The End of the One Project

The One project concluded last month with final gatherings in Sydney and San Diego. Beginning with a small group of pastors and chaplains in a hotel room in Denver in late 2010, the One project totaled 32 gatherings and included thousands of people in North America, Europe and the South Pacific.

During this time, the One project has been “one of the best and most important conversations happening in the Adventist Church”.1 It also has attracted more than its fair share of criticism, suspicion and straight-up nastiness. Now those who warned so vociferously that the One project was the last great apostasy will need to go looking for—or invent—another.

So, given the controversy, the reality and the rumors, is the Church better off for the One project?

The first and most important answer is yes. Many people have found Jesus at and through the One project gatherings, some for the first time, others all over again. The final two gatherings gave participants the opportunity to testify publicly to the differences made in their lives. These testimonies gave glimpses of the transformation and fresh hope that can always be found when we refocus on Jesus.

One project participants have also generally renewed and deepened their commitment to the Church and its mission. While some gatherings have included expressions of frustration with our Church—more so in the earlier gatherings at which people found safe places to talk about these disappointments—this was most often done with love and a strong desire for the Church to be better and more.

There have been mistakes and missteps along the way. Listen to anyone involved in the One project since its beginnings and they will remind you that this was something that grew quickly beyond any expectations they might have had. To an extent, they were making it up as it developed, and it drew responses and reactions that caught them by surprise. There are things that would have been done differently if they had known how they would be perceived, misunderstood and misrepresented.

But, for all of this, the One project has had a positive influence in the Church, including far beyond those who have directly participated in the gatherings. As the One project began to attract more attention, we have seen a broader re-orientation toward the centrality of Jesus in the faith and life of Adventism, expressed in conference and camp-meeting themes, church publications and more. This is an incomplete project—for example, the current General Conference survey of members’ beliefs and attitudes fails to mention “Jesus” among topics of distinctive Adventist preaching—but Jesus has been preached with renewed attention and that is cause for rejoicing (see Philippians 1:18).

The One project gatherings have consistently modelled excellence in preaching, production and punctuality—yes, they always started and finished on time. Their many speakers demonstrated that we can say something significant and deep in a 20-minute sermon, particularly when it is well prepared and doesn’t seek to answer every question but intends to prompt discussion.

The ensuing conversations took place in small groups around tables at most gatherings. Church leaders sat with college students, talking about their dreams for the Church; tired pastors dialogued with long-time Church members about how church might be different with Jesus at its centre; and people from so many different backgrounds, demographics and places talked, listened and worshipped together, celebrating the supremacy of Jesus (see Colossians 1:15–20).

The One project has come to an end not because the conversation is finished but because the work of rediscovering Jesus is never finished and the conversation must grow beyond a label or a series of events (see John 3:30). The One project has been ended with an invitation for ever more of us to join in seeking more of Jesus and discovering that, in Him, we have all that we need (see 1 Corinthians 2:2).

In many ways, the Church is better for the One project, many churches have benefited from the influence of the One project and church is better for so many who have participated in the One project. A fresh encounter with Jesus changes us, challenges us together and brings renewed hope.

But the Church is also worse off, damaged by too many of the responses to the One project and the attitudes of fear and suspicion they have revealed. The One project has exposed an ugly and destructive streak within our Church.

Of course, these voices need to be kept in perspective. This criticism has been driven by a noisy minority. Among those who will lose out at the end of the One project are those independent “parasitical” ministries who have benefitted from having such a ready target for their conspiracy-mongering. Remnant Publishing and some of their authors, as well as some of the semi-Adventist television “ministries”, have developed a profitable cottage industry by attacking the One project and its leaders, demonstrating again that it is much easier to sell a lie that feeds our fear than a truth that feeds our faith. None of these critics have taken any initiative to listen to the leaders of the One project, but this doesn’t preclude their fear-driven assumptions and passionate condemnations. It’s a sadly effective way to sell books and raise donations.

And there are too many among us who are too ready to buy it and believe it. That we are more ready to believe online scandal, rather than pastors and people we actually know, does not bode well. That we are so ready to invent and share conspiracies rather than seeking facts does not help our credibility. That truth doesn’t seem to matter is deeply disturbing (compare Exodus 20:16). That we struggle to accept that Jesus is enough or that Jesus could be “all” demonstrates deep flaws in our theology.

We are better than this—and we must be better than this.

