13 June 2023 |
In light of the reactions from cities receiving The Great Controversy books around the nation, many have asked whether the project to disseminate 1 billion copies by 2024 is still worth the trouble. Critiques have included the cost of the project, the time expected from members to personally distribute the books, and the impact of the project on the environment, requiring around 8 million trees for the needed paper. More painfully, many decry the negative impact on the reputation of the Adventist Church when neighbors receive these complex books, without any previous context or relationship with the distributor.
In an Adventist World article, the Associate Director of Communication at the General Conference (GC), Sam Neves, makes note of these concerns and addresses them with the following points:
Is the cost too high?
Neves paints a picture of the final destruction of the world, watching those who will not be saved as “hell begins in earnest.” He continues:
Would we not wish now, with all our hearts, that more of those trees would have been turned into more of those books to be read by more of those people? Perhaps more of them would now be near us, safe and sound, inside the city.
When seen through this lens, our concerns appear in a different light. Our reputations, as individuals and as a church, are secondary if it means helping more people be safe inside that city. Likewise, our money and our time are also expendable. As controversial as it may seem, despite our mandate to care for our planet, the trees also become expendable.
Is this the best book to distribute?
Despite sharing that other books have important resources to offer, Neves points out that today’s world is looking for answers the world cannot give that are more specifically found within The Great Controversy:
The Great Controversy provides solid biblical answers to what has happened in the past, what is happening in the present, and what will happen in the future. It draws back the curtain into an unseen world where a very real, extremely deadly war is taking place. It exposes the plans of the enemy and points the way to eternal life. This is why The Great Controversy was the book Ellen White desired to see distributed more widely than any other of her books.
Can we find more effective methods?
Neves shares that despite the advancement of technology, it’s important to continue hard copy dissemination because of the belief that our digital platforms will eventually be censored in the last days. He also believes that “total member involvement” is important to establish a relational connection and provide a “decentralized method” where members purchase the books and hand them out, themselves, instead of mailing them out from the organization. Overall, he says that the mass printing and decentralization of mass distribution allows for lower cost per book.
Is present truth a thing of the past?
Neves contrasts two visions of the church’s mission by delineating between those who are worried about the church’s reputation and believe that we should be the “irresistible church” by attracting others through “welcoming churches that actively alleviate the suffering of others in our communities,” versus those who are set on accomplishing our “true mission” to proclaim the three angels’ messages. Describing the previous group, he says:
They think our world is so polarized that if we preach present truth as did our pioneers, we will be labeled as just another sect dominated by conspiracy theories.
These arguments tend to resonate with those who have come to believe in the myth of the irresistible church. Those who are convinced that when we create welcoming churches that actively alleviate the suffering of others in our communities, millions will become Seventh-day Adventists by the sheer power of our kindness. This myth is destroying our capacity to fulfill our true mission to proclaim the three angels’ messages as prophesied in Revelation 14. In the history of Christianity there has never been a time when the faithful remnant wasn’t persecuted or sanctioned.
We should, by all means, use the best outreach strategies and live our discipleship in love and compassion. However, if this love doesn’t materialize in the challenge to “follow Jesus” at all costs as we share God’s prophetic vision with others, we are not fulfilling our mission.
The article concludes with a strong call to action to continue purchasing and passing out the books in order to find loved ones inside the city “on that great judgment day.”