27 October 2022 | St Albans, UK [David Neal]
I must admit that, at face value, the acronym GAiN does not stir excitement. Even explaining what it stands for – ‘Global Adventist Internet Network’, could easily give the impression that those involved belong to a small specialised and technical group. The reality, however, is much different.
As a child I began watching Adventist evangelists hold public meetings in darkened rooms with pictures beamed onto screens through 35-millimetre slides. By the 1980’s the Kodak Carousel arrived, culminating around 1995 with four sitting on top of each other, programmed to mechanically deliver screen images like today’s PowerPoint – yes mechanically! In quick succession followed the large satellite dish fixed onto the church roof. Net ’98 programmes helped the often-small local European church feel part of something much bigger – a symbol that the global church was working together in sharing the Gospel.
And it is the ‘sharing the Gospel’ that is much more than a cosy soundbite used to end the sentence. GAiN only exists because its participants are both enthusiastic and visionary about sharing the Gospel – to quote Paul, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22 ESV). When GAiN Europe participants meet, as they just have in Bucharest, the core and continuing conversation is about how we reach Europe for Christ – our territory, our mission, our calling, and a matter we prayerfully and continually wrestle with the Lord about daily.
In meetings formal and informal among content creators, radio, television, social media producers, IT specialists, software developers, publishers, editors, marketing specialists, students, and trainees – the existential question, ‘What must we do to reach Europe for Christ?’ kept recurring, because for the Church it is unfinished business. It was nothing but inspiring to connect with enthusiastic IT and marketing specialists engaged in conversation and wrestling in matters usually ‘dominated by clergy’ – if you’ll forgive the expression. Of all the previous evangelism symposia in my lifetime I’ve attended, this one was different, and very much needs to be in this complex 21st century media dominated world.
Four tracks guided the conference programme:
- Communication and Marketing
Other articles on tedNEWS share the innovations in these areas. But, for the moment, there’s a few lasting impressions from the European GAiN ’22 I take to heart:
- Context, context, context! European Adventist evangelists (for that is what all GAiN participants are) are saying to the wider Church – if we are to ever reach Europe for Christ context is everything – first, last and in between of all we do in mission.
- We are humbly committed to become experts in knowing our audience, communicating in terms they understand through our print magazines, radio and tv broadcasts, social media and on whatever platform we use to communicate. We are mildly distressed that this New Testament practise is not yet a non-negotiable discipline for all.
- We are committed to connecting with the community at their level of sprituality, and diversity of, including none.
- We are committed to using and sharing our specialist talents as spiritual gifts, working together for the building up of the church and Christ’s kingdom.
- Creativity, creativity, creativity! The only power limiting our effectiveness for mission, is our ability to limit how God can use us as we connect our imagination with His – and use it for His glory.
And a final off-beat thought – but more relevant than might be first imagined: Communication specialists serve in a variety of roles. Some are called to serve as directors of Divisions, Unions and Conferences. Others serve in publishing houses and media centres as editors, producers, and designers. But in the local church, the communication specialists are usually located towards the rear of the sanctuary, in front of computer screens, and surrounded by wires galore. They are the AV team – committed to ensuring that we worship well together. Connect with them this Sabbath and thank them for their ministry, because the first work of the Church is to worship. If we do not worship well, we will not share well.
[Photos: Tor Tjeransen, AME, CC BY 4.0]