In Deuteronomy 10:18, we read, “[The Lord your God] executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” Throughout the Bible, we find other reminders to care for the needy (often referred to as the widow and orphan). In addition, we see that during His early ministry, Jesus did all He could to minister to those overlooked by society. However, what does the Adventist Church do to deal with this? In today’s blog, we will examine how one Division—the West-Central Africa Division (WAD)—feels about Christ’s method of ministry and what they do when the “rubber meets the road.”
The 2017–18 Global Church Member Survey (2017–18 GCMS), conducted on behalf of the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, collected data from the thirteen world Divisions of the Adventist Church. Data was collected from the WAD by Professor Elizabeth Role and her team. A total of 2,432 church members in eight out of ten WAD Unions participated in the survey. The majority of participants were male (63%). The ages ranged from 15 years or younger to 80 years or older, with all levels of education from primary/elementary to professional/graduate school represented.
Ellen G. White wrote:
Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.” . . . Accompanied by the power of persuasion, the power of prayer, the power of the love of God, this work will not, cannot, be without fruit. 
Survey respondents in the WAD were asked if they believed that Christ’s method is the most effective way to reach people. A vast majority (96%) of respondents agreed to one degree or another that this was the most effective way to bring people to Christ. This percentage is higher than in the total GCMS sample which was 90%. Members in the WAD have a strong understanding of Christ’s method and its level of effectiveness when it comes to ministry.
With such a strong response, it could easily be assumed that members in the WAD are highly involved in ministry to the poor, suffering, and needy. However, when it comes to such an outreach, their answers might surprise you!
Reducing Pain, Suffering, & Poverty
As part of the 2017–18 GCMS, church members in the WAD were asked how often they felt a deep sense of responsibility for reducing pain and suffering in the world. Over two-thirds (67%) of the respondents shared that they often felt such a responsibility and another 18% shared that they felt that way sometimes often. By comparison, in the total sample fewer than half (47%) said they often felt this way; thus, in the WAD, more church members had this concern. However, five percent of the WAD respondents admitted that they never felt such a responsibility.
Participants were then asked how often they show that they care a great deal about reducing poverty in society. Half (51%) of the respondents indicated that they often showed they cared, while another 19% shared that they sometimes often showed that they cared. The “often” responses were 20% higher than in the total sample, where only half said that they often or sometimes often showed they cared. Interestingly, one in ten (10%) of the WAD respondents confessed that they never showed they cared about reducing poverty in society.
While church members in the WAD have a strong understanding of the effectiveness of Christ’s method and feel more responsible for reducing people’s misery in the world and in their society compared with the total sample, some of them still seem to struggle when it comes to employing His method. While members shared that they felt a responsibility for reducing pain and suffering, they appeared to come short of acting (“showing”) on those feelings. Ideally, this should serve as a call to action for both church leaders and members in the WAD to increase the extent to which awareness of Christ’s call to “show sympathy” and meet the needs of people around us, is converted into action on behalf of those who need help. For, as Ellen White told us, “this work will not, cannot, be without fruit.”
To learn more about the West-Central Africa Division, click here: https://www.wad.adventist.org/
For more research findings regarding this Division, please see the 2017–18 WAD GCMS Report.
For more information regarding the total sample, please see the Meta-Analysis Report.
Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.
Published by ASTR on 9-01-2021.
 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, pp. 143, 144