Back to the Future
Around New Year’s, bloggers, columnists, editors, and pundits often dare a look into the proverbial looking glass. What’s the outlook for the economy? How will the political shadowboxing in Washington, D.C., play out? What will be the social phenomenon of the year? What surprises will we get from Cupertino—or any other small or big gadget company?
You wondered about 2013 as you stepped into January 1. I did—and so did billions of others. With two teenagers and a preadolescent roaming the space of our home, change and action has become the Leitmotiv of our lives. What will happen in their lives in 2013? What will happen in the church we love and cherish in 2013?
“How can 17 million Adventists make a difference in a world of 7 billion?”
Every December The Economist publishes a special issue looking at the big picture of the coming year. 2013 was no exception. An issue, full of best guesses and (at times) thoughtful comments, also included a look by Edward Lucas, an international editor of The Economist, at what he thought 2013 would bring for Christianity.* I was intrigued. Lucas sees secularism gaining ground (not really too difficult to discern) and bleak times for Christianity in Europe and the Middle East (we knew about that, but it’s good to remember that missionaries are needed to reach the crib of Protestantism and the region where most of the biblical stories happened). He forecasts tremendous tension within the worldwide Anglican Church and more splintering over gay issues, theological liberalism, and the role of Scripture for the practice of the church. He thinks that Catholicism will decline even further in Europe and North America—albeit not in Asia and Africa. Finally, Lucas suggests that Christianity as a whole will boom in eastern Asia, including also South Korea, China, and Taiwan.
As I read this take on 2013 I found myself at times nodding or shaking my head. Lucas did not write about the Seventh-day Adventist Church—yet in my mind I compared his comments with our reality. Yes, Europe, Australia, and increasingly North America are becoming more secular by the day—including Protestant U.S.A. Yes, we are currently facing hot theological issues (think ordination of women) that will test our ability to study and stand together to the utmost. Yes, we are delighted to see tremendous church growth in Africa, Central and South America, and some other parts of the world. Yet this church is not like any other church. It is not just another denomination. At the risk of being severely chastised by some of our readers for being arrogant and conceited—this is God’s end-time remnant, a visible part of the larger universal church of people who are ready to follow the Lamb wherever He leads.
This claim is not based on sociological or historical realities—it is based on Scripture and detailed further in the prophetic word. It translates into a call to mission and transformation, sharing a special message in a special time—in 2013.
I feel overwhelmed by the numbers. How can 17 million Adventists make a difference in a world of 7 billion? How can .24 percent reach the remaining 99.76 percent? Jesus used the imagery of yeast leavening dough. In His time everybody had seen this at home. I am sure they could not explain too well the involved chemical processes—but they saw it work. I cannot see exactly how we will do it, but we will, because God’s Spirit guides this movement. I cannot really tell how we will resolve our theological questions—but we will, if we keep following the Lamb. I cannot even project what will happen in the lives of my family in 2013—but I want to walk confidently holding my Savior’s hand.
So, just for a moment, set aside the numbers, threats, issues, and to-do lists. Lift up your eyes—and know that your salvation is near.
* Edward Lucas, “Christianity at Bay,” The Economist, December 2012, p. 29.