Jesus Is the Hope of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Today – NADYEM19 Report 2

On Sabbath, November 2, 2019, North American Division President Daniel R. Jackson preached his last year-end meeting sermon as president. He announced on Friday that he will be retiring in June or July 2020, meaning a new NAD president will be elected at GC Session 2020.

It was an emotional and heartfelt Divine Service, with beautiful music from Zina Johnson and her praise team throughout, and special music by the Burman University Choral Union — the same choir Jackson joined at the age of 14.

During the Ministry of Gratitude, Randy Robinson, NAD Treasurer, introduced Garrison Chaffee, Youth Pastor at the Paradise Seventh-day Adventist Church, who provided the congregation with an update on the efforts in Paradise, after last year’s Camp Fire that left thousands without homes, including Chaffee, and destroyed the Paradise Church and Paradise Adventist Academy.

For more information about the devastation in Paradise following the fire, read Spectrum’s exclusive piece by investigative journalist Alex Aamodt here.

Chaffee shared a graph of the structures lost in the town of Paradise to help the congregation better understand the magnitude of the devastation. Over 18,000 structures were destroyed in the Camp Fire, which spanned over 153,000 acres and killed 85 people, compared to the next most destructive California wildfire (Tubbs) that spanned almost 36,000 acres, destroyed just over 5,600 structures, and killed 22. (See “Top 20 Most Destructive California Wildfires.”)

“Thank you for remembering us… it’s a long road ahead of us. Thank you for your prayers, your encouragement, and your support,” said Chaffee.

The Church in Paradise has been renting a space and worshipping together, shared Chaffee. They are also serving the community, working with Maranatha to help provide and build shelters for the thousands who are still without homes, as well as creating and handing out care packages to families and individuals.

Chaffee said that shortly after the fire he stood in the disaster resource center, and saw organizations like United Way, Samaritan’s Purse, the Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation, and many others, and “as I stood there, I longed for my church to be there. So I just pray that, moving forward, whether it’s at the local church level or the conference level or the union level or the NAD or the GC level, that we will be better prepared after disasters and that we will do in our home land what we’re so good at around the world. Thank you for your prayers and support.”

Robinson then announced that the offering would be going to the efforts in Paradise. He shared that he and his wife talked it over and have written a check for $500, and asked that the congregation please consider giving whatever they are able to, whatever God has blessed them with the ability to give, however much that may be.

For those interested in giving online, you can do so through the Northern California Conference’s online giving portal here or through the Paradise Church’s online giving form here. You can also join the Paradise SDA Camp Fire Recovery Facebook group here.

G. Alexander Bryant, Executive Secretary of the NAD, gave the introduction for Dan Jackson. He shared that it was with bittersweet feelings he was introducing his friend and colleague for the last time for a sermon to this group. Bryant then asked nine of his colleagues, members of the NAD administrative team that meets on a monthly basis, to come to the dais as well. He had asked them all to share with him one word or phrase that they feel describes Jackson, and Bryant then read those attributes.

Some team members spoke to Jackson’s sense of humor and optimism; others spoke to his “soft heart, thick skin, and unwavering vision;” many spoke to how he modeled servant leadership and created an inclusive environment. “By seeking first to understand, he won our hearts, by taking responsibility and acting with courage, he then earned our trust, and through sharing, delegating, and empowering his team, he commanded our respect,” stated Elder Alvin M. Kibble.

“The legacy that Elder Jackson leaves behind is that he modeled servanthood leadership to all of us. On behalf of the admin team, you will be missed, we have been blessed, and your legacy is you have shown us how to lead in this century the way Christ would lead in a modern and challenging society,” concluded Bryant, as Jackson wiped away tears.

Jackson’s family, including his wife, Donna, their three adult children, and two grandchildren were present for Jackson’s last sermon. Jackson’s good childhood friend, Lee Patterson, was also present. They attended academy and college together and were in each other’s weddings. “We learned how to get into trouble together,” Jackson shared, saying they even got suspended in academy. “They had to change the name of the school after us,” said Patterson from the audience. “That’s right!” said Jackson laughing, before turning to the congregation and adding, “I’m not telling you anymore!”

Jackson’s sermon, titled “The Vision Fulfilled!” built on the year-end meeting theme of “Pursuing His Promises.” He acknowledged that the church sometimes makes terrible mistakes that it needs to admit, but that “this is God’s church and I’m a lifer. Not because of the system…but because of the God who called the church into existence through his Son Jesus Christ.”

