by Divinia Reynolds
The commission Jesus gave the Church in Matthew 28:18-20, starting with the immortal words: ‘Go ye therefore’ (KJV), echoes down through the ages. Yet some have found endeavouring to reach out to others a struggle, or felt the need to recalibrate how we carry out Jesus’ command as the era of the COVID-19 pandemic draws on. This is why the return of the British Union Evangelism and Mission Summit (BEAMS) last weekend (5-7 November) in Daventry, Northamptonshire was so welcome. On the agenda – powerful worship and training for present times.
The event was co-hosted by newly re-elected BUC departmental directors, Pastor Eglan Brooks and Dr Kirk Thomas. Exceeding all expectations, the number of participants was 352. In his welcome at the opening of the meeting, Dr Thomas remarked: ‘With all the circumstances . . . militating against this programme happening, the mere fact that we were able to bring this programme to you . . . is testament to the fact that God still hears and answers sincere prayers made to Him.’ ‘Welcome to God’s miracle programme.’
Homing in on the word ‘nevertheless’, keynote speaker Dr Mike Ryan (Assistant to the President of the General Conference and deviser of the ‘I Will Go’ initiative) explained that, despite a long night of unsuccessful fishing, when asked by Jesus to push his boat back out on the water and try once more, Peter responded, ‘Nevertheless at Your word . . .’ (Luke 5:5, NKJV). ‘There has never been a greater need for a “nevertheless generation”,’ Dr Ryan observed, quoting from Ellen White’s book Testimonies to the Church, vol. 9, p. 19: ‘Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light bearers. . . . There is no other work of such great importance’ as proclaiming the three angels’ messages.’ ‘Tonight,’ Dr Ryan continued, ‘Jesus is calling you to say, “I will go.” ’
With characteristic humour, and accompanied by a salvo of quotable practical points, Pastor Roger Hernandez (Ministerial Secretary of the Southern Union) challenged participants about the paradigm, ‘I will do . . . eventually.’ Grounding his thoughts on Matthew 28, he said, ‘We are educated well above our level of obedience’ because of a discrepancy between what we say is important and what we actually do, as many do not participate in evangelism. However, he stressed the need to ‘take the guilt out of it’ and instead ‘fall in love with Jesus’, as this is the ultimate motivator. Jesus was the pastor of a divided church of disciples, but ‘mission is a great uniter’. Pastor Hernandez’s key word, ‘whatever’, meant saying to God in prayer: ‘Whatever You want, Lord, however You want,’ while looking for divine appointments. ‘Start before you are ready’; ‘do it afraid, but in the power of Jesus, because He has called us,’ he said, praying that God would personalise what ‘go’ means for each of us.
During Sabbath morning’s devotion, Pastor Adriana Fodor (Evangelism Sponsor for the Welsh Mission) asked the question, ‘What is in your bag?’ based on Hebrews 12:1 with the invitation to ‘lay aside every weight’ and ‘run with endurance the race that is set before us’ (NKJV). Carrying a heavy backpack, Pastor Fodor explained how problems can slow us down, hindering our ‘going’ for the Lord. Pastor Fodor urged participants not to look at the contents of their bags, but rather at Jesus by reading His word, learning how God deals with problems, and getting to know Jesus more. In this way, the weight will be dropped and we can focus on ‘going’ for the Lord. Her appeal was to ‘keep moving towards Jesus’.
We then learned more about the strategic plan for the new quinquennium as Pastor Brooks conducted an interactive session in which attendees reflected on how to embrace the ‘I Will Go’ initiative. He explained that the desire behind the initiative was to get most of the church involved in serving for the Lord, and Dr Thomas highlighted the need to refresh and update our practices.
In groups, attendees devised a spectrum of exciting ideas for outreach, including:
- Social media content
- Prayer services
- English classes
- Help in writing CVs
- Help in developing ICT skills
- Community cafes
- Befriending people to combat widespread loneliness
- Breakfast clubs for the elderly
- Health ministries
- Outreach for men, addressing their mental health
- Help with gardening, shopping and foodbanks
Further suggestions included holding meetings in public areas to connect with local people, and reaching out to local councillors who know the community. This was to be informed by being prayerful disciples and genuine friends ourselves. Pastor Brooks urged everyone to establish strategies the church can benefit from in the remainder of the five-year strategic period.
