Category Archives: Leadership

From Leader to Leader: Out of the Darkness & INTO THE LIGHT: How PORN is stealing, killing & destroying the present and future relational & sexual health of our children & youth

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

Any war strategist will confirm that knowing one’s enemy is vital to victory. This month we have decided to stimulate what we hope will spur further curiosity and candid conversations about and intentional, strategic plans to boldly expose to our families (parents, children and teens) attending our churches and schools how our enemy’s masterfully designed porn epidemic is hijacking the gift of emotional and sexual connection that God wired humans to enjoy in the context of emotionally and sexually healthy marriages.

The insidious use of porn is, unbeknownst to it’s unsuspecting consumers, stealing the love, tenderness and affection that God intended men and women to share with each other, killing healthy gender and relationship perceptions and practices, and destroying the God-wired capacity to derive sexual arousal and pleasure with one, 3-D, human spouse for a lifetime.

While many other religious communities have become increasingly aggressive in their attack against this invisible enemy, I believe that it is time that we Adventist spiritual leaders assertively join the ranks of those who have determined that they can no longer remain silent regarding this growing epidemic that is imperceptibly destroying the healthy relationship dynamics our boys and girls, youth and adults are experiencing, as well as the degree of emotional and sexual satisfaction they will experience in their future (and current) marriage relationships.  Is it any wonder that so many Millennials and Gen Z’ers seem to be increasingly trigger shy when it comes to committing to a life-long marriage? Remaining sexually exclusive with one person for a whole lifetime seems to be getting more difficult for the current generations to imagine or desire.

Who Consumes Pornography

Over the past 10 years there has been a large increase in the pornographic material that is available to both adults and children.  Porn use has grown increasingly common because it is anonymous—no one need know, accessible—one click away, and affordable—much free porn lures users in. Continue reading

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From Beyond the Pulpit – The Power of Women

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

Hollywood generally makes their movies using tried and true formulas, meant to draw the masses in for a look. One of the most popular formulas currently is to depict powerful women fighting against various evils, some sociological, some more menacing physically. Often having super powers, women are shown to be able to kick bad guys into next week. But an apparently necessary part of that super image is to be super gorgeous. Gal Gadot, for example.

It’s that kind of power I want to talk about. It’s something God designed. When Adam first saw Eve, according to Professor of Theology Dr. Jo Ann Davidson, his first word (lost in English translations) was “Wow!” He liked what he saw.

With a fairly normal curiosity, though in my fallen nature, I remember the first time I saw a picture of a naked woman. My recently-divorced dad was living with a couple of buddies in a bachelor apartment; as a nine year old I was exploring their digs when I saw a magazine called “Playboy.” I had a strong sense that I shouldn’t open the pages, but I did anyway…. Fast forward to my college freshman days and a hike with friends up a canyon near Palm Springs. There not far from Doug Batchelor’s famous cave were a pair of free-spirited hippies cavorting in a swimming hole. The couple sported their birthday suits.

Images. Images that are powerful, hard to erase. And there is someone who knows their power and wants desperately to use that power to hurt God’s precious things. Satan uses images to entrap people, especially men, to look at things that we shouldn’t.

When I was pastoring my first church we were in a major building project. One day about five of us men, including my head elder, were discussing things in the center of the unfinished sanctuary. In came the head elder’s daughter, maybe 20 years old, with a message for her dad. She was a beautiful young lady, tall, blond and…she had on cut-off shorts. Our group of men stopped talking and were clearly discomfited (look it up!). I had to stifle a laugh at this exhibition of a woman’s power.

There is something mysterious and sacred, something hard to quite grasp in all of this. Solomon said that a “man with a maiden” (Proverbs 30:19) was one of the things he couldn’t quite figure out. And this from a man who had literally hundreds of women!

We all know about David and Bathsheba. Good men can look where they shouldn’t look. David’s sin started with a look. It always does.

On today’s internet nothing is difficult to find. How easy it is to see an advertisement or some kind of story that features a beautiful woman that tempts us to click into more images that entangle us. I have wished that God would grant us a delete button in our brains, but He allows us to live with the consequences, with the hope that we will learn to direct our gaze elsewhere.

