Posts Tagged: Seventh-day Adventist

Elder Ted Wilson: Unwilling To Sit On the Sidelines

So I am currently in New York City for NY13 the worldwide thrust of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to reach New York City. I have to admit I came here with some skepticism, not sure what I would be doing or why I am here. But I came, because I was asked and I felt it an honor to be requested to represent the North American Division in this initiative, so here I am.

And I have been taking mental notes some good some not so good…

A good I have observed is our evangelistic speaker for these meetings, Elder Ted Wilson.

What I am so impressed with, as are so many others, he is fully engaged in this initiative!

Something I keep hearing over and over again from people that have been serving the Adventist Church a lot longer than I have is, “Isn’t it great to see a General Conference President preaching and leading a full campaign!” People that have served in the General Conference offices for a number of years are expressing their appreciation of Elder Wilson not just casting the vision, but actually helping to carry out the vision of reaching New York. As one GC official said, “He could do what has been done,  set the vision and say ‘now go do it.’ But he is actually out there with us.”

What I am seeing is that Elder Wilson isn’t content to sit on the sidelines, he is passionate about reaching New York City. He is not going to tell others to follow the counsel of Ellen White to minister to this the most diverse city in the world, without also doing it himself. He isn’t just someone that goes around and talks about what should be done and the ministries that should be done he is actually doing those ministries and doing very tangible things to make those ministries a success!

Unwilling to sit on the sidelines.

He, and his wife Nancy, are even attending the classes for the Field School daily. He said, “I have a lot to learn.” So he is at each class learning.

As I watch Elder Wilson, I think back to the last time we were at some meetings together. A very different environment. The Pacific Union Special Constituency Session on the bylaw changes regarding the ordination of women within that Union.

That day as I once again was observing our General Conference leader, I was disappointed that he was there. It wasn’t because I have a different point of view on the topic and disliked that he disagrees with me, (I’m actually one of those folk that thinks its okay to disagree and state it with conviction trusting that we can both still love Jesus) I was disappointed because I felt that it wasn’t a very presidential move of him to be there when the whole world knew that he would get voted down. It felt to me like a very unsound move politically.

But as I think about Elder Wilson’s presence here at this event I think I understand more and actually now respect his presence at the former event.

Here is what I am concluding: If Elder Ted Wilson is passionate about something, if he is convicted about something, he is not the type to just sit on the sidelines and let everyone else do the work.

He was/is convicted on his position regarding women’s ordination. He is convicted on his position regarding reaching New York City…

…In both instances he acted on his conviction.

Unwilling to sit on the sidelines.

I don’t believe it is fair of me to affirm one and renounce the other.

I admire, I appreciate, I trust a leader…

…who stands for his convictions no matter how politically painful it may be to take on Union that has clearly stated their views.

….who preaches a full evangelistic campaign just like the rest of us pastors do, no matter how exhausting it may be.

I admire, I appreciate, I trust Elder Ted Wilson…

…not because we share all points of view in common.

…because I know his convictions by his actions.

He is a man unwiling to sit on the sidelines.

And that is a leader I can follow!

The Four Most Important Evangelists in The Adventist Church

If you follow the world of Adventist Evangelism you are familiar with ministries such as It Is Written, Amazing Facts, Breath of Life, & Voice of Prophecy. You’re also familiar with the great evangelists of Adventism, some of y’all have seen them so many times on 3ABN or The Hope Channel that you almost feel like they are your own personal friends, Doug Batchelor, Shawn Boonstra, Mark Finley, Alejandro Bullon, John Bradshaw, Carlton Byrd, and more. But of all the evangelists in our denomination, The Seventh-day Adventist Church, which ones are the most important, the most vital to the growth of our church?

I’m going to give you my top four. They are…

  1. Parking Lot
  2. Groundskeeper
  3. Janitor
  4. Greeter

These three individuals & one inanimate object are far more important to the growth of your church and thus the growth of Adventism at least here in North America than any of the names I mentioned above. Why do I say that? Because these three evangelists have a weekly impact on the growth of your church that the other three do not have (unless of course one of them is your Pastor:)).

