Category Archives: Leadership

From Leader to Leader – Pastor you are SOOOOO Appreciated!

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

As National Pastor Appreciation Month nears its end, I am always curious to know how creative church boards have been in expressing their appreciation to their local pastors. I am also aware of the likely possibility that comparing one’s “appreciation moment” with another ministry colleague could result in not only a splash of “appreciation-envy” but even in disappointment or discouragement; especially when we discover our neighboring colleague and spouse received a paid weekend in a lush resort, while we got a card stuffed with an Olive Garden Gift Certificate.

Pastoring in these end-times is not for cowards. The people-problems that both ministry administrators and field pastors have to deal with are increasingly complex. The boundaries of civility and mutual respect are eroding by the second, and sometimes it seems easier to just not take definitive sides in order to avoid further conflict and making new enemies. As you well know, burying our heads in the sand rarely results in positive lasting solutions that cultivate emotional and spiritual growth and maturity.

Paul’s warning delineates the specific characteristics and behaviors of end time people: “. . . lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boaster, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:1-5). And yes, you have been called to pastor in this time in history, these types of people!

Regardless of how (or even if) you were demonstrated appreciation this nationally designated month, here is a thought I pray will deeply encourage you on your ministry journey:

“In this life our work for God often seems to be almost fruitless. Our efforts to do good may be earnest and persevering, yet we may not be permitted to witness their results. . . While the great final reward is given at Christ’s coming, truehearted service for God brings a reward, even in this life. Obstacles, opposition, and bitter, heartbreaking discouragements the worker WILL have to meet. . . But in the face of all this he finds in his labor a blessed recompense. All who surrender themselves to God in unselfish service for humanity are in cooperation with the Lord of glory. This thought sweetens all toil, it braces the will, it nerves the spirit for whatever may befall. Working with unselfish heart, ennobled by being partakers of Christ’s sufferings, sharing His sympathies, they help to swell the tide of His joy, and bring honor and praise to His exalted name. In fellowship with God, with Christ, and with holy angels, they are surrounded with a heavenly atmosphere, an atmosphere that brings HEALTH TO THE BODY, VIGOR TO THE INTELLECT, AND JOY TO THE SOUL.” (White, GW, 512,513).

We deeply appreciate all that you ( & your spouse and children) have done to Kingdom-build this year. Now go celebrate that God saw fit to include you in this end-time Kingdom-building army!

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From Leader to Leader – Come and See

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

Facebook, Twitter, and Messenger, are all venues used to create connections, a sense of community and “family”. However, the feelings of loneliness and disconnection continue growing in our culture. According to research presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (August 5, 2017; apa.org), loneliness and social isolation may represent a greater public health hazard than obesity, and their impact has been growing and will continue to grow.

“Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need — crucial to both well-being and survival. Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment,” said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University. “Yet an increasing portion of the U.S. population now experiences isolation regularly.”

Approximately 42.6 million adults over age 45 in the United States are estimated to be suffering from chronic loneliness, according to AARP’s Loneliness Study. In addition, the most recent U.S. census data shows more than a quarter of the population lives alone, more than half of the population is unmarried and, since the previous census, marriage rates and the number of children per household have declined. “These trends suggest that Americans are becoming less socially connected and experiencing more loneliness,” said Holt-Lunstad ( www.apa.org: Session 3328: “Loneliness: A Growing Public Health Threat,” Plenary, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017;Washington, D.C. ).

Many talk to at least one person daily, carry out business transactions, and may even attend church; however, loneliness is a Continue reading

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From Leader to Leader – Have You Ever Felt Disingenuous?

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

Have you ever felt like a disingenuous person? Like a phony? On the exterior you appear, speak, and behave, “as if” . . .  Have you found yourself doing the “right things”, accomplishing the mission . . . going through the exterior motions. . . while your interior world is disengaged with the exterior actions? Have you ever experienced the soul dissonance when what you say, believe, and proclaim is not necessary in accordance with your true state of being?

