Category Archives: Leadership

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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From Leader to Leader – I am Not Ashamed of the Gospel

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

Last Sabbath, my wife and I concluded a very exciting series of evangelistic meetings. These meetings did not take place in one church only, they took place in 11 churches over a period of 9 days. The event was called Caravana, just like the caravans of camels in the desert where one camel follows another. During our spiritual caravans, 1 church celebrated 1 night of evangelistic meetings filled with music, food and baptisms. This event was followed by another just like it in a different church and repeated for 9 days. It’s like a spiritual fiesta, where the church makes banquet-like dinner preparations with the idea of ending that special night with baptisms.

Our theme was grounded in the words of 1 John 3:8; “For this purpose was the son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” We addressed the fact that every one of us has a story, growing up within our family systems formed us or destroyed us. We first experienced ourselves within the eyes of our caretakers. The first experiences of love and acceptance came from the person that provided physical and emotional nourishment. Satan is fully aware that brain development takes place at enormous steps during the first years of life. A baby’s brain grows three times within the first 2 years of life, from 33 grams to 999 grams. By the time we are 3, we have formed 88% of our synaptic connections. Scientist say that we are most impressionable in our first 3 years of life. The enemy moves swiftly and smartly to disrupt our emotional, mental and spiritual development during these vulnerable years. By the time we are teenagers, we have developed strong mental, emotional and spiritual values. In the mental health area, some diagnoses are officially given at the age of 16. At this age, patterns of functioning and thinking have already hardened and are more difficult to change.

Paul proclaims in the New Testament manuscripts: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the Salvation of everyone who believes . . .” (Romans 1:16 NIV.) When the gospel is assimilated and the person experiences Continue reading

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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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