What’s it Like to be a Missionary of a Worldwide Church?

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While traveling by plane in Asia an Adventist missionary began a conversation with his seatmate, who represented another Christian organization.

After hearing briefly about the worldwide church organization of the Seventh-day Adventists, the seatmate stated with obvious envy, “If only we could function as a world church, what strength there would be.” This reaction is not uncommon among leaders of other Christian churches and organizations.

Following you’ll see how the Seventh-day Adventist Church is organized to work effectively, how it helps you in your task, and how you can contribute to it.

A Global Church

When you look at the Adventist church, you are immediately struck by the fact that this is a worldwide church.

Instead of being organized in national churches that are independent of each other, Adventists have chosen to stay in a global fellowship of churches that are bound to each other by a common faith and a strong organizational structure.

From a handful of people in 1863, the church has developed into a truly worldwide movement of over 21 million people.

This amazing growth is supported by a church organization both complex and simple at the same time. The complexity comes from the multifaceted work carried on around the world.

It involves some 161,000 churches and “companies” and thousands of institutions engaged in an incredible diversity of services and ministry.

Institutions

Best known are perhaps Adventist healthcare facilities, the church’s educational work, and the ministry of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).

The network of more than 8,800 schools operated around the globe is one of the largest church-operated school systems in the world.

Add to that orphanages and nursing homes, over 60 publishing houses, 22 food industries, and countless other projects, and you have indeed an incredibly complex organization.

Departments

Of course, there is also the full spectrum of departmental services.

These include Sabbath school, personal ministries, youth, children, stewardship, publishing, health/temperance, family, and women’s ministries, which gives support in specialty areas for more successful nurture and outreach.

A Simple Structure

At the same time, the Adventist church is structured in a simple way.

There are only one or two organizational levels between the local church and the global organization. The local church is a “family” of Adventist members in a local area who have been granted status as a local church.

These local churches are organized either into a conference or union of churches. The conferences are organized into a union covering a larger geographical area.

The General Conference (GC) has its headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, and is represented around the world through its “divisions.”

As of December 31, 2018, there were 88,718 churches organized in 698 conferences or missions, and 137 unions, union missions, or unions of churches.

These encompass established work in 213 countries within the 13 divisions and two attached fields of the General Conference.

The division/attached fields and their office locations at present time are as follows:

  • East-Central Africa (ECD), Nairobi, Kenya 
  • Inter-European (EUD), Berne, Switzerland 
  • Euro-Asia (ESD), Moscow, Russia
  •  Inter-American (IAD), Miami, FL, United States of America 
  • North American (NAD), Silver Spring, MD, United States of America 
  • Northern Asia-Pacific (NSD), Koyang City, Korea
  • South American (SAD), Brasilia, Brazil 
  • South Pacific (SPD), Wahroonga, Australia 
  • Southern Africa-Indian Ocean (SID), Pretoria, South Africa
  • Southern Asia (SUD), Hosur, India 
  • Southern Asia-Pacific (SSD), Silang, Philippines 
  • Trans-European (TED), St. Albans, England 
  • West-Central Africa (WAD), Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire

The two attached fields are:

  • Middle East North Africa Union, Beirut, Lebanon
  • Israel Field, Jerusalem, Israel

But what is the value of this organization that guides the work of the Adventist church around the world? In the second part of this post, we will see some of these values. Stay tuned!

Your Turn

 How do you feel about the worldwide organization of the Adventist church? What do you think are the strengths of an efficient global church structure for mission?

Share your thoughts in the comments below

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