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Third Quarter 2016 (July–September)
COMMENTARY ON THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN THE COMMUNITY
Week 12: September 10–16
COMMENTARY ON "URBAN MINISTRY IN THE END TIME"
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
Sabbath afternoon, Sep. 10th: Urban Ministry in the End Time
Although today’s lesson says that the three angels’ messages “call” for the gospel to be preached to “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” it is not the gospel that is preached in Adventist outreach efforts; the three angels’ message is what is lacking in the world. Adventists do not have “gospel” seminars, or “gospel” outreach events, they have three angels’ message outreach and events. It is the stated objective of Adventism to proclaim the three angels’ message to the entire world.
The three angels’ messages call for the gospel to be preached to “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6, NKJV). Thus, wherever people live, the message must be brought to them. And because so many now live in cities, to the cities we must go. (Pg. 96 of Standard Edition)
The lesson author specifies the three angels’ message as the message that the world does not know about. He states:
Surveys have shown that in some major urban complexes, the majority of people have never heard of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and thus know nothing of the three angels’ messages. (emphasis mine; page 96 of Standard Edition.)
The Adventist church is to preach the three angels’ message, which includes coming out of Babylon, the seventh-day Sabbath, the Investigative Judgment and the mark of the beast. These doctrines are in direct opposition to the gospel message of grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Adventism teaches that not only is Catholicism the Whore of Babylon, but all the Protestant churches are daughters of the Whore of Babylon. These are the mission fields of the Adventist Church, other churches, including the Protestants.
Sunday, Sep. 11th: The Nature of Cities
The lesson author states on pg. 97 of the Standard Quarterly:
The city could provide access to many people who otherwise might never come near the Seventh-day Adventist message.
It is apparent that it is not the Christian gospel that is to be preached in the cities, but the specific Adventist message.
The lesson author also states,
There is greater tolerance for new ideas, a greater willingness to listen to new religions, than often exists in the more traditional cultural settings outside the cities. (Emphasis mine)
Adventism identifies itself as a “new religion” that will be more acceptable in the cities than in the rural areas. The Adventist church is 153 years old, while Christianity is 2,000 years old. Which would you choose, October 22nd, 1844, and Ellen White, and the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, or a church that teaches salvation through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone, based on the Scriptures alone (no Spirit of Prophecy/Ellen White)?
Monday, Sep. 12th, A Hurting Place
The lesson author makes an implication that the Seventh-day Adventist Church supplies meals all year, every day to those in need. While this may be the ideal, it is not the norm in Adventist churches.
There is a difference in the minds of a community between a church that delivers food to families once a year during a holiday and one like a particular Adventist church plant in a large city.
What does this church do? It meets in a community center that operates on a daily basis. People can go there any morning and get a hot breakfast! (Pg. 98 of Standard Edition)
The Adventist church is attempting to turn all of its local churches into “health centers” where the churches vegetarianism and emphasis on health can be presented to the community in which it exists.
Protestant churches in large cities meet the needs of individuals by joining forces and dividing the work between them. The people in need can still get a breakfast, a soup for lunch, a dinner, and a place to stay if necessary. But the burden is not placed on one church, but shared by all Christian churches in a given area.
Tuesday, Sep. 13th, Sowing and Reaping in Cities
Wednesday, Sep. 14th, Make It Personal
The lesson author suggests the following as something that must be done before an evangelistic campaign can be conducted.
Different soil conditions produce different kinds of results, suggesting the need to study the soil conditions before investing in evangelism activities. If, after studying the community “soil,” your church discovers that it has limited “good ground” in its territory, you must plan to improve that soil by softening the hard pathways, removing the rocks, and pulling up the thorns. That is, for evangelism to be successful, the church must work ahead of time, preparing the soil. This can make a great deal of difference in how effective an evangelistic campaign can be.
In Scripture, Christians are never told to do the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who prepares hearts to receive the message of salvation in Christ. Many will reject the message, but some will accept Christ as their Lord and Savior because of what the Holy Spirit is doing in the hearts of the hearers.
