The Adventist Church of Tomorrow

Speaker: Categories: Aug 10, 1996


[56min, 58sec / 46min, 15sec]


Speculating about the future has risks! There's always the likelihood that someone looking back in yonder year will remember what the foreteller foretold and be terribly disappointed with what didn't happen.

Perhaps equally distressing is the difficulty many, even Forum-types, have with contemplating a not-too-distant future when the calendar year will read 2000, 2001, 2002 .... The prospect of a twenty-first century must have been well beyond the remotest thinking of the Adventist pioneers. It may be that there are readers of this newsletter who find it challenging to anticipate a new century within their lifetimes!

Dr. Cottrell has noted, "On the authority of Ellen White nearly a century and a half ago, our spiritual forefathers expected the return of our lord within five or, at the most, ten years. At the dawn of the twentieth century she assured the church that 'Only a moment of time remained."

He notes further, "We have always conceived of our mission as a church to be the proclamation of the everlasting gospel to all the world in anticipation of the imminent return of our lord." That effort has proven highly successful as Dr. Cottrell points out, “Today we are, in reality, a world church with nine-tenths of our members outside of North America.” [Emphasis supplied]

But such success has been and is attended by a host of challenges which were certainly not envisioned by the church pioneers. “The vast cultural, political, economic, and educational differences around the world confront the church with major problems in its endeavor to preserve unity. The church urgently needs to reevaluate its self-concept, its mission, its message, its structure, and its modus operandi,” contends our August 10 speaker.

The 1995 General Conference session in Utrecht made clear how some of the challenges of a world church, or as some would wish to emphasize, one church worldwide, affect North American Adventists. It became evident that the good ol' days, when the General Conference and the North American Division were virtually synonymous, are gone forever!

Where does this lead us? What are the consequences of being successful in taking the good news to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people? Can the church, at least the church as we know it, survive success?


Perhaps that which first distinguished Dr. Cottrell as someone worth noticing was his role as associate editor of the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary. To produce such a work was a monumental undertaking. It was progressive, a word which in the early 1950s was more loaded than now! But the task was completed, the presses rolled, and Adventists suddenly had on their library shelves a variety of Bible scholars' perspectives on the Scriptures -- which often offered alternative ways of understanding a given verse.

More recently, our most frequently scheduled San Diego Adventist Forum speaker accepted the challenge of editing a new publication, Adventist Today. This, too, is progressive. And, just like the commentary series, it is meeting a need among Adventists who want to know!

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