New Adventist president envisions a church marked by prayer, revival

News July 28, 2010

In his first address to employees at Seventh-day Adventist world church headquarters, church President Ted N. C. Wilson outlined a strategic plan for the denomination meant to spur a renewal of members’ commitment to the church’s mission.

An emphasis on personal and corporate prayer and the launch of a Revival and Reformation Committee at church headquarters featured prominently in the plan.

The belief that Christians cannot “hasten or delay” the Second Coming is a misconception, Wilson said. While the “manufacture” of programs or activities at church headquarters cannot “force” Christ’s return, a “revival of true godliness” and “humble submission to God” among Christians can, he said, citing a quote by church co-founder Ellen G. White.

In the New Testament book of Acts, Wilson said the apostles are described as being “of one accord” and “in one place” — conditions he cited as responsible for the outpouring of God’s spirit. God is looking for a similar mindset among Adventists today, he said.

Wilson said he recently received an email in which someone expressed concern that a push for revival among Adventists might usher in legalism or an exclusivist spirit.

Not so, Wilson assured more than 400 employees gathered in the auditorium of church headquarters today for the address. “This is not a legalistic message; this is a message of love, of hope and of encouragement … God has given us this message, and we are to share it, being as inclusive as possible,” he said.

Sharing that message hinges on prayer, Wilson said, urging employees to embrace an emphasis on personal and corporate prayer.

“You are dedicated, educated, consecrated people,” Wilson said, “but if we’re not praying in humility … our talents are worth virtually nothing,”

No single prayer style is mandatory, Wilson said. “If you don’t feel comfortable praying out loud, you don’t have to — you can just pray in your own mind. We’re not trying to force people into a certain ‘shoe’ and make it fit. But we’re to pray. I don’t know what people do without prayer,” he said.

Prayer is also expected to punctuate the meetings of the new Revival and Reformation Committee, Wilson said. “Don’t let the name put you off. Committees don’t necessarily kill everything,” he said. The committee is expected to gather “earnest” people striving to “help God’s people prepare a setting for [his] spirit to do his work,” Wilson said.

Armando Miranda, a world church general vice president, was named chair of the committee, with recently retired General Vice President Mark Finley serving as vice-chair in his new role as an assistant to the president for evangelism.

Wilson outlined some specific expectations for the next five years. He introduced the launch of international Bible and mission conferences, hubs where pastors, teachers, Health Ministries workers and others can convene to study the bible together to better grasp the church’s “spiritual destiny.” Ideally, Wilson said, the meetings will spur outreach. “We’re not just to sit there and draw everything in, but to go out,” he said.

The next five years will also see a continued emphasis on outreach through technology, Wilson said, citing the impact of the Hope Channel, Adventist World Radio, the Global Internet Evangelism Network and the church’s many Web-based ministries.

Wilson said the church under his watch would also safeguard core emphases such as Adventist education and Health Ministries. “Redoubling” the Connecting with Jesus project, in which Ellen G. White books are distributed to members worldwide, is also a priority, he said. Headquarters employees participated in the project this morning — a collection was taken to send copies of White’s book The Great Controversy to every household in the surrounding postal district.

Wilson also said involving young people in the church’s mission was his goal — “not just putting them on a committee, but going far beyond that.”

A focus on both evangelism and stewardship is expected to be the catalyst for the church’s success the next five years, Wilson said. “When you have those two things heading in the right direction, everything else falls into place.”

The strategic plan is not comprehensive or concrete, and is open to suggestion, Wilson said. “The Adventist Church is not an organization that promotes ‘kingly power.’ We don’t just have someone at the head who says, ‘That’s it, do it,’ and it happens … The best way is to come together in prayer in a setting where a multitude of counselors brings wisdom,” he said.

Soliciting the prayers and participation of employees as the church moves forward, Wilson said he wanted “open communication” throughout the building and the church. “My office is open. If you have an idea or suggestion — I don’t care how small or large it is — you can contact me and talk to me.”