But since there IS power there, God has very specific instructions as to how this power can safely be enjoyed. And that you all know is in an active, monogamous and loving relationship, where both parties are united in a sacred commitment to each other. Any images that draws us away from that or builds false expectations about sex, for example, will lead us down unhealthy paths. And those paths can lead to destruction of so many beautiful things.

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What Works for Me…Pastoral Tip

by Pastor Aaron Payne, Chaplain at Columbia Adventist Academy

After sitting down and talking for a while about the youth’s problem I will bring our conversation around to overcoming the addiction. Usually if a young person has come to talk to me it is because they truly want to break free from this habit. I will ask them to do 4 things.

1. Recognize what times and situation they are tempted the most and avoid those times and places. Ex. Don’t stay up late on the internet.

2. When they are tempted have a Bible verse to quote and claim in the face of the temptation. A few verses I have suggested are Is.41:10,13, or Phil. 4:13. I teach them how to claim a promise since many are unfamiliar with doing this.

3. Find an accountability partner. Of course this person needs to be a person who has a strong walk with Jesus, is trustworthy, and does not share the same problem.

4. Ask them to commit to reading a book called “Every Young Man’s Battle” by Stephen Arterburn, assuming I am dealing with a young man. There is also a book out there for young ladies, “Every Young Woman’s Battle“.

Only after they have taken these steps will I be willing to anoint them, asking for healing and victory. I find that if I anoint them first they may not follow through with the first four steps.

Finally I will communicate to the parents (with permission from the young person) and ask them to change their internet server to integrity online, which is a pre-filtered server. There should also be multiple planned follow ups.

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What Works for Me…Pastoral Tip

by Pastor Matthew Gamble who served for 18 years as an Adventist Pastor

Satan has a great way of sneaking this stuff into our lives at an early age to get us hooked in hopes to warp our sense of intimacy, love, and sex. For me pornography/lust came in at the age of 7. With the material now so easily accessible on the internet truly Satan is going to succeed in getting more people trapped in his world wide web. Or is he?

In helping people with this addiction, I have found several resources to be invaluable. I will list them below:

1. XXX Church is a Christian based ministry that is seeking to help people with addiction to pornography. They provide free software that can be downloaded onto your computer that will provide accountability for you while you surf the internet. If any questionable sights are viewed, the addresses will be sent to your accountability partners.

2. Prodigals International offers training and materials to help local churches establish effective ministries to sexual addicts and their spouses. The director is a good friend of mine and has recently linked up with researchers from Loma Linda University as well as the General Conference to see how these materials can be applied in Adventist churches nationwide.

3. Sexaholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover.

4. Read the books, “Every Man’s Battle” by Stephen Arterburn and “Not Even a Hint” by Joshua Harris.

Above all else I encourage people to recognize that we are more than conquerors through Christ. As we accept His gift of victory on a daily basis and learn to trust Him over self, we WILL have the victory.

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From Leader to Leader – River or Desert? Your Choice!

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

When the sun set on the last day of 2018, I had already decided that 2019 could not simply be a repeat of the last. I had no special list in mind, as I knew better than to think I could even come up with worthy resolutions.

I did, however, think about what my personal and ministry life could become if I were to surrender ALL of my plans and agendas. . . ALL of myself to a Holy Spirit-directed revival? How would those yet unknown changes affect my life, my family, my ministry, my neighbors? I thought, if there is more that the Holy Spirit can infuse into my life to make it fuller, more meaningful and Kingdom-impacting, I wanted it! After all, when Jesus spoke concerning the effect the Holy Spirit would have on His followers, He said that out of their hearts would flow “rivers of living water” (John 7:38,39).

A few months ago, our NPUC President, John Freedman, was impressed to invite NPUC Executive Committee members, department heads and staff to 20 days of Call in Study and Prayer in 2019. We were all given Helmut Haubeil’s book, “Steps to Personal Revival” and were invited to read through this book “in community” through a call-in system, over 20 sessions of reading, meditation, discussion and prayer to consider how we might experience a personal revival that could become contagious in our circles of influence.

Jesus’ Return is eminent! I believe that in order to awaken from our Laodicean condition, we need to pray and fast for a Holy Spirit revival that will begin with me!

