Category Archives: Leadership

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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Beyond the Pulpit – The Secret to Promoting the Ordination of….

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

I, like you, have been fascinated to watch the various machinations within our church over the ordination of women. Americans love a good fight, especially when the cause is a righteous one. Of course, all sides in this are righteous. Hmmm….

I watched the General Conference work towards “disciplining rebels” and I saw some responding with “in-your-face” statements. Neither one sounds very spiritual to me. I don’t see the highest characteristic of spiritual maturity being displayed by anyone in this; that Spirit-led trait is submission! No one wants to submit to anyone else, even though it was the Lord Jesus submitting to so many, including those nailing His hands to a cross.

Well, if no submission is coming, I have a suggestion that is possibly a reasonable alternative. Why not promote the ordination of women in a similar way that the first General Conference in Jerusalem saw the inclusion of Gentiles being promoted? It was promoted by the report of witnesses that God had clearly accepted them by the Holy Spirit’s response.

Peter had reported from his own experience with Gentiles as to how the Spirit had been poured out upon foreign converts “just like” the Spirit had been poured out upon the Jews. In other words, it sure looked like God was including those people, broadening the base (so to speak) of the church, by indicating His acceptance through Spiritual fruit. When the church saw that God had accepted them, they responded appropriately with welcoming in Gentiles who had heretofore not been considered savable. The idea of resisting God’s choosing seemed even more intolerable.

Why not report on the various ways God has been using women in pastoral ministry, showing the fruit that shows His approval of women for that role? Ellen White was thus shown to be approved by God for a superior position in denominational leadership.

I favor this approach over a “the vote is unfair” or the “leaders are devious” or “the third world is stupid” or some other accusatory approach. Let’s be positive. God is clearly casting HIS vote. Perhaps the church could see this more clearly. “By their fruit” was meant to be helpful for cloudy issues.

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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: http://www.pastoralcareinc.com/statistics/

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: https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/march/free-or-discounted-getaways-for-pastors.html  

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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