Category Archives: Advent Movements

From Leader to Leader – Suicide Prevention: Because Every Life Matters to God

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

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It was responsible for nearly 45,000 deaths in 2016, with approximately one death every 12 minutes,1 many more people think about or attempt suicide and survive.  In 2016, 9.8 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 2.8 million made a plan and 1.3 million attempted suicide.2 Suicide is a problem throughout the life span and is no respecter religious affiliation.  In 2016 study was done with a beginning hypothesis that results from an earlier study would likely be confirmed, however contrary to earlier findings, in this study involving 321 depressed and bipolar adults, past suicide attempts were more common among depressed patients with a religious affiliation. Additionally, suicide ideation was more severe among depressed patients who said religion is more important, and among those who attend services more frequently. 3 This study’s results make a strong case for encouraging spiritual communities to have open dialogues about depression, suicide and other mental health issues. Incorrectly assuming that church attending Christian youth or adults don’t struggle with suicidal thoughts is simply not true.  

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 34 years of age, the fourth leading cause among people 35 to 54 years of age, and the eighth leading cause among people 55 to 64 years of age. Suicide rates vary by race/ethnicity, age, and other population characteristics, with the highest rates across the life span occurring among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic White populations.Other Americans disproportionately impacted by suicide include Veterans and other military personnel and workers in certain occupational groups. Sexual minority youth bear a large burden as well, and experience increased suicidal ideation and behavior compared to their non-sexual minority peers. 4

If these statistics don’t make you shudder, then allow me to bring it closer to home. Though all states are reporting an increasing rate of suicide in all ages, the state of Oregon is reflecting one of the highest increments, with rates of 28.2% compared with 24% nationwide; 5 In Oregon a person commits suicide every twelve hours 6.   Several other states in the Pacific Northwest have the highest ratios of suicide in the country!  Did you know that the states of Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada and New Mexico are known as the “Alley of Death”? CNN recently reported a study that first appeared in JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) indicating that suicide has become the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10-19. 7

A bird’s eye view on suicide could lead one to conclude that most people who attempt suicide, do so because they perceive that life is not going to change, that things are going to get worse and that their problems will only get more complicated. Suicide incidents such as Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade clearly indicate that fame and fortune are not antidotes against suicide and that people belonging to the elite subclass are not immune to the devastation that suicide leaves behind. Much of the country wondered how a world-renowned chef traveling to exotic parts of the world, eating the finest food on the planet and lounging in the most exclusive hotels could consider ending his life in the quaint, French village of Kaysersberg at the five-star, Le Chambard Hotel. Many also wondered how the acclaimed fashion designer, known for her chic personal and household accessories, who had built a global fashion empire worth $2.4 billion, could hang herself in her New York city apartment while her 13-year-old daughter was at school. 

Suicide is complicated, perplexing and deeply tragic.  As pastors, teachers, and lay Kingdom Builders, I am hoping we will become convicted as to the relevancy of this topic.  Like so many other uncomfortable subjects, this is one that must be addressed more openly and more frequently, from our classrooms and pulpits, if we are to make a dent in this alarming, growing epidemic. Sadly, even many good parents, don’t understand how depression and anxiety are manifested in the lives of their children and adolescents and how these can lead to suicidal ideation if they intensify.  A lack of clear and accurate information is often the reason many parents, teachers and even peers can very well miss the signs and symptoms of a suicidal person. Sadness, anger, irritability, change of demeanor, behavioral changes at home, at school and isolation; can all be red flags that should be identified and explored by not only parents, pastors or teachers, but also by well-informed peers.

Suicide not only impacts the surviving family members negatively, but it commonly leaves behind toxic shame that is frequently experienced by future generations.  Additionally, there is growing evidence that familial and genetic factors contribute to the risk for suicidal behavior. Major psychiatric illnesses, including bipolar disorder, major depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism and substance abuse, and certain personality disorders (particularly Borderline personality disorder), which run in families, increase the risk for suicidal behavior. 8 Thankfully, these factors are not a death sentence and this doesn’t mean that suicidal behavior is inevitable for individuals with this family history. What it does mean is that such persons may be more vulnerable and should take steps to reduce their risk, such as getting evaluation and treatment at the first sign of mental illness.

