Fifty-five of the world's largest cities will see gospel outreach programs funded in part by three major offering collections in Seventh-day Adventist congregations worldwide. Donations will support "Hope For Big Cities," a worldwide urban outreach by the Adventist Church, with more than 100 new congregations planned for those cities, church leaders say.
In 1950, only 18 percent of developing countries' populations lived in cities; soon, that number will be half of those nations' populations. Ironically, in these very countries, the Adventist Church has done far better in reaching rural areas than urban ones. The "Hope For Big Cities" initiative seeks to change that and reach major population groups.
The first of this year's offerings will be gathered April 9 in Adventist congregations outside of North America. Churches in the United States, Canada and Bermuda will have a special collection for the project three weeks later, on April 30. On July 9, all the church's congregations -- and the world business session in St. Louis, Missouri, United States -- will participate in a third offering for the project.
What will the funding accomplish? According to the church's Office of Mission Awareness, a number of local growth projects will be brought to life because of members' contributions.
In Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, with a population of more than 2 million, a church in the city's Western half will be launched. In the past five years, 10 churches have been started in the city, but none yet on the Western side.
With a population of more than 22 million people, Mexico City, capital of Mexico, is one of the world's largest cities. "Hope For Big Cities" offerings will help support evangelism and church growth in a city where 1,100 people arrive as migrants each day. Mexico City has multiplied its area more than 10 times since 1940, but it's still one of the world's most densely populated metropolitan areas.
Among other cities scheduled for outreach is Johannesburg, South Africa. There, experts predict that by 2015 the rapidly growing areas of Johannesburg, Pretoria and their satellite towns will become a single megalopolis, the 12th largest city in the world.
North America will not be ignored by the initiative, leaders say, even if many large cities in North America have been relatively untouched by the Adventist Church. More than 80 percent of North Americans live in metropolitan areas, but most Adventists don't. Only one in three Adventist congregations are located in big cities. Montreal, Canada, will be the North American target city.
"When it comes to the segments where the vast bulk of Americans are demographically located, we are baptizing only a comparative handful," says Monte Sahlin, vice president of Creative Ministries for the church's Columbia Union region, and author of Adventist Congregations Today. "The encouraging thing is that more and more of our people are looking for creative ways to advance the mission of Christ in North America."
By reaching out to major metropolitan areas, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is responding to a challenge issued by one of its pioneering founders, Ellen G. White. In 1909, she wrote, "The Lord has been calling our attention to the neglected multitudes in the large cities, yet little regard has been given to the matter."
Church leaders say the "Hope For Big Cities" effort is another step to heed that counsel. More information on the effort can be found at http://www.hope4cities.org [Editor: Mark A. Kellner for ANN/APD]