In this context, we have also seen a failure by too many Church leaders. The falsehood of most of these criticisms is known by most Church leaders—including a number of “investigations” conducted at different levels of the Church that have found no substantial heresy, errors or wrongdoing—but most Church leaders have remained silent, out of the understandable fear of the political risks of speaking up.2 Not that it is their responsibility to defend the One project; but it is their responsibility to defend the Church from nonsense, to dispel a climate of fear and suspicion, and to champion the uplifting of Jesus wherever and however this happens (see John 12:32).

In His day, Jesus was a polarizing figure, which He has continued to be throughout history. Perhaps the reaction and resistance demonstrates the reality of Jesus among us. But so much more in the positive responses. As Dr. Bill Johnsson, a retired Church editor and leader who has spoken at a number of One project gatherings over the past three years, explained it at the final gathering in San Diego, “The One project—to me—is one of the best evidences that God is alive and well, and is working in the Adventist Church.”

At the end of the One project, talking about Jesus is still “the best and most important conversation” for our Church—and is perhaps all the more necessary, if that were possible. It is precisely this same Jesus who is the Church’s only hope, who offers the power for its healing and who prayed for its unity (see John 17:11). The One project has offered the Church a renewed vision of Jesus. Many of us have been blessed, inspired and refocused. But too many of us have chosen differently—and too many of our leaders have failed to lead. May Jesus forgive us and knock yet again, so we can sit together around His table, enjoying better conversations, ultimately in His coming kingdom (see Revelation 3:20, 21).

Notes & References:

1. To quote myself, “Introducing this book” in Nathan Brown, Alex Bryan and Japhet de Oliveira (editors), For the One: Voices from the One project, Signs Publishing, 2014. After having been misquoted and misrepresented in at least one of the anti-One project books, this seems an opportunity to correct any misunderstanding.

2. This has been less of an issue in the South Pacific. Adventist Record published a piece examining the validity of the One project, from the South Pacific Division's field officer. See Adventist Record October 1, 2016. The 2017 One project was supported by the SPD's Discipleship Ministries Team.

This story was written by Nathan Brown and originally published on Adventist Record. It is reprinted here with permission.

Images courtesy of Adventist Record.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8638
1 Like

I don’t know WHY the leaders of the One Project think they have
to turn in their “Notice” and retire from doing the work of God.
That is their business.
Here are THREE [3] Scripture texts to describe the Nay-Sayers
regarding their Message, their Ministry, and those who were
blessed by attending.
John 12:42-- However, many of the Jewish Leaders believed on Jesus,
BUT wouldn’t admit it to anyone [not even their wives] because of their
Fears that the Pharisees [the GC Leadership of that day] would fire
them from their jobs.
BECAUSE they Loved the Praise from men more than praise from God."
John 2:24 – "But Jesus did not trust the people because He knew Human
Nature, the Character of Humanity. No one needed to tell Him what
mankind was really like, how untrustworthy they were."
John 12:37 – “Though He had done so many wondrous miracles before
them, yet they would not believe in Him.”
[Jesus IS NOT ENOUGH!!!]

EDIT-- It was the GC Leaders of His day that promoted the people to SHOUT!!
Crucify Him!! Crucify Him!! and encouraged the people to turn their back on the
Messages of Christ for a DIFFERENT GOSPEL.

2 Likes

Thank you Nathan for reminding us re. John 17:3, “And this is eternal life: that people KNOW you, the only true God, and that they KNOW Jesus Christ, the One you sent.” (New Century Version; emphasis added)
Similarly, 1 Cor 2:2, 6 "I determined not to talk about anything with you except Christ Jesus and His crucifixion … Those who are spiritually mature will recognize the wisdom of that … " (The Clear Word}

4 Likes

Thanks, Alisa, for reprinting this. Thanks, Nathan, for giving praise where praise is, by God’s grace, due.

I love the church and have pretty much given my whole life to it. But it saddens me that employed people of influence are (except, apparently, in the South Pacific) AFRAID to speak out–not just, I might add, in defense of the One Project, but in the service of just about any disputed point that comes up.

The sheer dysfunctionality of the Adventist leadership class is most crucially evident in its refusal to engage in the church’s conversation. Fear drives out the love that underlies Matthew 18’s call to constant conversation concerning matters of disagreement or controversy.

Perhaps you are right, Nathan, to say all this is “understandable.” But it is still, in a phrase my dad used a lot, a crying shame. Bill Knott and the Adventist Review should call out our leaders on this point–or show that what I’ve just said is all wrong. (I am not holding my breath.)

Chuck

7 Likes

Profound and insightful as looking into a mirror. Also known as “collapse of the shadow” when the overhead light is turned on.

3 Likes

ITS JUST GONE UNDERGROUND
why ? are we one body ?

