Author Archives: Marella Rudebaugh

Why Not Try This? – 12 Problems with Restrooms

Guests evaluate churches on multiple levels and it’s more than just the program and friendliness of the members. Restrooms matter. READ MORE

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From Leader to Leader – A Good Shepherd Smells Like His Sheep

by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference

I was a senior in academy trying to decide what to do with my life and what line of study I should pursue the following year.  At that time, I was attending our Adventist School in Costa Rica.  I had sensed a strong called into the ministry when I was younger, maybe 9 or 10.  I remember that I would stay up late at night daydreaming of the day when I would preach to large congregations.  I used to study every pastor that passed by my church, and since it was the Central church of a large metropolitan city, we had many pastors from all levels of our denomination preaching from our pulpit. I used to observe them from head to toe, noticing all the details of their garments, shirts, ties, shoes etc.  You might say I was infatuated with ministry and excited about becoming a pastor someday.  Fast forward to my senior year; I was now uncertain about my call into ministry. Ten years had passed since my ministry daydreams, and now, as an 18-year-old, I kind of wanted to do my own thing.

That’s when out of the blue, one of the school of theology professors invited nine of us senior boys to go camping with him —Talk about investing time with the next generation of pastors. It sounded like a great adventure; camping in the Costa Rican jungles, it couldn’t get any better.  Full of anticipation, we packed and left, just to spend the whole weekend inside our tent, as tropical storms blew in one after another and poured heaps of water on us. However, as we listened to the rain and wind blowing outside, inside the tent, we sat quietly and attentively as our professor brought the books of Timothy to life.  And then it happened, the thrill and excitement of becoming a pastor reappeared right then and there. Listening to our teacher read about Paul’s work and his counsel to the young Timothy made me want to be a part of their team and work for the Lord and make a difference in God’s Kingdom through my life.

I became a pastor; and I have now been in ministry thirty plus years, and like most of us, I have faced numerous peaks and valleys.  I can even remember a time in my ministry when I would pray every night after returning from my church, that the Lord would grant me permission to leave the ministry.  I couldn’t take it any longer.  I would stay out in my driveway, looking at the starry sky, begging the Lord to allow me to leave.  Church ministry posed several challenges and I felt that remaining was detrimental to my health, my ministry and my family life.

God responded: “I want you to smell like your sheep.  Get involved with my children until you love them and are willing to die for them.”  Wow, that was a tall order, but I didn’t have a choice, so instead of continuing to pray to be “set free” from my ministry responsibilities, I started praying that He would give me deep love for my congregation.  I began to spend more time with them seeking ways to better minister to their needs.  Years later, my heart was broken when I had to leave them behind when I accepted another call.  I still tell my wife that if I were to be called back to that church, I would happily return.

Carolann and I were the blessed recipients of a very thoughtful card this week which included the following spiritual nugget written by HMS Richards, Sr.  Upon reading it, we knew it was one of those thoughts that we would copy and place in strategic places around our work and home spaces. We also knew we would have to share it with our extended family of faithful Kingdom-builders in our NPUC and beyond:

By HSM Richards, Sr.

“The Lord has given to every man his work.  It is his business to do it and the devil’s business to hinder him if he can.  So surely as God has given you a work to do, Satan will try to hinder you.  He may present other things more promising, He may allure you by worldly prospects, He may assault you with slander, torment you with false accusations, set you to work defending your character, employ pious persons to lie about you, editors to assail you, and excellent men to slander you.  You may have Pilate and Herod, Annas and Caiaphas all combined against you, and Judas standing by ready to sell you for thirty pieces of silver; and you may wonder why all those things come upon you.  Can you not see that whole thing is brought about through the craft of the devil to draw you off from your work and hinder your obedience to God?

Keep about your work. Do not flinch because the lion roars; do not stop to stone the devil’s dogs; do not fool away your time chasing the devil’s rabbits. Do your work. Let liars lie, let sectarians quarrel, let corporations resolve, let editors publish, let the devil do his worst; but see to it that NOTHING hinders you from fulfilling the work that God has given you.

He has not sent you to make money. He has not commanded you to get rich. He has never bidden you to defend your character. He has not set you at work to contradict falsehood which Satan and his servants may start to peddle.  If you do these things, you will do nothing else; you will be at work for yourself and not for the Lord.

Keep about your work. Let your AIM be as steady as a star.  Let the world brawl and bubble.  You may be assaulted, wronged, insulted, slandered, wounded and rejected; you may be abused by foes, forsaken by friends, and despised and rejected of men, but see to it with steadfast determination, with unfaltering zeal, that you pursue the great purpose of your life and object of your being, until at last you can say, ‘I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.’”

