From Leader to Leader – Help, my church is dying!

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

When my younger son was about five years old, we bought him a beautiful, tiny, white Maltese puppy that we named Pearly. She was so tiny that when we traveled, we placed her in one of our backpacks and no one knew we had a dog with us. She was obedient, potty-trained and very well-behaved. Pearly became very attached to me.  At one point, when I was bed-ridden for several months, Pearly would lay next to me all day long and would only leave my side to go out for her biological needs, eat and then she would jump right back into my bed. Pearly was the perfect dog that brought so much joy to the whole family, except for one “mental health issue” . . . she had a self-perception problem.  In her deluded mindset, she was also a victim to self-deception. She truly believed she was infinitely bigger and stronger than her 4.5 pound, petite frame reflected. 

One day, one of my neighbors was walking by our house with his stately Doberman, who just happened to be going through end-stage colon cancer (the dog, not my neighbor). When Pearly saw the dog and his owner walking by her territory, she bolted after him, forgetting she was aggressively barking at a dog who was 20 x her size and weight.  The unthreatened but annoyed Doberman reacted impulsively and dug his teeth into Pearly’s back (as he routinely did with his favorite fluffy, white stuffed toy… her owner later told us) and shook her violently many times.  We all stood there aghast and thought this could be the end of Pearly.  After the owner had belted out, “Put her down, boy” several times, the Doberman finally let her go. Pearly scurried back to the house with her tail between her legs, possibly ashamed she’d been defeated despite her valiant fight, and yelping in distress. During next 24 hours, we noticed that besides the surface tooth bites that weren’t too deep, Pearly wasn’t feeling well. Later the next day she began to quiver and mostly stayed in her bed.  It was then than we realized that she must have sustained internal damage and might be going into shock.  We rushed her to the veterinarian just to have our worse fears confirmed.  She had sustained so much internal damage during that severe shaking episode that the most humane thing to do was to put her to sleep.

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Why Not Try This? – Raising Money for Worthy Students

by Dustin Serns, Pastor of the Port Orchard Seventh-day Adventist Church

“How are we going to raise $40,000 for worthy students this year?” The amount was more than double what we needed last year. Our Adventist elementary school was growing rapidly (from 16 to 40 students in two years). Our needs were growing rapidly with it. Our church of 130 had a generous history of raising about $17,000 a year outside the church budget for worthy students. We could only afford to take out $10,000 from reserves. We still needed $30,000. What could we do? Continue Reading…

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From Beyond the Pulpit – God’s Gemstones

“Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name.

‘They shall be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts,
‘On the day that I make them My jewels.’”  Malachi 3:16,17

I am a rockhound.  I am coming out of the closet and admitting such.  I’ve had occasion to search for God’s mineral artwork.  One time I was digging in a mine dump near Pala, California, looking for tourmaline crystals of red and green.  One particular rock yielded some gem-quality crystals.  Pretty cool!  The difference between regular crystals and gem quality ones are readily seen. It’s not my thing to wear these beauties, but I can understand why some do.  They are amazing.

What makes a gem valuable?  Several things do:  clarity, lack of imperfections, color and desirability.  From this I get a lot of sermon illustrations.  Let’s look at “color” for example.  Here’s a picture of the famous “Hope Diamond” in the Smithsonian today.  What sets its great value is color.  How did it get that unusual blue tint?  The same way any growing crystal gets color:  it depends upon the chemical environment it grew in (some would negatively call it “impurities!”).  The color simply shows the unique experience that the crystal had in its growth.

WE are called “God’s jewels.”  Each of us will have had a unique growth in God’s grace, colored by the environment and experiences we had that only we had.  The Bible talks about songs that only certain saints will be able to sing.  Same thing!  And what will make us particularly valuable to God as His jewels is our very personal views of His love.  We will have stories to share with the universe full of our own special color.  We will be living jewels!

