Lengthening the Table: Day 2 at The One Project

Is the story we tell big enough? Is it powerful enough, compelling enough?

That question came to the fore in the afternoon on Day 2, February 18, 2019, of The One Project gathering that concluded yesterday in Redlands, California. But that question was on the table from the start. First came a reminder of the two-day gathering’s theme: Christ is “first in everything.” Then came Timothy Golden, a lawyer and philosopher from Walla Walla University who strode across the platform and back asking hearers to grasp the larger sense, the “moral” sense, of Christ’s priority. Adventist piety, he said, tends toward “narcissistic” self-preoccupation: focus on individual behavior, worry about personal salvation. But an “individualized” religion is an “idol of Adventist theological imagination”; it completely misses the “social dimension of Jesus’ ethical priority.”

Golden explained that the New Testament calls a “colonized Jew” the Word of God “made flesh.” It upholds, in other words, the authority of a man whose Hebrew Bible pictures God taking the side of slaves, exiles and the poor, of the widowed, orphaned, and alien. If sex separated from love is wrong, so is theology separated from justice. Adventism discouraged involvement in the Civil Rights movement, yet now takes advantage of the “Sabbath provision” in the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. But that is jarring. According to Scripture, Golden said, we must ourselves embrace “responsibility” for human well-being.

In discussion following small-group interactions, one person said she had been challenged “to take myself out of the center.” In response to questions, Golden remarked that the Hebrew tradition is “basically political,” but that we have been “anxious about the Jewishness of Jesus” and veered toward Martin Luther instead of the Hebrew prophets. “Jesus was not,” he then said pointedly, “a Protestant.”

Golden was calling the community to a larger story. So was David Ferguson, senior pastor of the Southern Adventist University Church. Adventists have tended to worship the what instead of the who. He was referring to our focus on what we take to be the Truth at the expense of who matters most, Jesus, the proper object of Christian worship. This misguided focus has led, moreover, to the false sense of “certainty” that keeps us from “listening,” makes us want to “win” our arguments by making others “lose,” and undermines our sense of mystery and wonder. “Have you the heart,” he asked, “to embrace uncertainty?” Our story would be larger, he seemed to say, if we did.

In small-group conversation over the two days, participants often worried about dissensions caused by the self-importance associated with too much certainty. So in the reporting period after Ferguson’s sermon, listeners responded warmly when Jim Ayers, now a Southern California pastor and in 1985 the bass singer in the King’s Heralds quartet, told a story. China had then relaxed hostility to Christian organizations enough to allow a few church buildings into service again as worship centers; sometimes a single building was home to members from several denominations. The quartet was visiting Adventist congregations in China, and Ayers heard that not long before a Methodist minister had assisted an Adventist minister in the baptism of 150 new members. “A Methodist minister helped you?” Ayers asked. The Adventist minister replied: “Under the communist government, we didn’t know how much longer this new amount of freedom for the churches would last, so we decided to bury the hatchet.” A bigger story might involve less self-inflating antagonism.

Lunch followed, with many convening for discussion of the developing Global Resource Collective, a worldwide collaboration toward enhanced plans and materials for ministry in the local church. It is centered at the Boulder, Colorado, Adventist Church, and can be explored further at boulder.church, the church’s website.

Alex Bryan, now Director of Mission Identity and Spiritual Care with Adventist Health in Sacramento, California, started his afternoon talk with the question, “Is our story big enough?” He said he was worried about the future of both the Adventist and the larger Christian movements. Competing stories, after all, are more and more a genuine threat. But I want to show you, he then said, “just how big our story is.”

Bryan had immersed himself in the history of the pagan world where Christianity first emerged. He described three plagues of the period, and told how Roman and Greek sensibility reacted to them: a “humanitarian hell” broke out. The body was disdained in any case. It was a time of contempt for the poor and the sick, of indifference to children, and subjection of women. Jesus sprang into that world committed to healing without regard to social status, to society shaped by sharing and love, and to hope invincible even in the face of death. After his resurrection, Jesus’ followers stunned antiquity by the way they loved each other, and by the invention of institutions like the hospital. It was the “Jesus Revolution,” and it truly was…big. Bryan quoted numerous figures from recent history, believers and atheists alike, who have said that Jesus was the most influential person of all time.

For the small group conversation that came next, the question was this: “Is our story [meaning the Adventist story] big enough?” During the reporting period participants raised two questions: Does our embrace of Christ make us generous in our relations with the LBGTQ community? And does it motivate us to speak truth to power on behalf of the vulnerable? Joyce Newmyer, an Adventist Health executive from Portland, had been facilitating conversation during all the reporting segments, and at the end of this last one she once again thanked participants.

