Moving Forward with Mission: A Conversation with the NAD President

The Advent movement began in the United States after the Great Disappointment in 1844, with the Seventh-day Adventist Church becoming an official denomination in 1863. In 1979, Charles E. Bradford was elected to succeed Neal C. Wilson as president of the North American Division (NAD). Wilson, who served as a vice president in the General Conference with responsibility for North America, moved on to become president of the General Conference. Bradford, the first black person to serve as NAD president, and his administrative team, were instrumental in the NAD’s development toward functioning as a division territory of the Adventist Church.

With interconnectedness at many administrative levels, the North American Division was not viewed as its own entity before 1985. Just a bit more than three decades later, the separation of the two entities has taken a big, physical step forward as the NAD moves into its own headquarters in Columbia, Maryland, in September.

In the following interview, Daniel R. Jackson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America since his election in 2010, shared his thoughts about the move, the division, and the General Conference, just a few weeks before the division was scheduled to fully occupy the new headquarters 12.5 miles northeast of the church’s world headquarters in Silver Spring.

WATCH the interview or read the full transcript below:

Dan Weber, NAD Communication director: This month, the division moves to our new location. With this move, what are you most excited about? Jackson: We are sitting at the entrance to a very exciting place for the North American Division. It’s not finished yet, but we are in what will become known as the Charles E. Bradford Conference Center. What excites me the most about this space is that we’ll have not only areas for meeting, but also areas for training. This part of the building offers a huge amount [of space] for the mission of the church where we can also utilize it for different activities in the community. It is a multipurpose area.

To be honest, this whole building makes me excited because of the statement it is making: The North American Division, as a part of the world mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is growing. That ought to make people rejoice. The mission of the church is going to move forward — it is moving forward, and it is going to move forward in an increasing way in this division.

What was the area we are sitting in? There was a huge tree here when we bought the building. The architect had a beautiful vision of a gathering space for the conference center. And so the idea of the atrium was born. We dug out the tree, and there is now a glass ceiling right above us — it’s almost all in place. Through the years, the natural progression toward growth and fulfilling division needs has occurred. How is this move part of the development of the NAD as a world division? There are several practical reasons for the move. There are some philosophical reasons as well. But practically speaking, in the offices in Silver Spring that we shared with the General Conference, both the NAD and GC were just running out of space. That was a little impetus to consider what we might do.

But the far greater reason, as I see it, is that the North American Division is one of the youngest divisions in the world church—and it’s the only division that did not have its own headquarters. For many years, for most of the life of the church, the North American Division ministries have been taken care of by the General Conference. The people who had responsibilities for family ministries or for any other department not only served the world, but they also served the North American Division. That really [started to] change in the mid-1980s.

Every organization progresses. It moves ahead. Something that is born has to grow. The move to this address has everything to do with the growth of the North American Division and the missional vision of the NAD. Not only now, but for the future.

How does the NAD purchasing and moving into a new building benefit the local church and church member in the long run? In what ways will the NAD having its own headquarters affect them? For the person sitting in the pew, looking at a new building, the question is there: Why can’t that money go into mission?

There’s more than one part to that answer. We’ve said to our employees again and again that the move to Columbia is not a move about a new building or having more space; it has everything to do with mission.

You know, Jesus is coming soon, and as a division we have started to implement strategies and programs that are affecting the local church. We are working very hard with the Mission to the Cities objectives. We have what we call the “Compassion Movement,” the North American Division’s expression of the church’s Total Member Involvement [initiative].

We needed more space to dream, to plan, and to collaborate in order to develop the kind of programs that will impact the local church.

And yes, we do impact the local church. People might not think it’s noticeable, but the fact is that what happens in the local church had a seed planted by some individual in the General Conference, in the North American Division, that grew and developed and became a part of the tradition or the practice of Seventh-day Adventism.