We pray these timeless words of encouragement will revive you if you are weary, renew your hope if yours is under the weather, and will remind you that we are one year closer to hearing the words of our Master: “Enter, you who are blessed by my Father!  Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom.  It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and your stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me. . . whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.” Matt. 25:34-36,40; MSG. 

May you continue to experience the abundant grace of the Father over your life, your marriage, your family and your ministry!  You are indeed very appreciated!

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Why Not Try This – Should We Ignore Halloween?

Pastor Jose Cortes, Associate Director for Evangelism at the North American Division, recently posted this article on his facebook page with some very helpful ideas on how we, as Christians, can handle Halloween:

Halloween seems to be the one holiday in American Christianity that we just don’t know what to do with. We happily celebrate cultural or historical holidays like the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, or New Year’s Day. We love religious holidays like Easter and Christmas. But Halloween has quite a dark history, and we don’t know how to approach it. As Christians we can either pretend that it doesn’t exist (even though it does) or we can seize a great opportunity right in front of us to reach out to our neighborhoods, friends or colleagues. Here you will find some tips on how to use this Holiday as a ministry opportunity:

1. Be present: Don’t hide out all night. Open your church, and if families stop by, have some cider, get to know their names and where they live in the neighborhood.

2. Think of the Parents: Consider having some hot chocolate and pumpkin bread out for the parents who are bringing their kids around the block. Make church’s entryway inviting so they want to come closer or inside and hang for a bit if possible.

3. Pass out Christian goodies: Halloween is the one night of the year when strangers literally will show up on your church or home doorsteps looking for handouts. Why not make sure they walk away with something meaningful? If you’re planning on handing out candy this Halloween, you could hand out a few tasteful tracts as well. 

4. Host a Light Party! How can we be the light if we are hiding in our homes; with the lights out, not answering the door? We are to be the light, not hiding in the dark. You can host a Light Party in your home or in your church. Turn on all the lights in your church, hang up some bright Christmas lights, play Christian music, and hand out candy with handwritten notes saying, “Jesus loves you”. You can offer free hot chocolate and free prayers. Be the brightest place on the block, not the darkest.

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From Beyond the Pulpit – What the Beatles Could Teach Our Church Leaders

by Dr. Stan Hudson, who served as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for 38 years and is currently the Director of Creation Ministries at the North Pacific Union Conference

There were two huge events in my childhood and youth that I will never forget:  the day my mom told me “Daddy isn’t coming home anymore” (and the divorce followed) and about eight years later, the news that the Beatles broke up!

Both were losses, and I could imagine on a psychologist’s couch it would come out that the latter one was so impactful because of the former one.  Why can’t people stay together?  Why can’t they work things out for the benefit of those who care about them?

In the case of the Beatles, John Lennon never got it.  He would later say to the fans, and I paraphrase, “Hey!  What’s the big deal?  We are each still producing music individually that will sound similar to the Beatles.” But they were not the same apart.  Would John’s anthem to atheism (“Imagine”) have been done with George (a believer in God) present?  Wouldn’t there have been some softening, some blending, some strengthening, some balance?  But we will never know.

Sadly, virtually every great band has broken up.  Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Eagles, America, ABBA, the list is a surprisingly long one.  I saw recently interviews of David Crosby and Graham Nash (who wasn’t MORE for world peace and harmony than Crosby, Stills and Nash?).  They can’t stand each other.  ABBA, arguably one of Europe’s greatest bands ever, was offered one billion dollars to reunite.  That’s billion with a “b!”  Couldn’t stand each other in the studio.

Yet at one time these bands’ members each complimented the skills and talents of their fellows and what they produced corporately was better than what they could do individually.  When the obviously upset Mick Jagger was asked what he thought of the then recent Beatles breakup, he simply exclaimed, “Egos!”

Egos do get in the way.  I’ve always felt musicians tended towards having sensitive ones.  But what can these grand breakups like the Beatles teach us, the Adventist Church? 

I think it’s this:  our highest achievements will take place only as we work together.  We all have sensitive egos that can get in the way.  What was the biggest hindrance of the disciples becoming what Jesus felt they could become while He was with them?  Ah, yes:  the spirit of ”who would be greatest.”  But what did they accomplish when they became of one spirit?  They became accused of “turning the world upside down!” 

Swallow egos, let the Spirit of Almighty God humble us all and let it be us that will turn OUR world upside down. 

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Momentum – The Storyteller

by Sergio Manente, pastor of the Richland Seventh-day Adventist Church

I am constantly humbled and encouraged with the dedication each lay-leader approaches ministry, to both nurture each current member and also minister to the community.