M.S. Kaplan, a specialist in the study of suicide has said: “Suicide is an effort to escape an intolerable opinion of one self.” 7 Perhaps this is one of the many complex reasons we are experiencing the alarming increased trend of suicide rates for youth in the United States, 12.7% for females and 7.1% for males.  This actually presents a change in patterns of suicide as the rates of male suicide have traditionally been higher than for females, since suicide data has been collected.  In 2017, men died by suicide 3.54x more often than women and white males accounted for 69.67% of suicide death in the same year.9  

It is also believed that cyber-bullying may be another factor contributing to the spike in young girls’ suicide, since they tend to visit social media sites more often than their male counterparts, which may make them more susceptible to experiencing an increase in the amount of negative thinking, which can lead to suicidal ideation and behaviors.

Dr. Gene Beresin, executive director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, believes that “Kids are feeling more pressure to achieve, more pressure in school, and are more worried about making a living than in previous years.” 7  Dr. Beresin believes that these factors alone, may not be so dangerous however, when put together with other factors, can become very lethal.

Another nuance in the tragic reality of suicide among our youth is the fact that girls are consistently using more aggressive means to commit suicide, like hanging or suffocation.10,11   This is just one way young girls are alerting us to the degree of emotional pain and stress they are experiencing in our society. When suicidal ideation saturates their thoughts, they become so convicted that life is not worth living that if they decide to act on their suicidal ideation, their suicide plan has become more lethal than previous generations when girls were more apt to poison themselves or cut their veins as their primary method of choice.12,13

Following is a list of precipitating factors, suicide prevention strategies, how to minister to the suicide victim’s family and other recommendations and resources to help you be a compassionate and competent resource in your ministry circle of influence.

I. Suicide among the youth

A. PRECIPITATING FACTORS

  1. Internal factors:
    • High score on the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Test
      1. History of physical, mental, emotional or sexual abuse
      2. History of physical, mental and emotional neglect or abandonment
      3. History of emotional trauma
      4. Adverse emotional consequences due to an early onset for use of drugs, alcohol, and/or pornography.  
    • Emotional chaos: Resentment, bitterness, betrayal, bullying, cyberbullying, toxic shame due to negative exposure in social media
    • Emotional disconnection: Few or no friends, a lack of emotional, spiritual or psychological resources
    • Constant battle with a poor self-image
      1. Lack of identity
      2. Lack of community: Few or no intimate, meaningful relationships.
      3. Lack of purpose: Few or no identified life goals or mission
    • Impairment in Mental Health:
      1. Depression
      2. Anxiety
      3. Bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder etc.
      4. Psychosis
      5. Psychological dissonance and ambivalence such as: Sexual orientation conflicts, sexual practices that are incongruent with personal or religious beliefs, discord between genetic biology and sexual orientation.
  2. External factors:
    • Emotionally traumatizing events
    • Rejection from: romantic partner, parental, family, friends, peers, social circle
    • Personal losses: romantic partner, friends, relocation, pets, jobs, community
    • Drug and/or alcohol dependence
    • Dependence on pharmaceutic substances, legal or illegal
    • Disloyalty or betrayal from romantic partners, family, friends or co-workers
    • Feelings of vengeance towards someone who has caused pain  
    • Negative impact of media, or social media
      1. Pop-culture models or heroes that commit suicide: Mac Miller, Robin Williams

B. WARNING SIGNS

  1. Change in demeanor: An always cheerful person suddenly becomes withdrawn
    • Deepening depression
    • Anxiety
  2. Self hatred
  3. Self-inflicting wounds: Cutting and other forms of self-harm
  4. Changes in behavioral patterns towards family, friends, & school peers
    • Favorite activities or hobbies no longer hold interest
      1. Listening or playing music, sports, friendships etc.
  5. Significant changes in school performance: grades drop
  6. Physical and emotional distancing from:  Family, friends, romantic partners
  7. Isolation  
  8. Suicidal ideation
  9. Fixation on death or death related issues
  10. Asymptomatic: No overt signs or symptoms