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Momentum – Spiritual Emphasis Week

by Samuel Castro, Pastor of the Vancouver Spanish Company

As part of the strategic plan, it was my privilege to conduct a series of messages under the title “Salvation in Symbols”, which was based on the theme of the Sanctuary.

There were 15 messages in total which were given to an average attendance of 60 to 70 people, including some visitors, who discovered the interesting Adventist theology regarding the Sanctuary and its meaning through their furniture.

In addition to the lessons learned through Bible study, we took the opportunity to celebrate that week of prayer to ask God for wisdom and direction for the project we currently have regarding the purchase of a building in Vancouver.

We believe in the power of prayer and even more so when we as a church unite for a purpose. At the end of the week of prayer, we consecrated ourselves to God through a communion service.

The Lord has manifested in an amazing way. We have received very good news that we hope will soon be announced the whole brotherhood.

Thank God for his Word … I can say that it was not easy to carry out this series of preaching … but at the end, I feel strengthened by what I have learned and even more by the results in my congregation

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Changed Lives – Something Enduring

Carrol lived in the Spokane area most of her life.  She decided to move to the Walla Walla Valley and a friend invited her to church. At that point she was looking for something enduring in her life. Even though she grew up in the small town of Spangle, near an Adventist Academy and Church, she had very little interaction with Christianity. When Pastor Troy Fitzgerald heard about Carrol’s desire to learn and to follow God, he started studies and invited her to Sabbath class at the University Church. Every appointment and every experience at church deepened her love for Christ. Her commitment to health and peace in her life has grown and she is ready to testify about Christ’s saving power. She was baptized in the pool in her community with neighbors there watching scene.

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Resources – AdventistGiving App

The AdventistGiving App is a game changer for the local church. It provides easy access for member giving that is even more secure than the tithe envelop! Read more

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From Leader to Leader – Vision 2020

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

As I write this, I find myself near the lake of Galilee where evangelism was born.  The preacher was an itinerant rabbi preaching to peasants, fishermen, tax collectors and prostitutes. His primary ministerial district was a relatively small area around the lake where small communities worked hard for their daily survival.  If I had been given the task of preaching the gospel to all the world, I would have likely started my ministry in Jerusalem, or even Cesarea Maritima; but Capernaum? Yet, in a matter of a few decades, Jesus’ evangelistic methods proved to be successful: “During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds. . .” (Acts 6:1 MSG).  Jesus’ methods worked, His message was relevant, powerful, and transformational!  Time has passed and the Gospel continues to radically change lives and relationships.

By now you have probably heard about vision 2020.  It is an ambitious, strategic evangelistic initiative by the North Pacific Union Conference and its six conferences to adopt an evangelistic lifestyle in our local churches in order to turn around the declining growth and attendance of our churches.

Vision 2020 consists of five quarters of intentional, dynamic church activity supported by evangelistic tools designed by the Voice of Prophecy to help church members focus their lives around spreading the good news of Jesus throughout their NPUC communities.

RENEW—which began the 1rst quarter of 2019 was designated for personal renewal and spiritual growth through prayer, Bible study and sharing.  To spark this ongoing progress, the North Pacific Union launched the reading of the book “Steps to Personal Revival” by Helmut Haubeil.  This author not only encouraged the evaluation of the condition of the spiritual man, but also aimed to create a hunger for Holy Spirit baptism.  

REFOCUS—2nd quarter of 2019 is designed to encourage churches to discover and prayerfully align with their biblical purpose and mission through mission alignment seminars and encouraging church pastors to seek resources on how to revitalize their churches.

RELATE— Beginning the 3rd quarter of 2019 will focus on each member and church learning to apply Jesus’ method of relating to people. Challenging every member to enlist in the joy of becoming involved in mission, encouraging and empowering congregations to launch community focused seminars on health & nutrition, marriage & parenting, finances, singles, or any other seminar that will bless the local communities; are just some of the ways we can connect to the needs in our communities to create and grow ongoing friendships.

