Category Archives: Leadership

END IT NOW: Healthy Boundaries for Spiritual Leaders and Teachers

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

Leaders in Christian circles do not typically talk about the topic of power among leaders and much less about the abuse of power. Someone once said, that the way a person manages power is the true test of their character and leadership.  Unfortunately, we are reluctant to talk about power and the abuse of power until the news breaks out with a new scandal about the fall of another spiritual leader.   Thankfully, this silence is being shattered as we have witnessed the rising of movements like #MeToo coming through the walls of our churches and schools, which have empowered the voices of those deeply hurt by people in secular and denominational leadership. The movement #ChurchToo has formed a platform facilitating an audience for people that had been hurt by their spiritual leaders.

Our North American Division launched the EnditnowNAD campaign to encourage our churches and communities to be intentional about breaking the cycle of abuse because they recognize that abuse deeply affects children, women and men not only outside but within our church and school communities. I thought it would benefit our NPUC team if I shared some bullet points of the seminar I was invited to present this week (for the Spanish track) at the annual NAD EndItNowSummit on coaching pastors and teachers on how to create and maintain appropriate personal and professional boundaries.

One of this year’s scandals illustrated perfectly how the failure to set intentional healthy personal-professional boundaries can result in situations that create ideal circumstances for the abuse of power through inappropriate sexual conduct. Andy Savage, a respected teaching pastor from the High Point, mega church in Tennessee was accused of sexually abusing a 17-yearold girl more than twenty years ago, while he was a youth pastor. This claim prompted Andy to resign from his responsibilities saying “He had committed sexual sin and had sinned against God”.  In one of the most unexpected scandals of the year, Bill Hybels, lead pastor of the world-famous Willow Creek Church in Chicago, announced to his congregation that he would accelerate his planned retirement by six months and step aside immediately for the good of the church.  Though he continued to deny the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, he did publically acknowledge, “I too often placed myself in situations that would have been far wiser to avoid.” It is evident that as spiritual leaders, we must take the time to reexamine our personal and professional boundaries in the context of the innate power our ministry positions incorporate. I trust that the following 10 suggestions I will share, will help you navigate through the issue of abuse of power and with God’s aid, will help you to be more intentional about preventing and avoiding the falling into sexual misconduct that leaves behind a tragic trail of personal, familial and community destruction.

Boundary # 1 Be aware that your position carries power
In his writings about pastors and boundaries, Peter Scazzero reminds us that there is authority imbedded into your role as a leader. Spiritual leaders must think about and intentionally process power, especially because they possess great positional power, personal power, “God factor power”, projected power, relational power, and cultural power.  These powers exert a tremendous amount of influence on the thinking process and behavior of others.1   Unfortunately, most people, inside our circles of influence, relate to our authority with courtesy and kindness and seldom are confrontational.  Our society and denominational culture have taught our female members to accept male leadership authority without questioning whether this leadership is healthy or unhealthy.

Boundary #2 Your authority and power will be tempted
Just as Jesus’ authority and Continue reading

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From Leader to Leader – When Leadership Becomes Too Painful

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

Leadership, throughout history, has called for men and women with characters of iron. Commonly, leaders become the targets of preconceived ideas, prejudice, evil surmising, projection, fears and envy.  The Word is filled with stories of leaders who were misjudged, slandered, unjustly mistreated, envied and viciously attacked. Moses is a great example of a leader who lived his life under constant attack.  His own people frequently misjudged him. Even his own blood-related siblings turned on him and challenged the legitimacy and authority of the leadership role he tried to dodge.

Why are leaders so often the focus of unremitting criticism?  Well, imbedded into the position of leadership are influence, position and prestige. Add to the list vision-casting power, decision-making power, and character and lifestyle expectations.  Have you noticed our tendency to demonstrate tolerance, leniency, patience and grace with non-leaders?  Sadly, when one is assigned a leadership position, the degree of grace, patience and tolerance drastically declines. You are called to a higher standard, to moral choices that rise above the masses.  Christian leaders are not only expected to be exemplary role models; they are too often expected to be perfect.