Some of us will never feel inclined to compare our lives and ministry to the life and ministry of John the Baptist; after all, he was a giant of faith who received a special mission for a special time. He would prepare the way for the coming Messiah. John was faithful to the mission he was given. He refused to allow the culture and customs of his time to taint the understanding of his calling or the nature of his character. John preached his heart out and revealed the true condition of the spiritual life of the people of his time, even to the point of condemning the sins of the aristocratic society, including the king, and then calling everyone to repentance. His was a time when people were hoping for and awaiting a military liberator that would overthrow the political leaders and give Israel their rightful place as “chosen ones”. John showed up preaching and talking about purity and holiness; not necessarily a popular message for his time. Yet, John the baptizer was faithful to God’s mission and vision. He gave testimony to the world: “Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes the sins of the world away.” He personally witnessed the descending of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus, empowering Him for His mission as the Messiah.

But one day he ends up in jail and then it hits him. Did I misunderstand my calling? Did I make some incorrect assumptions? Did I end up being faithful to what I thought I was supposed to do, yet, possibly got confused along the way? Was I mistaken all along? Is Jesus who I thought he was? And suddenly, John experienced the debilitating disorientation of wondering whether he had been an impostor, a false messenger with a false message. How horrific! After so many years of sacrificial ministry, labor, and dedication. All for nothing?

Have you ever felt like John in your ministry? Have you sat in the prison of your own disorientation and wondered if you’d taken a wrong turn somewhere? I have; actually on more than one occasion, I have felt like an impostor. I have played the pastor role, abided by SDA traditions and beliefs, done what was expected of me, spoken pastor lingo, and yet, I’ve not always been sure that I have been who I thought I was supposed to be, or that I have done what I was supposed to do with my life.

So John sends representatives to Jesus, to ask a question, “Are you the One we were waiting for or shall we wait for another?” (Luke 7:19). The possibility that he had run the wrong race was heavy on his mind. He wanted to know whether he had mistaken Jesus, for the true Messiah. Had all his work been in vain? His messengers spent a full day with the Master. They saw the Messianic mission being fulfilled. The blind saw, the lame walked, the demon possessed were freed, and the good news gospel was preached to the poor. They came back to John and excitingly reported the supernatural incidents they had just witnessed. At last, John’s confused soul found peace. He received the desperately needed confirmation that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. That meant he was not an impostor. He had not preached his message in vain. He was confirmed that everything he had done had been authentic. He had run his race and finished his work. He was now ready for the next chapter of his life. . . the end of his time.

If you are anything like me, you may need confirmation along the way in your ministerial journey, because our enemy has many ways to make us feel like impostors. He confuses us with his lies, telling us that we are disingenuous, that we are just lying to ourselves, pretending. Then, the Spirit shows up and breaks into our cell of doubt, confusion, and questions. “Have I been doing what I was supposed to do with my life?” “Was ministry my calling?” The Spirit then begins to work in us and through us and we see the blind opening their eyes as they are exposed to the transformational Good News Gospel for the first time. The lame and faithless now walk and do the works of God and we see the faces of the captives who have been set free. Our doubts are dissipated; the confusion is gone. No more questions. We know in Whom we have believed! We know who He is and we also know who we are in Him. We are Gospel Workers called to announce the virtues of Him who called us from darkness into His marvelous light (2 Pet. 2:9); even while our culture loves the darkness and resists the Light.

Be of good cheer colleagues, you are Creator Jehovah’s servant! You have been called! Like Saul of Tarsus, not because we deserve to be ambassadors of the King of Kings, but because the God of glory loves to give the best to those who deserve the least.

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NPUC Ministerial Retreat Witnesses Eclipse

Fellowship, inspiration and training are usually the agenda for the North Pacific Union Conference’s annual ministerial retreats. The annual retreat is planned specifically for Conference Ministerial Directors, Evangelists, Evangelism Coordinators, and Hispanic Coordinators. However, this year’s retreat enjoyed a rare and special treat: America’s full solar eclipse of August 21st. Not satisfied with just a 99.83% coverage at the conference’s location, some traveled to nearby Warm Springs, Oregon to get about a minute and a half of full totality.