RECLAIM— the 4th quarter of 2019 is focused on reclaiming those members and friends that at one point were regularly attending our churches but have stopped coming.  This stage may entail the systematic revision of names and church records identifying potential names of people that can be contacted through a card, a phone call, a caring visit to let these missing members know that they are missed and that we would love to see them back in our churches.

REACH—is the phase in which evangelistic meetings will be held in every church.  The Voice of Prophecy has prepared a series of brand new, Power Point evangelistic presentations that our pastors and lay leaders throughout our union will be able to utilize to preach a series of meetings that will bring the unique, Christ-centered, Adventist message of hope and wholeness to all the people of our union and the world. 

Our Adventist movement has about a million members in North America, but unfortunately, only a few disciples that are willing to follow Jesus into the mission of the church.  Just like in the early church’s evangelistic thrust, we are conscious that none of these planned efforts will be possible without a special anointing of the Spirit as a result of heart-felt prayer!  Spirit-led pastors and members will be empowered by the Spirit to fulfill their mission and purpose.  

We have been told that “If Christians were to act in concert for the accomplishment of one purpose. . . they would move the world.” (Gospel Workers, 277).

We have for too long loaded our church activities with sermons and board meetings. However, it is interesting to note that before Jesus preached a sermon or performed a miracle, He made disciples.  Making disciples seems to have been Jesus’ priority.  As I said before, I am writing this in a hotel close to the lake of Galilee.  As I observed the distance between the main cities and villages where He preached and made miracles, with the exception of Nazareth, the territory that He covered around the lake was very insignificant. I became aware of how small the towns and villages were around the northern part of the lake, in particular Capernaum where the Bible tells us that “He withdrew to Galilee.  He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zabulun and Nepthatli . . .” (Matthew 4:12,13).

So, Jesus didn’t try to impact the whole world with His message, though He did.  He didn’t try to preach to all the world, although He has.  He didn’t try to make a difference in the life of millions of people, although this is what He accomplished. He only sought to change the hearts of twelve men and impact the community that He had at hand.  Nothing else was more important that to try to change the minds and character of the men and women that were around Him.  Once He did this, the whole world was radically changed. 

Recognizing the importance of making disciples Jesus said: “It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master.” (Matt. 10:25). When Jesus called his disciples, He did so with the intent that they would be like Him. The true disciple is like his master and does what his Master does.  Paul became a disciple of Christ, and then wrote to the Corinthians: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Vision 2020 will be a success as long as our church leaders and members recognize that we are here to make disciples, not just to make a living and raise a family.  God’s prophet stated: “The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character, they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them.” (COL 415.5, italics applied).

The following five quarters in our lives can be lived with intentionality and give us a reason to live lives with deep meaning and purpose and offer us an opportunity to join hands, between members, pastors, churches, conferences and the North Pacific Union Conference.  Let’s come together and tell others, through the use of our love-infused talents and spiritual gifts, what a wonderful God we have and His plan to redeem our desperate, lonely and broken humanity.  We are told that “God could have proclaimed His truth through sinless angels, but this is not His plan.” (AA 330.2). God has designed that we, His disciples, will join Him, in fishing for men.  

God doesn’t need us to accomplish the mission; we need the mission to accomplish God purposes in our lives.  It is time to change the course of the declining church attendance, church growth and church participation.  If we seek the Lord with all our hearts and ask Him to pour His love for lost souls into our hearts, He will open doors of opportunity we cannot imagine. Join us in praying for an outpouring of His Spirit as we pray to join God in reaching all the people of the North Pacific Union Conference and the world with the distinct, Christ-centered, Adventist message of hope and wholeness! 

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Why Not Try This? – Shaping Culture for Mission in 2019 and Beyond

by Ben Lundquist, Director of Young Adult Ministries for the Oregon Conference

Recently I have been obsessed with building church culture. I’ll get to the reason why in just a moment. Google the phrase “church culture” and your search will return with thousands, if not tens of thousands, of websites, articles, blog posts, and video links about the topic. There are even entire conferences dedicated to building church culture, taking place every year around the country. 