C. PASTOR/TEACHER/PARENT/PEER INTERVENTIONS:

  1. Suicide Prevention Strategies
    • Secure a working knowledge of the relationship dynamics in the home of origin.
    • Secure a working knowledge of the stressing factors in the life of the young person.
    • Seek to be a friend; gain their trust.
    • Evaluate the emotional/psychological condition by assessing for and asking about:  
      1. Suicidal ideation: “Have you been thinking about ending your life?”
      2. Suicide plan: “Do you have a plan in place as to how you will end your life?”
      3. Suicide method: “Exactly how are you planning to end your life?”
    • Be ready to refer the young person to professional counseling.
    • Be ready to call the police so they can “51/50” the person, if necessary.
      1. Encourage the person to voluntarily admit him/herself into a hospital for psychiatric observation and evaluation for 36 hours, but if refuses, call 911 and report you are with a person who is a danger to his/herself.
    • Five steps to help someone in crisis:
      1. Ask—demonstrate empathic curiosity
      2. Keep person safe (don’t leave them alone until they are under supervision)
      3. Keep in mind that one of the greatest gifts you can give is the gift of your caring presence
      4. Help the person to connect with: You, God, a counselor/teacher/pastor, family, friends and/or any other source of emotional support
      5. Make sure to follow up to ensure they sought help or are receiving psychological help
  2. Ministering to the family of a suicide victim
    • Funeral arrangements
      1. Offer your assistance in funeral planning  
      2. Funeral service
        • Assist, if needed, in securing a funeral venue/church facility
        • Assist, if needed, with family member transportation
        • Assist, if needed, with lodging arrangements for traveling relatives
        • Assist with snacks or meals during wake and/or funeral gatherings
    • Personal Visits
      1. Come ready to listen actively
        • Avoid offering “advise”
        • Avoid “preaching” to the hurting family
        • Avoid judging or the use of condemnatory statements
        • Focus on providing the ministry of compassionate presence
      2. Be ready to facilitate an emotional catharsis by providing an escape valve for negative emotions, pain, desperation, bitterness, disillusionment etc.
      3. Primary challenge:  Facilitating a connection between the hurting family and God
        • Invite hurting members to come to God with their hurt, broken and disappointed hearts while being aware your presence and care are a tangible manifestation of God’s comforting presence
      4. Be ready to accompany the hurting family through the five stages of grief (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross): Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, & acceptance
    • Offer emotional & spiritual support as needed
      1. Schedule frequent post-funeral visits and/or calls to the family during the next 3-6 months.
      2. Demonstrate empathy: “The ability to identify with or understand the perspective, experiences, or motivations of other individual and to comprehend and share another individual’s emotional state” (The Free Dictionary by Farlex).
      3. Demonstrate compassion, kindness, and love to grieving family members and friends  
    • Offer spiritual care and support
      1. Make appointments to stop by and visit: Mostly listen  
      2. Use Scripture passages carefully and sensibly
        • Share Bible promises, thoughts, books, cards or articles that offer, healing, peace, comfort, encouragement and hope through prayer
      3. Involve the community of believers to pray for the family, to visit, call, share food etc.
      4. Keep in mind that grieving is a highly individual experience. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. How one grieves depends on many factors including one’s culture, personality, coping style, one’s life experience, one’s faith, and how significant the loss was. Professional counseling is often very helpful when death of loved one is a suicide.

II. Suicide among Adults

A. Precipitating factors

  1. Internal factors:
    • A high score in the ACE (Advance Childhood Experiences) Test
      1. Neglect and emotional and or physical abandonment
      2. Trauma
    • Emotional chaos
    • Emotional disconnection and lack of emotional, psychological & spiritual resources
    • A long battle against a poor self-image
      1. Lack of community
      2. Lack of meaning purpose and life mission
    • Impairment in mental health: depression, anxiety, bi-polar, borderline or other personality disorders, psychosis, etc.
  2. External Factors:
    • Loneliness: Recent loss of spouse, relative, close friend or pet
      1. A number of losses, usually in sequence: Personal losses + professional losses + financial losses
    • Divorce or separation
    • Drugs and alcohol abuse
    • Use of legal or illegal pharmaceutic substances
    • An inability to see a better future and a general feeling of hopelessness and helplessness
    • Failing health: chronic or terminal illness, loss or organ or body part
    • Social media Influence
      1. Pop culture role models or personal heroes who commit suicide i.e.: Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Robin Williams 