Haubeil proposes there are three types of people in respect to their personal relationships with God. “Within each of these groups there are many different shades depending on the parental training, character, training of oneself, age, culture, education, etc. But even with all the differences there are only three basic attitudes towards God:

1. No relationship—the Bible calls this the natural man.
2. Full, real relationship—the Bible call this person spiritual.
3. Divided or feigned relationship—the Bible describes this as a person of the flesh or carnal.

The author invites his readers to an authentic self-evaluation. After all, we can’t get too exited about a Spirit-driven revival unless we’ve identified our actual spiritual condition.

It has been an interesting journey for my wife and I so far. We are being deeply challenged to rethink the way we think about ourselves, others and Spirit-driven Kingdom-building. I am being challenged to surrender every corner of mind, heart and soul to the transforming influence of the Holy Spirit daily and to trust Him, ever deeper, with the steering wheel. The truth is, our spouses, children, neighbors and communities need to see and experience the lovely and loving character of Christ reflected in His followers, not just a beautiful set of fundamental beliefs presented by a charismatic preacher.

How might your personal life, family and ministry be affected by a Spirit-choreographed personal revival?

6 Then he said, ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty—you will succeed because of my Spirit, though you are few and weak.’ Zechariah 4:6 (Living Bible TLB)

At 9:00 PM tonight, our cell phones will again ring to remind us to connect to this evening’s community study & prayer session.

I urge you to consider reading this small, relevant book and sharing it with your friends, family, church elders/leaders and members. You might even consider creating a reading & prayer community, as we have done. Can you begin to imagine the HOLY FIRE the Spirit can ignite???

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Resources – Who should be allowed to preach in Adventist pulpits?

It is a special responsibility and privilege to preach from an Adventist pulpit, even if it is in a newly planted church.

Here is wise counsel from the Church Manual “Under no circumstances should a minister, elder, or other church officer invite strangers or any unauthorized persons to conduct services in our churches. Individuals who have been removed from the ministry, or who have been dismissed from church fellowship in other places, or designing persons who have no authority from the church, should not be permitted with plausible words to gain admittance to our pulpits. Great care should be exercised to prevent this. Each one worthy of the confidence of our churches will be able to identify himself or herself by producing proper credentials. There may be times when it is proper for our congregations to be addressed by government officials or by civic leaders. All others should be excluded from the pulpit unless permission be granted from the conference/ mission/field office. It is the duty of every elder, minister, and conference/mission/field president to see that this rule is carried out. (See pp. 147, 150, 215-217.)” 2005 edition, pages 77-78.

Anyone who preaches from an Adventist pulpit, whether Sabbath morning speaker or guest evangelist, should qualify in one or more of these ways-

  1. He/she is a member of the local congregation, and is known by the church body.
  2. He/she is able to show a current credential from a Seventh-day Adventist Church organization.
  3. He/she has a recent (within the past year) letter of recommendation from his/her home church.

We see evidence of this kind of accountability in the early church (2 John, 3 John) and in the early credentialing process of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Following this counsel will save us from many problems in the future.

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From Leader to Leader – The Father’s GIFT

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

The drama surrounding the first years of my life could inspire a melodramatic novel. I was very young when my father started courting the daughter of an army General. Of course, no one in his alternate community suspected he was married and already had three children with my mother. As his relationship with the General’s daughter deepened, his visits to this family’s home became very frequent. One day, the General’s wife and my father became romantically involved. Thus, during the day, my father was dating the General’s daughter; shielded by darkness, he was the General’s wife’s secret lover. When the General discovered my father’s bent behavior, he deployed a death squad to kill him. When the General’s wife overheard her husband’s orders, she immediately sent a message to my father and told him to get out of the country right away. My father did. And he never returned. That day I lost my father for good.

There is a Bible text that has always moved me deeply, perhaps because it addresses several factors that are very important to me. Paul wrote: “But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus, we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.” (Galatians 4:4-7, MSG).

This text addresses a reality that is vital to our being. The ultimate Father enters into the lives of His children to actively participate in their perilous journeys. He does this by way of His Son, who has one mission in mind, to redeem those who “had been kidnapped by the law.” The Father, instead of leaving his wayward children behind, sends His Son down to seek and save.

My father left us because he had broken moral and civil laws. The heavenly Father comes down to us, because we had broken the moral law. My father was persecuted by the law enforcers; but we were sought by the Law Giver. Emotionally speaking, I lost everything when my father left; man lost everything when he sinned, however God, through the coming of His Son, not only rescued us from dying an eternal death but came to offer us the right to be called God’s children.