Pastor Nelson Searcy and other church growth surveyors report that churches have roughly 7 minutes from the time a guest pulls into your church parking lot to make them feel welcome and give them a compelling reason to come back. Now a lot of folk may be skeptical about that statement, but if you’re a church goer then that disqualifies you from being able to speculate on the mind of the un-churched. The un-churched don’t think like church folk or act like church folk or talk like church folk, but they are the folk we need to reach, which is why these four evangelists, parking lot, groundskeeper, janitor, and greeter are so important to the life and growth of a local church!

Let me tell you about the value of each one:

Parking Lot

Church growth studies state that if a parking lot that is more than 80% it is a deterrent to guests. When I first read this in a book by Russell Burrill I was skeptical, but I’m a pastor which makes me even less qualified than the average member in the pew to analyze the thoughts of an individual searching for a church, so I took the study to the church Elders and there in our meeting one of our Elders raised his hand. He said, “Pastor 8 years ago when my wife and I first move to the area we came to this church; we pulled into the parking lot and didn’t see many openings. The place seemed too crowded so we drove to another church in town.” They weren’t even here 7 minutes and they left. Praise the Lord they gave us another chance, they have been a great asset to our church! But we could have lost them because the evangelism of our parking lot dropped the ball! How can we help with the evangelism of the parking lot? Well first off pastors we can actually pay attention to it. One thing we did prior to moving to two services in Visalia, as our church grew, we not only paid attention to how many people were sitting in the seats but we also sent a Deacon to count the empty spots in the parking lot. When we were getting to full we began to ask our members to park elsewhere. There was a parking lot next door and we got permission to use it, we also had members park out on the street at the curb. Our church having the evangelistic heart that they do complied and our parking lot was once again ready to be an evangelist to our guests.

Groundskeeper

Are your bushes trimmed, is your lawn mowed & green, do you have flowers blooming? The first thing that people see when they pull up to your church are these things and whether we pay attention to it or not, it is noticed by guests. If you don’t believe me think about the last time you pulled up to a persons house whose yard was falling apart. Did you notice? Of course you did! Especially if you were about to go inside. In fact you probably thought in your head, “If this is what the outside of their house looks like, I wonder what the inside looks like?” We’ve all thought it (if you haven’t you may be the one with the ultra shabby yard:)). Well do you think folk pulling into a church think any different? NO! And what is one of the most important rules of evangelism? Start by focusing on the positive. What do most our main stream evangelists start their meetings with? Daniel 2. Why? Because they want folk to see the credibility of the scriptures and honestly probably the credibility of us, in that we were so “smart” to show them the meaning of Daniel 2 (sorry mild sarcasm there:)). But this is a positive message for a positive start. It is no different each Sabbath morning, we want to start things off on the positive. And the positive is a green mowed lawn, trimmed bushes, and flowers blooming. Pastors are you paying attention to the evangelism provided by your groundskeeper?

Janitor

Really this evangelist follows in the same line as the previous. If your church is unkempt and dirty you are communicating a message you don’t want to communicate. Bathrooms need to be clean! If they are like ours in Visalia (literally the worst church bathrooms ever) then you really have to go out of your way to make them as useable as possible! Papers should not be lying around, the walls should be clean, the tables at potluck should be clean. I was once speaking at a small church in the Southern parts of these here United States. I was the guest so I showed-up early that gave me the opportunity to stand in the foyer and look around while I waited for the Sabbath Schools to finish, what I noticed made me wonder how many guests came back. There was a coat rack that probably had half the coats hanging on the rack and the other half were lying in a heap on the floor. Sitting on top of the coat rack were stacks of what appeared to be old Adventist Review magazines along with other various papers. Everything just looked disheveled. We don’t get points if the outside is beautiful but the inside it is a filthy mess, either Spiritually or as a literal church structure. Your janitor evangelist is important!