But whether it is the fact that we are working with local congregations to plant new churches or are assisting congregations in their compassion movement – that comes out of the NAD. And we are now in the process of planning how we can reach out more effectively to our youth and young adults — developing the kinds of programs where we will actually bring people in from the local church and develop materials to really capture the minds of our young people.

You mention being intentionally mission focused — part of that is being a good steward. Members will likely wonder how much debt we have incurred with the move. As we move into the building this September, we will have no debt. We have paid for this building out of reserves held in a fund that otherwise was being utilized for rent. During the past 20 years we’ve probably paid in the vicinity of $20 million in rent, and yet we have nothing to show for it.

We had very good landlords who gave us desks and power and air conditioning, but we didn’t own anything. As a matter-of-fact, one of the only things we will bring to this building in terms of office furniture is the desk in my office, which all the NAD presidents have all sat behind. Though we have expended considerable funds, the fact is they are now invested in something we actually own.

One final question. What does this building mean, moving forward, about the relationship with the GC?

This move has nothing to do with relations — or poor relations as some people perceive. Do we have some differences of opinion in the world church? Yes, we do. But the move to this building has everything to do with mission — absolutely nothing to do with somebody being upset with somebody.

Just the other day I received an email from a man who wrote, “I have heard from sources very high up in the North American Division that there are lawyers currently at work with — outside lawyers — to finalize the separation between the North American Division and the General Conference.”

I replied, “There are no lawyers. And I think I’m fairly high up in the North American Division. There are no lawyers representing the North American Division doing any such thing.”

In a discussion with Elder [Ted N.C.] Wilson, [president of the General Conference], I said, “What you cannot see when you’re close to the trees, when you move back you can all of a sudden see it.” I added, “You will be amazed at the loyalty of the North American Division when you see it at a distance.

The NAD has been and continues to be one of the most faithful divisions in the world when it comes to the mission of the church. Our people, our administrators across this division, are committed to the goals, the dreams, and the aspirations of the Seventh-day Adventist Church—worldwide. And part of that faithfulness is a dedication to the mission. Our people have been faithful, they are faithful, they will continue to be faithful. And what is true of our people sitting in the pew is true of our administrators across this division. I see this [move] as a very positive expansion of the mission of God’s church on earth.

The North American Division is growing, it is expanding, and by God’s grace, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, His mission will be achieved in this division — and then we can go home. Jesus is coming soon, and we’ll be able to go home.

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Behind the Scenes Information about the purchase of the NAD's new headquarters

The property at 9705 Patuxent Woods was purchased for roughly $19.5 million dollars. The building is about 120,000 square feet in size and sits on 11 acres of land. The current space occupied at the General Conference by the NAD is around 35,000 square feet. Renovations in the new NAD headquarters will run about $11 million dollars. The building was originally built in the mid-1980s and needed some maintenance work done to fix what had been neglected. Space on the first floor with also be utilized for the Charles E. Bradford Conference Center, which will allow the NAD space to hold year-end meeting and other meetings that would normally be held outside the headquarters at a substantial cost. The cost of the new building runs around $258 per square foot. The NAD did not incur any debt in the purchase of the building or the renovations involved. Funds were transferred from reserves to cover these costs. Also, the GC gave the NAD an amount of $3 million dollars to help pay for the new headquarters. In the past, the GC has done this for other world divisions establishing new headquarters. During the past 20 years the NAD has spent more than $20 million dollars in rent and services to the GC.

Stats & Facts Some info on the unique features to expect in the new building

The North American Division headquarters is located in Columbia, Maryland. Here are some interesting, unique features of the glass-enclosed building, and other helpful information.

Office space: 120,000 square feet Computer training room for 10 people Second floor “innovation lab” The C.D. Brooks Prayer Chapel: seating for 25; 7 ft. x 8 ft. stained-glass window The Charles Bradford Conference Center: includes an auditorium for 500, an auditorium for 170 with theater seating; three conference rooms, and an atrium Recording Studio: 4,500 square feet Exercise room Commercial kitchen for catering special events Nearest lodging: Hampton Inn & Suites Columbia/South, .25 miles; and SpringHill Suites by Marriott Columbia, .25 miles Closest airport: Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), 15 miles Distance to General Conference: 12.5 miles

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The interview and information above were originally published by the NAD Communication team on the North American Division website and are reprinted here with permission.

