By Ted N. C. Wilson
When you hear the word “church,” what immediately comes to mind? A building? A group of believers? A denomination? An invisible entity?
As Bible-believing Seventh-day Adventists, we believe that God has a visible church on earth, and that He has a specific purpose for His church.1 At the beginning of the book The Acts of the Apostles we are told clearly and succinctly what that purpose is: “The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of [men and women]. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world.”2
So right at the beginning of the Christian Era we see that organization, service, and mission were to be at the very heart of God’s church. Christ Himself organized His church for service and mission. He is the one who chose and trained its first leaders.
“Passing by the self-righteous Jewish teachers, the Master Worker chose humble, unlearned men to proclaim the truths that were to move the world,” wrote Ellen White. “These men He purposed to train and educate as the leaders of His church. They in turn were to educate others and send them out with the gospel message. That they might have success in their work they were to be given the power of the Holy Spirit. Not by human might or human wisdom was the gospel to be proclaimed, but by the power of God.”3
Here we see a very deliberate action by Christ Himself to train and educate leaders, who were then to train others to be sent out with the gospel message.
This work was not to be carried out in a random, haphazard way. In his article “A Biblical Basis for Church Governance and Authority” Elias Brasil de Souza, director of the Biblical Research Institute, writes that “before ascending to heaven, Jesus said: ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth’ (Matt. 28:18). It was on the basis of this authority that Jesus granted the church the authority to carry out the mission. Therefore, the authority of the church is derived from Jesus (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; John 20:21, 22) and is to be exercised in harmony with God’s Word.
“Based on this conviction, the apostolic church established a system of church governance—including that of ordaining leaders as Christ had ordained His 12 disciples—in order to advance the mission entrusted to them by the risen Lord. . . . A system of church authority and governance is required in order to maintain doctrinal unity and to implement the mission of the church.”4
In setting up His church, Christ had the authority to choose its leaders, to organize it in the best way for carrying out its mission, and to give it authority to govern and maintain unity.
The Promised Gift
Even after three and a half years of intensive training with Jesus, Christ’s chosen leaders were not yet fully prepared to carry out their mission until they received the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is why Jesus, in His final instructions to His disciples, urged them to “tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
Christ knew that no matter how good their intentions or how strong their determination, their work would be fruitless until they experienced Pentecost and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The same is true for us today.
God has given us a worldwide church organization that is set up for service and mission. But He is waiting for us to be ready to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit so that we will be fully equipped to carry out
Ellen White observed: “It was after the disciples had come into perfect unity. . . that the Spirit was poured out. . . . All differences had been put away. . . . The disciples did not ask for a blessing for themselves. They were weighted with the burden of souls. The gospel was to be carried to the ends of the earth, and they claimed the endowment of power that Christ had promised. Then it was that the Holy Spirit was poured out, and thousands were converted in a day.”5
“So It May Be Now”
Ellen White continues with this wonderful promise: “So it may be now. Let Christians put away all dissension and give themselves to God for the saving of the lost. Let them ask in faith for the promised blessing, and it will come.”6
Our great need today as God’s people, as God’s church, is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the coming of the promised “latter rain” so that we are empowered to finish the work.
So what is holding us back from receiving this promised blessing? Could it be that we have not yet come to the “unity of the faith”? Might God be waiting for us to put all differences away, and instead of focusing inwardly on concerns, to focus on our God-given mission to save the lost?
What if, instead of being weighted down with the burden of disagreements in the family or the church, we were instead “weighted with the burden of souls”? What if we prayed every morning, “Lord, use me today in Total Member Involvement to reach someone for You”?
We are living in amazing times. Those who are in tune with Bible prophecy and events both in and outside the Seventh-day Adventist Church realize that God is doing something unusual. People are hungering for truth; they are longing for something better than what the world has to offer. There is a real sense
that the world is on the precipice of something monumental.
As we realize the nearness of the Second Coming, the urgency of proclaiming the three angels’ messages comes into sharp focus. The cry must go out to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people: “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Rev. 14:7).
When we humble ourselves before God through the power of the Holy Spirit, earnestly pray for His guidance, seek His Word, give up our own personal agendas, and allow God to lead us to truth, then He will bring us into a much closer relationship with Him and with each other so that we can help to finish His work here on earth.
I invite you to pray as you have never prayed before.
One day soon, when we see Christ coming, we will look up and say, “This is the God we have waited for.” Christ will look down and say, “Well done, good and faithful servants; enter into the joy of your Lord.” We will rise to meet the Lord in the air!
Let’s dedicate our lives, energies, talents, resources, and time to finishing God’s work so that we can go home. God has promised to give us His power to finish His work. He will pour out the latter rain to proclaim the three angels’ messages and finish His work as a united church. n
1 For an explanation of this fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, see “The Church” at: https://www.adventist.org/en/beliefs/church/the-church/.
2 Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 9.
3 Ibid., p. 17.
4 Elias Brasil de Souza, “A Biblical Basis for Church Governance and Authority,” Adventist World, April 2017, http://www.adventistworld.org/2017/04/05/a-biblical-basis-for-church-governance-and-authority-built-on-a-solid-foundation/.
5 Ellen G. White, Counsels for the Church (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1991), p. 98.
6 Ibid., pp. 98, 99.
Ted N. C. Wilson is president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Additional articles and commentaries are available from the president’s office on Twitter: @pastortedwilson, and on Facebook: @PastorTedWilson.