The first two days of Annual Council aren’t business sessions. For those of you hoping to get a bit of gossip, we’ve none to tell. (We’ve heard that the action everyone is most interested in will happen on Monday. Stay tuned.)

The LEAD Conference has normally been leadership training for GCEC members, many of whom are union presidents, but who don’t have the chance to get professional education of that kind where they live and work. This year, however, all of this first day was devoted to the Centers for Global Mission. As usual, lots of printed material, which we’ll give you a quick look at, along with some highlights of the day’s presentations.

Gary Krause of Global Mission seems to have assembled an amazing team of younger, very passionate mission experts—the kind of people that give us hope for the future. These aren’t just content to occupy offices and write up soon-to-be-forgotten printed material. They want to see things happen. The nomenclature “mission centers” seems to indicate that these folks have study groups to reach specific audiences: Jews, Moslems, urbanites, secular people, Buddhists, Hindus. (Interestingly, no group specifically to reach out to gay people. I wonder why?)

Here are a few people and highlights from today:

  • Greg and Amy Whitsett of the Center for East Asian Religions shared insights into the Buddhist worldview and how best to share faith in Asian cities. They advised against too much talk about heaven. It’s much more appealing to Buddhists to see the benefits of faith in the here and now.
  • A lot of today’s presentations focused on working smart rather than just working hard. There was an acknowledgment that Adventists do a lot of scratching where it doesn’t itch-especially when needs assessment of people groups are not done.
  • None of the presenters stressed traditional public evangelism. Personal relationships are the name of the game in the non-Christian world. And they take time. We have to keep things authentic, tactful and simple.
  • Baptism stats are a bad barometer of success in this part of the world. Points of contact with locals may be a better metric to track.
  • “We have neglected this (Jewish) ministry too long,” said Richard Elofer of the World Jewish Adventist Friendship Center. His comments reflected a collective frustration with how little progress Adventism has made in the non-Christian world.
  • Kleber Gonçalves, director of the Center for Secular and Postmodern Studies tackled some of the toughest work the church has on its plate: being relevant to urban young professionals who have zero interest in traditional church outreach. Small groups, friendship are key. So is shedding the traditional Adventist fear of cities.
  • Petras Bahadur of the Global Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations had innovative ideas for outreach in Muslim countries such as giving seed money to Adventist entrepreneurs. He also said that Adventist women are the best place to reach Muslims.
  • The GAiN internet conference which drew 800 people to São Paulo got some good PR this afternoon. Tech-savvy evangelism is the goal. We’ve got a ways to go.
  • One refreshing thing about the afternoon presentations was that they featured cooperation between GC entities for Global Mission objectives. Two particularly interesting pairings were Adventist-Muslim Relations and Women’s Ministries teaming up on evangelism to Muslim families. Another was the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department working with the World Jewish Adventist Friendship Center to build bridges with Jews.

You can follow tomorrow’s activities on our live tweet feed, starting about 8 AM. Just click here—even if you don’t have a Twitter account.

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Below: a set of handouts listing the 3 top questions people ask when approaching different people groups.