What came alive during this amazing experience was the record of creation for the Fourth Day: “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons….” Genesis 1:14. For this brief period, the attention of the world was directed upward, fulfilling the purpose of “a sign.” For those of us who were thus blessed with this awesome demonstration of God’s power, we could only shout out praises to the Creator.

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Reflections from Beyond the Pulpit – How to Be an “Expert”

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

It’s kind of fun being thought of as an expert on anything. And it’s not that hard to be one. Here’s the simple way: find some subject, any subject, that NO one wants to take the time to study deeply. Make it a hobby interest of yours and people will gladly defer to you as “the expert!”

Know what I’m an expert in? Coins of the Bible! Growing up in the ‘60’s, coin collecting was what a lot of us American kids did. One day, after I had become a young pastor, I wandered into a coin shop and saw a small display of what was labelled “genuine widow’s mites.” I asked for a look and then I was hooked!

I will include over the next couple of issues an illustration or two on these and other Bible coins and what we can learn to enhance our sermons. Here are two half dollar-sized silver coins from the days of Jesus that circulated in the Holy Land. Under Roman rule the Jews were not permitted to issue silver coins, so this forced the Jews to use coins with graven images. These coins were “staters” or “four drachma” pieces. They were equivalent to Jewish shekels, and were the two options for temple use (for instance, the “temple tax” was two drachmas).

On the left is a stater from Antioch, dated, interestingly enough, to the year of Jesus’ birth (5/4 BC). It has Augustus Caesar on it. The coin on the right is from Tyre and has a modernized picture of Baal on it! This means that the priests and Sadducees of the temple had two bad options to use for their coins: they had to choose either Caesar or Baal for their official currency. Which did they choose? BAAL! Think of the irony of Baal’s coins to support the worship of Israel’s God. Yet that seemed preferable to Caesar’s image.

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From Leader to Leader – Contagious Leadership

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

Being a minister in this post-Christian era is no walk in the park. As most nominating committee members can confirm, putting together church leadership teams seems to require advanced teeth-pulling skills. Even the most committed congregants seem to be more inclined to graciously decline invitations to serve their church, citing grueling work schedules and increasing family responsibilities, both legitimate reasons. What is a pastor to do? A growing number of congregants seem to believe that pastors, who receive a salary, should be doing the heavy lifting, while they do their part by at least attending Sabbath worship. Ministry ends up being limited by a lack of human resources, a lack of team work and even low morale among the ones who are serving. How can a minister keep his/her spirits up from week to week during what may seem like an uphill battle?

I came across some thoughts about Nehemiah’s ministry that may help us understand how Nehemiah was able to motivate a bunch of discouraged and fearful individuals and unite them to accomplish his vision.

“Nehemiah was a reformer, a great man raised up for an important time. As he came in contact with evil and every kind of opposition, fresh courage and zeal were aroused. His energy and determination inspired the people of Jerusalem; and strength and courage took the place of feebleness and discouragement. His holy purpose, his high hope, his cheerful consecration to the work, were contagious. The people caught the enthusiasm of their leader, and in his sphere each man became a Nehemiah and helped to make stronger the hand and heart of his neighbor.” (3BC, 1137; bold applied)

Imagine duplicating or triplicating yourself? Imagine having people around you who share your purpose, vision, enthusiasm and even your level of consecration. This is exactly what Nehemiah was able to do. How did he do it? He had Continue reading

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Lifelong Learning – Free Online Course on Empowering Young Adult Ministry

The Next Steps course is for the purpose of understanding the findings from the Adventist Millennial Study conducted by the Barna Group, and empowering a research-informed, relevant approach to young adult ministry. The Next Steps course does not assume any prior knowledge in young adult ministry, welcoming any and all participants willing to learn, grow, and implement mentorship with next generations. By the end of the course you will be able to apply the research findings from the Adventist Millennial Study to young adult ministry in various contexts. Read More