There is something else in this text I find spectacular, that is the fact that God the Father has a time set for His own divine and loving purposes. The text reads “When the time arrived that was set by God the Father. . .” The New International Version renders it: “But when the set time had fully come. . .”. I remember that as a child I would stand at the gate of the fence surrounding my corner house, waiting for my father to return. Sundays were especially difficult. The neighborhood fathers and sons parading by my home on their way to the park across the street to enjoy father-son sports. My father never showed up. He was too busy hiding in another country, afraid of facing the consequences he had sown in his country. Not so with the “ultimate Father,” who when the time arrived, came to seek out His children condemned by their sin-bent actions. In taking their human form, He shared their fate; taking upon Himself their punishment and condemnation so that they could be restored into their original relationship as beloved and cherished children.

May we approach 2019 with the assurance that God remains in control of our time, lives and events. May the indwelling presence of the Spirit encourage and empower us to believe that the Father is still invested saving, healing and restoring His wayward children. May we determine to enjoy all the holistic (spiritual, emotional, physical & relational) benefits that Abba’s fathering experience offers us broken and unconditional love and acceptance starved children. May we keep our hearts wide open to the continual GIFTS of the Spirit, who will help us to cry out. . . Papa. . . Daddy. . .Pápi!

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From Leader to Leader – A Desert Experience

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

Desert experiences . . . we’ve all have heard of these, some turn out to be good and positive, others we are not so sure about; but one thing is for sure, desert experiences change us. They reshape our mindsets and teach us valuable lessons. Take Moses for instance, he spent 40 years in the desert. Some of us may think that perhaps the length of this experience was not necessary; perhaps a bit excessive, nevertheless, we can’t deny Moses’ complete transformation of character and spirit as a result of his desert experience.

Some of us hate the idea of being in a desert because they tend to be painful, disorienting, filled with doubts and unending questions that arrive far before the resultant blessings can be identified. Not to mention the fact that desert experiences seem to come around when we have lost our way and often when we have come to the end of our rope. The idea of having to slow down as we tread in deep sand scares us and forces us into confronting ourselves, which is something we avoid at all costs.

Peter Scazzero in his book, “The Emotional Healthy Leader,” quotes Henri Nouwen, regarding the experience of the third century monk, Anthony the Great of Egypt, “He renounced possessions to learn detachment; he renounced speech in order to learn compassion; he renounced activity in order to learn prayer. In the desert, Anthony both discovered God and did intense battle with the devil. When Anthony emerged from his solitude after twenty years, people recognized in him the qualities of an authentic and healthy man.” 1 Another author describes Anthony this way, “It was not his physical dimension that distinguished him from the rest, but the stability of character and purity of the soul. His soul being free of confusion, he held his outer senses also undisturbed. . . he was never troubled, his soul being calm, and he never looked gloomy, his mind being joyous.”

I found myself in a desert experience during my sophomore year in college. For the previous four years I had canvased every summer in order to pay my tuition for my last two years of Adventist high school plus my two years in our Adventist college. During my sophomore year, I felt impressed that I should complete my theology program in English. The only sustainable option I had to accomplish this goal was to head to the West Indies College in Jamaica. I managed to convince some other friends to join me in this venture. For some reason I still don’t know today, all my classmates were accepted, except for me. I was angry, confused and decided to challenge God and said to Him, “I am not coming back to this college next year, I am going home and will not plan to canvass or do anything until You open the doors of another university for me where I can finish my degree in English. I knew I was shooting myself in the foot by not canvassing, since that was the only way I could finance my education in Costa Rica, Jamaica or anywhere else.

Once at home, I felt restless, confused and anxious. The summer days were whizzing by. I became afraid that perhaps Continue reading

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From Beyond the Pulpit – What Pastors Want for Christmas (NOT Leadership Skills!)

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

For 38 years people called me “pastor,” as well as some other things. “Pastor” means “shepherd,” which often connotes sheep feeding. And while I’m on that, let me elucidate that no one feeds sheep! The proper translation of Jesus’ command to Peter is “tend My sheep.” Guard them while they feed themselves, which is what sheep and shepherds do. Literally, “pasture them!”

