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  1. William Noel
    04 October 2013 @ 2:32 pm

    Given the church's long history of preaching first and giving lip service to other forms of ministry, I don't have much of hope we will ever see anything but a preach-first approach to the cities.  Such a major change will first require a major, disruptive change where it is no longer possible for the church to operate in the way we have been doing things.

  2. Elaine Nelson
    04 October 2013 @ 4:42 pm

    Isn't Ted the embodiment of those who evangelize the cities by preaching?

    • William Noel
      04 October 2013 @ 7:24 pm

      You're right, and the results speak volumes about our need to do things differently. 

      Curiously, it was in New York City that I was introduced to ministry that did not focus first and foremost on preaching or spiritual teaching.  At the Medical Van Ministry we used a fleet of modified motorhomes as mobile blood pressure screening offices across the city and surrounding areas.  My wife and I remember fondly the many ways we saw God working.  I estimate that over the three years we were there that I checked the blood pressures of 25,000+ people.  One day at Campmeeting a person greeted me with great excitement and shared how they had come to join the church as a result of how I had ministered to them one day on one of the vans.  I was excited for them, but also totally puzzled because while I knew I'd been in the neighborhood they mentioned, I had absolutely no memory of having met them.  

      What I find really ironic is that Ted Wilson was working there in New York City for part of the same period when we were there.  He saw the church growth that came as a result of the Medical Van Ministry, which was the church's #1 producer of baptisms.  Yet his every time I've heard him speak about spreading the Gospel the only thing he talked about doing was preaching.

  3. Lester Merklin
    04 October 2013 @ 6:41 pm

    Yes, Elaine, I think he has been.  However, in my personal short conversations with him, I have discovered that he realizes that something different than this is going to be needed to reach many in the city populations.  He asked those of us from the Global Mission Centers to help in NYC.  It was the local field that found it hard to change the way we do things–but I am sure it was from feeling the pressure to have "results."  As William said, it is very hard to make major changes.  But I believe that the Urban Conference was at least to some extent called to help push "Christ's method."  Now we need to make sure we "reward" that mission choice; and that won't come easily……

  4. Edward Reifsnyder
    05 October 2013 @ 1:47 am

    I just returned from three weeks in China, Hong Kong and Malaysia.  The growth of the cities there is staggering.  China is pursuing an aggressive urbanization strategy.  Their cities are forests of building cranes.  

    As we took a night cruise of Hong Kong harbor, I asked my wife, "How would we ever introduce  these 7 million people to Jesus?  What would we have to say that would capture their interest?"  

    I personally believe that preaching about our unique doctrinal and prophetic interpretations would grab very few people in that part of the world.  The Bible is not on their radar screen at all, so why would they be interested in our hair-splitting differentiation from the beliefs of other Christians?  But they might respond to demonstrations of unusual love.

    I would be shocked if the proceedings of the conference in Silver Springs made mention of Adventist hospitals as part of the formula.  The Church has a love-hate relationship with its hospitals as it does with large cities.  But there are usually strong Adventist churches around significant Adventist hospitals.  Good places to see demonstrations of unusual love.  

    • William Noel
      07 October 2013 @ 1:35 pm

      Would you say that the national bird of China is the Construction Crane?  (I know, BAD joke.)

      When my wife and I were working in New York City, a member of our ministry staff lived in an apartment above the Manhattan Church in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan.  I remember asking him why he chose to live there surrounded by the highest concentration of openly-practicing members of the gender-variant community in any American city.  He reminded me that Jesus had to leave Heaven and come into our sin-filled world to save us.  "If you're going to tell them about Jesus, first you gotta be among 'em," he said. 

      I think you're exactly on-target that "unusual love" is the tool God has given us for turning hearts to God.  Remember when the Pharisees asked Jesus which was the "greatest commandment" and the second part of His answer was, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  How many of us know how to love others?  How many of us are willing to love others?  Unfortunately, our church has become so focused on identifying and proclaiming truth that we've forgotten how to love others and minister God's love. 

      The reason the church is not effective in the cities is we're not following the model for ministry Jesus gave us.  He was among the people as a common person, as one who desired their good.  He healed the sick, raised the dead, comforted the sorrowing and fed the hungry.  Only after those things did he call them to follow Him.  Yet we're calling people to follow Jesus without giving them a reason to want to follow Him.  Then we have the audacity to ask why our methods aren't working.  It's because we're doing things in reverse order!

      While Adventist hospitals can be powerful centers for the ministry of God's love, they are just one tool among many in God's very big toolbox.  What we need is people who are motivated by the love of God and as a result are willing to let Him empower and guide them into ministries where they touch others with that love.  Ten years ago I would not have imagined being involved in a helping ministry that touched hearts and brought people to God.  Then I asked God to show me what He wanted me to do.  Today that helping ministry is a significant contributor to the growth and strength of my church.  I am seeing people who were living afraid of God's condemnation coming to love Him because of the tenderness shown to them.  I can show you people who have gone from being extremely suspicious of anyone from a church and even hating God to enthusiastic believers who are not afraid to go up to a total stranger and start telling tham about the love they have found in Him and what a change He has made in their life. 

      Love first, second, third and always.  Preach only after the others have failed.

  5. Truth Seeker
    05 October 2013 @ 12:25 pm

    To what extent do SDA hospitals today repesent the message of the SDA church? Are there practices that need to be modified or eliminated so they be a true witness of Scripture as understood in Adventism?

  6. Edward Reifsnyder
    05 October 2013 @ 3:48 pm

     I am confident that many, many people experience the healing love of Jesus in those hospitals.   What a great witness.