B. Warning signs

  1. Change in typical demeanor: increased depression or anxiety
  2. Hate for self
  3. Changes in behavioral patterns with spouse, relatives, friends, co-workers, neighbors,
    • Loss of interest previously enjoyed activities: hobbies, music, sport, religious or social activities
  4. Physical and emotional distancing from: spouse, family, friends or neighbors 
  5. Social isolation
  6. Suicidal ideation
  7. Fixation on death and death related topics
  8. Asymptomatic: No identifiable symptoms

C. Pastoral Intervention

  1. See section I on suicide among youth

D. Ministering to families of suicide victims

  1. See section I on suicide among youth

III. Suicide Prevention Resources for pastors, teachers, parents & youth:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) OR Text “HOME” to 741741
  • National Center for Injury Prevention and Control: Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices
  • Crisis Connections School Resources
  • Recklessly Alive (website and blog by a once suicidal Christian millennial; great short videos to show at schools & churches for suicide awareness & hope)
  • Cru (Christian website full of testimonies and suicide prevention resources)
  • Suicide Prevention Workshops: at Western Seminary, email kbruce@westernseminary.edu
  • Suicide Prevention Resource Center (another rich suicide prevention resource specifically for faith communities wanting to do something!)
  • Just Between Us
  • The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Faith, Hope, Life Campaign recognizes the broad range of faiths interested in praying for individuals who may be struggling with suicide or whose lives have been touched by suicide. Click here to download free resources to help your community participate in this event.
  • The National Benevolent Association organizes peer groups for leaders that provide an opportunity to cultivate support and encouragement, mutual dialogue, spiritual renewal, and peer-to-peer learning. The NBA also offers a “Mental Health Initiative and Affinity Group,” which supports the prioritization of mental health and wellness in the life of the church, establishing the necessary awareness and understanding required to counter stigma, and change the landscape of conversation regarding mental illness and disorders within the church.
  • The Center for Courage and Renewal provides programs that give those in ministry roles the opportunity to reflect and reconnect with their calling within an honest and non-judging community.
  • The Soul Care Institute facilitates a two-year journey of a group of peers. Over the course of two years, students will ‘come away from the front lines’ of their ministries, work, and family life in order to engage in retreats that are designed to re-fill their souls for ministry.
  • Gateway to Hope: A comprehensive, interactive training for empowering, educating and equipping clergy and peers with the tools to respond to those in distress and help build a community-based response to the mental health crisis our country faces.
  • Celebrate Recovery offers 12-step healing group programs specifically for members of the clergy

Recommended Reading:

  • “When the darkness will not lift” by John Piper
  • Link to a really insightful article
    “Who Pastors the Pastor? Even Ministers Suffer From Suicidal Thoughts.” by Kay Warren of Saddleback Church
  • Broken Minds: Hope for Healing When You Feel Like You’re Losing It by Steve Bloem (Kregel Publications, 2005)  This book shares a family’s struggle with mental illness while trying to find their place in the body of Christ.  Mental illness can be more subtle and much more prevalent than many expect. Christians who are clinically depressed or have been diagnosed with a mental illness can feel the guilt from Christian leaders who claim their problems are spiritual instead of physical or emotional.  This informative book is both scripturally and clinically sound as it breaks down old perceptions of mental illness and depression and provides hope for healing.
  • Mind Character and Personality” Vol. I, II by E.G. White

                                                        Bibliography:

  1. CDC. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting system (WISQARS). (2018) Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. https://cdc.gov/injury/wisquars/index.html
  2. Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. (2017) Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use & Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 17-5044, NSDUH Series H-52). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4990512/#R33
  4. Stone DM, Holland KM, Bartholow B, Crosby AE, Davis S, Wilkins N. (2017) Preventing Suicide: A technical package of policies, programs, and practices. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  5. https://www.metropediatrics.com/oregons-rising-suicide-rate/
  6. https://lanecounty.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_3585797/File/Budget/FY%2017-18%20Proposed/Oregon-Facts-2017.pdf
  7. https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/17/health/suicide-rates-young-girls-study/index.html
  8. https://www.hhs.gov/answers/mental-health-and-substance-abuse/can-the-risk-for-suicide-be-inherited/index.html
  9. https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/
  10. Kaplan, M.S., McFarland, B.H., & Huguet, N. (2009). Firearm suicide among veterans in the general population: Findings from the National Violent Death Reporting System. The Journal of Trauma, 67, 503-507.
  11. Curtin SC, Hedegaard H, Minino A, Warner M, Simon T.  QuickStats: suicide rates for teens aged 15-19 years, by sex—United States, 1975-2015.  MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;66(30):816. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6630a6PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
  12. Curtis SC, Warner M, Hedegaard  H. Increase in suicide in the United States, 1999–2014. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db241.htm. Published April 2016. Accessed November 17, 2018. 
  13. Karch DL, Logan J, McDaniel DD, Floyd CF, Vagi KJ.  Precipitating circumstances of suicide among youth aged 10-17 years by sex: data from the National Violent Death Reporting System, 16 states, 2005-2008.  J Adolesc Health. 2013;53(1) (suppl):S51-S53. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.06.028PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref

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From Leader to Leader – Help, my church is dying!

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

When my younger son was about five years old, we bought him a beautiful, tiny, white Maltese puppy that we named Pearly. She was so tiny that when we traveled, we placed her in one of our backpacks and no one knew we had a dog with us. She was obedient, potty-trained and very well-behaved. Pearly became very attached to me.  At one point, when I was bed-ridden for several months, Pearly would lay next to me all day long and would only leave my side to go out for her biological needs, eat and then she would jump right back into my bed. Pearly was the perfect dog that brought so much joy to the whole family, except for one “mental health issue” . . . she had a self-perception problem.  In her deluded mindset, she was also a victim to self-deception. She truly believed she was infinitely bigger and stronger than her 4.5 pound, petite frame reflected. 

One day, one of my neighbors was walking by our house with his stately Doberman, who just happened to be going through end-stage colon cancer (the dog, not my neighbor). When Pearly saw the dog and his owner walking by her territory, she bolted after him, forgetting she was aggressively barking at a dog who was 20 x her size and weight.  The unthreatened but annoyed Doberman reacted impulsively and dug his teeth into Pearly’s back (as he routinely did with his favorite fluffy, white stuffed toy… her owner later told us) and shook her violently many times.  We all stood there aghast and thought this could be the end of Pearly.  After the owner had belted out, “Put her down, boy” several times, the Doberman finally let her go. Pearly scurried back to the house with her tail between her legs, possibly ashamed she’d been defeated despite her valiant fight, and yelping in distress. During next 24 hours, we noticed that besides the surface tooth bites that weren’t too deep, Pearly wasn’t feeling well. Later the next day she began to quiver and mostly stayed in her bed.  It was then than we realized that she must have sustained internal damage and might be going into shock.  We rushed her to the veterinarian just to have our worse fears confirmed.  She had sustained so much internal damage during that severe shaking episode that the most humane thing to do was to put her to sleep.

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From Leader to Leader – Vision 2020

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

As I write this, I find myself near the lake of Galilee where evangelism was born.  The preacher was an itinerant rabbi preaching to peasants, fishermen, tax collectors and prostitutes. His primary ministerial district was a relatively small area around the lake where small communities worked hard for their daily survival.  If I had been given the task of preaching the gospel to all the world, I would have likely started my ministry in Jerusalem, or even Cesarea Maritima; but Capernaum? Yet, in a matter of a few decades, Jesus’ evangelistic methods proved to be successful: “During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds. . .” (Acts 6:1 MSG).  Jesus’ methods worked, His message was relevant, powerful, and transformational!  Time has passed and the Gospel continues to radically change lives and relationships.

By now you have probably heard about vision 2020.  It is an ambitious, strategic evangelistic initiative by the North Pacific Union Conference and its six conferences to adopt an evangelistic lifestyle in our local churches in order to turn around the declining growth and attendance of our churches.

Vision 2020 consists of five quarters of intentional, dynamic church activity supported by evangelistic tools designed by the Voice of Prophecy to help church members focus their lives around spreading the good news of Jesus throughout their NPUC communities.

