e live in times of great challenges, complex tendencies, and special opportunities for mission.
Our main challenge is to stay focused on what our real priority is. The passing of time has impacted our commitment to fulfilling our global mission, and it’s time to work together to refocus on our mission and missionaries. Our challenges are huge. In a world with 8 billion people, we have only 22 million members. That’s almost nothing when compared with the global population.
The main question is, how will 22 million Seventh-day Adventists reach 8 billion inhabitants in this world?
Missiologists refer to our three greatest mission challenges as “the three windows.” Let’s take a quick look at them.
The 10/40 Window is an imaginary rectangle between the 10th and 40th parallels north of the equator. It’s home to some 60 percent of the world’s population, the poorest people on earth, and most of the major world religions. Only 2.6 million Adventist church members are here (12 percent of the world’s membership), while the rest of the world has more than 19 million.
The Post-Christian Window refers to Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries that are rapidly moving away from Christian values as demonstrated by the decrease in church growth and high rates of apostasy, especially among young people.
The Urban Window, found worldwide, is growing rapidly. There are 543 cities with 1 million inhabitants or more. In these cities is an average of 1 Adventist for every 89,000 inhabitants. The global average is one Adventist for every 358 inhabitants. Forty-nine cities of a million or more people have fewer than 10 Adventists and 43 have no Adventist presence.
How are we going to reach the masses for Jesus?
Of course, the task can be accomplished only with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the latter rain. But as the remnant people called by God to share the three angels’ messages, we must work together strategically to meet our mandate.
Gordon Doss, a former missionary and professor emeritus in the Missiology Department at the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary at Andrews University, has created a model to help us refocus our international mission. He created formulas to determine a region’s missional needs, resulting in areas of relatively low and relatively high need for external support to fulfill the mission in their areas. This needs analysis clarifies that some regions need to be producers of mission resources while others are consumers.
Christianity and our mission have made huge advances in the global South while losing strength in the global North.* As we work to rectify this situation, it’s important to remember two premises: the least evangelized people groups should have priority in mission, and our investment for mission should move from parts of the church with more missional capacity to parts with less capacity.
We can divide General Conference divisions and attached unions into two groups. The first, the “Big 6,” includes the largest divisions in the world. They have 77.4 percent of the total Adventist membership and only 21 percent of the global population. While these regions have many challenges, they have the tools needed to move forward in fulfilling the mission in their areas. They have low strategic need.
The second group, the “Diverse 8+,” includes regions that face the greatest missiological challenges. They represent 79 percent of the global population but only 22.6 percent of our membership. They need support to fulfill the mission entrusted to them and have high strategic need.
So how can “low strategic need” areas help “high strategic need” areas reach their populations for Jesus? This challenge can be achieved by the following methods:
- Sending cross-cultural missionaries
- Providing Adventist education
- Educating indigenous pastors
- Developing creative mission initiatives with lay people and involving volunteers and Global Mission pioneers
- Funding building projects
- Producing contextualized materials
The yellow lines in the figure above shows the flow of missionaries in 1901. That was how we fulfilled the global mission and reached areas of need. The white lines shows how the flow of missionaries needs to look today.
It’s time for some areas that received missionaries in the past but today have a strong Adventist presence and structure to start sending missionaries or funding projects to other challenging areas.
Some divisions in the Global South have begun to make net contributions to the flow of missionary resources. Others need to convert from being mission recipients to being contributors.
Our call is to be a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47). May we be the generation that reaches all the unreached of the world for Jesus.