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From Leader to Leader – Ministry’s Greatest Pitfall III

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

We have been dialoguing about an all too common and often imperceptible phenomenon of self-deception. Jeremiah described it vibrantly: “Deceitful is the heart above anything else and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). If you have been following this dialogue, you may recall I introduced the SOP thought that reads: “ . . . ministers are in danger of losing their own souls. Some who preached to others will themselves be cast away because they have not perfected a Christian character. In their labor, they do not save souls, and fail even to save their own.” (Pastoral Ministry 24-25). Over the next few issues, I will cover three biblical scenarios where self-deception is unveiled.

Scenario # 1 The Rich Young Ruler

Do you remember the story of the rich young ruler? It’s an evangelistic encounter gone wrong!

There are several things that impress me about this young prince. He is curious; he has good desires; and he acts on his curiosity. Some of us may experience curiosity or good desires, but may fail to move into an intentional action. He did. He came and inquired: “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life”.

From the get go, his question reveals a fundamental misunderstanding about salvation. “What can I do?” The straightforward answer is “NOTHING”! However, Jesus is more concerned about his heart condition than giving a theologically correct answer and cannot send him away without challenging his deepest heart motives. The young man has crossed a line of no return, he has approached the Redeemer, who, unbeknownst to him, is able to send him away that evening with an untethered heart.

Jesus tells him: “If you want to enter into life. . . Keep the commandments” (Matt.19:17).  A seemingly benign response skillfully spoken to illicit a response that would unveil the hidden priorities of his heart. The young ruler, relieved Jesus’ answer was less complex than he had feared, asked: “Which ones. . .?”   Jesus answered: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, honor your father and your mother. . .” (Matt.19:18,19). He responded: “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” (Matt. 19:20). The gospels of Matthew and Luke reflect the Master’s unexpected response: “You still lack something. One thing you still lack”. A sterile, legalistic religion founded on law keeping will always result in a meaningless, futile life.

He claimed he kept all the commandments which gave him a false sense of security. But, was he safe?   Mark tells us that Jesus looked at him and loved him (Mark10:21). Jesus feels for him; he is moved to compassion for this young ruler. Why? He was self-deluded. Self-deceived. A dictionary defines deluded as: “to impose a misleading belief upon (someone); deceive; fool”. And self-dilution: “The action of deluding oneself; failure to recognize reality.”

The young ruler claims he has kept the commandments, yet position and possession are the undisclosed idols that reveal the first and second commandments are being broken. James of course reminds us there is an intrinsic interplay between all the commandments: “Whoever keeps the whole law yet breaks one, is guilty of all” (James 2:10).

“Ministers are in danger of losing their own souls. . .”

We are in close proximity with holy matters. We deal with the sacred day in and day out. We handle the Scriptures in Bible study, before groups and entire congregations. We are expected to act holy because our calling demands it. Thus, to deliver what is expected of us, we create a holy facade, a mask, a pseudo-self.

Facade: “a figurative or outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or creditable reality”. We learn to function with our facade. We work with it, hang out with colleagues with it, to the point that we come to believe our facade is indeed who we are. This is how self-deception happens. It becomes a necessity for ministerial survival. It becomes part of the armor we put on to do “spiritual battle”.

May the Lord’s compassionate mercy through the aide of His Spirit fill us with the humility and transparency to daily examine the condition of our hearts and behaviors that we might review our motives to stay in touch with who we really are and feel the daily demand to become something better through the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.

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Lifelong Learning – Why the Modern Church Has Failed

by Marcos Torres
Source: The Haystack

I grew up in a traditional church that was more interested in hanging on to its formalities than it was in open-mindedly assessing why it was losing its youth. My own youth group was quite large but by the time we had reached 18 the vast majority of us had walked away from the church. As a result of these experiences I have, for a long time, been quite interested in the topic of youth and church.