Developing each member as mission-minded disciples and investing personal energy, time and resources to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and His message to the un-churched in our community has been our focus. We are constantly brainstorming ways to forge relationships with the community through several outreach endeavors ranging from their Community service/diaper bank ministry to partnering with the local public elementary school tutoring reading for children as risk. We are involved with Rebuilding Mid-Columbia projects throughout our county, and several other volunteer based organizations, constantly partnering and connecting with the needs of the community.

As a way to bridge all of this wonderful work of establishing presence and credibility in our community and helping the un-churched in Richland across the threshold of eternity, we developed a teaching/preaching series entitled “The Storyteller.”  We wanted to introduce Jesus and some of His most powerful teachings through the medium of His parables. We were able to address several key doctrines as well as what salvation through the person of Jesus Christ looks like. We invited them to participate in a community weekend leadership event called Both/And. We had a “full capacity crowd and the series was a huge success. We baptized 9 so far with the amazing follow up work of our Bible Worker. We are looking forward to a celebration Sabbath when we hope to baptize other candidates from ongoing harvest.

I love the everyday evangelism and discipleship that happens at Richland and absolutely look forward to the proclamation evangelism series that harvest all of the hard work each dedicated member has worked towards and prayed for. We are all so blessed and enriched by God’s great mercy to partner with us to usher His soon return.

Until the Nets Are Full!!

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Changed Lives – Your Influence Matters

by Hugo Villalobos, pastor of the Hermiston/Pendleton Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Churches

This year we held an evangelistic series that taught our church an important lesson, the fact that we never know the impact and influence our choices make to those around us.

Two brothers began attending our church for several months and had decided to take their next step and get baptized in this series. As they were getting up to get prepared for baptisms, they walked down the hall and saw a friend who was visiting our church for the first time. His name is Carlos. Carlos was going through some rough moments in his life and was looking for God that day. He recognized these two brothers and was surprised to see them in blue robes getting ready to take an important step.

He saw something different in them. Last time they saw each other they were under the influence of alcohol. But now they were sober and had accepted Jesus as their personal Savior. Their faces reflected peace, joy, and happiness. He was touched by these brother’s testimony so much that he too decided to receive Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit through baptism that day. God surprises us every time. He is good all the time. They are currently being equipped and trained to become servant leaders.

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Lifelong Learning – The Long Reach for Authenticity

Last Sabbath, after the service was over, I was pointing out a child to a visiting friend and said “he’s the blond boy over there standing on the stage, not the one who just jumped into the baptismal tank, that’s the pastor’s son.” She knew I wasn’t being judgemental, I found it funny. Pastor’s families are not perfect and shouldn’t have to be, but feel overwhelming pressure to be so. What churches need is authenticity. Read this article from NAD Ministerial by Kumar Dixit.

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From Leader to Leader – Why Attend Church?

by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference

You’ve had a long week!

You’re not merely disappointed with yourself for not tying all the loose ends on your upcoming projects, but you are emotionally and physically spent! The last thing you want to do is to get up early on Sabbath morning to join your church family. 

If you weren’t the pastor (or a church leader), what would motivate you—after a long week of increasingly challenging personal, marital, parenting and professional challenges and demands—to arise, get ready and leave the comfort of your home on a Sabbath morning to attend your local church?

In his article entitled “Why Attending Church No Longer Makes Sense”, Carey Nieuwhof, says: “Increasingly, I’m convinced there’s no point to merely attending. You drive all the way in to connect with three or four songs, hear the message and then head home. All of that you could almost do by yourself in a much more convenient way. Slip on Spotify and grab the message via podcast or on demand and boom, you’re covered.”  (link for full article below)

Indeed, our Adventist members have a growing number of options at their fingertips if all they are seeking is an inspiring worship moment.

I agree with Nieuwhof, who says:

“YOU DON’T ATTEND CHURCH.  YOU ARE THE CHURCH. . . I think being the church has something to do with living your life for Christ, demonstrating God’s love by serving others and sharing your faith with people. That’s very different than consuming church in a back row, which you can just as easily do on your back deck.”

Indeed, just showing up at church weekly does not qualify you as “the body”.  There is a vast difference between being a disciple of Jesus Christ who daily feeds on (meditates) passages then prays for the Spirit’s empowerment to live out His Word in the daily work and leisure movements of life.  We, as spiritual leaders, must pray and ask for divine wisdom on how we might move our members from being consumers to contributing members of the body of Christ.