The perpetual expectation of perfection is emotionally-spiritually debilitating and can drain the leader’s morale.  When people complained to Moses about the lack of variety in their desert menu, they were unashamed in boldly expressing how uninteresting and insipid the heavenly manna seemed to them after having dined on Egypt’s “fish, the cucumbers, the melons, leeks, the onions and garlic” (Numbers 11:5).  They went as far as to express that they felt “dried up”. The Message version gives an interesting rendering of this passage: The riffraff among the people had a craving and soon they had the People of Israel whining, ‘Why can’t we have meat? We ate fish in Egypt—and got it free! —to say nothing of the cucumbers and melons, the leeks and onions and garlic. But nothing tastes good out here; all we get is manna, manna, manna.’” (Num. 11:4-6; The Message)

Moses felt so disappointed with their negative mindsets and ungrateful spirits that he “Said to the Lord, ‘Why have you afflicted your servant?  And why have I not found favor in Your sight  that you have laid the burden of all these people on me?  Did I conceive all these people?  Did I beget them that you should say to me, ‘carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child, to the land which you swore to their fathers?’ . . . I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.  If you treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness.” (Num. 11:11-15, emphasis supplied). Can you detect Moses’ desperation?  Can you hear his anguish, helplessness and hopelessness? His emotional state is in such a disarray that he is feeling wretched, worthless and grimly inadequate.  Does any of this sound familiar?

Often, many leaders don’t even Continue reading

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From Leader to Leader – Create Fresh Memories with Your Family

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

For many, summer graduations and weddings have been attended and in a blink, the summer season will soon be intruded by a myriad of fall season life and ministry tasks and responsibilities.

Kingdom-builders must be intentional about strengthening the relational bonds with spouses, children and grandchildren by planning memorable relationship building activities and conversations that will be remembered and cherished. If a vacation isn’t in the family budget, no worries. One need not break the bank in this endeavor. Last week, I noticed my son was outside washing his car, I was tired and had emails to catch up on, but I felt impressed to go out and join my son in detailing his car. Last Sunday, before my younger son left for his Portland Campus dorm room, I joined him in the mundane task of cleaning out and organizing his disheveled, post-college, closet at home. Having his parents join him, transformed a mundane task into an afternoon of belly laughter and silly horse-playing that we will all cherish.

The Fuller Institute, George Barna, Lifeway, Schaeffer Institute of Leadership Development and Pastoral Care Inc. have provided the following revised statistics.

  • 72% of the pastors report working between 55-75 hours per week.
  • 84% of the pastors feel they are on call 24/7.
  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Many pastor’s children do not attend church no because of what the church has done to their parents.
  • 65% of pastors feel their family lives in a “glass house” and fear they are not good enough to meet expectations.
  • 65% of pastors feel they have NOT taken enough vacation time with their family over the last 5 years.
  • 35% of pastors report the demands of the church denies them from spending time with their family.

Find the full list at:

I found the following list of pastor’s retreats and getaways around the country that are discounted (and sometimes free) for pastors and their families:  

Some outdoor family activity ideas:

  1. Planting and/or weeding your own or an elderly neighbor’s garden.
  2. Family Car Washing: after washing own car, offer to wash a neighbor’s car too!
  3. Backyard picnic & fun: Consider inviting a single mom and her kids to join your family
  4. Day-tripping Photo contest- everyone shoots their most inspiring pics and votes later
  5. Outdoor summer reading contest: see who clocks in most hours reading outdoors this summer
  6. Go jump into a lake, creek, pool or river!

Whatever you do, don’t let the summer end without making and executing some family fun that will not only strengthen the bonds of your marriage and family but will also be a blessing to those God puts in your circle of influence.

“All of our powers are to be used by Christ. In forming a relationship with Christ, the renewed man is but coming back to his appointed relationship with God. . . His duties lie around him, nigh and afar off. His first duty is to his children and his nearest relatives. Nothing can excuse him from neglecting the inner circle for the larger circle outside. . . A great good done for others will not cancel the debt you owe to God to care for your own children.” MS 56, 1899 (MCP v. 1 162).

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From Leader to Leader – A People Business

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

Our nation’s political landscape continues to rapidly morph. People are searching for leaders who will impact attract and speak to the masses. Leaders are looking for slogans, messages and political social platforms that will launch them into a successful career. This week, the New York Times reported that one of the winning primary candidates said after a big win in her State: “No one will be unseen, unheard and uninspired”. Her words echoed through various levels of the political arena and also they resonate in the church pews. People want to be seen, heard and most of all, they long to be inspired. Although self-actualization is an internal psychological process, the masses still yearn for a leader who will produce political and social homeostasis and foment their hope for a better future.