In his second plenary, Dr Ryan promoted confidence in the Bible as our lamp (John 5:39), sharing how the fulfilment of smaller-scale prophecies (such as the predicted siege of Jerusalem in Jeremiah 21:7) builds conviction that the Second Coming is sure. He presented Jesus’ urgency and passion for the salvation of souls (evidenced in His heavy schedule in Matthew 8 and 9) as a model. Recalling that the blind men who were healed ‘spread abroad [Jesus’] fame in all the country’, Dr Ryan asked stimulating questions: ‘Do we have Jesus’ fame to spread in the neighbourhood . . . ?’ ‘How is “I Will Go” defined in my life?’
In Pastor Hernandez’s second plenary, his theme was ‘I Will Go. . . . Who Is Coming?’ which addressed the theme of reclamation ministry during Divine Worship. Speaking from Luke 15, Pastor Hernandez encouraged his listeners to search for the 41% of baptised members who disconnect from the church: a rate that would be unacceptable in other fields or professions. His solution was captured by the acronym, ‘RAMP’:
- Research the reasons each individual left.
- Avoid church conflict, undue anger, or making people feel guilty as a strategy, and avoid assuming that individuals will never change.
- Meet with people through visits and social activities.
- Prepare for such meetings by being intentional and welcoming. ‘The deeper the wound, the fewer the words’; ‘Nothing you can say is going to console someone who has been hurt by the church except the two most important words: “I’m sorry.” ’
The plenary of Dr Samuel Telemaque (Missions & Sabbath School Director for the Inter-American Division) was through a video presentation called ‘Sharing Christ with All the People of the British Union’. He explained that our work often involves reaching out to individuals different from us, including people groups who have arrived in the UK as migrants, who face issues of identity crisis, isolation and other predicaments, along with educational, economic and legal issues. He suggested that we can minister to these needs in demonstrating the Gospel. As opportunities arise to proclaim the Gospel, he encouraged showing that the word of God speaks to the situations they are going through (2 Kings 4:1-7; John 4:1-32; Acts 17:16-33).
Pastor Wayne Erasmus, Church Growth and Adventist Mission Coordinator of the South England Conference, explored the parable of the growing seed (Mark 4:26-29). He said that, while we scatter seeds of God’s word, we cannot make them germinate or control everything, but we must leave the aspects that are God’s to Him. Pastor Erasmus encouraged a heart for the diverse peoples that make up the United Kingdom and Ireland, saying, ‘There is every chance that God is busy in your community but you have not quite noticed it yet.’ He shared his experience of joining an allotment community where he has become an unofficial elder. ‘May we be as faithful in the scattering as He is in the growing.’
In Sunday’s devotion, Dr Gina Miller testified of discovering currency in her travel bag when she was broke, comparing this to the most important treasure we have ‘in earthen vessels’ which we often overlook. Referring to Luke 9:1, 2, she identified this treasure within us as the supernatural empowerment Jesus gives His disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God. She pointed out that effective ministry begins with a call from God, and we are called for this time: ‘How am I managing my God-given mission?’ ‘My Bible tells me that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ ‘Use the sword of the Spirit’; ‘go and be powerful, and let the Lord use you.’ ‘Ready or not, here you come.’
Joshua and Caleb, two spies sent to the Promised Land (Numbers 13) were the subject of Dr Ryan’s next plenary session. They focused on crops and vineyards of huge grapes they found in a land ‘flowing with milk and honey’ rather than being discouraged by the largeness of cities whose inhabitants included giants. ‘God has asked us to provide hope in the UK. . . . As you go, never forget the word “we”, as success depends on placing our hand in God’s hand,’ so, like Joshua and Caleb, we can ‘look at our location and say, “We are well able to conquer” ’ the land.
Afterwards, Dr Jeffrey Brown (Associate Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference) spoke on the capture of Lot and his family (Genesis 14), who were pursued by his uncle Abraham: ‘This was reclamation.’ Yet reclamation needn’t be dramatic, but simply ‘a supply of groceries to refugees or homeless people, or sitting down with someone for a simple meal’. ‘Fight for your family,’ he continued. ‘Sometimes children are lost in our own homes. . . . Search and chase after your child.’ Don’t be afraid, and remember that the Lord is great and awesome.
