The history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is filled with examples of individuals and institutions that have been, and are, vibrant witnesses to their faith. Because of their passionate commitment to their Lord and appreciation of His unbounded love, they all have the same goal: to share the Good News with Others. One key Bible text has motivated them. It is a text that fires the souls of Seventh-day Adventists everywhere. It is called the Gospel Commission, the mandate from the Lord Himself: “Go ye therefore,
and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt 28:19, KJV).
This mandate from the Lord Himself is simple, beautiful, and binding. Every follower—whether member, pastor, or administrator—is to Go… teach… baptize…make disciples. This principle establishes the mission of the Church and sets the standard for any measuring, any assessment of success. It touches all, whatever their responsibility, whether they are laypersons or church employees. It spans all elements of church life from the local church to the General Conference—in schools and colleges, publishing houses, healthcare institutions, and health food organizations. The mandate is encapsulated in the baptismal vows, in mission statements, in aims and objectives, in policies, and in constitutions and bylaws. It is stated as “to witness to His loving salvation;” “to facilitate the proclamation of the everlasting gospel” “to supply the multitudes with the bread of life;” and “to nurture them in preparation for His soon return.” The four-fold command to Go…teach…baptize…make disciples sounds wherever Seventh-day Adventists work or assemble together.
As the Church has grown in size and complexity, more and more members, pastors, and administrators have asked serious questions about how the Church relates to the Gospel Commission. Does the Church just turn out above average products and services that cannot be readily distinguished from their secular counterparts? Or does the Church make sure its basic products and services reveal to the world the way to eternal life? Nothing should be excluded from these questions, whether it be church worship services or organizational or institutional programs and products. The Church as a whole must ask and answer the hard questions about how it is relating to the guiding principle found in the Gospel Commission.
How can this principle be actualized in the lives of members, pastors, and congregations? How can they measure their progress in fulfilling the Gospel Commission? How can the Church’s universities, colleges, academies, elementary schools, health-food factories, healthcare institutions, clinics, publishing houses, and media centers develop accountability based on the Gospel Commission?
This challenge calls for a frank and analytical approach in determining where the Church is in relationship to the Lord’s command. It is not enough to measure success by secular standards. Total commitment to God requires total acceptance of the principles of Christianity as outlined in the Bible and as supported by the Spirit of Prophecy. Congregations, institutions, church employees, and church members can easily find satisfaction in goals reached, funds raised, buildings completed, budgets balanced, and accreditation achieved or renewed, and yet fail to be accountable before God to the Gospel Commission. The first and continuing priority for the Church must be this directive from the Lord to Go…teach…baptize…make disciples.
While the Gospel Commission does not change, its fulfillment is demonstrated in different ways. A pastor works within a different context than that of a classroom teacher, a physician, or an institutional administrator. Whatever the personal or institutional role, each one is accountable to God’s command.
Among the great benefits resulting from an assessment of their effectiveness will be the increasing trust that develops as each member, each pastor, each administrator and each church institution addresses this priority and gives it proper attention. The family of God acknowledges that each person is individually accountable to God. At the same time, believers are admonished to examine themselves (2 Cor 13:5). A spiritual assessment process has its place in the personal life. Just as surely, it has its place in organizational life.
Spiritual assessment, while appropriate, is also a very delicate matter. For humankind sees only in part, as the earthly frame of reference is always limited to that which is visible and to the brief span of time surrounding the present. Nevertheless, there is much to be gained from careful and thoughtful evaluation of personal and organizational life. It is possible to identify several principles which can guide such an assessment. While any attempt will be incomplete, the following specific areas of assessment will heighten awareness of and accountability to God and to the mission which is an integral part of the Christian’s relationship and commitment to Him. The list of those who should evaluate their commitment to God is not comprehensive, but the principles outlined here are applicable also to other individuals, organizations, and institutions.
What Total Commitment to God Involves for Each Church Member
Each Seventh-day Adventist, whether a denominational employee or layperson, is promised the gift of the Holy Spirit which will enable spiritual growth in the grace of the Lord and which will empower the development and use of spiritual gifts in witness and service. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is demonstrated when one:
1. Maintains, where possible, a Christian home where the standards and principles of Christ are both taught and exemplified;
2. Experiences a life that rejoices in the assurance of salvation, is moved by the Holy Spirit to effective personal witness to others, and experiences in Christ a gracious character that is consistent with God’s will as revealed in His Word;
3. Uses the spiritual gifts God has promised each one;
4. Dedicates time, spiritual gifts, and resources, prayerfully and systematically, to the Gospel proclamation and, individually as well as part of a church family, becomes the Lord’s salt and light through sharing His love in family life and community service, always motivated by the sense of the soon return of the Lord and His command to preach His Gospel both at home and afar; and 5. Participates in a plan for systematic spiritual growth and assessment of one’s personal walk with God by forming mutually accountable spiritual partnerships where the primary objective is to prayerfully mentor one another.