"God has called us to greater exploits for Him, bigger than we can dream or imagine." These rousing words of Dr Kirk Thomas, BUC Evangelism and Sabbath School Director, began a new training event called 'BEAM' (the BUC Evangelism, Discipleship and Mission summit). This year's event, which took place from 8-10November was entitled 'Going Bigger'. Over 400 attendees made their way to Hinckley Island Hotel for the launch and were blessed by a rich spectrum of diverse gifts and ministries. An array of different themed sermons, plenaries, songs and workshops were offered by 17 presenters, ensuring delegates received the opportunity for training in many different ministries. There truly was something for everyone.
As he chaired on Friday evening, Dr Thomas discussed the BUC's Evangelism and Sabbath School Department's focus on 'Total Member Involvement'. To this end, the aim of BEAMS is to train as many people as possible with a view to equipping and encouraging the Church in 'reaching the Trans-European Division and Europe for Jesus Christ'.
Dr Richard Elofer, Director of the General Conference Jewish Friendship Centre spoke on 'Reaching the Jews Among Other Unreached', stating: "the work to 'reach the Jews with the Spirit of Jesus' is a 'crucial mission for the Seventh-day Adventist Church… a conviction we must all have' because 'God would like to see the Jewish people come back to Him.' A time is coming… there will be as many converted in a day as there were on the day of Pentecost." Review and Herald, 19 June, 1905. Dr Elofer's advice was to identify Jewish and other groups of people and pray for communities, walking and driving, for hearts to be prepared and for God to provide a way to reach people adding, "God will open your eyes to the harvest and then you will be surprised."
In a sermon entitled 'Where are We Going?' Pastor Roger Hernandez, Ministerial and Evangelism Director for the Southern Union, shared points on interacting with the community and building and maintaining a healthy church culture. For example, he said, "preach our struggles as people are not looking for a 'wow', they are looking for the 'how'." To counter the way in which the vast majority of unchurched individuals have no believing friends, he encouraged members to 'walk alongside' people and be trustworthy so they can turn to you. "Be upfront − we have a beautiful message" he urged, yet "God has called us to be different, He has not called us to be weird." Pastor Hernandez explained that the vast majority of traffic to church websites comes from unchurched people browsing the internet and that increasing numbers of people will look churches up online before visiting. He compared church websites to a 'church lobby' because of the potential for interfacing with people, pointing out that all the information about your church should be easy to find there. Church culture can be friendly to outsiders or damaging to their experiences. "We can have best music… It is only 'when God shows up' that things happen," he added. "If no people are coming, is God being lifted up? Nothing beats experiencing God."
Pastor Kirk Thomas, presented every delegate with the gift of a vibrant bag filled with resources, featuring a 'Sabbath School Alive!' logo, symbolising the aspects of Bible Study and Prayer, Fellowship and Mission as he appealed for equally vibrant local church Sabbath Schools. Printed on the reverse side was a 'GROW' logo representing the disciple-making process, encouraging everyone to 'Grow Your Church'. These and other resources to support these efforts are available on the General Conference's 'Grow Your Church' website.
The model was developed by Pastor Jim Howard, the Associate Director of the General Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department, who highlighted 5 foundational ministries for every local church. These were 'Churchwide Community Ministries' to prepare the ground; 'Active Literature and Media Ministries' to plant the seed of God's word; 'Vibrant Bible Study Ministry' to cultivate interest; 'Regular Public Evangelism' as harvesting and 'Systematic Discipleship Ministry' to preserve the precious fruit of new souls as a sequential, continuous cycle. Pastor Howard explained that the agricultural model was taught by Jesus and that churches may assess whether they provide a full range of outreach activities by whether they cover all of these areas.