Which gets me into the subject of the day: Leadership is not, repeat NOT, the single missing piece in our churches in North America, the part that most often (were it present) would lead to continual, God-blessed growth. And this despite every Conference-supported leadership seminar that has come down the road and been urged upon us. Then, what IS missing?

In a word: “Followership.” Conference administrations love to promote good leadership techniques among the pastors and make this sound critical to success. Goals, you simply must have goals! And this is understandable, as pastors are employees, and conferences can’t exactly order congregations around. So perhaps there’s a wish for a trickle down effect or something?

An often-quoted aphorism is “want to know if you’re a leader? Turn around and see if anyone is following!” So, let’s see how that has worked in various Biblical stories. ‘And they all forsake Him and fled.’ Poor leadership? ‘And the dragon drew a third of the stars (angels) away from God.’ Was God having a poor day leading angels?

Let’s see among God’s appointed human leaders. Did they ever want to stone Moses? Or David? How many did Noah attract to his ark-based church plant? And we could go on. What’s missing in all of these examples? Good followership. People and angels have to cooperate with leadership for things to get done.

I, like so many young pastors, came out of college bound and determined to help usher in Pentecost II. But what killed that dream? Laodicean people. And I’m not saying I don’t have my share of that spiritual laziness. But I’ve known many very capable pastors, young and old, who are ready to see the work finished. And when they have presented their plans to their churches often there are yawns and people checking their watches. Want evangelistic meetings where all the church members attend and support this Jesus-directed call to ministry? Then what you want for Christmas is followership!

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From Leader to Leader – It’s Time to Get Back to the Mission!

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

I was transferred last week, in light of our world church reports and thoughtful responses, to the story John recounts about the man Jesus came to heal after walking 67 miles on a Sabbath afternoon. This account has moved me since childhood, perhaps because one of my childhood buddies, Rafael, was crippled. As the rest of us kids played soccer, kickball and baseball, Rafael would characteristically stand on the sidelines. Leaning on his crutches, he’d stand content to watch his neighborhood buddies work up a sweat.  I also like this story because of the depiction of the extreme situations it recounts, like the 38 years this man had been laying in the same spot, or the sudden, extreme restoration he goes through in the blinking of an eye.

Paradoxically, these “holy leaders” mutated. One proud moment they are fanatical observants of the law, particularly of the fourth commandment, and the next moment they have morphed into ruthless, conniving sixth commandment offenders.

I can only imagine what this formally crippled man may have been thinking: “Don’t you guys recognize me? You must know that I am the same man you’ve seen parked next to the pool of Bethesda for 38 years? You must have noticed me at some point. Look at me!  I’m walking for heaven’s sake! I’ve been healed. . .”  However, the only response he gets from his spiritual leaders is: “But it is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” (Verse 10). Never mind that this crippled man had just been healed!  De-nile is not just a river in Egypt; in fact, it’s a vital ingredient in self-deception which runs deep and wide in our Christian communities.

Under the beguiling mindset of self-deception, the only thing that is vital, is what’s most important to me; never mind the moving of the Spirit in others’ lives.  My focus is so exclusively attuned to what is important to me, that I have no interest or curiosity in even acknowledging the possibility that there may be something else of eternal significance occurring right before my eyes. Like the spiritual leaders of old, I may become totally blinded to the profoundly obvious supernatural miracles that the Spirit of God may be empowering. Everything that does not align with my personal agenda or priorities eclipses the phenomenological needs and experiences of others. Let’s just ignore (deny) Christ’s mission and agenda.  My AGENDA becomes the only important matter at hand!  Sound familiar?

Later that day, when Jesus finds the healed man in the temple, he tells him that He is his healer.  The man runs to tell the religious leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him. (verse 14-15). The obsessed keepers of the fourth commandment then began to plot out the murder of Jesus; because after all, the fourth commandment is far more important than the other commandments, right? “For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.” (Ver. 16).

Finally, ALL THE CONDITIONS ARE SET FOR THE NEXT CUT:  JESUS HAS SET THE STAGE, LIGHTS ARE ON, CAMERAS ARE ROLLING, THE PEOPLE ARE LISTENING . . . AND NOW JESUS GETS READY TO SAY SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS HE WILL SAY DURING HIS EARTHLY MINISTRY. Are you ready to hear it? Continue reading

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