To serve and to save
Mission unites people,” a local leader confided in me as he faced some challenges with his congregation. But when the members put their energy into missionary projects, all their problems became irrelevant.
There’s a special blessing in mission. This is not a recent discovery, nor is it the result of some new strategy. It’s the message of the Bible, and the focus of a 70-year ministry that resulted in 100,000 manuscript pages left by Ellen White when she died.
These inspired messages still help the church to remember that everything we own, and everything we are, should be used in preparing people to meet their Lord. Ellen White’s writings suggest a mission outline for the church understood in the following 10 concepts.
WHAT MISSION DOES
Mission confirms the reason for our movement. We are a modern extension of Christ’s ministry to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
Ellen White wrote: “In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light bearers. To them has been entrusted the last warning for a perishing world. . . . There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention.”¹
Mission exalts Jesus. “Of all professing Christians,” wrote Ellen White, “Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world.”² Our structure, message, and mission remind us: “On it [the cross] depends our every hope.”³ She wrote further: “Only the work accomplished with much prayer, and sanctified by the merit of Christ, will in the end prove to have been efficient for good.”⁴
Mission is directly related to our identity. The quality of our identity defines the intensity of our mission. For Ellen White, total member involvement is an end-time imperative. “We are living in a special period of this earth’s history,” she wrote. “A great work must be done in a very short time, and every Christian is to act a part in sustaining this work.”⁵
HOW MISSION ACTS
Mission should be our priority. “Those who have the spiritual oversight of the church should devise ways and means by which an opportunity may be given to every member of the church to act some part in God’s work.”⁶ When Ellen White noticed pastors only taking care of the church instead of training and involving members, she wrote: “Every church should be a training school for Christian workers.”⁷ She also called on leaders to prioritize the mission by reaching new territories, urban areas, and all classes of people.
Mission calls for bravery. Ellen White wrote: “God will have men who will venture anything and everything to save souls,”⁸ because “God did not design that His wonderful plan to redeem men should achieve only insignificant results.”⁹ She encouraged believers to plan boldly and creatively.
Mission involves everyone. For Ellen White, everyone—men, women, and children—has a role in reflecting God’s light to the world. She saw personal contact as one of the most effective means of reaching people with the saving power of the gospel. “Personal influence is a power,” she wrote. “We must come close to those whom we desire to benefit.”¹⁰ She maintained that young people are a powerful force in reflecting God’s love. She wrote that when rightly trained, youth and young adults could quickly take the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour to the world.¹¹
Mission integrates all areas of the church. While there is much that divides us as a church, efficient and effective mission has the potential to unite us. Ellen White called for personal and regional interests to be put aside, so that mission becomes a priority in every church activity. Her vision was that the church members would emulate the example of the early Christian church, cooperate with one another, and “together . . . carry the work forward to completion.”¹²
Mission balances local action and global vision. In the first three decades after 1844, our pioneers did not devote much attention to mission outside North America. But Ellen White encouraged balance between “local missions” and “foreign missions.” She personally devoted 11 years of her life to ministry in Europe and Australia, confirming the responsibility of the whole church to reach the whole world.
She wrote: “The home missionary work will be farther advanced in every way when a more liberal, self-denying, self-sacrificing spirit is manifested for the prosperity of foreign missions; for the prosperity of the home work depends largely, under God, upon the reflex influence of the evangelical work done in countries afar off.”¹³
Mission presents the truth without raising barriers. Ellen White acknowledged that sometimes in their zeal, believers can come across as harsh and unyielding. To that she wrote: “The Lord wants His people to follow other methods than that of condemning wrong, even though the condemnation is just.”¹⁴
Instead, she suggested coming near people, and laboring for them in love. She even recommended setting up centers of “holy influence.”
Mission follows Christ’s example. Ellen White was clear about the most effective methods in reaching people with the gospel. She wrote: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’”¹⁵
FINDING A BALANCE
There should be balance in Adventist mission: to serve and to save. If we serve only, we’re nothing more than a humanitarian agency. If we offer only the cold letter of salvation, we risk being inefficient and irrelevant.
We need to open our arms to meet the physical needs of those around us. But we also have to raise our voices to present the message of Christ’s return.
Ellen White described what’s at stake: “Every day the probation of some is closing. Every hour some are passing beyond the reach of mercy. And where are the voices of warning and entreaty to bid the sinner flee from this fearful doom? Where are the hands stretched out to draw him back from death? Where are those who with humility and persevering faith are pleading with God for him?”¹⁶
May we say with the prophet Isaiah, “Here am I! Send me” (Isa. 6:8).
¹ Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 9, p. 19.
² Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1915), p. 156.
³ Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 209.
⁴ Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898, 1940), p. 362.
⁵ Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol, 9. p. 125.
⁶ Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, p. 351.
⁷ Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 149.
⁸ Ellen G. White, Evangelism (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1946), p. 63.
⁹ E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 667.
¹⁰ Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 36.
¹¹ See Ellen G. White, Messages to Young People (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1930), p. 7.
¹² E. G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 276.
¹³ E. G. White, Testimonies, vol. 6., p. 27.
¹⁴ E. G. White, Gospel Workers, p. 373.
¹⁵ E. G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143.
¹⁶ Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1890, 1908), p. 140.