“The Lord Jesus Christ is the only true north in the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” said Jackson, who continually pointed the congregation to Jesus throughout his sermon.

“Churches that spend all their time fighting about the nature of Christ, or the Trinity, or women’s ordination, are not churches, they are boxing clubs,” he added. “Too many people lose themselves because they see the fighting. Jesus must be the center.”

He affirmed the importance of the Sabbath but said that if you don’t have Jesus at the center of the Sabbath, at the center of the Three Angels’ messages, then don’t even bother talking to people about it because all you’re going to do is turn people off. “As Christians we have a responsibility to make sure people know we’ve been with Jesus… When we say we’re Christians but act anything but, we are tools of the devil.”

Jackson preached from the book of Isaiah. The description in Isaiah of what the Israelites were going through is not unlike the church today, he said. In times of fear and distress we become convinced God’s not aware of our challenges and we try to fix the problems ourselves which only makes them worse. Human effort has never solved spiritual issues. It only masks the disease. It does not help.

“Sometimes we think if we only pray louder or harder or print more warning documents, then somehow God will hear, that it will bring our focus and attention to Him and that He will hear better,” said Jackson, but “God does not need an awareness exercise. God does not need our help.” God wasn’t unaware of the gloom of His people in Isaiah, and He’s not unaware of our challenges in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

If we’re not present during the crisis of our brothers and sisters, are we doing an adequate service for God? asked Jackson. When I contemplate the the poor and hurting and starving, the hopeless in our world, and then think about the endless debates in the church, “I am often shocked and disappointed in myself, and in my church. Will we be vanquished by the enemy of legalism, secularism, materialism, and pluralism? Isaiah has a message for us today, as he had a message for the people of Israel in his day. For unto us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders and he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He was, He is, and He ever will be the light of the world and the hope for man’s anxiety and alienation, and the hope for the Seventh-day Adventist Church today.”

“We need to place our faith in God’s act of sending his Son for men. This is to be the cry of the church to the world — we serve a Savior who will share salvation with you. We serve one who has radically transformed our lives,” said Jackson. “We need a revolution in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We need a radical transformation…. In God’s intervention in human affairs, we find hope, and peace, and a place called home.”

Let us listen to the voice of God, and come to know him personally, Jackson concluded. “We are God followers, we are not church followers. The role of the church is not so that the church can be preeminent, the role of the church is to serve as the conduit where by we introduce men and women to the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The NADYEM19 meetings are being live-streamed and are available on the NAD’s website here: https://www.nadadventist.org/news/2019-nad-year-end-meeting-video-coverage as well as on the NAD’s Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/NADAdventist/

Follow us on Twitter as we live-tweet the meetings at: https://twitter.com/spectrummag and join the discussion with #NADYEM19.

Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org

Image: NAD Executive Secretary G. Alexander Bryant provided the introduction for NAD President Daniel R. Jackson, who gave the Divine Worship sermon on November, 2, 2019, at the NAD Year-End Meetings. Photo by Pieter Damsteegt, courtesy of the North American Division on Flickr.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9986
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Dan has certainly earned the opportunity to retire. Nevertheless, I wish it was somebody else.:wink:

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Alisa, we appreciate your excellent reporting–prompt, precise, prioritized, and at times poignant.

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Terrible statement: “Churches that spend all their time fighting about the nature of Christ, or the Trinity, or women’s ordination, are not churches, they are boxing clubs,” he added. “Too many people lose themselves because they see the fighting. Jesus must be the center.” How can Jesus be the “center” if you do not know who He is? Lace up my gloves and put me in the ring with Athanasius and together we will fight the Arians, the neo-subordinationists, and all other anti-Trinitarian Seventh-day Adventists who are debasing our precious Lord and Savior. I like Elder Jackson, so I will charitably assess that he totally lost his mind when he made that statement.

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Phil, I support Jackson’s statement, particularly his “all their time” provision. Churches that do not live out the love of Christ, as demonstrated by His words and actions, cannot be serving Him fully, no matter how accurate or orthodox their belief system.

Sure, the closer we get to Truth the better we should love. In addition, nobody gets God exactly right. Nobody. It’s like knowing the Pacific Ocean exactly. Give me a congregation that messes up theologically at times and still loves as deeply as Jesus loves.

That said, I’m a member of the Adventist Church largely because of its doctrinal stance on eternal torment: I could never love a God who tortures people forever, yet most “Christians” are spewing this horror of a lie. That’s a hell of a way to represent God–literally. So I also appreciate congregations that fight against the deceptive lies of legalism and materialism and racism and militarism.

