The North American Division discusses how to grow and nurture the church in the years to come.
Isaiah Long was appointed pastor of an apostolic church in Washington, DC, in 2014. Throughout his life, he had seen other pastors leading their churches in various ways, but he didn’t want to just imitate others; he wanted to fulfill his vocation the way God had created him.
“God is not satisfied that we are imitators,” Long said. “He wants us to be genuine.
He began to pray that God would show him how to lead. In October 2016, a question from a devotee launched him on a journey that would take him to a very unexpected place: the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
As Long dug through the scriptures, looking for an answer to the question put to him, he began to find more and more puzzle pieces that did not match the spiritual picture as he understood it. His research led him to Amazing Facts, which helped him answer the question he was originally asked and led him to ask other questions, including questions about the Sabbath.
“As the pieces began to fall into place, God revealed the Sabbath to my wife and me,” Long said. “We worshiped on Sundays but we felt convinced by God of the Sabbath. “
G. Alexander Bryant, President of the North American Division, presented the topic of the last breakout session on mentoring at the division’s year-end meeting on November 2, 2021. [Photo: Pieter Damsteegt]
On November 1, 2021, Kevin Lampe of Kurth Lampe Worldwide addresses the brand of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in a slide presentation co-presented with colleague Greg Dunn (on Zoom). [Photo: Pieter Damsteegt]
Kimberly Luste Maran and Julio Muñoz, Assistant Communications Directors for the North American Division, present an idea through video clips to help inspire creative thinking during the breakout media session at the end meeting. year 2021. [Photo: Pieter Damsteegt]
They began to observe the Sabbath while worshiping Sunday. After nine months of this, the Lord challenged them to transition their congregation, and in the summer of 2017, Long stood before them and shared what the Lord was doing in his heart.
Through this admission, Long learned that the church organist was an Adventist and he matched Long with an Adventist pastor, who provided resources and support while Long and his wife worked with their congregation for the shift.
Over the next 18 months, Long and his wife met individually with each family in the church to discuss their new understanding of the Sabbath. In the end, they lost around 60% of their congregation, but since September 2018 they have been praying as a church on Saturdays.
“We had some difficult conversations – including in our home – but as long as we stayed with God’s Word, it all made sense. “
Long’s story is unusual, but it shows the effectiveness of an Adventist online resource in leading him to Bible truth. Endless opportunities exist for similar experiences to become a reality.
Long’s story, shared at the North American Division (NAD) year-end meeting on Sunday, October 31, 2021, perfectly demonstrates the strategic direction of the division: multiply, media, mentorship. During three days of meetings, G. Alexander Bryant, President of NAD, asked union leaders to consider specific issues related to these three words in breakout sessions. The results of these discussions were compiled into a master list and voted on each day, and the final list of selected ideas will guide NAD leaders as they move the division forward into the future of the church.
How can we increase members’ involvement in the mission of the church? How can we increase our impact and influence on the community? What are the opportunities for collaboration with other entities? Does our methodology need to change in a post-COVID world? If so, how?
These were some of the questions presented on day four of the meetings to representatives of the NAD union and the conference executive committee as they gathered in nine different breakout sessions based on the nine unions in the NAD territory.
Evangelism and church planting are standard answers to questions about how to grow the church, but many church leaders are starting to seriously consider what these activities look like.
“We have 300 teachers in our union, and we want each of them to recognize that they are evangelists,” said Jose Joseph, of the Atlantic Union Conference (AUC), sharing an idea they had was to set a goal of having at least one baptism in each school in 2022.
Meeting people where they are is an important part of connecting the church to its community, even beyond the classroom.
“We need to focus on the things that are really needed in the communities and neighborhoods we offer to serve,” said Mark Johnson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada (SDACC), after the breakout session. groups.
As an example, the SDACC reported that several of its churches have transformed their large open lawns into growth spaces for community gardens. “We want the Adventist Church to be known as the place to go for food,” they said. “Not only nourished physically, but also spiritually and socially. “
Reporting on behalf of the Lake Union Conference (LUC), Ken Denslow shared a similar sentiment. “We need to reach out to community leaders and get involved in community programs as a church,” said Denslow, president of LUC. “We shouldn’t be focusing on their ‘winner’, but we should be engaged as members of the community, helping to make it a better place. People will be interested in a church that serves.
The union breakout sessions on the fifth day of the year-end meetings were intended to focus on the following questions:
What attributes do you think are currently associated with the Adventist brand in North America? How does my entity maximize the power of the media? How can we better mark the Adventist Church? How can our ecclesial entities best collaborate to tell a bigger and better story? How can we encourage our members to use their social media accounts as an evangelistic campaign?
During their reports, each of the unions acknowledged and recognized the importance and necessity of digital ministry – if they weren’t already aware and involved before the pandemic, they certainly are now. Many also recognized the role young people can play in using this valuable tool for the church and for Christ, mainly because they are already doing it. Those who are not engaged in using digital media as a resource have the skills to do so; they just need to be invited and trained to use these skills for ministry.
One suggestion from the Pacific Union (PUC) was to shift the digital focus from websites to apps and use church members who are already successful online. “We have pastors and young adults who have thousands of followers,” said Sandra Roberts, secretary of the PUC. “Let’s identify our influencers on social networks and work with them. “
Many groups have recommended that the church provide training opportunities so that social media can be used effectively to its full potential. This includes helping church members know what and when to post about the church and training pastors and youth to interact effectively and positively with people online. It also includes providing out-of-the-box content or training on how to create effective content.
Several reviewers have said it all comes down to one word: branding. When listing words, phrases, and concepts commonly associated with the Adventist Church, most groups identified those related to education and health care, particularly the BlueZones. While not everyone is aware of the Adventist connection to Project BlueZones, John Bradshaw of the It Is Written media ministry pointed out, “Many are familiar with the project, we just need to market the church as a ‘blue zone’ to. we.”
At the end of the discussion, participants were asked to vote on methods for three purposes: (1) to increase members’ involvement in the mission of the church, (2) to increase the number of followers in the church , and (3) multiply the impact and influence of the church in the community. Of the 10 options listed for consideration, an overwhelming majority (78%) chose “Focus on Community Needs”. Mentoring options are closely followed.
According to figures reported by Bryant at the NAD year-end meeting, 78% of church presidents, 58% of secretaries and 50% of treasurers become eligible for retirement within the next five years. Almost 50 percent of current pastors are eligible for retirement in three years.
The need to train a new generation of church leaders grows exponentially every year, said Bryant. And, he said, working together on mentoring young leaders will work better than trying to accomplish it like a field of silos.
“We need to work together to create intentional leadership development plans,” he said.
Union groups were invited to consider several issues in the final breakout sessions, including: How do we equip the next generation of leaders? How do we bring our youth into leadership and prepare them for successful church leadership in the future? How do today’s leaders find someone to mentor intentionally? How to change the perception of “ambition” as being negative?
In an interesting twist, the Southwestern Union suggested that young people themselves may have some answers. “We should start by asking them what should be done to attract and prepare young leaders, ”said Stephen Brooks, secretary of SWUC. “We should know from them what mentoring should look like and how we as a church can gain their trust.
Some of the many different ideas suggested by various unions for intentionally and effectively engaging the younger generations as leaders in the church included cross-training; normalize leadership development; internships; recruitment; structured coaching programs; and inviting young people to serve on committees, boards and other decision-making and advisory groups.
“It doesn’t matter what we propose,” said Ron Smith, president of the Southern Union, summing up the need in the breakout topics: “We have to pray, or it won’t work.”
The original version of this story was published on the North American Division news site.