether it is large evangelistic meetings, health education programs, Bible studies, literature distribution, community outreach, sharing your faith with a neighbor or co-worker, there is a place for all to be involved in winning souls for Christ.
Everyone—women and men, boys and girls—all are needed for this work through Total Member Involvement. We have been given this inspired testimony:
“The leaders in God’s cause, as wise generals, are to lay plans for advance moves all along the line. In their planning they are to give special study to the work that can be done by the laity for their friends and neighbors. The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers.
“The salvation of sinners requires earnest, personal labor. We are to bear to them the word of life, not to wait for them to come to us. Oh, that I could speak words to men and women that would arouse them to diligent action! The moments now granted to us are few. We are standing upon the very borders of the eternal world. We have no time to lose. Every moment is golden and altogether too precious to be devoted merely to self-serving. Who will seek God earnestly and from Him draw strength and grace to be His faithful workers in the missionary field?”2
Ted N.C. Wilson is president of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. Additional articles and commentaries are available from the president’s office on Twitter: @pastortedwilson and on Facebook: @Pastor Ted Wilson.
This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of Adventist World magazine, https://www.adventistworld.org/going-about-our-fathers-business/