Maybe the better path is found in how we’re conducting the fighting. As Emerson wrote, "Your actions speak so loudly, I can not hear what you are saying.” It seems “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) covers the path well, as long as our communication is not restricted to words.

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Please do not suggest that Christians are opposed to living out the love of Christ.

Please do not contemplate that because “nobody gets God exactly right” that Lucifer may have been right all along in his claim, which is his original sin, that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father.

Frankly, I do not care why you are a Seventh-day Adventist. You can be a Seventh-day Adventist and not be a Christian. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is presently divided between Christians and anti-Trinitarians.

Athanasius is so correct: “Yes, surely; while all of us are and are called Christians after Christ, Marcion broached a heresy a long time since and was cast out; and those who continued with him who ejected him remained Christians; but those who followed Marcion were called Christians no more, but henceforth Marcionites. Thus Valentinus also, and Basilides, and Manichaeus, and Simon Magus, have imparted their own name to their followers; and some are accosted as Valentinians, or as Basilidians, or as Manicheees, or as Simonians; and other, Cataphrygians from Phrygia, and from Novatus Novatians. So too Meletius, when ejected by Peter the Bishop and Martyr, called his party no longer Christians, but Meletians, and so in consequence when Alexander of blessed memory had cast out Arius, those who remained with Alexander, remained Christians; but those who went out with Arius, left the Savior’s Name to us who were with Alexander, and as to them they were hence-forward denominated Arians.” Four Discourses Against the Arians.

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It has been said that the Church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners. Yet, most of us would much rather pretend to be a saint on display than call for an ambulance.

Week after week, many of us walk into a church, sit by people we have known for years and yet would never dream of sharing our innermost struggles with. While a large part of this is our pride, another factor is a Church that seems unwilling to talk about certain uncomfortable issues, choosing rather to ignore them, try to cover them up or simply reject people who bring them up.

There are many issues the Church as a whole needs to address, such as creationism, activism, environmental stewardship and many others. But there are many more issues that individuals in the Church are dealing with—issues that the Church Body should be talking about. In Galatians 6:2, Paul urged the Church to “Bear each other’s burdens,” so maybe with more grace and love we can turn on the light in the darkened rooms of each other’s hearts and let our churches become safe havens for the uncomfortable things we have to deal with.

This is far from a comprehensive list—these are a few of the issues many people in churches around the world are dealing with, whether they admit it or not. And as people increasingly leave the Church, often over issues such as these, it is becoming more urgent that the Church talk about how to care for every one of its members.

Addiction

At AA meetings and therapy sessions, talking about addiction makes sense, but for some reason, it’s not a topic most church people want to hear about. Certain addictions are definitely more socially acceptable to talk about than others. For example, it’s OK to bug Frank about his food addiction, but John’s alcoholism is more hush-hush.

And yes, in many churches, a person’s addictions can become fodder for gossip. However, if the Church were to first approach one another as family, then addicts in the Church might feel safer to be vulnerable about their struggles. Often, they just need to be loved and feel safe enough to know they can expose this part of themselves in a community where the addiction isn’t crushing them every second.

Sexuality

Sex and sexuality tends to be a loaded topic in the Church. Certain corners of the Church have been very vocal in their broad condemnation of premarital sex, but that’s where the conversation (for lack of a better word) tends to stop. We rarely engage the topic of sex on a personal, individual level. There’s a generally accepted idea floating around that, once two people are married, they enter into a carefree, blissful lifetime of sexual fulfillment that needs never be discussed in any meaningful way.

There are strong believers struggling with their sexual identity, brokenness and frustration in churches across the world, and among their Christian friends and families, they don’t dare say a word about it.

I know of a few people in my life who love Christ and want to abstain from sin, but they are struggling with sexual sin or sinful desires. There are married couples for whom waiting to have sex turned out to be the easy part, as both parties brought into their marriage a series of expectations that turned out to be flawed. There are very few people they can share this with, but that also means they carry this burden alone. If many churches stopped treating sexual issues as a personal choice, where it could be turned on or off like a light-switch, then maybe we could start to create more safe places where people can share their burdens with each other and find out they’re not alone.

Poverty

In many churches today, there are Christians, even pastors, who are struggling with the effects of extreme poverty… They have cried out in prayer. They are struggling to believe that God is good or that He’s there at all, yet they continue with the motions. They put on the smile while setting up the empty dinner table. They mouth along to the words in the worship songs, but it all feels hollow to them. I know this because I’ve been one of these people.