2 Likes

The wisdom of what?

Let’s expand on this, since the tendency is to shrink or simplify.

Take JN 17:3…What does “know” mean?
This is not exhaustive , however…“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” 1 JN 2:4

Next

Know about Jesus means what? Did Paul just write biographical points about Jesus?

Look how Paul wrote so much of the new testament and even had to elaborate on details related to love in 1 Cor 13.

What is driving this abbreviated/ simplistic agenda?

The result is increasing fanaticism and secularization of the SDA church.

This agenda is expressed by others in clichés such as:

It’s all about a relationship
It’s all about Jesus
Jesus is enough
It’s all about the gospel
It’s all about love

Do you ever hear…it’s all about doctrine?

Basically what is happening is that church members are echoing those of 2000 years ago…

“But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We don’t want this man to rule over us.’ Luke 19:14

Doctrine regarding Christ Jesus IS–
Relationship
Christ Himself
Jesus Christ IS enough
The Gospel – the Good News to mankind from God
It is ALL about the Godhead’s [Father, Son Holy Spirit] desire for
COMPANIONSHIP with Humans — we call this “LOVE”.

One year at junior camp at Gull Lake,I was standing on the dock. the canoes were tied to a post. they Were very tempting. so Iput one foot in and about to put the other in when someone pushed the canoe away from the dock… Of course I was first one togoswimming. almost everyone had a good laugh. I had a good lesson.The One Project was a one foot deal. So they got back on the dock rather than getting wet. I got both feet in the canoe.

3 Likes

Steve,

Then why is there almost 8000 verses, just in the new testament?

Good analogy, Tom!

(20 characters)

1 Like

do we actually know why the one project has ended…if it was so wonderful, and if so many people were being blessed, why isn’t it still going…

2 Likes

Spectrum asked Alex Bryan why The One Project was coming to a close in an interview. You can read his answer at https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2017/10/26/alex-bryan-looks-ahead-one-projects-finale.

I don’t think projects only end when they are no longer successful. People also get tired. These particular people also all have very busy day jobs. I don’t think it’s fair to say they are “retir[ing] from doing the work of God.”

3 Likes

As Gamaliel said, “if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”

Since The One Project has now come to nothing, we can now see that it was of men and not of God.

This is the opinion of someone I’d guess did not attend any One Project events.

As one who attended, I can tell you that the spiritual impact on my life didn’t end. It continues. Focusing on growth in Christ did not “come to nothing” in my life. There is no question by this attender that The One Project was from God.

2 Likes

The One Project probably got tired of being irrelevant compared to GYC and saw no hope of ever overtaking GYC as the preeminent annual conference for SDA young people.

So sad when a liberal organization tries to reach the youth with what they think they want: mockery of the spirit of prophecy, rejection of sound doctrine, and eager acceptance of ecumenism, feminism, homosexuality, and transgenderism. Instead of the influx of young people they were hoping for, they mainly attracted aging disgruntled SDA hippies with an axe to grind against EGW.

What truth seeking people want, and that includes the youth, is the life-changing truth that is found in the eternal gospel and the beautiful message of justification and sanctification that is embodied in the heavenly sanctuary as taught by the SDA church

That can change, prayer, angels and neuroplasticity being what they felicitously are.

There are leaders right this minute standing on their tiptoes wanting to talk.

Dig channels for the streams of Love
where they may broadly run;
And Love has overflowing streams
to fill them every one.

2 Likes

This assumes the reader knows the theses and themes of the “One Project” which this reader does not.

Gideon –
Answer your Question.
Because Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter had a LOT TO SAY to their fellow believers AND TO US about God, the Holy Spirit, Christ – His life on earth as a Human, His life in Heaven as
God, our relationship to God’s gift, the gift of Christ on the Cross, The Burial, the Resurrection, the ministry of Christ, God, the Holy Spirit for us in Heaven and on earth, the eventual UNITING of Heaven AND Earth, and Humanity Made New, back to the state that God originally made us.
ALL made possible by the Life, Death, Resurrection of Christ.
And we look forward to His return.

1 Like

but why don’t they just take a break, and let someone else run the show…does the one project have to have the same people running it to work…maybe lay people or retired people should be running it…

it just seems a bit dramatic to shut the whole thing down permanently, especially given that conservatives were complaining…it almost looks like the shut down is related to those complaints, which doesn’t inspire confidence…

but that seems a bit like self-fulfilling prophecy, don’t you think…beat the group up for yrs with dire warnings and characterizations, and then when they succumb, use that fact as evidence that you were right all along…

1 Like