Toward the end of the four-hundred years of Israelite slavery in Egypt, God told Moses “I’ve taken a good, long look at the affliction of my people in Egypt. I’ve heard their cries for deliverance from their slave masters; I know all about their pain” (Exodus 3:7 MSG). Because God was seeing and hearing the suffering of His people, He decided to do something about it and went out and recruited Moses. Spiritual leaders need to be able to see, hear and be willing to inspire people, if they are going to be a catalytic force to bring about the necessary changes in the lives of those being led. The Israelites needed a Moses to take them to the Promised Land. Even Moses attempted to ensure that every one of the members of all twelve tribes were being seen, heard and inspired. Actually, he was so “successful” that when his father-in-law, Jethro, visited him, Moses was at the brink of severe leadership burn out.

During the time of the judges, Israel cried out for a King. They believed they would be better off if they had a visible leader to guide them. Saul began well. Actually, even before being crowned King, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he was given specific instructions regarding God’s will and laws. However, as Saul became distracted with battling his own demons, he stopped seeing and hearing the voice of God which eventually led him to cease to see, hear and inspire his own people. All he could see and hear was the cry of his self-focused needs for personal recognition and self-exaltation, which totally eclipsed the social, political and spiritual needs of the nation that had been entrusted to him.

During my years as Ministerial Director for Central California Conference, I had the privilege of making annual visits to our various Schools of Theology in the Pacific Union, including the Theological Seminary at Andrews, to interview potential candidates for pastoral ministry. One of my growing concerns was the fact that I was hearing a disproportionate expression of passion and energy for preaching. It was on rare occasions that I heard a candidate express a passion and interest to discover and listen to the needs of the congregation. Even less frequently, I heard a candidate express a desire to inspire people through servant-leadership.

In order to be authentic and relevant, a spiritual leader needs to go down to Egypt—so to speak, to see how the people live, how they are treated, hear the conversations going on in the market place, to become familiar with the outcries of the community and own their causes and challenges. Only then is a spiritual leader informed enough to make a decision to do something about it. In their book, “Spiritual Leadership” Henry and Richard Blackaby present the following leadership directives:

  1. The Spiritual Leader’s task is to move people
  2. Spiritual leaders use spiritual means
  3. Spiritual leaders are accountable to God
  4. Spiritual leaders focus on people
  5. Spiritual leaders influence all people not just God’s people
  6. Spiritual leaders work from God’s agenda
  7. Spiritual leaders hear from God

Under their heading: Leaders Focus on People, they write: “Leadership is fundamentally a people business! It is not merely about budget or visions or strategies. It is about people. Spiritual leaders never lose sight of this fact . . . True leaders enjoy people and make them better for having followed.” (p. 37). An anonymous quote says, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Our churches, communities and even our homes, are crying out for leaders who will make people their business, leaders who will see the affliction and pain of their people, hear their cry and then, will do something about it. It’s not so much about how powerfully you preach, how savvy you are in the board room, or how much you know. It’s about showing the people in your circle of influence that you care. The Lord said, “‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me’” (Matt. 25:45).

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From Leader to Leader – Evangelism STILL works?

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

Just yesterday, the first annual Evange-Lead Conference, sponsored by the Oregon Conference and NPUC, concluded. It was very encouraging to fellowship with pastors, elders, deacons, chaplains, social workers and other Kingdom-building lay people that joined the engaging and stimulating dialogue regarding evangelism.

Dr. Roger Walter, Oregon Conference’s Outreach Director and lead pastor at the Adventist Community Church in Vancouver, Washington, in conjunction with the NPUC evangelism department created and hosted this conference with the hope that pastors, church leaders and lay people would come out to be part of the evangelism conversation. Dr. Walter has just published a compelling book, Evangelism Intelligence, that invites us, as the remnant movement, to be intelligent about how we continue to fulfill the mission and purpose of Christ’s remnant church. He shares, through his own personal ministry journey, how public evangelism has proven to be effective, especially when one integrates the reality that Adventist churches grow very differently from traditional evangelical churches. Dr. Walter has continued to budget generously for annual public evangelism through the years which has resulted in a consistent flow of new members joining his church family. Adventist Community Church in Vancouver, Washington, continues to be the fastest growing, non-Hispanic, church in the Oregon Conference. If you missed this year’s Evange-LEAD Conference, I highly recommend you read Evangelism Intelligence (2018, Flaming Arrow Publishers).

