Light Bearers, ARISE Ministries Merge, Uniting Two ASI-member Groups
Goal is to synergize, equip believers for end-time outreach.
By Mark A. Kellner, news editor
wo ministries long familiar to members of Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries are uniting to become more effective in equipping Adventists to reach others, the groups’ leaders say.
Light Bearers, a publishing and evangelism ministry headquartered in Jasper, Oregon, is welcoming ARISE, whose roots go back to the Troy, Michigan, Seventh-day Adventist Church, to its part of the world from its most recent berth in Sonora, California.
While mergers between ministries are not unheard of in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the joining of these two forces is drawing attention. Each organization has become well known for its enthusiasm and effectiveness, and each has been active in the ASI community.
In a recent interview Light Bearers president Ty Gibson and ARISE cofounder/president David Asscherick explained how the joint venture developed, and some of what’s in store:
Adventist Review: First of all, please tell us a bit about the ministries of Light Bearers and ARISE, because many people don’t know exactly what the ministries cover.
Light Bearers ministry is a publishing ministry that also has a significant teaching/preaching/evangelistic and media arm to it. The publishing work that we do provides continuous truth-filled literature for the church in developing countries around the world. We produce about 50 million publications per year that go to the church in the mission field as a gift, free of charge, for evangelistic outreach in the various countries where these containers land. In addition to that, Light Bearers is a teaching and preaching ministry. We also conduct evangelistic meetings and revival meetings in local venues around the world.
ARISE is a ministry built around equipping people for effective gospel work, primarily what we would call lay people, but we’ve had pastors who have attended as well. We’ve been conducting varied lengths of training programs for the past 10 years. We have a four-month program that takes place in the fall that so far about 500 people have graduated from. In addition to the four-month program are shorter programs of anywhere between two days to three weeks that thousands have attended. It’s basic-ally a training ministry. We are passionate about teaching people how to communicate the goodness of God and the love of Jesus in an effective way to their friends, associates, and neighbors.
These two ministries are obviously having an impact; you’re reaching a lot of people already. What was the impetus to combine?
Well, primarily, let me say—it’s crucial to realize that we were not looking for a merger. ARISE is a very stable ministry that is extremely effective in what it does, and Light Bearers is a stable ministry effective in what it does. We didn’t go looking for any kind of merger. It seemed to come looking for us. We actually were very happy, and are very happy, doing what we do. But we’ve developed a friendship over the years, and as that friendship has grown it has become clear that our vision for ministry is much the same. So the idea to unite the two ministries was an idea that grew out of a desire to be more effective in new ways. We’re already effective in what we’re doing presently, separately, and there wouldn’t be any reason to merge the two ministries if we were simply going to do what we do now as individual ministries. Our vision has developed into doing ministry at a new level, more effectively, and reaching out to the world at large with a vision of the love of God that only the Adventist theological package can offer to the world. As we unite, we see ourselves doing more than we have ever been able
to do before.
What are some of those possibilities that you might not have been able to do individually?
There are certainly going to be things we will be able to do more efficiently and effectively. But a large part is the synergy that comes from having like-minded individuals work together on projects that are very similar. Some of the things [ARISE] was thinking about doing were very similar to some of the things that Light Bearers was seriously considering doing. When Ty and I and others began to discuss, we said, “Oh, you’re going to do that? That’s fascinating! We were thinking about doing something just like that.” And Ty would say, “Look at this video project that I’m working on.” And I’d say, “Fascinating! Look at this video project that we’ve worked on.” And we began to see points of connection and attachment. [ARISE] was giving input to Light Bearers; Light Bearers was giving input to ARISE, and we began to say things like “Wow, we should partner on some of these projects.”
The number of things we were talking about partnering on got to the point where one of us said—and it was strictly hypothetical, “Wouldn’t it be something if we joined together as a ministry, since so much of what we’re presently doing and what we’re dreaming about doing is so similar?” It literally grew from there. I think Ty is exactly correct in saying that this was not something that either ministry went looking for, but something that landed very naturally (or you might even say, very supernaturally) in the ministries’ collective laps.
So each organization was working on complementary projects, and it just came to you that maybe there was something here.
That’s exactly right. As we began to look at this idea and sort of explore the concept, it began to gain momentum in terms of its basic viability and enthusiasm. And it became, if I could be so bold, quite logical. It just seemed, “Wow, this is something that we really need to look at!” And that’s how it emerged.
I might add that as the vision developed and became more and more attractive, and as Providence swung doors open to us, we actually tried to find reasons not to go forward, and we couldn’t find any. We consulted with everybody that we work with. We consulted with the members of the Light Bearers board, which includes representatives from the North Pacific Union and the Oregon Conference, and they voted unanimously to move in this direction. And then the entire ARISE team had the same resonance with one another and unanimously voted to move forward as well.
So how does this work out in practice? What will this mean initially?
Well, first of all, it’ll involve relocating to Oregon. The first ARISE
training school will be held this coming September through December.
That’s the first practical step. Second, as the two organizations merge and inhabit the same office and the same facility, we will begin the process of brainstorming and casting creative vision for what specific projects we will undertake.
David and I both are converts to Adventism and to Christianity. And both of us have a very strong desire to speak effectively to secular populations at large—people who were not raised in a church and are not familiar with the message that God has given us. [We want to] package the message in such a way that it would be understandable and attractive to people who have no strong Adventist upbringing, no Christian upbringing. We have a desire to reach out to the secular world at large. And in order to do that, we’re going to create video projects and print media and Web media that will target that larger secular world.
Apparently that’s where the majority is right now. We’re dealing with a largely secular, and a postmodern world. What are some of the strategies you plan to use to reach those people?
I think one of the answers, or part of the answer, is that we need to look at the language that we’re using, because it may not mean anything to anybody. Especially as we’re trying to communicate a message that is largely—let’s be honest—contained or ensconced in very religious language. It’s not necessarily in the Bible itself, but in the way that we often communicate with others. In a Christian context we become so insular that our language, unbeknownst to us, becomes saturated in things that are not accessible or easily available to people who are not biblically literate or biblically familiar.
In many sectors of society there is a significant hostility to religion of any kind, and Christianity in particular. We’re looking at what language can be chosen, what metaphors, what images, even sometimes what vehicles of communication can be chosen that are still absolutely true to the biblical message but may not come with some of the tracks that people associate with religion. Some of what we’re doing involves methods of how to get people access to a message that they will love, many of them, if they can just get past their initial prejudices.
And we will have a continually cycling and growing output of Seventh-day Adventist young people and lay people through the educational course who will be educated in reaching out to people, to the world at large. That component of the educational course allows us to share what we’re learning, and the vision that we’re casting, with various people who will develop the same vision and be able to communicate more effectively with the secular world.
When you read the New Testament, much of what Jesus was doing was bringing the kingdom of God in new language and new pictures, because the cultural trappings of the day were so fixed that He had to speak in a whole new vocabulary to communicate the message. For example, we find in one of the Gospels that people were saying, “No man ever spoke like this Man spoke” [see John 7:46]. And after one sermon, the Bible says people were astonished at what He had to say, because He taught them not as the scribes and Pharisees. We find Him gaining access to people through a variety of metaphors and, essentially, parables. I think we need to do that.