Adventist Ministries Convention Seeks to Help Church Leaders and Members Serve as Body of Christ

More than 600 ministry leaders gathered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Jan. 13-16, 2019, for the “Stronger United: Many Voices, One Vision” Adventist Ministries Convention (AMC). Conference, union, and division ministry partners came together to inspire, educate, and renew church ministry leaders across the North American Division (NAD) through daily devotionals, special music, church resource exhibits, Ted Talk-style presentations, breakout sessions, and awards given to individuals for ministry achievement.

NAD ministry directors hosted intentionally cooperative breakout sessions planned, according to AMC organizers, to “ensure that the spirit of collaboration is evident in each of the NAD core values through the breakout sessions.” Regardless of the ministry they represent, attendees were encouraged to join breakout sessions they felt would help discover “best practices relevant for their ministry.”

The eight core value concentrations included alignment within the church — connecting effectively within our diverse church family; community outreach and evangelism — connecting with our communities sharing hope and wholeness; digital ministries — the gateway to transformation evangelism; education for discipleship — every youth and adult learning, growing, and becoming more like Christ; freedom of conscience — focus on protecting the rights and freedoms of society’s most vulnerable and overlooked; healthy leadership and management — God’s stewards insisting on personal and church-wide excellence; revival and transformation — connecting with God through public and personal worship; and stewardship — inspire God’s people to fund the message of hope and wholeness.

Many NAD ministry departments also conducted advisory meetings — intense half-day or full-day sessions — devoted to addressing challenges, showcasing new resources and programs, and planning for future ministry opportunities. Right before the convention, NAD Prayer Ministries held the two-day "Praying Our Way Through! An Adventist Ministries Pre-Convention Event," a special prayer services meeting.

Before the opening general session on Sunday night, NAD Stewardship showed the movie The Mysterious Note, which was followed by the exhibitor dinner reception.

One Body in Christ

The opening keynote address was delivered by G. Alexander Bryant, executive secretary of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. Bryant’s presentation, titled “A Diverse People Shaped by a Diverse God,” drew from the example of God, who demonstrates the power and strength of unity through presenting Himself as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. “It is God’s design and desire to replicate this strength in diversity through His people and His Church,” said Bryant.

Bryant unpacked a passage from 1 Corinthians 12, challenging attendees to recognize that,

“God has put the conservatives in the church. God has put the liberals in the church. God has put the people in the middle in the church. God has set the members of the body as it has pleased Him.…God knows — the body cannot be the body without the distinct and separate functions of the members. That’s what Paul is saying. What if everything was an eye? What if everything was an ear? We need the diversity in the church to carry and fulfill the mission of the church, the will of God. We also need the diversity to reflect who God is. Do you think one group can reflect who God is?”

“You see, we are stronger united,” said Bryant reflecting the theme of the convention. “But more than that, we are not even the body of Christ without our differences and our diversity and uniqueness that God has set in the body.”

G. Alexander Bryant delivers the opening keynote address at the 2019 Adventist Ministries Convention. Photo by Pieter Damsteegt

Other main addresses at AMC included Ted Talk-styled presentations from Gary Moyer, vice president of administration for the Carolina Conference; Jose Cortes Jr., associate director for evangelism for the NAD; James Black Sr., Prayer Ministries director; Tony Anobile, vice president for Multilingual Ministries; Pamela and Claudio Consuegra, Family Ministries directors; Adam Fenner, director of Adventist Learning Community; John Mathews, NAD Stewardship director; Melissa Reid, associate director of the North American Religious Liberty Association; and Pierre Francois, director of Sabbath School, Children’s Ministries, and Prison Ministries for Southeastern Conference.

Worship through music each day was provided by renown pianist Sam Ocampo and the accomplished duo of soloist Denise Josiah and musician Donnell S. Josiah.

