WHAT A SUMMER: "ENGAGE GLOBALLY"
Sunday morning while still lying in bed, I decided to do the arithmetic. Perhaps it was the simple pleasure of sleeping in our own bed that triggered the notion. And so I counted the number of summer nights we slept in a bed not our own. I was surprised and so recalculated the number. It’s true. The total nights away from our favorite bed (from the last week of May to the last week of July) added up to forty. Brazil, Collegedale, West Virginia, Austin, San Antonio, Pugwash Nova Scotia, Vermont. (That three of those 40 nights were spent with our nearing-the-age-of-two-and-talking-up-a-storm granddaughter Ella certainly made the 40 more palatable!) And if you spent even more nights this summer on the road—and you have my condolences.
Speaking of San Antonio, the 60th Session of the General Conference, with its 2500 delegates and 50,000 attendees on the two Sabbaths, filled the Alamodome with a ten-day event unique in that city’s history. And while a GC session is much more than doing the business of the global Seventh-day Adventist Church—who doesn't enjoy the family reunions and friendship renewals—it was the daily business sessions that turned out to be highly instructive.
Perhaps the most commented on dramatic take-home-truth bears repeating. From the first vote of the business session, it was vividly clear that San Antonio would represent a major sea change in the life of our global faith community. In my memory (and I’ve attended the quinquennial GC sessions since New Orleans in 1985), this was the most marked shift of the locus of church influence—from the long-held dominance of the North to the rapidly growing influence of the South. Clearly the church below the equator has by its sheer numbers of burgeoning membership achieved a global influence it has not had before.
Is that a demographic reality we should bemoan? Hardly. While it was disappointing for those of us who have long believed the Bible does not close the door to the ordination of women to the gospel ministry, but in fact opens that door through the expanding revelation of God’s inclusive love eloquently championed by Scripture itself—nevertheless, decision-making in the healthiest families has always been a shared endeavor. The North has enjoyed its day in the gospel sun. Now the flourishing millions of the South bask in that light. And truth be told, we the church are better for it.
Look at Andrews University. The demographic and geographic shifts of the world and the church are manifested in youthful energy right here on this campus. “Engage globally” is our theme for Fall Fellowship this weekend. How appropriate. Because if we refuse to engage globally, it is now more than clear—both the rest of the church and the world will move on. We must move with them.
No wonder the compelling prayer of Psalm 67 combines a heart cry for God’s blessing with a prayer for the world’s salvation. Apparently in the mind and heart of God, the one is for the sake of the other. His manifold blessings upon His people are to propel them with His saving grace to the world. The one is for the sake of the other. Which surely means that to plead for the one without praying for the other simply misses His point. And our purpose.
“May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him” (Psalm 67:7). I.e., engage globally.