RENEW—which began the 1rst quarter of 2019 was designated for personal renewal and spiritual growth through prayer, Bible study and sharing.  To spark this ongoing progress, the North Pacific Union launched the reading of the book “Steps to Personal Revival” by Helmut Haubeil.  This author not only encouraged the evaluation of the condition of the spiritual man, but also aimed to create a hunger for Holy Spirit baptism.  

REFOCUS—2nd quarter of 2019 is designed to encourage churches to discover and prayerfully align with their biblical purpose and mission through mission alignment seminars and encouraging church pastors to seek resources on how to revitalize their churches.

RELATE— Beginning the 3rd quarter of 2019 will focus on each member and church learning to apply Jesus’ method of relating to people. Challenging every member to enlist in the joy of becoming involved in mission, encouraging and empowering congregations to launch community focused seminars on health & nutrition, marriage & parenting, finances, singles, or any other seminar that will bless the local communities; are just some of the ways we can connect to the needs in our communities to create and grow ongoing friendships.

RECLAIM— the 4th quarter of 2019 is focused on reclaiming those members and friends that at one point were regularly attending our churches but have stopped coming.  This stage may entail the systematic revision of names and church records identifying potential names of people that can be contacted through a card, a phone call, a caring visit to let these missing members know that they are missed and that we would love to see them back in our churches.

REACH—is the phase in which evangelistic meetings will be held in every church.  The Voice of Prophecy has prepared a series of brand new, Power Point evangelistic presentations that our pastors and lay leaders throughout our union will be able to utilize to preach a series of meetings that will bring the unique, Christ-centered, Adventist message of hope and wholeness to all the people of our union and the world. 

Our Adventist movement has about a million members in North America, but unfortunately, only a few disciples that are willing to follow Jesus into the mission of the church.  Just like in the early church’s evangelistic thrust, we are conscious that none of these planned efforts will be possible without a special anointing of the Spirit as a result of heart-felt prayer!  Spirit-led pastors and members will be empowered by the Spirit to fulfill their mission and purpose.  

We have been told that “If Christians were to act in concert for the accomplishment of one purpose. . . they would move the world.” (Gospel Workers, 277).

We have for too long loaded our church activities with sermons and board meetings. However, it is interesting to note that before Jesus preached a sermon or performed a miracle, He made disciples.  Making disciples seems to have been Jesus’ priority.  As I said before, I am writing this in a hotel close to the lake of Galilee.  As I observed the distance between the main cities and villages where He preached and made miracles, with the exception of Nazareth, the territory that He covered around the lake was very insignificant. I became aware of how small the towns and villages were around the northern part of the lake, in particular Capernaum where the Bible tells us that “He withdrew to Galilee.  He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zabulun and Nepthatli . . .” (Matthew 4:12,13).

So, Jesus didn’t try to impact the whole world with His message, though He did.  He didn’t try to preach to all the world, although He has.  He didn’t try to make a difference in the life of millions of people, although this is what He accomplished. He only sought to change the hearts of twelve men and impact the community that He had at hand.  Nothing else was more important that to try to change the minds and character of the men and women that were around Him.  Once He did this, the whole world was radically changed. 

Recognizing the importance of making disciples Jesus said: “It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master.” (Matt. 10:25). When Jesus called his disciples, He did so with the intent that they would be like Him. The true disciple is like his master and does what his Master does.  Paul became a disciple of Christ, and then wrote to the Corinthians: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Vision 2020 will be a success as long as our church leaders and members recognize that we are here to make disciples, not just to make a living and raise a family.  God’s prophet stated: “The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character, they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them.” (COL 415.5, italics applied).

The following five quarters in our lives can be lived with intentionality and give us a reason to live lives with deep meaning and purpose and offer us an opportunity to join hands, between members, pastors, churches, conferences and the North Pacific Union Conference.  Let’s come together and tell others, through the use of our love-infused talents and spiritual gifts, what a wonderful God we have and His plan to redeem our desperate, lonely and broken humanity.  We are told that “God could have proclaimed His truth through sinless angels, but this is not His plan.” (AA 330.2). God has designed that we, His disciples, will join Him, in fishing for men.  

