From the President’s Pen
Without a doubt both 2020 and 2021 have complicated our lives, brought unique challenges, and prompted unmatched uncertainties.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our nation, and our entire global community. However, I am so grateful that there is a God in Heaven who has revealed to us the end of the story—an ending filled with hope and happiness beyond our imagination. Today, as Seventh-day Adventist Christians who have fixed our eyes on another day and another place, we can cherish the scriptural words of hope and assurance that claim, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him,” I Corinthians 2:9, KJV.
At the end of 2019, the Carolina Conference had a total membership of 24,339. With accessions by either baptism, professions of faith, or transfers, and factoring deaths, missing, and adjusted out, at the end of 2020 our ending membership was at 24,351, reflecting a minuscule gain of only 12 members.
In 2019 we added 873 members by baptisms and professions of faith, but in 2020, kingdom growth was significantly impacted by the pandemic. We praise God that 350 precious hearts were added during that difficult time. As of August of this year we’ve already had 438 baptisms and professions of faith—an increase of 245 from last August. The Holy Spirit is truly working on hearts in the Carolinas!
But...at the end of 2020, the world’s population was at 7.8 billion, and there were 139.9 million births versus 59.2 million deaths. That’s an increase in the world’s population by 80.7 million people. Even with a pandemic, the world’s population is increasing by over 221,000 people every day! How on earth will we reach the whole world with the fulfillment of Jesus words recorded in Matthew 24:14, KJV, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
This is a mountainous challenge. But I believe that the Seventh-day Adventist Church belongs to God, and as leaders and disciples of Christ, it is our sacred calling to pray earnestly for the Holy Spirit to work miraculously in our churches and make them magnets for lost souls.
Over the past years I’ve read two books about facing mountainous challenges; Tod Bolsinger’s book, Canoeing the Mountains, which focuses on how Christian leaders can navigate their way through a rapidly changing world, and John Eldredge’s book, “Moving Mountains,” which speaks of praying with passion, confidence and authority. The words of Jesus from Matthew 17:20 (KJV) serve as the impetus behind the message of these books, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”
Consider this mountainous miracle: for the third time in the history of the Carolinas we exceeded our goal of $1 million for evangelism. It happened in 2014, in 2019, and again in 2020, even without the benefit of our largest evangelism-funding event, our annual camp meeting at Lake Junaluska! We praise Him for bringing the resources we need to reach every heart possible for Heaven.
Yes, faith can indeed move mountains of challenges. For over five years, we have earnestly prayed and dedicated our labors towards the goal of 1000+ souls won in the Carolinas per year. Although we have not celebrated that milestone yet, I pray that we will soon surpass it through God’s Spirit. The closing moments of Earth’s history are nearly upon us, and I am fully convicted that Holy Spirit-led and Holy Spirit-blessed evangelism will give us a front-row seat to Heaven’s power, the same power experienced by the early church.
Yes, some will argue that today’s world is much different than back then, and people are more difficult to reach. But I believe the task assigned to them was no less easy. The apostles of Jesus were called to be Christ’s global witnesses. They were arrested for preaching the gospel. They were beaten, jailed and martyred for their passionate witness. Yet a mere few
weeks spanned Jesus’ ascension (and His promise to send His disciples the power of the Holy Spirit) to the day the High Priest stated in Acts 5:28, “You have filled Jerusalem with your
doctrine.” Just a few weeks for the church to grow and spread like wildfire, from an upper room of prayer to every living room in Jerusalem!
The book of Acts tells us exactly what they did to move their mountain in chapter 2, verses 42-47. “They continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking
of bread and in prayers...And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
We currently have 168 Seventh-day Adventist churches and companies and 38 organized groups comprising the sisterhood of God’s family in the Carolina Conference. Our churches,
companies and groups don’t need more methods to grow. They need the power of the Holy Spirit. The early church in the days of the apostles didn’t grow because of innovative programs or talents. They grew by prayer and the Holy Spirit and willing feet on the ground.
Won’t God do the same for us today? What if our churches prayed with the same passion as the apostles did? Our highest priority is not to argue the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines or masks or social distancing (or every other silly distraction of the devil), but to seek a deeper spiritual walk with Christ and an outpouring if His Holy Spirit.
Ellen White shares her passionate vision for revival, “A revival need be expected only in answer to prayer. While the people are so destitute of God’s Holy Spirit, they cannot appreciate the preaching of the Word, but when the Spirit’s power touches their hearts, then the discourses given will not be without effect,” Selected Messages, Book I, page 121.
I believe in these three missional initiatives: (1) a genuine revival of Godliness, both individually and as church communities; (2) passionate evangelistic preaching of the everlasting gospel to reach the lost; and (3) discipleship of every believer of Jesus. These are essential in the growth of God’s church, and the fulfillment of His calling to you and me.
I invite you to join me in praying like never before—every day—in the remaining months of 2021 and the coming year of 2022. Pray for the Latter Rain of the Holy Spirit to shower His church with soul-winning power and fervor, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2:23. Pray that each one will reach at least one heart for Heaven this year, and every year, till we are safely home with our Savior.
The past two years may have been unprecedented for us, but they certainly were not for God. Let’s never forget that it is God who can move every mountainous obstacle and bring every lost lamb back into the fold of His loving arms.
Your servant leader,
Carolina Conference President