Images Courtesy of NAD Communication / Pieter Damsteegt

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8147
1 Like

Many responses flooded my mind as I read this article!

I’m from the SPD, not from the NAD! So in one sense any response from me is beside the point!

The raw facts and figures look attractive! The raw purchase price of $19.5 million plus $11 million for rennovations. On 11 acres of land and the building being 120,000 square feet! No loan, no debt!

I belong to the South Queensland Conference in Australia. Until about 3 years ago, the Conference office was in a beautiful, high visibility location about 1 mile or less from the heart of downtown Brisbane. This office space had served the denomination well in past years, but had become increasingly inadequate. The building was little more than a rather inefficient rabbit warren . Parking was atrociously inadequate for the personnel housed in the building.

After several years of searching they located a former government facility in an inner city suburb. The Brisbane City government had conveniently rezoned the old Conference office so that it could be redeveloped as a multi-storey residential units.

The new property was purchased for Australian $9.5 million with several million for rennovations. The property had space for underground parking for more than 40 cars. And it had inner city street frontage on two sides of the property. Unfortunately, it was not set on 11 acres of land. The Conference sold their original Office property for a very good price, and even without doing so, they would have been able to fund the purchase of the new property with the rennovations without taking a loan or incurring any debt.

Conference administration saw wisdom in being right in the heart of Australia’s largest local government area with a population of perhaps 2 million people.

From the comparative stats from these two properties I would suggest that the NAD has the better deal!

However, I’m mindful of Bill Johnnson’s recent call for radical downsizing of denominational administration and resourcing functions. I wonder how the NAD’s purchase of their new property fits within that call! Afterall, it may well end by encouraging the GC to fill the vacated space with additional personnel and functions.

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As a 10 year veteran pastor in the NAD I must admit I am shocked at some comments from Elder Jackson. I think he is a good man who means well but in response to the question concerning how this massively expensive administrative building benefits the local church I just had to shake my head. He essentially said we need space to develop programs that help the local church. Elder Jackson, we don’t need anymore denomination programs. It’s wasting your time and the denominations money. If you don’t believe me call 20 random NAD pastors and ask them which NAD programs the’ve used in the last few years. My bet is you’ll find it’s zero. They may have a few manuals with DVDs sitting on the shelf still in the wrapper that was given to them at a workers meeting but that’ll be about it. WE DON’T NEED PROGRAMS. WE NEED MONEY FOR STAFFING. I’ve pastored 2 new church plants, planted 2 more churches and baptized lots of people over the years. None of that happened because of NAD programs. (I couldn’t name one of them if I had to - and 90% of the pastors I know couldn’t either if asked to). Your shark tanks, programs, initiatives, sleek material to “really capture the minds of our youth”, etc. do not impact the local church. Here’s what works. Personal ministry. That’s the ONLY THING THAT WINS SOULS. And we need staff to help coordinate that. Please send that money back down here so we can get the work done. The real problem in this denomination is pastors are the only ones who actually know what they’re doing when it comes to mission. But administrators who haven’t been pastors for decades run the church. And loads of $$$ gets wasted and we struggle at the local level while the NAD spends millions of dollars on buildings, programs, materials, etc. that will at best benefit only a handful and churches. Somehow, someway, this…has…got…to…change.

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Dream on…

I know a few pastors as well - some in my own family. The kids coming out of Andrews are just biding their time, doing three, four, even five churches (mid-west) at a time, hoping to work their way up the corporate ladder into administration. Once there, do you really think they’re going do themselves out of a job? They will organize and organize some more, coming up with more progressive programs as long as the money keeps flowing. And that’s the key. The only thing that will change anything is when the money stops coming - maybe going to other places where people are actually getting help. Non-religious groups are doing more in areas of youth programs and street ministries (without a multi-million dollar soap box).