God doesn’t need us to accomplish the mission; we need the mission to accomplish God purposes in our lives.  It is time to change the course of the declining church attendance, church growth and church participation.  If we seek the Lord with all our hearts and ask Him to pour His love for lost souls into our hearts, He will open doors of opportunity we cannot imagine. Join us in praying for an outpouring of His Spirit as we pray to join God in reaching all the people of the North Pacific Union Conference and the world with the distinct, Christ-centered, Adventist message of hope and wholeness! 

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Why Not Try This? – Shaping Culture for Mission in 2019 and Beyond

by Ben Lundquist, Director of Young Adult Ministries for the Oregon Conference

Recently I have been obsessed with building church culture. I’ll get to the reason why in just a moment. Google the phrase “church culture” and your search will return with thousands, if not tens of thousands, of websites, articles, blog posts, and video links about the topic. There are even entire conferences dedicated to building church culture, taking place every year around the country. 

I’m an avid podcast listener, usually catching a few podcasts a day, and building church culture is one of the most frequent topics for church leaders, and for good reason.  Jesus built a culture that drew people in. Luke 15:1-2 says plainly that all of the “sinners” made a habit of hanging around Jesus. This is healthy culture at it’s finest. 

Think of church culture as the atmosphere in which a church functions, it is how the church does things. Figuratively speaking, you can smell culture when you spend enough time with any particular church. Culture is the single strongest driving force in a church, even more than vision, strategy, or a pastor’s leadership style. A church’s health, growth potential, and kingdom impact will all rise and fall based on culture. 

Currently, I serve the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the niche of young adult ministry. Today’s young adults, generally referring to those in their 20’s, are possibly the most gifted, driven, networked, and creative generation this world has ever seen. This generation wants to change the world for the better; they believe they can, and so many of them already are making their mark. 

Meanwhile our church has been sounding the alarm for Continue Reading…

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Beyond the Pulpit – Are We Bargains?

by 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

How does one value something?  What determines its price? 

Have you ever seen “Pawn Stars” on the History Channel?  When someone brings an item in to sell, you can see it is based entirely on “demand.” 

I have a couple of hobbies where I can illustrate this.  I am a collector of ancient Biblical coins.  This includes Christian symbolism on early Roman coins, like coins of Constantine.  Despite his so-called conversion his coins did not depict Christian symbols…except for one!  And this super rare coin came up recently in an auction.  I’ve NEVER seen this coin offered before, so I was interested.          

The coin shows on the reverse a “chi rho” at the top of a battle standard, piercing an evil snake and having the legend say “for the hope of the public.”  This is purely Christian, unlike his other pagan themes.  The auction catalog put a value of it at $1,000.  What do they base this on?  “What previous examples have gone for.”  In other words, the value is placed on what people have shown they’ve been willing to pay before, called the “purchase history.’  I thought the estimated price far too low and became an active bidder, hoping people didn’t recognize the coin for what it was.  But they did!  And I was severely outbid to the tune of over $11,000.

Value.  I also collect elements, partly for my work here in Creationism.  I love the precious metals family.  But once again, demand is everything.  The super rare metal Iridium will suffice for an example.  It is over 1,000 times rarer than gold, but is actually worth about the same.  Why?  Because everyone wants gold.

And this brings me to the main point.  How much are WE worth?  Do you remember the old evangelists’ illustrations about how our bodies’ chemicals are only worth a few dollars?  Modern science has declared humans as being mere hairless apes, even animated pond scum, walking mutants with no future, purpose or hope.  And given that low value constantly preached to our youth, suicide rates are high among the young.  Low self-esteem and personal value issues are common.

Well, value is based upon demand, nothing else.  And there is only one Person Who knows exactly what we are worth.  When God lost us to Satan, He placed a bid to win us back.  He “Who owns the cattle on a thousand hills,” Who owns galaxies and riches beyond measure offered up something He only has one of…something irreplaceable.  He offered up His mostly valuable gift:  His Son. 

Did He offer up His Son just because He’s so loving and kind…or is His value of us accurate?  Well, this one thing I know: “He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many.”  God will be more than happy with purchasing us, even at such a high price.  Perhaps we should view each other (and ourselves) with this established purchase history in mind.