A break came next, and then the leading of communion by Moe Stiles, a pastor from Vancouver, Washington. She asked, “Why do we gather?” and said, following Luke 22, that the point was “remembrance” of Christ. The Hebrew people had long told the Passover story, and at his final Passover Jesus invited his followers to retell the story in light of his own sacrifice and of his own provision of a seat at the table for the betrayer Judas. Gathering, then, is for remembering — and remembering is for re-committing to similar self-giving and similar lengthening of the table to include those we might think to exclude.

Then came the final moment. In pairs, participants lifted bread and wine to their neighbors’ lips, and each prayed a blessing for the other.

Further Reading:

Jesus Returns, Or, The One Project Is Back (Day 1), February 18, 2019

Charles Scriven is the former board chair of Adventist Forum, the organization that publishes Spectrum.

Logo courtesy of The One Project.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9418
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A very difficult movement to elevate Christ in the midst of the 28.


Is this picture drawn, painted in its various bold colors, TOO SCARY for us
Seventh-day Adventists??
It leaves us TOO VULNERABLE [mostly to ourselves].
It makes us, as St. Francis is reported to say, “Preach the Gospel, only use WORDS
when necessary,”

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Pastor Moe Stiles leads communion.

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Alex Bryan on Roman-Greco history of plagues and lawlessness and how Christians ministered to the sick, hungry, outsiders and showed the world how different they were in serious lawless conditions.

Timothy Golden states personalized salvation , misses the mark of Jesus’ social ethical priority.
How does that relate to Lk.4: 43,44?
i.e. Preaching.

I had the privilege of attending the “One Project” for the first time at the age of 91. I would just like to state how much I appreciated the presentations. Speakers did not spend their time finding fault with the church. Their messages were positive, Biblical and Christ-centered. I have been in the ministry since 1949 and have heard many good Adventist and non-Adventist preachers. I would rank what I heard at “One Project” with the best in both delivery and in content. They certainly were very Christ-centered. The presenters lived up to the challenge of E G White, “Of all Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the people.”
If anyone on the Committee planning the speakers for the General Conference Session of 2020 is listening, drop me a note and I can give you names of presenters who will be able to present top quality messages that will be a blessing to our members.


Any grass root or bottom up movement is suspect from the git go. Thus LGTH has roots the One Project has none. Of course there is danger in enthusiasm —it generally lack substance., The Anglo-Saxon is not noted for enthusiasm. A joyful noise is reserved for Junior Camp.

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Tom, not in this group. Substance is the foundation and the foundation is Christ.


Perhaps @gideonjrn would find what he is looking for in Adventist preaching if he attended The One Project.


This is beyond true. If these speakers were scheduled for G.C., the Holy Spirit would definitely be present uplifting Christ.

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Not sure what you are saying?

The One Project has strong roots. See previous stories posted by William Johnsson. This group is deeply rooted and bearing fruit.

Why would this be? Why should SDA’s be foremost in uplifting Christ as opposed to other Christians?

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Any online?..

"Uplifting " is ambiguous. What does that mean as far as a presentation and relevant for salvation?

When Jesus said…“lifted up”, didn’t he mean lifted up on the cross?

I heard Ted Wilson mention this “uplift” agenda in his sermon at a local SDA church…Seems obscure.

Neh 8:8 and 1 Cor 14:5 & 9 give clues that scriptural & religious phrases need explanation so that a listener can be edified as they apply the principles.

“In the United States, Christians often sing, “Lift Jesus higher…He said, ‘If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto Me,’” based on John 12:32. The Bible does talk about “exalting” God and “lifting him up” in praise, but that is not the point of this text. If one reads the next verse (which explicitly says that Jesus was referring to his death), it is clear that “lifting him up” refers to his death on the cross. (The play on words with “lifting up” was already used in both Greek and Hebrew for forms of hanging, such as crucifixion.) Thus, if the song means by lifting Him up what the biblical verse means, we would be singing, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Of course God knows our hearts, but one wonders why a song writer would base a song, which millions of people might sing, on a verse yet not take the time to look up the verse on which it is based!”

Lifting Up Jesus means making Christ the focus of the conversation in some way.

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Is this common knowledge?

@gideonjrn, see YouTube.com. Here is the lineup of presentations from the Seattle 2016 OneProject on the final week of Christ’s life:

Thanks. I will give feedback after view.


I watched this and also one by Randy Roberts.

Sorry to say, they both are so institutionally geared to the denominational infighting.

I still can not invite any friend to any SDA church…

I never got that either, Carol. To be Christian is to uplift Christ. I also never got how the three angels message is “righteousness by faith in verity.” First, I would like that demonstrated from the context of Revelation 14, and secondly, how presumptuous is it to think that only Adventism, in its core message, proclaims RBF?

The whole Protestant reformation, from Luther onward, was built on this idea as it was interpreted from Paul’s letters. Adventism often puts forward an idea of RBF that sounds more like Trent than the reformers. It exhibits confusion about the gospel itself.

Both of the above statements from her pen are fraught with difficulties.



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