The Sabbath morning section was chaired by Dr Michael Mbui, the Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Director of the South England Conference. Pastor Audrey Andersson, Executive Secretary of the Trans-European Division (TED), started the day with a reflective devotion entitled, 'Seeking the Lost'. The 'blind panic' of the woman in the story of 'The Lost Coin' was connected to the issue of church retention and how 16% of baptised members leave. Pastor Audrey asked 'How much passion' or 'panic' do we feel for the 1 out of every 6 who leave the Church? Delegates were encouraged to 'be the arms and love of Jesus'. In engaging in reclamation work, they were reminded of rejoicing not only in heaven but in our churches at the results. Stories of faith restored and individuals returning to the Church offered hope.Pastor Howard spoke next on the Church's 'One Mission'. He described the seamlessness of in-reach and outreach reflected in the GROW discipleship model, helping churches to thrive effectively. Matthew 28: "God has called everybody to witnessing" he stated, "Some call it a spiritual gift and this has crippled the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The great body of lay people are sleeping giants, not aware of the incredible calling God has given them." In this way, 'Satan is now seeking to hold God's people in a state of inactivity to keep them from acting their part in spreading the truth, that they may at last be found wanting'. Witnessing is not a spiritual gift. Ultimately, we can all do something to share the truth with others. Christian Service, p.37.
Pastor Wayne Erasmus, the South England Conference Church Growth and Discipleship Director led the morning worship segment. The afternoon session was chaired by Pastor Adriana Fodor, who urged delegates to select a person to pray for throughout the year with a view to their salvation. Numerous break-out seminars began.
In one room, participants were busy enrolling as 'cell phone evangelists', with Pastor Neville Neveling, General Conference Global Evangelism Trainer, in his innovative scheme. He explained how his AWR360 programme organises and sources materials which is forwarded to friends of cell evangelists through an automated system. Audio sermons and studies are sent to mobile phone contacts through a special forwarding system. Pastor Neville explained that the service was growing and new languages were being added to this service regularly. "You don't have to worry about the administration," he explained. "Artificial intelligence takes out the mundane. You will get info telling you what they have done, how to respond… You worry about the relationship part."
In his class, Dr Mbui trained his group on 'Growing a Church of Disciple-Makers'. He emphasised, "We are 'called to be the disciples of Christ' and having spent time with Him, we are called to 'make others the disciples of Christ'. A disciple is a 'learner' (Matthew 11:28); a lover (John 14:15); a follower (Matt 4:19) and a witness (Acts 1:8). A disciple of Christ is a person who lives the life of Christ and reflects that life. Let people have an encounter with the Word because it has the potential to change lives."
Dr Patrick Johnson addressed the challenge of people losing confidence in our Seventh-day Adventist message, encouraging his class to share it within the context of the grand narrative of 'the Great Controversy': the world's key problem and also the coming resolution.
Dr James Yansen, Ministerial Evangelism Director for the Southern Union, shared lessons on the topic of 'When Tragedy Strikes: Witnessing through Empathetic Presence and Listening'. His emphasis was dealing with moments of tragedy by demonstrating grace, empathy, presence and listening.
Pastor Rudy Dingjan's 'Body Evangelism' break-out session considered how through a united Church body, God may be revealed. Observing that we usually have our meetings in church, he suggested participating in 'Matthew' activities, asking friends to join gatherings and events so we may become visible. He suggested trying local spaces such as parks as venues as we 'meet doing good' on the Sabbath. His desire is for church members to 'find other ways to connect' so unchurched people find 'belonging' among us, leading to 'behaving' and then becoming 'believing' followers of Christ.
Pastor Dale Galusha promoted the Publishing ministry, emphasising the important history of literature work in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, through sacrificial work of people presenting the truth to others. He stated that reaching people is possible "when we keep in contact with the source of our strength." Pastor Galusha shared the story of members aged 90+ and 101, who even though they may not be in good health are still sharing the gospel, e.g. placing tracts in the local doctor's surgery. He spoke of the enduring popularity of books which more people are reading than ever before. Whether in digital form or hard copy, "the Lord intends to use literature to touch the hearts of people [whom] Jesus loves as a plan of escape" in the light of the promise of the Second Coming. Pastor Galusha showed a video featuring an American man named Karl and his friend Zeig, a refuse collector who discovered the Conflict of the Ages series by Ellen White in his garbage machine and this was just what he was looking for. Karl remarked, "We don't want people to say what took you so long? Carry a package of select tracts everywhere."