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Greeters

This evangelist may be the most overlooked because most people consider their church friendly. But just because we as members think our church is friendly doesn’t mean that is what your guests experience. And unfortunately what has been discovered is that members almost always rate themselves higher on the “friendly” meter than guests do. All the other 6 1/2 minutes of a guests first encounter with your church are important but the first 30 seconds that a guest steps inside your church are the most vital and will leave an impression of your church that can be very hard to shake! I’ve found within Adventism that most greeting ministries are the same. Hand-out a bulletin and be done with it. In some churches that is even an overreach of expectation. One of my associates went to preach at another church in our area, when he walked into the church foyer there was no greeter. There was a table though with a stack of bulletins. My associate greeted the table and took a bulletin 🙂 To be a greeter is not to be a bulletin dispenser. A greeter is an evangelist! Every pastor should do training sessions with their greeters. Have a plan for how to greet and where to greet. Yes, where matters. Guests should not have to come to the greeters, I can not count how many times I have had to tap a greeter on a shoulder in a church I was visiting and ask for a bulletin. One pastor friend told me how at a church he was serving at the greeters refused to come out from behind the hospitality table, they said if the people wanted something it was clear where they needed to go. Sounds so hospitable! 🙂 I find the greeting ministry of our church to be one of the ministries I spend the most time thinking about and praying over!

So there are your four “most important” evangelists in Adventism! From personal experience and observation I believe if a pastor will take a little more time focusing on even just these four areas, he or she will see the retention of their guests increase.

 

We Can’t Change For Our Kids

If I’m honest I believed that when I had kids there would be certain things I would just stop doing, and certain things I would automatically start doing. Why? Because haven’t you heard, “kids change everything.”

While in many ways that is true, “kids do change everything,” there are many ways in which folk think their kids will change things, but ultimately, “Kids have changed nothing.”

Before I was a parent I said, “once I have kids we will have family worship every day.” Well I’ve had kids for four years now, and we don’t have family worship every day. We do read our boys individually the Bible each night, and we do pray with them many times throughout the day, but sitting down as a family unit for worship on a daily basis consistently, it hasn’t happened.

I’ve heard future parents say, “I’ll quit drinking,” “I’ll quit smoking,” “I’ll go to church regularly” etc., “once I have kids.” But I’ve discovered in so many cases like my example above, it usually doesn’t happen.

Grandparents will say, “I think you’ll see our kids a lot more involved in church once they have children of their own.” And yet so often this isn’t the case.

Why?

Because if a person is waiting for a kid in their life to change them, more often than not they aren’t going to change, at least not drastically!

If I could give expecting parents or folk that are contemplating having children one day a little advice: If you want to be different for your kids, then CHANGE NOW!

You see ultimatley kids can’t change us, we are inherently selfish, impatient, angst ridden individuals. Yes kids can temper those things some, but they can’t ultimately change us.

There is only one source of change and that is through Jesus Christ–

“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,” –Titus 3:3-6

It is not through a relationship with our children that any of us will be saved or changed, but through a relationship with Jesus our Savior.

Even if a person “changes” for the sake of their kids, if these “changes” are simply in the context of having children then these changes are deceiving and of no ultimate value. They are prosthetic changes

If the premise of an individuals changes are “their children” then that is not a change that is lasting it is in fact the height of hypocrisy.

The term hypocrite in the Bible came from the Greek word “hypokrites” which was an individual that was an actor, “playing a role” for another. 

Isn’t a parent that sets standards and goes through the motion of being involved in church and practicing certain Judeo-Christian principles simply for the good of their children without truly embracing them in their own hearts are they not playing a role? Hypokrites? Actors?

How many parents have raised children being involved, active in the church, setting high standards in their homes, only to see their children go off to college or begin their own adult lives and those same parents are no longer involved in church, no longer practicing the standards they had practiced while raising their children? Was the change then through Jesus or the children, and if it was through the children then couldn’t we term that hypocrisy–playing a role for another?

And then the question has to be asked what is being communicated to the adult children, when the parents that had rasied them one way are living a completely different way? They’ll think their parents have changed, but the more probable reality is that their parents were never truly “changed from the inside out.”

I’m discovering in myself that I can’t change for my kids, nor can my kids change me. If I do change in these ways then it is just hypocrisy, it is what Jesus described to the pharisees as a whitewashed tomb, “beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Mt. 23:27)

Potential parents…

Expecting parents…

Parents of young children…

Parents of teenagers…

Parents of adult children…

Grandparents…

                             Let us all change…

                                                            Not for our kids…

                                                                                         Because we love Jesus!

“Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.” -1 Corinthians 16:13, 14

Adventist Education: It is “Something Better”

While many in North America want to be just like us when it comes to our Educational system, a large percentage of Adventists are abandoning our schools.

Why?

Because of a perceived reality that just isn’t true!