I’m an avid podcast listener, usually catching a few podcasts a day, and building church culture is one of the most frequent topics for church leaders, and for good reason.  Jesus built a culture that drew people in. Luke 15:1-2 says plainly that all of the “sinners” made a habit of hanging around Jesus. This is healthy culture at it’s finest. 

Think of church culture as the atmosphere in which a church functions, it is how the church does things. Figuratively speaking, you can smell culture when you spend enough time with any particular church. Culture is the single strongest driving force in a church, even more than vision, strategy, or a pastor’s leadership style. A church’s health, growth potential, and kingdom impact will all rise and fall based on culture. 

Currently, I serve the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the niche of young adult ministry. Today’s young adults, generally referring to those in their 20’s, are possibly the most gifted, driven, networked, and creative generation this world has ever seen. This generation wants to change the world for the better; they believe they can, and so many of them already are making their mark. 

Meanwhile our church has been sounding the alarm for Continue Reading…

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From Leader to Leader – Are We Bargains?

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

How does one value something?  What determines its price? 

Have you ever seen “Pawn Stars” on the History Channel?  When someone brings an item in to sell, you can see it is based entirely on “demand.” 

I have a couple of hobbies where I can illustrate this.  I am a collector of ancient Biblical coins.  This includes Christian symbolism on early Roman coins, like coins of Constantine.  Despite his so-called conversion his coins did not depict Christian symbols…except for one!  And this super rare coin came up recently in an auction.  I’ve NEVER seen this coin offered before, so I was interested.          

The coin shows on the reverse a “chi rho” at the top of a battle standard, piercing an evil snake and having the legend say “for the hope of the public.”  This is purely Christian, unlike his other pagan themes.  The auction catalog put a value of it at $1,000.  What do they base this on?  “What previous examples have gone for.”  In other words, the value is placed on what people have shown they’ve been willing to pay before, called the “purchase history.’  I thought the estimated price far too low and became an active bidder, hoping people didn’t recognize the coin for what it was.  But they did!  And I was severely outbid to the tune of over $11,000.

Value.  I also collect elements, partly for my work here in Creationism.  I love the precious metals family.  But once again, demand is everything.  The super rare metal Iridium will suffice for an example.  It is over 1,000 times rarer than gold, but is actually worth about the same.  Why?  Because everyone wants gold.

And this brings me to the main point.  How much are WE worth?  Do you remember the old evangelists’ illustrations about how our bodies’ chemicals are only worth a few dollars?  Modern science has declared humans as being mere hairless apes, even animated pond scum, walking mutants with no future, purpose or hope.  And given that low value constantly preached to our youth, suicide rates are high among the young.  Low self-esteem and personal value issues are common.

Well, value is based upon demand, nothing else.  And there is only one Person Who knows exactly what we are worth.  When God lost us to Satan, He placed a bid to win us back.  He “Who owns the cattle on a thousand hills,” Who owns galaxies and riches beyond measure offered up something He only has one of…something irreplaceable.  He offered up His mostly valuable gift:  His Son. 

Did He offer up His Son just because He’s so loving and kind…or is His value of us accurate?  Well, this one thing I know: “He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many.”  God will be more than happy with purchasing us, even at such a high price.  Perhaps we should view each other (and ourselves) with this established purchase history in mind.

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Soul Winning – Treasure Valley Collaboration Brings Many to Christ

Idaho Conference reports that recent efforts have resulted in many commitments for Christ. By the end of the Prophecies Unsealed meetings with evangelist Brian McMahon in February, 38 individuals joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church by baptism, rebaptism or profession of faith. More than 20 others are continuing to study toward baptism. Read more about this collaborative project by clicking below. Watch for a more in-depth story and video report in the weeks ahead. Continue Reading…

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