In this parable, the soils that Jesus introduces are simply facts about the different types of people that will respond to the gospel and what their response will consist of.
On pg. 99 of the Standard Edition, the lesson author states:
A single campaign or one major project will not achieve much in the long term. The massive scale and complex structure of the city simply swallow such programs, and within a few weeks there is no trace of an impact. More needs to be done beforehand.
This is due to the fact that retention rates among Adventist Outreach efforts are very low. Some may stay for up to a year, but by the end of the year, it is as if no outreach has even taken place.
The use of small groups in the cities is one way of preparing people for the Adventist message.
This approach [of preparing the soil beforehand] is essential to urban ministry for several reasons. One is the complex mosaic of cultural, ethnic, language, and socioeconomic groups to be reached within the hundreds of communities and subcultures in even medium-sized cities. Unless there are small groups targeting each of these segments, Christ’s mission will not be completed. (Pg. 100 of Standard Edition, Emphasis mine)
One need not meet the “complex mosaic” in the cities. All people are looking for the same thing, unconditional love. This love is met in the free gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We don’t need large-scale programs, targeting every people-group to be effective, we must simply be effective at sharing the love of Christ and his gospel with others who are in search of the answers to life.
Although the lesson seems to be focused on large outreach efforts, in Wednesday’s lesson the author explains that the same methods need to be used with individuals and small groups in the Church.
Small-group ministries also are needed because of how difficult it is for believers to follow Jesus in the city. There are many pressures, temptations, and encounters with alternative faiths and ideologies. Some believers simply give in to the pressures and drop out of church, while others develop a hard shell to protect their feelings and become insensitive to the people around them who need a loving representation of Jesus. (Pg. 100 Standard Ed., emphasis mine.)
Some of these “alternate faiths” provide a more Biblically-based foundation on which to build one’s faith. Some of these people leave the Adventist Church over doctrinal issues – some find that the doctrines taught by the Adventist Church are not as sound as they first are made out to be.
Thursday, Sep.15th, Reaching Out to the Cities
The lesson author implies that outreach to the cities is done on a greater scale than rural evangelism. This is not necessarily true; individuals can still make an impact with those who are in their sphere of influence. We do not need to have “great programs” or large-scale operations in which to carry out evangelism. Every Christian is an evangelist and can influence many for Christ. Evangelism done in the cities need not be any different than evangelism in rural areas.
This rural/urban dichotomy is a false dichotomy which results in individuals in a city not being effective evangelists as they wait for the latest and greatest programs to be driven by their leadership. As we treat people in cities differently than people in rural areas we are being two-faced. A city dweller is looking for the same acceptance and unconditional love that a rural dweller is looking for. There may be more people in the city and from a greater variety of backgrounds, but their needs are the same as those of rural dwellers.
Friday, Sep. 16th, Further Thought
The following statistics are provided in Friday’s lesson:
Out of 107 articles (by EGW), 24 articles gave instruction on moving out or establishing institutions outside cities. But 75 articles gave specific instruction to move into the cities to reach the cities. The other eight articles were neutral. A church historian summarized Ellen G. White’s counsel on city work, showing that relating to institutions, she advocated working from outpost centers outside the city, and when dealing with local church work, she advocated working from within the city.
With such confusing counsel, it is easy to see why there are strongly held positions by Adventists regarding moving out of the cities, or moving into them, in the end times.
At the end of Friday’s lesson, Ellen White is quoted from the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (emphasis mine):
“Why should not families who know the present truth settle in these cities?”
Again we see that it is not the gospel that is to be taught to the lost, but the present truth, which specifically means the Adventist message of the three angels. To come out of Babylon, keeping the Sabbath, the Investigative Judgment and the mark of the beast are the teachings of the three angels of Revelation 14:6-9:
Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water." 8 Another angel, a second, followed, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality." 9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, …
It is only the teaching of the gospel that is needed in today’s world. Jesus apparently did not have any further teachings to give his disciples as he commissioned them to go to all the world, teaching whatsoever he has commanded them and baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.