Denise Josiah sings during the 2019 AMC in Albuquerque. Photo by Pieter Damsteegt

On Exhibit

More than 50 exhibitors were present at AMC, ranging from official ministries and services of the North American Division, including Children’s Ministries, Education, and Adventist Retirement, to ministries of the global Seventh-day Adventist denomination, including the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), and the Office of Adventist Mission. Exhibits also featured independent ministries seeking to gain exposure and spread awareness of their particular focus.

“This exhibit is one of the best we've had in a long time,” said Cornice Williams, volunteer at the Disabilities Ministries booth, which represented an Adventist church in Rochester, New York with 30 members, all of whom are disabled. “A lot of [visitors] are really, really, interested and concerned about the disabled in the church and that's really stuck with me. It really warms my heart to know they're now ready for this space.”

“We've been going around spreading the word getting people to incorporate and embrace disabilities. We have information in French, Spanish, and English, and books on disabilities ministries at AdventSource,” continued Williams, who later received a lifetime achievement award at the convention for her work in personal ministries within Northeastern Conference — for being instrumental in launching the church in Rochester for people with disabilities. “We're open to come to your church to do workshops and to help you wherever you're stuck with disabilities ministries to show you how to move forward.”

The exhibit hall also benefitted ministries that were not as new to the scene. The Philanthropic Service for Institutions (PSI) has served the division for more than 30 years, however, its team is still seeking ways to reach constituents, especially in the division’s territories outside of the U.S.

“When we think about all the people we service in Canada, it's a lot more difficult for me to get to them. And I've talked to over a dozen Canadians today who are in churches, administrations, and children's ministry. It's been very helpful from that standpoint,” said Michael Brown, associate director of PSI.

The same goes for reaching members who can benefit from the services of PSI, but need to learn more in their own language.

“I just helped an [Hispanic] couple who has land to build a church, but they want to know what the next steps are,” said Lorena Hernandez, service coordinator for PSI, who is also Hispanic. “A lot of the times [people] don't know what to do after they've saved money, such as how to make it sustainable, how they can build a church, or how to have some kind of training. I was excited to be able to help them in Spanish.”

Brad Forbes, director of AdventSource, served as the AMC exhibitor coordinator. The exhibit hall was given a “Route 66” theme since Albuquerque is located along the route. Route 66 is one of the original highways of the U.S. It starts in Chicago and can take travelers all the way to southern California.

“This is a great opportunity for me to meet people, to ask them what's working and ask what we can do to assist in promoting these ministry resources,” said Forbes.

“I [also] hope that visitors make connections with whatever people are in their ministry area. That's the number one thing,” continued Forbes. “Sometimes at conferences you're on your own for long periods of time…[but here in the exhibit hall,] you can connect with people who are dealing with the same ministry challenges as you across the country.”

Bonita Joyner Shields, new NAD Stewardship director, presents a breakout session on stewardship during the 2019 Adventist Ministries Convention. Photo by Pieter Damsteegt

Ministry Recognized

The lifetime achievement awards banquet was held the evening before the final AMC general session. Before the awards portion, social researcher, author, and speaker Shaunti Feldhahn spoke about making the most of married relationships, debunked myths that circulate in churches and among leaders about the rate of divorce in Christian couples, and urged those in leadership roles to provide support for parishioners who need family relationship help.

Feldhahn reminded audience members that Bible-based instruction and living is paramount. “Here's what the people sitting in the average church are thinking: If, on something as important as marriage, doing what the Bible says makes no difference, what does that say about the Bible? This causes this poisonous doubt down under the surface.”

The evening closed with the presentation of lifetime achievement awards to Eloise Symonds, Personal Ministries; Ron Vincent, Prison Ministries; Gary Swanson, Sabbath School (Adult Ministries), Minnie McNeil, Adventist Community Services; Joe Watts, Adventist Community Services; Barbara Manspeaker, Children’s Ministries; Cornice Williams, Disabilities Ministries; Larry Blackmer, Education; Ron and Karen Flowers, Family Ministries; Minner Labrador Men’s Ministries (Family Ministries); Arnold Trujilo, Multilingual Ministries; R. Ernest Castillo, Multilingual Ministries; Harold L. Lee, PSI; Patrecia C. P. Langley, Prayer Ministries; Darrel Huenergardt, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty; Gordon Botting; Stewardship; John Mathews, Stewardship; Paul Smith, Stewardship; Nancy Buxton, Women’s Ministries; and James Black Sr., Youth Ministries. The excellence in ministry awards were presented throughout the AMC with recipients acknowledged during a video slide show at the banquet.

