October 10, 2015 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Andrew McChesney, news editor, Adventist Review
Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, challenged every one of the church’s 18.5 million members to win souls for heaven by following the example of the sower in a parable by Jesus.
Wilson, speaking in a Sabbath sermon that serves as his annual world pastoral address, used his 71-minute message to emphasize a new initiative called Total Member Involvement as a top priority of the church.
He also urged church leaders to step up public evangelism and called on all Adventists to use a plain reading of Scripture to interpret what it says.
“Everyone is a sower of the Word!” Wilson told a packed hall of church leaders and laypeople at the Annual Council business meeting at Adventist world church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. “Total Member Involvement is the last great proclamation of this Advent message.”
Total Member Involvement is among three major initiatives that Wilson unveiled after being elected last July at the General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, to a second five-year term. The program envisages that every Adventist believer will find ways to actively bring friends, neighbors, and strangers to Jesus. The other two initiatives emphasize the themes of Christ and His righteousness and faithfulness to God.
Wilson spoke about all three initiatives in his Oct. 10 sermon, but he put the main spotlight on Total Member Involvement.
“Every pastor, every teacher, every member is to participate in helping all to become ardent students of the Word of God and then to share it,” Wilson said.
How Church Members Can Participate
He suggested that church members get involved in soul winning through personal witnessing, small group evangelism, or
public evangelism. Members can come up with their own methods to share Jesus or reach out to their pastors, local churches, and conference offices for more ideas, he said.
“Evangelism is the lifeblood of the church. All of us are to be in involved in it,” Wilson said.
Top church leader should get involved by holding at least one series of public evangelistic meetings every year, Wilson said in remarks not included in the official transcript of his sermon.
“I am challenging you this morning in the name of the Lord to hold public evangelistic meetings every year,” he said.
Some Adventist leaders are particularly well known for their passion for public evangelism. Alberto C. Gulfan Jr., who served as president of the church’s Southern Asia-Pacific Division from 2003 to 2015, conducted five to six evangelistic series a year even as president. He died on Sept. 26 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 64.
Wilson, who led major evangelistic series in Zimbabwe last May, in the Philippines in 2014, and in New York City in 2013, promised to speak at such meetings every year for the next five years.
“I pledge to hold a public evangelistic meeting every year this quinquennium,” he said.
Wilson will speak in Rwanda in 2016, Romania in 2017, Japan in 2018, India in 2019, and Papua New Guinea and Indianapolis in 2020. Indianapolis is the location of the 2020 General Conference Session, and Wilson said his meetings would take place in the run-up to the Session.
Wilson joked that his family was also participating in Total Member Involvement through an “alternative church growth” plan. On Thursday evening, Wilson’s daughter Catherine gave birth to a girl, Hannah. The baby is Catherine and Bob Renck’s third child and Ted and Nancy Wilson’s 10th grandchild from their three daughters.
A Plain Reading of the Word
Wilson intertwined his sermon thoughts about Total Member Involvement with the parable of the sower in Mark 4:3-9. He also used multiple passages from elsewhere in the Bible and from the writings of Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White to explain the meaning of the parable and to bolster his call for members to become sowers as well.
“Matthew 13:37 indicates that the Sower of good seed was the Son of Man, Jesus Christ,” he said. A little later, he said, “Luke 8:11 says the seed to be sown is the Word of God.”
Allowing the Bible to interpret itself is the proper method to understand what it says, Wilson said.
“We are to faithfully follow and promote the historical-biblical method of interpreting Scripture allowing the Bible to interpret itself line upon line and precept upon precept,” he said.
He cautioned that it was becoming fashionable to misinterpret and misapply what is plainly indicated in Scripture.
“It is being reinterpreted by those who participate in the higher criticism or historical-critical approach to Scripture, by those who place themselves above Scripture as they interpret according to their own standards and approaches,” he said.
Adventists, he said, should not be swayed by popular thought. He noted that “Methods of Bible Study,” a document approved by the 1986 Annual Council, points to the plain reading as the church’s official position.
“Stand firm for God’s Word,” Wilson said.
Wilson also urged church members to take time daily to read the Bible and pointed to Believe His Prophets, a church-organized daily devotional plan in which participants read a chapter a day from the Bible and weekly passages from White’s books. In addition, he praised United in Prayer, a weekly e-mail prayer mailing, and pledged to expand Mission to the Cities, Comprehensive Health Ministry, and “massive publication and media outreach.”
Mission to the Cities, a hallmark of Wilson’s first term, seeks to share Jesus with people in the world’s biggest cities. Those urban efforts are usually complemented with Comprehensive Health Ministry, programs that seek to meet the physical and spiritual needs of local communities.
Wilson used three short videos to illustrate the principle of Total Member Involvement in action. The videos showed the stories of three young people in Brazil, including a 15-year-old boy named Mateus whose efforts have resulted in 979 baptisms. Mateus has a goal of 1,000 people by the end of 2015.
“Now that is Total Member Involvement!” Wilson said.
Reiterating a theme that permeated the sermon, Wilson encouraged all church members to become equally as active in sharing their love for Jesus.
“Lay members, I challenge you to become involved in the daily mission of the church far more than you ever have before,” he said. “Everyone a sower!”