As members serve their neighbors, Adventist congregations reap
It’s a tool tried and true, church experts say: When you get a local church involved in connecting with friends and neighbors, church members are the first ones to benefit. India is no exception, as local congregations across the nation are spending an increasing amount of time and funds to improve the lives of their fellow citizens.
“As we strive to improve the health and well-being of our neighbors, church members are also reaping the benefits of lining up together behind a common goal,” church leaders say.
Several congregations, whose growth has been stagnant for decades, are being revitalized as church members build meaningful relationships with local society, thanks to the popular “lifestyle counseling.” In an Adventist World Radio health clinic effort in Chennai in June 2019, every one of the more than 3,000 patients who attended received tips for healthier living.
It is something that was achieved thanks only to carefully coordinated efforts, leaders said.
“The work in Chennai required the union of members, lay pastors, and health professionals,” one of the coordinators said. “Unlike health clinics in other Indian cities, this one involved more than 600 volunteers who reached out to the city’s middle class. At the same time we provided a daily meal to more than 2,000 people.”
Efforts to help people live better lives are transcending the walls of local Adventist congregations. In Kolkata the Adventist-sponsored health clinic in June 2019 reached an agreement with a public health facility so that patients could be referred there if needed. “It shows public institutions are also interested in the services we provide,” one of the initiative coordinators said.
BEYOND PHYSICAL HEALTH
But it’s not only about physical health, church leaders said. A comprehensive approach requires providing values-based instruction and opportunities for children and adults to sing, play, and learn.
On a sweltering summer evening in Chennai, a narrow staircase leads to a fourth-floor flat roof and a small adjacent room where an Adventist volunteer shares spiritual principles for better living. Half of the visitors sit under the stars as people sing, pray, and learn. Meetings at this venue are part of an initiative that requires meeting people where they are.
“We rent rooms, usually close to public transportation, so people can easily attend,” a church coordinator said. “These small-venue meetings are proving to be very successful,” he added.
Another key element is prayer. Indian society values spirituality, blessings, and prayer specifically for a person. After a meeting it’s common to see a line of people waiting for the speaker to pray and bless the old, the sick, and the children.
“Prayer is a powerful tool to connect with people,” a regional church leader says. “It opens many doors.”
THE POWER OF TMI
All across India church leaders have been inviting every member to get involved in one capacity or another, as part of Total Member Involvement (TMI), an initiative of the world church that seeks to get everyone involved in ministry. Other Adventist initiatives, such as Mission to the Cities and Comprehensive Health, have similar goals.
“TMI is having a great impact on all of us,” asserts one of the region- al church presidents. “We are the first ones to enjoy God’s blessings, as true repentance leads to true revival in our local churches,” he says. “Thanks be to God; we already see the results.”