by César De León PhD LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference
According to the prophesies of John the Revelator, we are not merely a church, we are a movement, “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6). A movement doesn’t just have members, only people that are on the move. . . This explains why we are the fastest growing denomination in North America today. Most denominations in America are declining and they continue to ask the fundamental and existential question: “why are we dying?” The Seventh-day Adventist Movement, with our unique beliefs such as the Sabbath rest, Old Testament dietary codes, the soon return of Jesus; is asking, “how can we grow faster?” Our doctrines are challenging the popular constructs of denominational growth and popularity in our times. With our atypical denominational doctrines—experts reason that we should be fizzing out and eventually disappearing, however we are growing 75% faster than the Mormons, which are the second fastest growing denomination in America.
If you are just sitting in one of our church pews today and are not “in movement” because you’re spending your time being a mere member, then you have it all wrong. We are not merely an alternative denomination, we are God’s remnant people, the tail in a tale of a long list of movements God has used “To keep men calling on the name of the LORD” (Gen. 1:26).
Post modern ideologies and the narrative perspectives of our times which propose that reality does not exist, that truth is relative, that the past does not matter, that the only thing that matters is the “here and now”; can’t understand how the Seventh-day Adventist movement keeps growing.
“I saw an angel”, this angel represents a movement made out of people on the move because they have the everlasting gospel, the story of redemption, the Golgotha drama, the story of “Narnia”, that begins with a God that decides to play Russian roulette with his own Son by creating humans beings on this planet, thus begins the sacred testimony, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was[a] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness (Gen. 1).
Our story begins with movement, dynamism, creativity. Fast forward, we find Seventh-day Adventists moving, building a boat, we see a man called Abraham moving far away leaving his country and family because God wanted Abraham to get to know Him better. Good news, indeed! We see Joshua moving his forces all around the promised land, conquering and taking possession of the “good news” territory. I will give this land for possession to you and your generations forever. Joshua 1: 7-8 7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses, My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1) The people of God throughout generations have been people in movement because they have been recipients of good news.
Water stagnates when it stops circulating. Mechanical parts rust away when they stop moving. Eli, the priest lost his sons by surrendering to lazy complacent fathering. Whenever God’s people stop moving they lose sight of the mission; they pervert their ways and begin to mirror the nations around them. Thus, our archenemy constantly works to stop the dynamism of this movement. There have been pivotal points in our history when the church was supposed to move and did not do so, and the results were dreadful. After listening to the report of the ten spies, the armies of Israel stopped moving and failed to enter the Promised Land, they won themselves a 40-year tour back to the desert. Forty years later Moses tries again.
1 Then the children of Israel moved, and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho. (Numbers 22)
They found themselves on the side of the Jordan, across from Jericho. Almost there, ready to cross. Moses is preparing the last detail of the invasion. Leaders and the people are resting, taking “siestas”. Time goes by, day after day the people rest and Satan sees a window of opportunity.
Balaam told Balak, I know how to stop these people: “If they depart from the divine principles of heaven and if they brake God’s law, they will become vulnerable and then we will be able to stop them. Sure enough, they deployed beautiful Cannanite women, in enticing attire, who invited the men, especially the elders, deacons, departmental directors, secretaries, assistant directors and led them to participate in sexual orgy worship that honored Baal and Ashtoreth. They ended up burning incense to the dead. In other words, they practiced sorcery.
21 And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. (Lev.18)
9 “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you. (Deut 18)
Why? Why is Satan so opposed to God’s people? Because we give God something He so badly wants . . . adoration, exaltation. God has something Satan doesn’t have and desires very intensely; your worship, your adoration, and your exaltation. Satan hates to see God being loved, adored, worshiped, being recognized as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, that is why he waged war in heaven. This is why he wages war against you. Because you love God, Satan will hate you. Satan hates your love-affair with your Creator, this is why he is coming after you time and again, since he can’t touch God.
Years ago, I was called to serve in a large church to replace the youth pastor who was leaving. The group of young people asked me if we could have a farewell party for this pastor who was on the move. At that time, we had a big pool in our home, so we agreed. That Sunday there were about two hundred young people at my place. Everybody was having a great time, people were swimming, playing games, eating tacos and enchiladas, when a group of daredevils approached me and asked me if I wanted to join them in throwing the outgoing youth pastor— who was transitioning into another position, into the pool. I thought for a moment, but not long enough. . . Have you ever kicked yourself for saying yes at times when you know you should have said no? This was one of those time for me.
The pastor was short, but muscular and strong, and it took eight of us to finally jump him, remove his valuables and throw him into the water. We all felt proud of ourselves. We had conquered the “beast”. Well, truth be told, a beast is what we saw when my colleague came out of the water. His eyes were fuming with anger and bitterness. He was furious . . . we pastors can become furious sometimes, right? Well, my colleague friend pastor began jumping every member of the group that had thrown him into the water and one by one began to throw each one into the water, without the slightest regard for any valuables such as wallets or watches. Some were holding onto the iron fence around the pool with all their might, but to no avail. They were yanked off with so much fury that they felt their hands and arms were being broken. Once he finished with the rest of the guys, he began looking for me. I, upon seeing the devastation going on, ran into my house, locked it, went up to the second floor and watched from the window facing the pool. Suddenly, I saw it. My poor wife who was innocently passing by, nicely dressed and seven-months pregnant with our younger son, was passing by with a plate of food in each one of her hands. She was picked up— with her new wrist watched that I just had bought her, with the two plates of food in her hands, with my precious son inside her womb, and was thrown into the water. . . Ooouch. . .!
Satan hates God; but he cannot get to Him, so he will get to you, God’s most wonderful, valuable and precious possession. You are a part of God’s people; you were given the precious Good News that needs to go to all the world and now you’ve got to move with it. Yes, the enemy will come after you, but our Commander in Chief has not left us alone or abandoned us, He said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). We need to keep moving, the Advent movement has a tremendous responsibility towards the inhabitants of planet earth.
The prophet Isaiah encourages us “1 Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. 2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. (Isa. 60:1-2). All around the world there are people on the move, in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe, there are people on the move, in San Francisco, New York, Seattle, San Diego, Houston and Denver, there are people on the move.
You, child of God, that has been sitting around, arise and shine, you can do it. John saw you getting up and shining and spreading the everlasting gospel to every nation, tribe, tongue and people. The spreading of the gospel is a reality in the mind of God, it’s a reality in the annals of the history of this earth. It is a fact, it will happen because it is a precursor to the coming of Christ. Jesus will come again, John wrote: “I saw a people on the move . . .” Did John see you?