Fascinating breakout sessions began on Sabbath afternoon. They discussed praying for the peace of your city (Jeremiah 29), love and mingling, looking for the spaces where God is working so we can participate as representatives of Jesus Christ – and we must be aware of what our presence says about who He is. Dr Jeffrey Brown pointed out that we are in a new phase of ministry, and it would be dangerous to miss the moment. Drawing from literature on ‘the post-quarantine church’, he outlined a number of shifts: for example, from analogue to digital, from teaching to equipping, from gathering to connecting. Dr Ryan’s seminar featured astounding vignettes about missionaries who, despite the odds, were able to reach people in the toughest locations, while Kathy Hernandez encouraged creating good impressions and positive experiences for visitors in all aspects of church life.
Ashriah Akakpo, Tavian Jean-Pierre and Fonah Thomas led the youth in dynamic sessions based on specially developed materials, tackling themes such as God’s purpose in our identity, how individuality can bring God glory, and the effects of social media on identity.
Pastor Jeremy Johnson (Youth Sponsor for the Welsh Mission), Pastor Adriana Fodor and Pastor David Rancic (Welsh Mission Pathfinders Sponsor) held a prayer retreat called ‘Have You Heard?’ Young people expressed how ‘uplifted’ they felt, and that ‘there is real power in prayer’.
The Wow Club for children followed the overall theme of the conference, led by Yvonne Cummins and Earl and Maria Samuel, who especially penned the song, ‘Go, Go, I Will Go, Go’, which brought the ‘wow’ factor.
A new resource developed by Pastor Dan Serb, President of the Irish Mission, was presented to attendees by Dr Thomas, an editor on the project. The website www.believabletalks.com features special content addressing pertinent themes of spirituality, religion and science, inviting the public to connect via dialogue and ask questions as they explore the concept of objective truth. In their complimentary packs, each attendee received cards with QR codes so that they could share it with their friends.
As they moved on to new roles, Pastors Rory and Ivana Mendez, Pastor Michael Simpson and Earl Ramharacksingh were presented with awards for their work in the community by the President of the British Union Conference, Pastor Ian Sweeney, as were the One Vision Project founded by Enoch Kanagaraj, Pastor Otis Lewis of Peckham Church, and Dr Mario Philip of Willesden Church, who so far in the pandemic period have baptised close to 30 and 50 people respectively.
Led by Christina Quionquion, the praise team skilfully guided attendees in response to the messages, especially with the theme song composed by Tina Brooks, which left the message: ‘I Will Go as I Grow’, reverberating in many hearts. The rich music ministry was further enhanced with special items by Aliah Prince and Marie Roswell.
The place was infused with prayers, with a dedicated team praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the Gospel goes out to the world, and for the Kingdom to come.
Adding to Dr Telemaque’s presentation in a digital format, the summit was streamed live on SEC and BUC YouTube channels with more than 5,000 views from individuals who were able to interact and forward prayer requests, making it a true hybrid experience.
There was an atmosphere of joy as attendees reunited with the wider church following twenty months of lockdowns and social restrictions. The aim of enthusing and equipping members was met. Sheffield David of Hope Community in High Wycombe was ‘inspired’, and his wife Yvonne especially appreciated meeting up with members in person after so long.
‘Presentations were . . . very informative, practical, an eye-opener,’ said Claudius from Milton Keynes Central Church.
‘Excellent summit: thank God for what He has done. The messages are relevant for the time we are in, and God has given enthusiasm and conviction’ so that ‘His people and leaders [can] go forth and do the work that He has called us to do in unity – leadership and laity working side by side,’ remarked Hyacinth Gayle, Carter Knowle Church.
In the words on the banner:
‘Who will go?
I will go!
Where will we go?
To every family, neighbour, community and culture!
Sharing Jesus and His Love.
Now GOOO BUC!’
For further information on the ‘I Will Go’ initiative, resources or related questions, visit https://iwillgo2020.org or contact the Personal Ministries team at the BUC.