That our schools are less than the best…

Ellen G. White wrote,

““Something better” is the watchword of education, the law of all true living. Whatever Christ asks us to renounce, He offers in its stead something better.” –Education, p. 296.

Adventist Education is that something better! Don’t believe me how ’bout we look at the data? What about what others are saying?

What about this headline taken straight out of the pages of the Los Angeles Times,

“The Conversation: Pursuing successful education reform might mean going the way of Adventists”

Or what about the fact that Martin Doblmeier a non-Adventist award winning producer and director is making a documentary for PBS, (tentatively titled: “Teach the Children Well”) examining the success of Adventist Education.

In a clip I saw of this video there is even a line addressing the fact our own people are not attending our schools, “with all of this proven success, Adventist schools are still shrinking.”

So why is everyone else other than “US” (Adventists) impressed with our schools?

Because of the following data:

A 4 year study was done on Adventist Education. In this study 800+ schools in the United States, Canada, & Bermuda were studied. 51,706 students participated in the study.

And the findings show something amazing!

Our students were ABOVE the National Average in:

  •  in all subjects (science being one of the highest)
  •  for all grade levels

ABOVE predicted/expected achievement:

  • in all subjects
  • for all grade levels
  • for all school sizes
  • regardless of ability level

That last line in all red is one of the things that shocked researchers most. Unlike most studies that throw-out the lowest end, those that may qualify as special-ed students. These studies included every single student that attended Adventist schools and found that even our students that were considered special-ed/needs students scored on average above predicted/expected achievement.

Specifically researchers looked at the Sciences as that is considered to be weaker in Adventist schools for two reasons:

  1. We teach Creation and that macro-evolution is a false theory
  2. We do not have (in most of our schools) the resources to have the adequate labs and classrooms to provide the services many other Christian and Public Schools are able to provide.

So what were the results?

  • Above average in science in every grade
  • Higher in science than would be predicted by ability scores
  • Above average for all sub-areas of science
  • Highest sub-area is Scientific Inquiry
  • Higher science the more years in Adventist schools

There were differences in the sciences found between the smaller Adventist schools which constitutes more than 60% of our schools (and when they are speaking of smaller they are talking about schools in the elementary level even smaller than Sierra View Junior Academy about 90 students K-8 & comparable to Armona Union Academy for High-School level).

We would expect differences in these areas though–the larger schools were better–wait…what STUNNED researchers:

In every category the differences were consistently in favor of the smaller schools.

In fact the amazing thing about Adventist Education that adds an entirely different level of separation between our school system and every other:

“Students in schools with fewer financial resources do as well as those with more financial resources.”

Think about all the talk in the public arena about the schools that have and those that have not? And the unfair advantage that is available to kids in schools with great financial resources.

In the study of Adventist Ed, there is no distinction. Even our 1 room classrooms with absolutely no science labs, still on average score above the national average in science and all other subjects on national standardized tests.

And the last little detail I want to share with you that has been found in studies addresses a fundamental desire that is in most parents hearts, to see their child have greater opportunities than they themselves had:

It has been found that a child that works their way through our Adventist Educational System will likely advance to a higher socio-economic level than their parents.

The way it was stated is this:

Adventist Education is the only known system by which it is highly-probable that an individual will advance to a higher socio-economic status in ONE GENERATION.

Why?

Because the watchword for Adventist Education is “Something Better.”

This is why PBS is having a documentary made & the Los Angeles Times is doing stories on our educational system. They want to know and understand why.

And maybe we as Adventists, should pause, and take a second look as well.

But here to me is ultimately why we should take a second look at Adventist Education:

“In the highest sense the work of education and the work of redemption are one…” –Ellen G. White, Education, p.30

Our church is in a crisis. More than half of our young people are leaving the church and saying, “No” to the Adventist life and beliefs. This can be thwarted but part of the change comes with connecting to an Adventist school.

You see the Valugenesis study found three key elements to a childs spiritual development. Spirituality and Adventist values taught at home, a quality local church, & attending a quality Adventist school.

  • For the young people that are members of our church but really don’t have any of these three they found over the course of a generation of students only 35% had developed a mature faith in Jesus Christ.
  • For the young people that have one of those quality venues in their lives they found 55% of them had developed a mature faith in Jesus Christ.
  • For those with two quality venues 69% had a mature faith in Jesus Christ.
  • And for those with all three quality home, church, & school 75% had a mature faith in Jesus Christ.