Ron and Karen Flowers, retired directors of General Conference Family Ministries, accept a special lifetime achievement award presented by NAD Family Ministries directors Claudio and Pamela Consuegra on Jan. 15, 2019. Photo by Dan Weber

Forward with Community

Through its mission statement the NAD has committed “to reach North America and the world with the distinctive, Christ-centered, Seventh-day Adventist message of Hope and Wholeness.” AMC organizers shared in convention materials that, “Although, the areas of concentration in ministry are essential, ministries operating with the ‘silo mentality’ have become the new normal. Spreading the gospel is too important to continue with this as our normal.”

Armando Miranda, associate director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, issued a final challenge at the AMC’s final general session in his talk titled “2gether: Because 2 are Better than 1.” He said that God, who models community in the Trinity, instituted community from humanity’s beginning (Gen. 1-2). “From the start,” Miranda said, “God gave us this — the utmost example of community, of unity, of togetherness, is that of the family, when they become one flesh.”

Miranda quoted Ellen G. White: “The holy pair were not only children under the fatherly care of God but students receiving instruction from the all-wise Creator. They were visited by angels, and were granted communion with their Maker, with no obscuring veil between” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 50). Adam and Eve, said Miranda, “were together with God too. The plan of God, in a perfect world, has been to be in community — together.”

“God is with us, He gives us the power to defeat the enemy. We need to get back to that [sense of community.] People need to see that we are Christians by our love, by our actions,” Miranda concluded. “Jesus came into this world, He walked with us, with everyone — if He did so, why shouldn’t we? He preached through example; we should do the same.”

As attendees prepared to leave the meeting hall, the convention closed with a group of NAD leaders and church members with a rich diversity of age, race, gender, and profession reading aloud the passage from 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 on unity and diversity in the church.

This article was written by Kimberly Luste Maran with Mylon Medley, and originally published by the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

Main image: During the January 15, 2019, awards banquet, Adventist Ministries Convention attendees listen to keynote speaker. Photo by Dan Weber. All images courtesy of the NAD.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9367

The impression I get is that it was a very well organized event aiming to train pastors and develop a sense of unity without sacrificing diversity.
Congrats NAD!!!

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Men and women worthy of recognition. I hope they go back to their home churches and pass on due recognition to all the local leaders and faithful members. Let all our cele bration be to the One Who,gave us Grace and assurance as His children.

As I read that report I couldn’t help but think the event was primarily more of the same worn-out efforts that have produced only minimal evangelistic results for decades. Imagine what such a gathering would be like if members embraced the power of the Holy Spirit and their experience with working in God’s power made them the teachers. That could happen if we quit looking to church leaders as our guides and embraced the power God wants to put in each of us.

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No Holy Spirit for rebels ACTS 5:32

Samo SDA old wine skins.

Oh really? Pastors need training? Any specifics /details?

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All the hoopla for another temporary enthusiastic high to try to get more people to come to the Adventist church… which is involved in conflict. If they get baptized, they will become part of the cynical, depressed, lukewarm Laodicean crowd.

Jesus sent His disciples out empowered by the Holy Spirit to perform miracles that demonstrated the love of God so people would be drawn into loving Him so the lack of such results in the church speak volumes about what ministers aren’t doing.

Thanks for the follow up. Since most people don’t read books, never mind volumes… would you care to respond with the top 3-5 of what they aren’t doing?

No mention of the …tares?