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There are several software programs developed or adopted by NAD IT group that are being used almost universally around the NAD territory. Ask enough pastors across all sizes of churches and you will hear a lot of positive remarks about Online Giving, church membership and church finder programs. So you might not be clued into as much as you might think.

Marcus – You FORGOT to add – ALL the General Conference slick ideas are ALSO probably STILL in their cellophane wrappers collecting dust in many pastor offices, and probably there PRIOR to the current pastors.
A lot of materials I see promoted from “Headquarters” have no bearing on the needs or even wishes of local churches.
Yes, it is ONE ON ONE, Mouth To Ear, as in Paul’s time, that the Gospel is carried. It is sitting on a park bench in the middle of town. Listening first to those sitting there. Praying with those sitting there. Jesus did that with the Woman at the Well. It is interesting that Jesus DID NOT ASK her to JOIN his church.
Actually, as far as we can tell only a FEW were asked to Join his church – the 12, later the 70. And THAT on Condition that THEY WERE WILLING TO GO TO WORK under very austere condition. No bag with an extra set of clean clothes, no money, no extra pair of sandals, not even a stick to shoo away stray animals. They had NO Choice of Bed and Breakfast. NO choice of cooks, OR menu plan.
Their ONLY prayer was God, let me treat your name with honor and reverence, let your kingdom come into my heart, let your WILL be done in my life as it is done in heaven. Give me this day. Give me the food I need for today. Forgive the wrongs I have done as I forgive the wrongs others have done to me. Don’t let me yield to temptation. Rescue me from the Evil One. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever. Amen.

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Blake, Your analysis may be spot on, but now probably isn’t the time to deal with it. I’m guessing that the North American Division is experiencing a sense of relief for leaving the GC physically behind, which must feel like the relief a child feels when he is moving away from a stern parent. Be happy for them.

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So as not to break the 1 comment rule, perhaps you could reply in the lounge.

How do you view this move by the NAD? Do you think it indicates any big (or small) changes in the NAD? Will this distance from the GC make any difference in any way?

Thanks.

Wow, am I officially quite tired of hearing about “mission.” Fourteen times “the mission of the church” was eulogized in this interview with not one word of definition or explanation. My guess is if you asked ten Adventists what the mission of the Adventist church was, you would get eleven different answers. Maybe more.

At least define it once. Sheesh.

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I’ve been perusing this site for a number of years now, and it appears to me that Spectrum is not all that interested in the true mission of the SDA Church. Our mission, along with our beliefs, are routinely mocked here, and the moderators rarely, if ever, come to the defense of that mission.

Our mission is to preach the 3 angels’ messages to the world, to prepare as many as are willing for the soon coming of Christ. But that seems to have gotten lost in the upper echelons of the NAD. They are focused on WO, as if that were the only issue that mattered. They have their priorities all mixed up. That may be why it was never defined in the above article.

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*Jackson:

"the NAD is growing "

As an eighty one year old retiree, I am very itinerant in my old age,

I find that nearly every SDA church I visit these days, has a paltry congregation meagerly filling a few pews, in a large expensive splendid sanctuary building.

The church plant, --.sabbath school rooms, fellowship hall and sanctuary —obviously at one time required a huge and affluent congregation to have invested money in its splendid structure.

Now I wonder how the few remaining and aging “.remnant.” are even able to pay maintenance costs on their pompous parish plant!

One church I visit, has over one thousand members and is one of the few which is reasonably full on a sabbath morning. However, the majority of the attendees are older than I am. The children coming up front for the story hour have been brought to church by their grandparents/great grandparents.

Millennials and young families are. conspicuously ABSENT.

Where is this "growth " that Jackson talks about? It is invisible in the.many churches which I visit!. Most seem in serious decline, and will be non existent when the few remaining elderly members die.