Now some people may say, “you see I don’t need the school there is only a 6% difference between the two quality venues and the three quality venues.”

Well, let me just say I hope no one would say that. Let us hope that every parent would say, “even for just a 6% greater opportunity of faith, I would do anything for my child!”

These are the numbers but here is the testimony of more than 81% of students that attended Adventist schools:

“Attending an Adventist school is the most important thing that has helped me develop my religious faith.”

That is the testimony of my life. I accepted Jesus through the influence of my Academy Bible teacher, Pastor Neil Richmund & my Academy peers. I am forever grateful to Spring Valley Academy for the impact that wonderful school had on my life. And more so I am grateful that my parents made the decision from day one that there was no other option for our family, all three of their kids were going to Adventist school whether we liked it or not our entire lives. The schools weren’t perfect and nor were we, my older sister and I went the way of the world for a time, but we had our roots and we are both back walking with the Lord. She teaching in an Adventist Elementary school, and me working as an Adventist pastor. And my little sister praise the Lord never wandered and she recently had the great privilege of enrolling the next generation into an Adventist school, Armona Union Academy.

If you haven’t considered it or you have decided Adventist Education just wasn’t worth it for your family; Will you pause and see past the perception to the reality?

_______________________________________________________________

**The statistics found in this post are from a presentation by Dr. Elissa Kido

Daily Disappointment

In November of 1844 William Miller, the leader of the Millerite Movement & the man that predicted that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844 wrote these words,

“Brethren, hold fast; let no man take your crown. I have fixed my mind upon another time, and here I mean to stand until God gives me more light. And that is, Today, Today, & Today, until He comes and I see Him for whom my soul yearns.”

Today as I attended the funeral of a young lady whom today would have turned 34 had she not died in her sleep two weeks ago without warning, I was reminded why I as a believer in the 2nd Coming of Jesus should hope for and even live in expectation of His return TODAY.

You see if Jesus had come TODAY, Carla’s parents & brother, her exended family, and friends would not be going to sleep tonight in sorrow. If Jesus had come TODAY all the tears shed in that little A-framed church would have been wiped away, if only Jesus had come TODAY.

For those living close to the heart of Jesus there should be so much in this world that daily reminds us why we are disappointed that Jesus has not returned TODAY!

Every argument with our spouse…

Every moment of temptation we succumb to…

Every cross word spoken to our children…

Every political debate we watch…

Every distant war we try to ignore…

Every explicit billboard we pass…

Every innocent victim mourned by her mother….

should cause at least a modicum of disappointment that TODAY a cloud the size of a man’s fist has not appeared in the eastern sky.

This world is not our home and so TODAY we will hold fast to hope, letting no man take our crowns. 

We will live in expectation TODAY & EVERY DAY until He comes and we see Him whom our souls yearn, and on that day, our disappointment will be no more!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come TODAY!

My Thoughts on the Growth of Southern Adventist University

Southern Adventist University recently announced an increase in enrollment for the 14th straight year. In a time when everyone else seems to regularly struggle for students, why has Southern grown? The following are a few of my thoughts that I wrote in the comments section on another blog, but decided to share them with y’all on here. These thoughts are not scientific and I did not write this as a blog, but rather as a response to another blog so forgive some of the errors and the style with which it is written.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Tipping Point” speaks of how a series of happenings can “tip” something into a great movement. How often times it is not just one thing, but a series of events, sometimes seemingly unrelated that cause a movement. I believe that is what happened at Southern.

When I arrived at Southern in 1998 it was one of the most cost efficient schools.  While I paid around $14,000 for tuition, books, room & board. My sister at Pacific Union College was paying $20,000 just for tuition.