What are you talking about? Any professional needs training and re-training.
I have to turn in to my Board 36 CEUs completed every 2 years in order to renew my license. Yes, constant training.
Our “par excellence Psychiatrist” has to do about the same in order to be able to assist those in need of his services here - @elmer_cupino

It’s strange that ministers don’t have to be accountable to a Board, neither to do CEUs in order to renew their ministerial credentials.

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Number One is not believing God’s promise to empower all who believe to minister His love with power that is obviously not from human sources. There is no need for numbers two, three or four. I’m experiencing that power so I testify from experience that God does empower those who let Him fulfill His promises instead of doubting. If God can use me, He can use you, too.

And the obvious curiosity has been triggered. Will you tell us the details of your experience of being empowered?

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George @GeorgeTichy I find it quizzical that someone as our highly esteemed friend Gideon whose opinion of our ministers is as high as a mushroom would see no need for pastors needing training. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Oh well!

I can vouch for Ron & Karen Flowers’ credibility. They also occasionally cared for our grandchildren :blush: while they attended the Charlottesville church. Nice people.

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Bad SS teacher and lessons, bad pastors, bad members, bad theologians, bad administrators, bad everyone… The whole world is wrong and bad except our “highly esteemed friend” @gideonjrn.
Hmmm, have you seen people like that before?.. :thinking:

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You’ll just have to wait for my book because I don’t have the space here to tell the full stories that would be necessary for you to appreciate what I have seen God do. Hopefully it will be out late this year or early next year.

Traditional Adventist ministry methods differ greatly from the ministry method of Jesus because they are focused on “spreading truth” instead of drawing people into a saving relationship with the God who loves them. The ministry of Jesus was focused on demonstrating the love and power of God in ways that improved their lives so they would want to know Him better. The majority of the times he spoke of prophecy it was pointing to the ones foretelling about Him and the only time He foretold future events was when He was directly questioned. What He wanted people to know first, foremost and always was that God loved them, so he didn’t take the typical Adventist approach of “I know truth so that means I’m right and you’re wrong.” He summarized the entire Law into two simple instructions: Love God with all of your being and love others like you love yourself.

My ministry is focused on improving the lives of others by helping them with home-related problems. You would be utterly amazed by how that causes people to ask about my motivation, which is simply wanting them to know that God loves them. I’ve been called an angel many times and I’ve had complete strangers arrive to help and later realized they were angels. The church is growing as a result. I could go on, but I would be stealing from the book.

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In all Conferences the pastors are accountable to the Conference administration and in several with which I am familiar they are required to have continuing training, though I’m not aware of it being formalized into CEUs such as you must acquire and report.

Bigger questions we should be asking are to what standard they are being held accountable and if they are being trained to deliver to those standards. In most conferences the standards are not very high because it is assumed they are trained professionals so as long as they are delivering modest results (their churches aren’t dying quickly) then they are OK. Personally, I think each pastor should have at least two churches in their district, except perhaps for churches with over 500 actively attending, which should have a max of one pastor so the church will be primarily lay-led instead of being pastor-dependent. I also think each pastor should either be baptizing at least 50 people per year who are new believers in Jesus and not converts from other churches, or they should be planting at least one new congregation every three years. If not, they should be fired for non-performance. Those expectations were common for pastors prior to the 1930s and the church grew rapidly as a result. We don’t see that rate of growth today because so many churches have become pastor-dependent and there is little desire for pastors or church members to see the church grow. So we busy ourselves doing all sorts of things that we hope will make us feel like we’re “doing God’s work” when we’re not producing any results for the Kingdom of God.

Way to go George,

This is exactly what I was going to ask William…and why I asked you the same about specifics/detail on the training of pastors.

There are too many generalities & abstract, ambiguous, obscure religious lingo & clichés tossed around in the church and , evidently, it stays in the samo Laodicean rut.

What beneficial continuing education do pastors ever get?

If you run into any, please let me know…I am soooo lonely!

Times have drastically changed since then. Christianity has transitioned to churchianity due to paganism, Calvinism, antinomianism, .the media and globalization.

SDA has been contaminated by evangelicals.