Attendees also got to hear Continue reading

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Upcoming Events – Is This Thing On? Facebook Live Event Goes to Walla Walla University

May 12 at 4 p.m. students from Walla Walla University (WWU) will dialogue with North American Division (NAD) leadership on the campus of WWU in College Place, Wash., during the 120-minute “Is This Thing On?” livestreamed conversation. Dan Jackson, NAD president; Alex Bryant, executive secretary; and Tom Evans, treasurer, will answer questions via the audience and social media during the program’s third Facebook Live event. Read More…

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Upcoming Events – EvangeLead

The EvangeLead Conference, coming April 22–24, is especially designed for pastors and lay leaders to join together in learning strategies for creating a culture of outreach and evangelism. Guest speakers Russell Burrill, César De León and Roger Walter will discuss why evangelism still works, how to create a culture of outreach to the community and more. The event will be hosted at the Adventist Community Church in Vancouver, WA. Click to find out more. Read More…

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From Leader to Leader – Agents of Change

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

The biblical record shows that God used people who didn’t look or act like leaders in the traditional sense. People who wouldn’t have interviewed well for a ministerial position and whose resumes would have failed to impress. However, Scriptures reveal that God chooses to use the weak to glorify himself and display His strength and stubborn love for us. (Exodus 3-4; 1 Cor. 1:26-27; 2 Cor. 12:9-10).

When Jesus was inaugurating his ministry and establishing His Kingdom, He didn’t go after the learned, savvy, highly educated minds. He called men who were rough around the edges, small business owners with very limited schooling. I am not proposing that pursuing an education is useless or that education limits God’s ability to glorify Himself through the studied human instrument. What I am suggesting is that teachablility is a characteristic God values. These fishermen had humble origins; however, they were not unskilled, as fishermen. As business owners, they had learned to maintain an open mindset to new ideas that might heighten their profits. A wise business person doesn’t assume he knows everything there is to know about something. Actually, savvy entrepreneurs have an innate urge to continue learning and growing. Typically, entrepreneurs are willing to take risks but know the value of a good investment. They like to get things done. These were some of the characteristics Jesus desired for his group of disciples. He would have much more to do with this group of men; but He felt that in the disciples’ simple life, he had a good foundation to begin forming his future church leaders. This group was going to become the most successful salesmen in the history of the known world as they sold the “Pearl of great price, the Bread of Life and the only Water which satiates thirst”. They were going to convince others that there was a better deal to make rather than gaining the whole world, but losing one’s soul.

We can learn much from the life of Jesus regarding spiritual leadership principles. Before Jesus preached a sermon, or healed a person, He chose disciples. Jesus knew a thing or two about spiritual leadership: 1) Spiritual leaders work hard to work themselves out of a job. They will intentionally prepare others to take their positions. 2) Spiritual leaders understand that their task is to move people from where they are to where God wants them to be. To illustrate this point we can refer to Jesus and his first encounter with Peter who was involved in his everyday business of fishing in the lake of Galilee. He understood that Peter needed to move from where he was—concerned about his family’s welfare, worried about how he was going to pay his taxes to the Romans, pressed by the need to remodel his boat, etc.—to where God wanted him to be; a fisher of men. Spiritual leaders influence and inspire others to make these types of monumental, life transitions.

How did Jesus do this? By opening before Peter the realities of another world. Jesus helped him become attuned to an invisible, supernatural world where fish could swim right into a fisherman’s net in the middle of the day. Jesus got Peter’s attention and now he was ready to listen to the Master’s words. In fact, in that first encounter with Jesus, Peter recognized that the Continue reading

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From Leader to Leader – Eternal Bliss

‘Tis the season to look back to trace God’s hand in our personal lives and ministry in 2017.   I stand in awe of Jesus’s compassion, mercy and grace towards us broken, malfunctioning humans that He graciously chooses to call “friends”.

In between our flurry of ministry travels & responsibilities, God granted Carolann and I the privilege of taking our first trip to Europe to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary last year. I devoted hours planning a romantic, surprise anniversary trip to the two countries I imagined my wife would like to visit.

When we arrived in Spain, Carolann fell in love. . . with Spain . . . In fact, she loved Spain so much that she became seriously disheartened when after a week of excursions to various cities, we had to abort our final day trip in the enchanting town of Toledo to board our plane to Paris. She didn’t hide her displeasure, “Do we have to go to Paris?”. . . “I love Spain; I wish we didn’t have to leave.” I didn’t say much; I didn’t want to ruin my upcoming surprises, so I just quietly listened to her express her regret about having to board a plane to Paris. On the inside however, I was thinking, “Boy, Carolann must be the only woman in the world who is not excited she is going to visit the city of Paris for her anniversary.” In truth, Carolann had no idea the hours I had spent choosing what I thought would be the very best hotel (within our budget) in the city, she had no clue as to the excursions and sites we would experience. I had thought that it would be romantic to celebrate our actual anniversary day in the “City of Love”.