When my wife and I visit an Adventist Church during our ministry travels, we ask ourselves if we would be compelled to return next week, if we’re guests visiting that church for the first time.  When we are tempted to be too judgmental with our responses, we are compelled to remember that Jesus attended His local synagogue, even though He knew the actual intentions of the hearts of the priests and rabbis. He knew that they had little understanding of the Scriptures and the laws they so compulsively worshipped. He knew the spiritual leaders were plotting ways to make Him disappear . . .permanently; yet He still arose on Sabbath mornings, as was His custom (Luke 4:16) to go to the temple to worship. Jesus is my hero and my example!

Five things we can do to encourage people to come and worship on Sabbaths:

  1. Pray intentionally for the people you notice missing church frequently.
  2. Contact them, via phone or text, during the week to let them know you have missed them (a simple note card can be meaningful for older members).
  3. Offer yourself or an appropriate alternative to meet a felt need (offer a car ride, secure attire, offer to sit next to them etc.)
  4. If and when they show up, ensure they are greeted with warm and authentic joy.
  5. When the service is over, ask them how their experience was and if there is anything else that you can do for them to facilitate their return the following week. Keep praying for them.

Let’s continue to be intentional about asking God for effective ways to teach and inspire our church families about the importance of following Jesus’ example.  Not merely in church attendance—as many may feel content with merely showing up, then leaving without contributing to and interacting with the body. Rather, let’s empower our members to fill their deep spiritual yearnings by feeding on His Word, spending sweet time in the contemplation of radical, salvific sacrifice, and sharing God’s love with someone who needs it.  Let’s disciple our members into seeking and finding deep peace and joy in His presence as He, in turn, refills their parched and weary souls with deep love for Himself, for themselves and for their “neighbors”, both within and without the walls of our sanctuaries.

Recommended Articles:

  1. 7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America
  2. Why Attending Church No Longer Makes Sense
  3. 10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders are Attending Less Often

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Why Not Try This? – Responding to Nasty Emails

If you haven’t received one yet, you probably will. Nasty emails can not only hurt, but leave us with a sense of “what do I do now.” You’re first inclination might be to respond in kind, defend yourself, or maybe even just ignore it. But what is the best thing to do? Here’s a helpful article with practical advice on 4 Rules for Responding to Nasty Emails.

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From Beyond the Pulpit – Can Intellectuals Be Saved?

by Dr. Stan Hudson, who served as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for 38 years and is currently the Director of Creation Ministries at the North Pacific Union Conference

For many, that question might have the same impact as Jesus’ words about the difficulty of rich people being saved.  It was “easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle,” He said.  He even added “with man, it is impossible.” 

We might think of intellectuals as “rich in knowledge.”  And what better thing to be rich in?  A lack of knowledge is dangerous.  “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you…,” says the Lord in Hosea 4:6. 

However, the record of salvation for intellectuals is relatively short.  In the New Testament there was Paul with his “much learning,” and then there was, uh, …?  Fishermen were more likely saved.  And why is that?  Aren’t the truths of the Gospel and the Infinite God of creation begging for students with three-digit IQs?

In my current fields of study in origins there is this world of intellectuals called “science” (which is from the Latin “Scientia,” meaning knowledge!) is almost entirely run by what the Bible calls “fools!”  “A fool has said in their heart there is no God.”  Psalms 14:1.   More than that, Romans 1:20 suggests that these observers of nature miss what is obvious:  “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen.”  Pardon my French on this, but the Bible suggests that those in charge of science are both “stupid and crummy scientists!”

But operating from an atheistic worldview, it’s all they can do.  The things of God are foolish to them, not able to discern spiritual things.  But is science the only place where sophomores live?  “Sophomores” is a word that literally means “wise fools!” 

I Corinthians 8:1 says that knowledge has the tendency to “puff up” people (compared to love which “builds up”).  I love that description.  Sophomores!  How many of us have met puffy people!  But puffiness is pride, which I frankly think is most difficult of all barriers for God to encounter in people.  It is the opposite of humility, which God loves.  And humility about the things of God is logical, given the greatness of God and the comparative puniness of man.  My own puffiness, which is sizable, diminishes quickly in the presence of Infinity.

But this intellectual puffiness I have seen in others besides myself, mostly from our universities.  At various ministerial retreats we sometimes have guest speakers whose expertise in an area apparently qualifies them to spiritualize portions of scripture to mean something other than their obvious meaning.  And to be knowledgeable means to be a skeptic.  I have heard a well-meaning theologian comment on a non-Adventist theologian colleague that he no longer believes in God, but that he is otherwise “brilliant.”  Not according to the Bible!

We need not cower to the great intellects in this world, as they often work counter to the purposes of God.  Can intellectuals be saved?  “With God all things are possible.”

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