Also my first year at Southern they began to partner with Oakwood College (now university) in a program known as DEEP. 8 African American students from Oakwood attended Southern and 8 Caucasian students from Southern attended Oakwood. My first couple years at Southern there were very few African American students, the DEEP students were recognizable, but within a couple years that program was no longer necessary because the amount of African American & Caribbean Black students at Southern increased rapidly. Southern had already been a fairly mixed population with White kids and Latin kids from Florida, but this added a level of diversity that the school greatly needed considering its segregated history. Yet the great paradox to the fact that “Southern was growing through diversity” was that Southern was also growing as a result of “White Flight.” During the early years of the turn of the century a number of students from Andrews University and Columbia Union College were transferring to Southern, primarily white students. As I got to know many of these students and as I discussed with folk from both CUC & AU in later years many of these individuals were leaving their schools to go to a more “white” school. So Southern grew both from intentionally recruiting from amongst the minority populations & from folk trying to get away from schools that were becoming less & less “white.”

Another example of contradictory reasons for growth. Was in the fact that Southern grew based on both it’s conservative traditionalism and it’s progressive elements. Southern is famous for their mandatory vespers, worships, & most of all the requirement to be out of the dorm on Sabbath mornings by 10 a.m. to attend church (all things I still defend vehemently!) They are known for a stricter dress code & jewelry policy than many of our other schools adhere to. When I first arrived at Southern the policy was still in place that you could not wear hats or shorts to the library or cafeteria. They eased up my second year, hats were allowed in both and shorts were allowed during the dinner hours. Pants still had to be worn at lunch. And yes I saw this policy enforced.

And yet for as strict as Southern was in those areas there was also a very progressive element to Southern. A couple years after I started attending Southern, they opened up Southern Village. This as small as it may seem placed a great deal of trust in students. Southern Village were resident halls set-up like apartments with 4 to 6 students living in them. Here is why it placed so much trust in the students. There was no dean that lived on site, the students were on the honor system when it came to having the opposite sex in your room (guys apartments were next to girls apartments), they were on the honor system regarding curfew, and having residence hall worship. For a school that many saw as being controlling dictators this contradicted that perspective, it placed trust and value in the students.

Southern also while being very “strict” and “conservative” was simultaneously touting their School of Visual Art & Design where we were told you could get internships with Disney, Pixar, & other mainstream media outlets–not aspects I’m thrilled with–but it was another aspect of what was helping the school to grow.

While Southern promoted and maintained strong ties to classical & traditional worship through our music department & our Evensong Sabbath evening worship services they also were very supportive of those musical styles which might have ruffled the feathers of many of the traditional backers of Southern. For example:  It will probably never be listed as one of the reasons for momentum and growth at Southern, I still to this day believe it to be so. From January 2000 through May of 2000 Southern Adventist University sponsored the tour of a Christian Rock Band, Catch 77. Catch 77 played at 25 different Academies across the United States, 5 colleges, and several churches. They personally sold several thousand CD’s, but also everywhere they went they touted how great Southern was! They would pull into a school teach Bible classes for a couple days, have a Theology student traveling with them preach a couple nights, and then on the last evening they would have a full blown concert, lights, drums, effects, all the things that made academy faculty uncomfortable:). Upon their return to Southern in subsequent years, the band members would regularly have students approach them on campus at Southern and talk about how they had seen them & how they had chosen Southern because of their visit to their school. It completely went against the clean cut, traditional image of Southern, & yet Southern helped to make it happen! And in turn I believe Catch 77 helped Southern to gain momentum in those early years.

There of course are many other things that have helped Southern to grow. The high standard of excellence. From the expectations placed on the students, the quality programming, the visual look of all the buildings on campus, it all adds to the appeal of Southern.

We could talk about the strong academics I believe at one point they had 10 straight years where every nursing student in the program passed the boards on their first attempt (that streak actually might still be going). The Theology Department continues to have the highest percentage of graduates receive a call and sponsorship to the seminary.

I believe it was also about having the right people in the right place at the right time. Southern has a president, Dr. Bietz, that receives standing ovations from the student body, he is seen as a visionary and his leadership is trusted by faculty, alumni, parents, and students. He in part has the ability to be who he is because he has an amazing team around him. Dr. Wohlers a strict disciplinarian that helps to maintain the high-standard at Southern, he asks the hard questions, and will speak-up when he sees things getting a little out of hand. As much flack as he often got, he I believe helped allow others to take some of the chances they did! There is Marty Hamilton that is a long range planning genius. He has overseen the purchase of property all around campus. Placing Southern in a great financial and long range growth position. He has overseen the construction of many of the new facilities on campus that add to the beauty and fit in with the vision and look of Southern. Our Campus Ministries department continues to lead the colleges in sending student missionaries overseas & providing absolutely tremendous Spiritual Life programming on campus. The list could go on and on!

