In a special report presented at Spring Meetings held virtually April 12, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (GC) unveiled its plan to reset the church’s global mission focus. With a lack of focus on unreached territories and people groups over the past 50 years, the GC hopes its new focus and matrix will help divisions and other Adventist institutions prioritize sending missionary families in areas where the gospel message is most needed.
Why do we need a new matrix?
“The largest allocation of our overall budget, at 16.5%, is to support the program administered by International Personnel Resources and Services (IRPS). As faithful stewards of resources, we must ask and answer the questions that help us maximize those resources used for mission,” said GC Chief Financial Officer Paul H Douglas.
Douglas, alongside GC Executive Secretary and Office of Adventist Mission and Institute of Global Mission Advisor Erton Köehler and GC Associate Secretary Karen Porter, justified the new church matrix sharing the changing direction of Adventist mission over the past 150 years, as well as statistics on past and present evangelism.
“In 1909, the 100,000 members of the Church were already sending an average of 100 new missionaries a year and supporting missionaries in 70 mission fields throughout the world. That’s 1 in 1,000 members every year,” Douglas explained. “And almost all of them helped to open works where the church was not yet established. In comparison today, the Church has fewer than three serving missionaries for every 10,000 members. And most of these missionaries were sent out in administrative roles, rather than planting churches in unentered areas and reaching new people groups.
Explaining this shift in focus, Köhler added: “The success of [early] missionary efforts began to require leaders and replacements to spend more time administering what already existed. There’s nothing wrong with that, it had to be done. But gradually the number of missionaries sent to open new works dwindled. The growing administrative burden necessitated more policy, oversight and training of newly elected leaders. »
Due to increasing administrative demands, the presentation highlighted how the Church has lost its focus on entering unreached territories with the gospel. By introducing its new matrix, the GC aims to redistribute resources and once again reinforce this concentration.
What will the new matrix involve?
The new matrix rolled out by the GC will refocus resources on unreached and underreached people groups, recommending that Adventist divisions and institutions prioritize the use of core International Service Employee (ISE) budgets from code 1 within the next 10 years based on the following criteria:
- Direct contact mission with the aim of creating new worship groups
- 10/40 country window and groups of people of non-Christian religions (as defined by the Church’s Annual Statistical Report
- Urban areas with more than one million inhabitants
- Postmodern/post-Christian countries and religions
- Low Adventist/population ratio in countries/regions/people groups
- High impact gear for direct contact mission
While budgets outside of this new mission may continue as needed, the goal is to have 35% of all Code 1 primary ISE budgets meet the new criteria by 2027 and 70% by 2032. In comparison, only 12-24% of all Code 1 budgets currently meet the proposed criteria. Based on this goal, there could be approximately 280 missionaries serving unreached people groups, territories, and regions in 10 years.
“The timeline is stretched over 10 years, to allow enough time for this transition,” Porter said. “The percentages are for the entire global domain, not for each division or institution. Some territories have more areas of unreached people groups than others. But as a whole world church, by 2032 we hope to reach our goal with God’s help.
How will divisions transition to the new matrix?
Simply put, divisions and institutions sending ISEs will need to carefully review the new matrix criteria and consider whether the position they are trying to fill fits the criteria. This may require asking questions, such as:
- Does this position need to be filled by an ISE, or can it be filled by a local person?
- What local resources could be used to fund this post as a code 4 post?
- Is the missionary spirit of sacrifice exercised in this situation?
To meet the new criteria, divisions and sites can access resources offered by the GC in the form of advice and guidance, as well as funding. These include:
- Information about invaded groups of people from all over the world, compiled by Adventist Mission, and—
- A small pool of budgets that can be requested for new ISE positions that match the new criteria in the matrix.
“There will be no sudden or brief changes,” Köehler assured. “Divisions will need to plan over the next few months, and we plan to help with that.”
As a secondary consideration in the new matrix, the GC urges divisions and institutions to send more ISEs than they receive, whenever possible. “Moving in this direction is not easy, it will take time and strategic planning,” Porter agreed. “But we challenge you to move from a receiving entity to a sending entity. Let us have a spirit of sacrifice as our early pioneers did to bring the gospel to unpenetrated areas and people groups.
World territories in need of Adventist influences
Highlighting where the Adventist Church could make a practical difference when its funds are reallocated under the new matrix, Köhler shared examples of global territories where the gospel is difficult to share, or the population is not being reached.
“The Middle East and North Africa Union (MENA) is just one of many territories around the world facing the same challenges and needing special support with more missionaries,” Köhler explained. . “In the MENA region, there are 11 cities of over a million people with no churches or missionaries, not even an Adventist member! In the same territory, we have seven countries in the Arabian Peninsula without an Adventist member. When we look at Libya, we don’t have organized workers in place. In Syria, where Adventists have been banned for 50 years, we need to do something there. MENA cannot do it alone. They urgently need more missionaries.
Continuing with his examples, Köhler explained how the Adventist Church is severely underrepresented in heavily populated countries like India and in non-Christian and post-Christian territories.
“If some regions decide to support us and return some ISE Code 1 budgets to the GC or replace Code 1 with Code 4 missionaries, paying them with local funds, or organizing local missions projects, [we could] achieve and support the mission in these areas of need,” Köhler added.
GC Chairman Ted NC Wilson agreed, “We have a new mission matrix that needs your full support. If we all decide to do this together, many areas of the world where we have little or no Adventist presence, no financial support and no established missionaries, or large urban areas where we need special missionary projects, will be reached and affected by establishing new worship groups.
Ending the presentation, Douglas said: “We have to remember that our calling is to be a fisherman – to catch fish, not just to take care of aquariums. We need to look at the big picture and continue to focus on places and groups of people who haven’t yet had the chance to hear what the rest of us have the chance to know.