Enter the modern church. Among many other things, the modern church was an attempt to create a church culture that was both attractive and retentive of its youth. However, after many years of going down that road we are still publishing books on how youth are leaving church in droves. It appears the modern church has failed.

But why? The answers are as complex as the problem, but allow me to present a paradigm that I believe contributes, perhaps more than any other reason, to the youth exodus that plagues churches everywhere.

Before I do so, allow me to dissect the church into three chunks. The first chunk we will call the “heart beat” of the church. This is what gives the church its life, breath and relevance. In other words, the heart beat is the purpose of the church. The second chunk we will call the “muscle”. This is what enables the church to live out its purpose. In an Adventist local church this would include- in part – the “business meeting” (most powerful meeting in the church which involves every church member), the “board meeting” (where appointed leaders of the church meet to implement the decisions of the church and to steer the church through representative decisions) and “ministry meetings” (where ministry leaders of diverse ministries get together to plan for the year). In other words, the muscle of the church is Continue Reading…

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From Leader to Leader – Ministry’s Greatest Pitfall

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

Last week I introduced the following thought from the Spirit of Prophecy: “. . . Ministers are in danger of losing their own souls. . .” 2T 511. Some have asked why she wrote such a sober statement. Well, I have decided to continue this conversation with you. Following are the rest of her thoughts on this subject: “. . . Some who preached to others will, themselves, be cast away because they have not perfected a Christian character. In their labor, they do not save souls and fail even to save their own. . .” Ibid.

“Every follower of Christ should daily examine himself, that he may become perfectly acquainted with his own conduct. There is, with nearly all, a neglect of self-examination. This neglect is positively dangerous in one who professes to be a mouthpiece for God, occupying the fearful, responsible position of receiving the words from God to give to His people.” 2T 511.1 (Italics added).

“There is much in the conduct of a minister that he can improve. Many see and feel their lack, yet they seem to be ignorant of the influence they exert. They are conscious of their actions as they perform them, but suffer them to pass from their memory, and therefore do not reform. If ministers would make the actions of each day a subject of careful thought and deliberate review, with the object to become acquainted with their own habits of life, they would better know themselves. By a close scrutiny of their daily life under all circumstances they would know their own motives, the principles which actuate them. 
This daily review of our acts, to see whether conscience approves or condemns, is necessary for all who wish to arrive at the perfection of Christian character. Many acts which pass for good works, even deeds of benevolence, will, when closely investigated, be found to be prompted by wrong motives. Many receive applause for virtues which they do not possess. The Searcher of hearts inspects motives, and often the deeds which are highly applauded by men are recorded by Him as springing from selfish motives and base hypocrisy. Every act of our lives, whether excellent and praiseworthy or deserving of censure, is judged by the Searcher of hearts according to the motives which prompted it.” {2T 511.2}

“Even some ministers who are advocating the law of God have but little knowledge of themselves. They do not meditate, and investigate their motives. They do not see their errors and sins, because they do not, in sincerity and earnestness, take a view of their life, their acts, and their character, separate and as a whole, and compare them with the sacred and holy law of God.. . 2T 512.1

Serious food for thought, don’t you think? One dictionary defines delusions as “a misleading belief upon someone; and self-delusion,as the action of deluding oneself; failure to recognize reality”. There is another word that I would like to mention that goes along with this subject, the word: Facade: “An outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or creditable reality.”

Notice White’s emphasis on the two words “self-examination” and “motives”. The Lord had already told us through Jeremiah, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Sadly, we have a serious predisposition towards self-deception; thus, I invite you to daily take time to examine your actions, more importantly the motives that underpin those actions. As you take time to study and meditate on the Word, ask Him to reveal any weaknesses of character, self-centered motives and to guide you to experience more virtuous and worthy motives as you serve Him. I believe this daily spiritual practice would be very appropriate given our many ministry demands and expectations.

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