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i think this denial sounds like the kind of denial you give to people when you first begin to realize that your partner, whom you’ve loved with all your heart, isn’t part of your future, but you just aren’t ready to fully accept it yet, much less talk about it…there’s a mix of resignation and hope, and you’re fighting so hard for the hope, but the long shadow of resignation has deepened to the point where the beginnings of a sense of inevitability have set in…you know it’s only a matter of time before you’re crying buckets over many weeks and months, and you just hope you’re alone when the full agony first hits…

to me, this move does feel like it has something to do with relations…and when one thinks about it, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise…if the content here on spectrum is any indication, the progressive wing of adventism in NAD isn’t where adventism in other parts of the world are, and i think the issue of WO is only the tip of the iceberg…the push from PUC for LGBT acceptance is probably the biggest chunk of that iceberg, but there are other sizable chunks…as i understand it, NAD is vacating the GC’s premises in september, 2017…i also understand that the deadline for the grace period for compliance with san antonio will expire in october, 2017…with NAD physically out of the GC’s sight, it will probably be easier for the GC to insist on an amicable separation from NAD, if not a forcible dismantling of parts of NAD…two cannot walk together except they be agreed, and NAD leadership, which cannot seem to say no to its progressive contingent, is simply out of step with the GC’s leadership in a number of key areas, and has been so for some time…

NAD’s general membership will probably begin making personal decisions over which adventism to align
with - whether NAD adventism, or GC adventism - before indianapolis 2020…no doubt NAD will become the bastion for progressive adventism…conservative NAD adventists will likely flee to the GC:

“The work to be done now is that of sounding this last message of mercy to a fallen world. A new life is coming from heaven and taking possession of all God’s people. But divisions will come in the church. Two parties will be developed. The wheat and tares grow up together for the harvest.” 2SM:114.

it’s all so sad…i think we’re seeing now that san antonio was a deadly wound that can’t be healed…it’s fully living up to the deep foreboding so many of us felt at the time…

i think this implies that TW has communicated to dan jackson the concern that he, TW, doesn’t think NAD has been loyal to the GC…

Groucho,

I did a bit of research and discovered this mission statement for the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church:

“Our mission is to reach everyone in the North American Division with the Christ-centered message of Hope and Wholeness.”

There you go. Feel free to shout it from the mountaintops.

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Chris –
HOPE
WHOLENESS

I certainly DO NOT see these so much in the Textbook on Galatians so far. Maybe I am missing something. So far the WHOLE TEXT by the Author AND the Editor has been a disappointment to me.

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Amen…

Jeremy, I am afraid you may be closer to the truth than the NAD leadership or any “progresive” SDA realizes or will admit. I think there are some other large “iceberg chunks”, as you said, coming from many NAD corners, such as Evolution (LSU), or Spiritual Formationut (WWU, LSU, and even AU), ecumenical efforts with the “Emerging Church” out of Ohio Conference, Ecumenism in its’ global sense out of PUC Conference, and the list goes on…
I think Dan Jackson is sincere about the split being about mission, but this mission is not the same as the GC’s - Should not the mission of all SDA terrritories be to spread the Three Angels Message as @blc mentioned?
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”

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For years I use to hear of the 3 Angels message. In sermons, camp meetings, conferences, etc. and yet I could never articulate it. If someone said to me, what are the 3 Angels messages, I would have difficulty explaining the first, second or third. The overall message is probably, to come out of her, my people.

A much more powerful message is the story of salvation. It is a message of positiveness in Christ, rather than the negativeness of the world. It is easy to comprehend. It doesn’t deal with conspiracy theories. It provides hope and joy in the here and now.

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Both should be preached. There is no need to choose one or the other.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished to all good works.” 1 Timothy 3:16-17

Blake & others, before you criticize the use of $30.5 million on a new NAD building you need to do some math.
Last I heard we have 6,000 pastors in the NAD. If the $30.5 million was divided equally among all the pastors they would receive $5,083. That wouldn’t even cover one month of new staff’s salary & benefits.