But above all I think what has helped Southern to continue to grow is that they have maintained a commitment to the fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist church. They are not perfect, but they don’t try and see how far outside of Adventism they can get. They don’t try to downplay who they are as Adventists. They don’t compromise on who they hire as faculty and staff. They are committed to being a Seventh-day Adventist institution of higher learning and I believe because they have honored the Lord in that way, the Lord has honored them! As long as they keep that as their first and primary objective, not for the sake of growth, but b/c they truly want to honor our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, I believe they will continue to grow.

The Ark Kids

The Greatest Evangelists of the Ark (our church plant) have been…

The Ellen G. White Quote Quota

As a preacher I have a quota on Ellen G. White quotes for my sermons. The quota is basically this: “NEVER have more Ellen White quotes than Bible texts, NEVER!” 

Many years ago my wife and I were traveling, when we arrived at our destination for the evening I had a message on my phone,

“Pastor, Pastor you have to listen to the sermon that was preached today at church. We had guests, they walked out. It was horrible. Just listen!”

Well the next day my wife and I would be driving again and so I decided to download the sermon and listen to it as we drove.  The content wasn’t horrible, the premise wasn’t to far off the mark (though out there a ‘bit), but I quickly realized what the issue was. About ten minutes into the sermon I started to count: 3 scriptures, 20 Ellen G. White quotes, and the three scriptures were from the first 10 minutes–they were easy to remember there were only 3 of them in the entire sermon! (I have to give the speaker credit he introduced her by all her titles: Mrs. White, Sister White, The prophet, The prophetess, The pen of inspiration, Our inspired writer, My favorite author, etc.)

Needless to say I wasn’t pleased!

This gentleman definitely wasn’t following the rule; never have Mrs. White out quote the Word of God!

So why do I bring this up?

Not because I am trying to discourage preachers from using Ellen White, in fact I think it is ridiculous for an Adventist preacher to not quote her, yet to quote from every other Spiritual writer there is, Lucado, Warren, Swindoll, Hybels, etc.. Her writings are powerful and she is often the first quote I want to use to illuminate what is being said. So we as preachers should quote her.

I don’t bring it up because I hear the pastors that do quote her, quoting her too much. I think most Adventist pastors are respectful of the “EGW Quote Quota.”

I bring this issue up, because I am afraid that for many of us, myself included (and not just pastors but many Seventh-day Adventist Christians) we have forgotten this rule when it comes to our Facebook & Twitter accounts!

I am finding more and more Ellen White quotes amongst my peers on Facebook & Twitter and not enough Bible. It seems her quotes are outpacing the Bible 3 to 1 (of course that is not an official ratio), but you get the point! I hope? 

There are times when I’ve been doing seminars or speaking in front of an exclusively Adventist crowd and on these occasions I will use tons of Ellen White quotes, but when I am in a public forum speaking where I know there are many pre-Adventists present I will always make sure there is more Bible than “my favorite author.”

Why?

Because I want to do what Ellen White told us to do & what she tried to do for all of us, “Point people back to the Bible.”

Well Facebook, Twitter, & other Social Media outlets for most of us are public forums. They are for many of us, places where we have a signficant amount of contact w/ a captive audience. an audience which often times may not believe as we do, in those moments where do we want to FIRST point these individuals–hear me I am not saying to do away with Ellen White quotes or that they are unable to be edifying to the unbeliever–but where do we want to FIRST point our readers? To the Word of God! That which is, “a lamp unto their feet & a light unto their path.” (Psalm 119:105)

So let us all strive to remember The Ellen G. White Quote Quota, not just in our public speaking, but in all our public discourse, “NEVER quote Ellen White more than you quote the Bible, NEVER!”

 

 

 

The Ark: Our Name

Struggle

As I head into an important meeting August 19 I am in great prayer for the Spirit of God’s leading. Since I always believe in being honest on this blog and in life, I thought I would share the struggle I am having.

My position on the issues of the day are pretty clear, if you read this blog you know I am in support of Women’s Ordination. I believe the day our church took the position to allow women pastors, we should have also taken the position of ordaining. Otherwise it feels like saying “you get paid .75 cents on the dollar” or “here is the title with none of the authority.”

