For Sabbath School this morning, J. Alfred Johnson II, director of Adult Ministries for the North American Division, facilitated a discussion on “The Power of Fellowship and Nurture.”
"Sabbath School is more than the Church at study. It is community outreach, it is fellowship and nurture,” Johnson said.
A series of video presentations from various churches that are making these aspects a focal point in their congregations followed.
Church in the Valley, located in British Columbia, Canada, serves as both church and community center, with a food pantry, rock climbing wall, and more.
In a combined video/interview presentation, Pastor Jimmy Shue discussed the importance of worshiping and fellowshipping in one's own language. This emphasis has been successful in drawing Karen immigrants in North America to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In the past eight years, the number of Karen congregations in North America has grown from zero to 50.
Because most Karen immigrant families can’t afford to send their children through the Adventist school system, the 50 congregations Pastor Shue oversees include additional programming throughout the week specifically designed to foster community among adolescents and youth. A recent campmeeting event brought over 600 youth together in fellowship.
Next, Elder David Franklin shared a video testimony from two young women who recently joined Miracle City Church in Baltimore, and were blessed by the warm and friendly environment they found there.
Additional presentations on the power of fellowship and nurture in Vacation Bible Schools, disabled communities, and young adult Sabbath School were also given.
Lastly, Elder Johnson told the congregation that Sabbath School lessons are now available on the Amazon Alexa platform. Even if you don’t have an Alexa Dot or Echo, you can still listen by visiting Amazon’s Flash Briefing section and searching “Adventist.”
The Divine Worship service followed. Music was a focal point with nine performances interspersed throughout the program. Gale Jones Murphy’s awe-inspiring piano performance of It Is Well/Tis So Sweet and Shelton E. Kilby III’s Sermonic Meditation on Wonderful Words of Life (also on the piano) were my personal favorites. The Praise Team led by Zina Johnson filled the congregation with energy.
NAD President Dan Jackson then delivered his sermon, “Words.”
“Words can be the most useless of all human communication,” said Jackson, unless those words are followed up with action.
"Jesus met people where they were, not where he wanted them to be. That came later,” Jackson told the congregation, reminding them of our need to go out into the world with love.
There has been an “ocean of change” in the landscape we minister in today, he continued. Technological advances and the innumerable resources available on the internet mean “we are no longer keepers of the knowledge...so we must become the facilitators of learning.”
But we can’t do that from our pews. “We must become co-learners with those we desire to train and influence,” especially young people. "We are turning off generations of young people because they see we are all mouth and no feet."
Jackson shared two biblical instances that show how actions can be either self-serving or Christ-serving.
[Judas] braced his soul to resist the influence of the truth; and while he practiced criticizing and condemning others, he neglected his own soul, and cherished and strengthened his natural evil traits of character until he became so hardened that he could sell his Lord for thirty pieces of silver.” -Ellen G. White, That I May Know Him, pg 182
In contrast, when Greeks came to Philip requesting to see Jesus, His message to them was:
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” -John 12:20-26
“One man runs after instant gratification, after self-advancement...the other, our Lord, looks down the road to eternity and sees what happens when self is laid aside and others are put first,” Jackson concluded.
He then shared a quote from A.W. Tozer:
I am afraid we modern Christians are long on talk and short on conduct. We use language of power but our deeds are the deeds of weakness. We settle for words in religion because deeds are too costly. It is easier to pray, ‘Lord help me to carry my cross daily’ then to pick up the cross and carry it; but since the mere request for help to do something we do not actually intend to do has a certain degree of religious comfort, we are content with repetition of the words.
Jewel L. Kibble then led the congregation in the Hymn of Dedication, Live Out Thy Life Within Me. A potluck lunch followed in the Charles E. Bradford Conference Center.
You can watch the service on the North American Division Facebook page.
Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
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