Pastor Simon Martin, TED Discipleship Coach, taught his class how to build a disciple-making culture in our churches through dynamic small groups. Based on Matthew 10:8, he shared the approach of finding a 'person of peace' in a local area, and becoming a blessing to that home, healing and introducing them to the Kingdom of God.
At the 'WOW Club', led by Yvonne Cummins and Maria and Earl Samuel, children also explored 'Going bigger with God', covered through a newly written play and other creative means. Jaden, 11, said "I have learned new songs and it was actually fun, with lots of fun activities."
The youth group, which included non-Adventists was led by Alina Dogaru and Clarence Jackson. Also taking the theme 'Going Bigger', Clarence explained how the group discussed 'finding your passions' and ideas on how we can take talents forward. They discussed addressing obstacles, including a variety of themes set by youths themselves, such as the dangers of drugs; relationships; gun and knife crime; mental health and depression; how the church can make an impact and anger management, praying for self-control together. The group presented content on David and Goliath for Adventist Radio London, who were present throughout the summit. They also spent leisure time with each other. Star from Willesden church deemed her time at the club 'very engaging'. 'Very interesting' was the feedback from Kendra, also from Willesden.
The youth especially attended Dr Galina Stele's plenary 'A Church That Attracts Young People'. Dr Stele who works as Research and Programme Evaluation Manager at the General Conference Office of Archives spoke of the cruciality of relationships with newly baptised members and young people, saying, "Know them; know their names."
In his sermon 'Who Let the Dogs Out?' (based on Rev 22:14,15) Dr Jeffrey Brown spoke of the 'dogs' of depression, discouragement, destruction and divorce. He encouraged members to take care of their spiritual health and their mental health.
Further highlights of Sunday morning's worship session, chaired by Pastor David Burnett were more opportunities for involvement offered by Pastor Maureen Rock, Principal of the Adventist Discovery Centre (ADC). The ADC offers free resources for Church plants, Children's Ministries, Health and lifestyle ministries and home schoolers; Bibles for community distribution; Bible co-ordinator training and ADC visits to local churches to name a few.
The closing sermon by Dr James Yansen was entitled 'When God is enthroned', in which he shared how the more we connect with God, the more He transforms our minds. He shared the story about Satanists in attendance at a local church service when their 5-year-old responded to an altar call and prayed in front of the congregation. The parents came to the altar, touched because they had not taught their son to pray.
The programme was infused with prayer and praise as the summit paused on several occasions throughout the day to address prayer points related to in-reach and outreach. These included the people who have left the Church; the UK's majority population; ethnic minorities and the Church's young people. In fact, prayer had begun before attendees arrived and continued throughout the summit with a specially dedicated prayer room.
Cameila Bran, Brother George with his father from Jamaica and Godfrun Moore raised resonant, soaring, moving tones in special musical items as they ministered in song, elevating Jesus and reminding everyone who it is all for. Delegates basked in uplifting worship led by Christina Quionquion and her team, including an especially composed original theme song: 'Fill Me Up' as Christina explained, "We can't 'Go Bigger' without Him."
Theda Piennar travelled from Ireland to attend. She felt the summit was "lovely and well organised" and remarked on the effort involved. She spoke of the 'open hearts' and the 'absolute love and sense of belonging'.
Pastor Ian Sweeney, President of the British Union Conference said, "We have an opportunity to reach all people in the British Isles" and delegates felt inspired to do so.
Other comments spoke of "a good, uplifting weekend, as usual, a nice spiritual time." (David Miller, Telford church.)
Elva Bryon, also from Telford , commented that it was "Spiritually uplifting. We've been motivated very much. God is saying Go!"
"I wasn't coming here," said Janelle Belgrave-Hoyte of Hackbridge Adventist church. "My husband booked," she spoke of the dinner date God had planned for her during the summit, adding, "always be available for the Holy Spirit to teach, direct and inspire you in the work of God."
If you would like to get involved in any of these ministries, find out about resources or if you have any further queries, please contact Kerrine Guthrie or Dr Kirk Thomas from the Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Departments of the British Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Tel 01923 672251; firstname.lastname@example.org.