I am disappointed that the current movement is not being lead by our General Conference, and I am finding it hard to trust that things will be different in the future.

**Quick side note, the current administration is getting all the blame, but let us not forget that the previous administration spoke of moving forward on this issue and took a silent survey of the World Division Presidents and pulled back, the current admin is just vocal and so “He” and they get the brunt of our angst, but is an impediment any different whether vocal or silent?

So what is my struggle? My struggle is this: I still believe in the authority of Ellen White in my life as a Seventh-day Adventist, and since she is sleeping in the ground ’till Jesus comes, all I can go by in regards to her counsel are the words we have on the written page. Thus when my friend Pastor Shawn Brace posted two quotes on his Facebook page my struggle has been increased. I have seen the quotes before, but maybe as I am in a great season of prayer over this issue and our church I saw them with new eyes.

I will share those quotes below, but first I want to share one other thing that has increased my struggle. A conversation I had with a fellow pastor, a female pastor, and she said,

“Chad I very much want ordination without regard to gender to happen, but if it happens apart from the General Conference, then I am only recognized in one or two Unions as ordained & if I leave those Unions it has no value. Then all we have essentially done is release the tension a little, much like when certain conferences voted to change ordination policy a few years back, or certain churches voted to ordain their female pastors, it did not really change the issue, women still are not recognized on equal status in the EYES (GC) of the church. If we do this now, will it only release the pressure off the General Conference for a season and in actuality further delay what ultimately needs to happen, equal ordination for all?”

Twice Paul told us that, “Everything is permissible–but not everything is beneficial.” (1 Cor. 10:23 & 1 Cor. 6:12). So I am praying, not what is most permissible, but what will be most beneficial to the cause of God & to the cause of recognition for women by ALL the church?

May we all pray, and may God give us wisdom.

EGW Quotes Pastor Shawn posted that stirred my struggle:

“. . . I have been instructed that there is a great work to be done in America. . .

“The world is filled with strife for the supremacy. The spirit of pulling away from fellow laborers, the spirit of disorganization, is in the very air we breathe. By some, all efforts to establish order are regarded as dangerous–as a restriction of personal liberty, and hence to be feared as popery. These deceiv

ed souls regard it a virtue to boast of their freedom to think and act independently. They declare that they will not take any man’s say-so, that they are amenable to no man. I have been instructed that it is Satan’s special effort to lead men to feel that God is pleased to have them choose their own course independent of the counsel of their brethren. . . .

“Oh, how Satan would rejoice if he could succeed in his efforts to get in among this people and disorganize the work at a time when thorough organization is essential and will be the greatest power to keep out spurious uprisings and to refute claims not endorsed by the word of God! We want to hold the lines evenly, that there shall be no breaking down of the system of organization and order that has been built up by wise, careful labor. License must not be given to disorderly elements that desire to control the work at this time.

“Some have advanced the thought that, as we near the close of time, every child of God will act independently of any religious organization. But I have been instructed by the Lord that in this work there is no such thing as every man’s being independent. The stars of heaven are all under law, each influencing the other to do the will of God, yielding their common obedience to the law that controls their action. And, in order that the Lord’s work may advance healthfully and solidly, His people must draw together.

“The spasmodic, fitful movements of some who claim to be Christians are well represented by the work of strong but untrained horses. When one pulls forward, another pulls back, and at the voice of their master one plunges ahead and the other stands immovable. If men will not move in concert in the great and grand work for this time, there will be confusion. It is not a good sign when men refuse to unite with their brethren and prefer to act alone. Let laborers take into their confidence the brethren who are free to point out every departure from right principles. If men wear the yoke of Christ, they can not pull apart; they will draw with Christ” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 257-259).

“I have often been instructed by the Lord that no man’s judgment should be surrendered to the judgment of any other one man. Never should the mind of one man or the minds of a few men be regarded as sufficient in wisdom and power to control the work and to say what plans shall be followed. But when, in a General Conference, the judgment of the brethren assembled from all parts of the field is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered. Never should a laborer regard as a virtue the persistent maintenance of his position of independence, contrary to the decision of the general body” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 260).

 

 

 

 

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