Mental Illness

Those in our midst who deal with mental illness, either personally or second-hand, are typically silent about the struggles they experience. In our society, there still exist a lot of stereotypes about mental illness, and because people either don’t want to deal with it or they’ve been hurt, they will choose to avoid opening up about it. The problem is, if these issues go untalked about, then they often will go unresolved.

In some churches, people who do reveal their illness will go without professional help in lieu of prayer. When prayer doesn’t work, the person dealing with mental illness feels like a failure or like they don’t have enough faith. The Church needs to create an encouraging environment where people can be directed to right help and then receive spiritual healing alongside their physical healing.

Loneliness

There are droves of lonely people in the church, and that includes senior pastors and priests. The isolation comes from a lack of identification and identification comes through open communication. When we can be vulnerable and honest with one another, we understand each other in a profound way.

A lonely person may walk in to a church alone and leave alone each Sabbath. Although they appreciate the fellowship hall offers, what they really want is fellowship. Taking time to get to know the people around you and then reaching out to them outside of the church will allow for a greater, more stable community.

Of course, every church is different and while one church may be stronger in one area, it may be weaker in others. These are just a few issues that we as the Church Body need to be willing to address. And as we talk about them, we must remember to address them with humility, understanding and grace, keeping in mind our role as fellow hospital patients, not museum curators.

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Phil, I waited to respond so that our back-and-forth will be relatively hidden and not seen as using this public space for our private sandbox–which, alas, happens too often. This is my final post on this thread.

You have been the Adventist champion of fighting the anti-Trinitarians, and for that I sincerely thank you. My sense is that most recent Adventist anti-Trinity rhetoric is promulgated essentially to cover the anatomies of those searching for theological justification for their stance against women’s ordination. Whatever. Thanks.

I suppose we should delineate Christians and nominal Christians. Please do not suggest that nominal Christians by the millions–people who do proclaim that Jesus is fully God–aren’t today backing a President who embodies the opposite of “living out the love of Christ.” Please don’t suggest that some of these same Christians aren’t endorsing lies and fomenting racism, materialism, and militarism–what MLK called the three great sins. We both know better. For this reason, I began some years ago self-identifying as “a follower of Jesus” instead of “Christian.” This designation is more appealing to nearly every segment of society, including Muslims.

The designation of “follower” carries the gravitas of application. One can be a self-designated Christian, believing fully in Jesus Christ’s divinity, and not follow Jesus. That’s why Jesus says, “Not every one who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). That disconnect, that taking of the Lord’s name in vain, is why I care. Frankly, I presently care about that practical disconnect even more than the historical derivations and aberrations of Arianism, though I find those immensely instructive.

Moreover, I believe my position is ultimately more practical and meaningful. Suppose I am in heaven–which I imagine could happen–and I’ve just been informed by God that Jesus was/is actually the Son of God but not fully God–a second Adam. I would say, “Really? That’s not what John 1 said and Paul in Colossians. Why did Jesus refer to Himself [note the capital H] as ‘I Am’? Why . . . ?” It would take a lot of time, but I would likely get over it eventually. Especially if Jesus explained it to me.

But If God said, “By the way, I will keep people alive forever to wallow in unending, freakish misery while you’re enjoying paradise,” I would never get over that. I would never be able to trust that God again, even if Jesus (who bore the sins of all but suffered only a few hours) explained it to me. I would never recover trusting love. I would never be able to enjoy the New Earth. Such a hideous scenario is too unfair, too evil, too daunting, too pernicious, too lasting. We could never stop the suffering.

In conclusion, that rationale has mattered, matters, and will matter. Likely we agree on about 96.7 percent of our interpretations of the Bible. I’ll try to focus on our areas of agreement in the future.

PS: Though you claim to know Lucifer’s mind, I cannot profess as much. I barely know my own motives.

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Very well said. My 30+ years in the church witnessed exactly what you have described. It does not exempt me as a member because I was very much a part of that group. I cannot point fingers at anyone in the church. What I can say is that I have learned so much more by leaving the church, than staying in it.

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Here is an interesting article published by A Today:

https://atoday.org/what-who-is-the-tuning-fork/?fbclid=IwAR3Laozes5TeCSgVKQIxpWeJO-J6JiwoT_Fa1nM_ygLiEgVSzR-i0HdUb70

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