Last Sabbath, January 9, Ontario Conference churches united for the first of two virtual days of prayer and fasting. It was an experience to remember tor the 3,000+ live viewers (and nearly 14,500 total viewers to date). “We want the Holy Spirit to do something special in our churches. We want a revival,” said Pastor Michelle Clarke (Toronto West), who hosted in English alongside Pastor Juan Carlos Atencio (London & London Spanish), our French host.
In a sobering message, President Mansfield Edwards unpacked the circumstances around Joel 1:14, the inspiration for these days of prayer—“Declare a holy fast. Call a special gathering. Get the leaders together. Round up everybody. Get them to God’s sanctuary for serious prayer to God” (MSG). At that time, the people of Judah had lost their sense of mission and become complacent. “Complacency leads to declining churches,” he noted. “The book of Joel is written as a warning to the people of Judah—and also to us.”
Earlier in the worship, in his state of the conference report, Executive Secretary Jakov Bibulovic acknowledged God’s blessings in 2020—e.g., 514 new members through baptism and 81 through the profession of faith. He also acknowledged the GTA Zimbabwean Adventist Church as the North American Division’s first official Zimbabwean church and our conference’s first virtually organized church. However, he then presented some eye-opening stats—as per recent analyses, 66% of our churches are declining or plateauing, 34% growing, none multiplying.
Edwards’ sermon was thus a wake-up call. “When we talk about what is missing in the church today, is it a sense of readiness. Complacency has set in. We have fallen asleep at the wheel. [In many churches], there are [many] activities for sure, multiple programs for sure, but heaven asks, what are the eternal benefits of these things? It’s time to turn away from complacency and run back to God for a reset.”
The chat was live with responses throughout, such as “Lord, have mercy!” “Hallelujah!” “Amen.” “Yikes.” Even “Woi.” Viewers also noted key takeaways, like “Introspection time.” “Reset.” “Time to wake up.”
Some other memorable moments included:
- Lively chats on the English, French and Spanish YouTube streams, with people giving Sabbath greetings from across Ontario, the U.S., Jamaica, Barbados, Croatia, Turkey, Kenya and more. “The highlight of the Sabbath Day of Fasting & Prayer was having a sense of unity as one body worshipping together,” said Judy Gamez, Mount Zion Filipino Church.
- Efforts to make this a multilingual experience, from the hosts to the three language streams to prayers in different languages. “Feliz sábado desde la República Dominicana!!! Gracias por la traducción,” said Ruth Kerlène Val. [Happy Sabbath from the Dominican Republic!!! Thanks for the translation.]
- Meditative music from talented Ontario Conference members, filmed in the Ontario Conference administrative office. Comments on music included – “Beautiful and touching testimony in song.” “This is glorious.” “The music here is heavenly. Thank you, music ministers.”
- Virtual prayer meeting. Viewers felt comfortable sharing their prayer requests on the chat, with other attendees offering encouragement and prayers in response. Ontario Conference representatives also promised to record and intercede for all requests. Later, roughly 100 guests visited Prayer Ministries’ Zoom rooms for private prayer with a volunteer.
- Jessie’s testimony. Viewers were challenged by the testimony of a young former prostitute. She shared that tracts and empty spiritual words did not reach her, but church members showing her God’s love in practical ways did. “People are hurting. There has to be a change in how we present Christ to others,” said Letitia Osborne. “Love is the greatest apologetic,” Tenisha Mitchell-Lambert.
Overall, viewers left the day inspired to let God use them as part of the solution to declining and plateauing churches. “May we all find new ways to work together to lift up the name of our God. Regardless of location and congregation,” said one viewer, Young Ancient.
“Merçi pour ce message qui est un rappel pour le peuple de Dieu,” said Eveline Manigat on the French stream. [Thank you for this message, which is a call for God’s people.]
Moreover, the first Sabbath’s worship left viewers wanting more. “I was truly blessed by Pastor Mansfield’s message and the prayers. I am looking forward to next Sabbath’s worship,” said Sam Kutondo.
“The day of prayer and fasting reminded me that obstacles such as COVID-19 can bring God’s blessings [by building] the unity of the Ontario Conference churches! I look forward to hearing more about how every Adventist can overcome the problem of complacency,” concluded Pastor Sereivudh Ly, Mount Zion Filipino Church.
Please support the worship of the 16th with your prayers and attendance.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Everyone, please remember to share this link on your WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. Thank you. The world needs to hear God's Word! Hallelujah!” Sam Smith