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Soul Winning – Treasure Valley Collaboration Brings Many to Christ

Idaho Conference reports that recent efforts have resulted in many commitments for Christ. By the end of the Prophecies Unsealed meetings with evangelist Brian McMahon in February, 38 individuals joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church by baptism, rebaptism or profession of faith. More than 20 others are continuing to study toward baptism. Read more about this collaborative project by clicking below. Watch for a more in-depth story and video report in the weeks ahead. Continue Reading…

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Momentum – The Play Must Go On!

by Lloyd Perrin, Pastor of the Milton Seventh-day Adventist Church

Milton Church’s evangelistic strategy for 2018 involved two components: a spring and fall emphasis on reaping series. We started in the spring with “Three Great Weekends to Easter”. Each week prior to the weekend’s drama event a full-page newspaper advertisement was published. I would play a one-man drama series of two characters who played significant parts in the Easter drama.

On the weekend of March 16, I played Pilate and then on the weekend of March 23, I played Judas. These two one-man plays were to be a build-up to the final Easter weekend drama on March 30, where I would play the part of Jesus along with a full cast of actors as we portrayed the Last Supper that Jesus would spend with His disciples.

Countless hours were spent getting ready for these dramas. I have played dramas around the world, but somehow these dramas touched me in a way I have never been moved.

If a speaker wants to affect a change in his audience the change must first begin within the speaker. As I wrote the script for Pontius Pilate, I found myself understanding him, his dilemma and his struggle in a new way. Pilate caved into the pressures around him, he made a decision that compromised his personal values of being a fair and impartial judge. He made a huge mess of his life.

In my study of Pilate, I discovered that he may have become a Christian. His heart may have been changed after his encounter with Jesus. It gives us all hope. No matter what kind of mess we make of our life when we accept Christ into our life, there is hope.

It may seem strange to play a character like Judas for a community drama. Yet, I found as I stepped into his life, this man, so full of contradictions, could deeply move us. Judas chose to be close to Christ. He desired to be His disciple, but he couldn’t let go of the pull of the world, his desire for prestige, honor and wealth. He wanted to be with Jesus, but on his own terms. He thought he knew better what was best for Jesus.

These two men, a coward and a betrayer, reveal how God’s purposes move forward despite man’s attempt at trying to control and orchestrate events according to his own will.

The portrayal of Judas was particularly emotionally draining for me. I was so looking forward to my next weekend where I would play the part of Jesus.

Friday, March 30, the morning of the day I was to play the part of Jesus I woke up with the play on my mind. That was when my life took a decided turn. The medical event that I experienced took me on a journey that has literally changed my life. My one thought, as I lay on a gurney in the ER, was… the play must go on!

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Changed Lives – Time to Speak with God

by Walter Ramos Escobar, Pastor of the Adventist Hispanic Church in Beaverton.

Elizabeth attended the “Time to Speak with God” evangelistic series from the first day with her two children. The theme of the second coming of Christ filled her life in such a way that after the first series she expressed the joy of having found what she was looking for, and the desire to continue studying the Bible.

Despite the joy of the gospel in her life, Elizabeth experienced the emptiness of not being able to share this same joy with her husband, since he did not sympathize with Protestant churches. In the church the members began to pray for him, asking God for an opening so Elizabeth could share the gospel with her husband. Finally she was encouraged to invite him, he accepted, and that day the prayer warriors were more active than ever.

God heard their prayers and Elizabeth and her two sons were baptized together and her husband is preparing for baptism, is involved in the church and active in a small.

“My family has been living joyfully since the gospel arrived,” says Elizabeth. “l am happy to see them full of joy,” says her husband.

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Upcoming Events – EvangeLead

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Upcoming Events – NW ASI Convention

Love Serves is the theme for this year’s ASI NW Convention coming to the campus of Walla Walla University, April 18–20. Karl Haffner will be the keynote speaker. The organization will be conducting a two-day free dental and medical clinic. And, the event will award $10,000 in prize money for the most creative WWU student ideas in an Adventist version of Shark Tank. For more information and to register for the event, go to asinorthwest.org/conference.

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