Thankfully . . . after just a few hours of walking around the enchanting city, crossing iconic bridges over the Seine, and visiting historical sites, Carolann laughed out loud and expressed how utterly foolish she felt about her ill-informed attitude towards our departure. “I had no idea this city was so beautiful!” “I hope we are here long enough to see everything”. Boy, had her attitude changed! Every time she saw something that took her breath away, she would laugh and say “I can’t believe I was so disgruntled about having to come to Paris”.

Is it possible that we can be equally ignorant regarding the indescribable eternal bliss the Father is tenderly preparing for us? Could it be that because we have no idea how astounding it will be to live in the eternal ecstasy of God’s loving presence, we can become foolishly attached to places or things that were never meant to be permanent? Might we become so stuck in “survival mode” of earthly living that we can fail to prepare for, anticipate, or long for the surreal heavenly destination not yet seen or even remotely imagined? My favorite author writes:

“Oh the mystery of godliness—God manifest in the flesh! This mystery increases as we try to comprehend it. It is incomprehensible, and yet human beings will allow worldly, earthly things to intercept the faint view it is possible for mortals to have of Jesus and His matchless love… How can we be enthusiastic over earthly, common things and not be stirred with this picture—the cross of Calvary, the love that is revealed in the death of God’s dear Son…? . . . All this humiliation and anguish were endured to bring back the wanderers, guilty and thankless, to the Father’s house… There will be NO suffering ones in heaven, NO skeptics whom we must labor to convince of the reality of eternal things, NO prejudices to uproot, but ALL will be susceptible to that love which passeth knowledge. Rest, thank God, there is a rest for the people of God, where Jesus will lead the redeemed into green pastures, by the streams of living waters which make glad the city of our God. Then the prayer of Jesus to His Father will be answered: ‘I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am’.” (White, KH 371, italics applied)

Fellow sojourners, let us not allow any person, place, or circumstance derail us from the intentional contemplation of the incomprehensible, tender love of the Father in this New Year! We are all broken people living in a broken planet in desperate need of the salvific atonement that was lovingly planned and executed on Calvary’s cross to ensure a blissful eternity with our Creator & Redeemer. “There may be some things here that we do not understand. Some things in the Bible may appear to be mysterious, because they are beyond our finite comprehension. But as our Saviour leads us by the living waters, He will make clear in our minds that which was not before clearly understood” (RH Aug 8, 1907). We are one year closer to reuniting with those loved ones who have rested in Jesus and await the glorious day of His return and the first resurrection foretold in His Word.

It is my prayer that as we approach 2018, we will intentionally turn our eyes upward and know that we are serving a Mighty General who has lost no battles. Let us carve time in our busy ministry lives to spend in the contemplation of his life, salvific sacrifice and soon return. He is worthy to be trusted, loved and worshipped. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”. Psalms 90:12

Blessings & Victories in Jesus to you and those in your circle of influence!

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From Beyond the Pulpit – A Window’s Huge Gift

We continue on in the series of coins of the Bible and what they might tell us about the stories that they fall into. Today we take a little look at some very small things: “mites.”

“Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.  So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.’”

First of all, it’s kind of telling that Jesus notes what we put in the offering plate. He is interested as is heaven. When the rich put in large gifts heaven yawned, as there was no sacrifice, no faith in those gifts. But when the widow put in her two mites, you can almost hear whistles and “Wow! Did you see that?” from the angels.

The Greek word for mite is lepton. It’s not a money term, but simply means “tiny thing.” Mark is writing to a Roman audience, so he mentions that they were smaller than the smallest Imperial Roman coin, the quadrans. Pictured is an example of a lepton minted by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. This particular coin, dated to Caesar Tiberius’ reign, was made in the year that Christ died: AD 31. The legend says “Tiberius Caesar’s.” And prominently depicted is an augur, a pagan religious symbol, that was part of Tiberius’ personal religious faith…but it certainly would have deeply offended Pilate’s Jewish subjects.

Notice the sharp edges. You can see why Jesus encouraged disciples to get leather pouches that didn’t “wax old” (or wear out from sharp-edged coins!). But more germane to the story is that the widow gave a gift that would inspire others through the centuries to give so much that she really DID “put in more than all.”

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