In his October 10 report to the 2021 Annual Council of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, secretary Erton Köhler said he wanted to share “the vision of a church bigger than the crisis of the pandemic.” He acknowledged that during the past 18 months the church has suffered, but that “it has reinvented itself.” He added, “As a church, we are learning to deal with this reality, looking for the best opportunities to serve, minister, and fulfill the mission in this context.”
CHANGES IN EVANGELISM
The pandemic also affected how Adventists do evangelism, Köhler said, and how they minister to members and those in need. At the same time, it triggered great resilience and helped Adventists to change the way they do things. “We adapted, but most important, we kept serving the world,” he said, “and God blessed all our efforts.”
Despite extensive lockdowns and ever-present restrictions, he reported, the Adventist Church planted 1,736 new churches and baptized 781,389 people in 2020.
HEALTH CARE AND COMMUNICATION
Köhler highlighted the vital role of Adventist hospitals, which in many places were at the front line of the fight against the pandemic. He also referred to the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the humanitarian arm of the church, which in 2020 increased the funds invested and the number of projects and people positively impacted.
The pandemic also marked an impressive increase in communication reach, primarily through official online media outlets. The Adventist Church also launched various regional initiatives to support the mental health of churches and communities, he said.
PUBLISHING AND EDUCATION
Köhler reported that the Publishing Department quickly adapted to the new reality to fulfill its mission. Adaptation included rapid development of digital platforms in various regions of the world to increase offers of Adventist literature.
The Adventist educational system was severely affected by the pandemic in many places. “The need to adapt was enormous,” Köhler said, “requiring schools at all levels to switch to virtual classes almost overnight.”
AT THE LOCAL CHURCH LEVEL
However, the most significant challenges were faced at the local church level. “Our ability to worship was the first and main problem when the pandemic started,” Köhler said, “but our members immediately switched to technology.” In many areas of the world people quickly got tired of online services and found new ways of being together. After just a few weeks some churches introduced the concept of drive-in churches, conducting services in church parking lots as they followed social distance protocols from their cars.
Local Adventist churches also stepped up to support those members and community residents who lost their jobs. Local church pastors also did a great job, Köhler reported. They were “brave and bold” before an unexpected crisis.
Despite all these shifts and the increasing role of social media in the life of local churches, Köhler emphasized that face-to-face interactions are important and should not be replaced. “Technology came to stay in the church’s life but not to replace the life of the church,” he said.
Another word that needs to be at the top of our agenda is commitment, he said. “We need to find ways of bringing members together, understanding they are the main asset of the church. Jesus came for people, led people, died for people, and will return to take people to heaven.”