“We are all co-workers together with God,” remarked Daniel R. Jackson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, as he paraphrased 1 Corinthians 3:9 at the start of his annual report at the first business session of the 2018 North American Division (NAD) Year-End Meeting (YEM).
“I have a very strong belief. It’s a belief that we haven’t always emphasized what we ought to as Seventh-day Adventists,” Jackson said. “It is this: At the very moment you accept Jesus as your personal Savior, you become a minister of the gospel.”
Before diving into the specifics of his report, Jackson continued by reciting the NAD’s mission: “To reach everyone in the North American Division with the Christ-centered message of Hope and Wholeness.” He then unpacked what that means in terms of sharing hope and wholeness.
“That is the mission statement for our territory. It gives us our marching orders,” said Jackson. “It is about hope — hope today. Hope amid bad times, good times. Hope — that has got to be our message. And, by God’s grace, it is and will continue to be our experience.”
“Wholeness is the whole expression of the being that is [a person] of hope. When one person finds connection with God then there is the opportunity to connect with humanity and be an agent of hope, wholeness, and healing to the whole world.”
The Map Coordinates
Jackson continued his report with a road map illustration that highlights were the division has been, where it is now, and where it should go in the future.
As he did in 2017, Jackson touched upon goals and accomplishments during the past six years. The map started with the development of the “Hope & Wholeness” theme and REACH values (2011); the unveiling of the NAD strategic plan and welcome to Guam-Micronesia (GMM) as a mission conference of the NAD (2012); the welcome of Oakwood University and Pacific Press Publishing Association (PPPA) as division entities (2014); the release of the book Mission-Driven Church (2015); and the welcome of Christian Record Services, Inc. as an NAD entity, as well as the major effort to plant 1,000 new churches in five years (2016).
Jackson ticked through each of the NAD’s newest entities, exploring how the mission of the church has been served through each in the past year. He shared exciting developments in GMM, recognizing conference president Ken Norton’s work to organize efforts to share the Advent message with the 60-plus outer islands of the mission —including the purchase of a boat to visit these far-reaching locales.
Diane Thurber, president of Christian Record Services, was also thanked for her business acumen and ability to shape the ministry for the vision impaired. “It’s become a vibrant organization that is now collaborating with the General Conference to reach out to the world of the blind,” said Jackson.
The road map for 2017-2020, which Jackson also shared, contains several key points: the new NAD headquarters home and coordinated mission approach with NAD offices and entities (2017); coordinated mission-driven approach with unions, conferences higher education, and health care (2018); a specific focus on churches, schools, and other institutions (2019); and visions realized (2020).
In his report, Jackson also shared what he terms “our strengths” in the North American Division. Following recognition of “our great God,” the strengths include great human resources, excellent facilities, an active laity, able youth, and generous constituencies.
“We’re running 8 percent ahead this year [on tithe],” said Jackson. “We have to praise God for those generous constituencies — the members in the pew who are committed and faithful. That really is something to say, ‘Praise the Lord’ about.”
Jackson gave quick updates on a sampling of organizations and ministry initiatives, calling attention to both the education and health care systems. He shared information about the division’s Compassion Movement, e-Huddle evangelistic leadership visioning gathering, and church planting — with more than 560 churches planted through the third year of a five-year plan to plant 1,000 churches; mentioned the Sabbath school lessons written by Stewardship director John Matthews and the increase in church giving; recognized the 2018 start of Adventist Journey, the NAD magazine; and highlighted the work of Adventist Community Services Disaster Response across the division, as communities recover from fires, floods, hurricane and typhoon damage, shootings, and the volcanic eruption in Hawaii. “Our Adventist Community Services team has been involved in every major disaster, and is acknowledged by FEMA as a qualified partner,” said Jackson.
Jackson also reported on mission work in the division’s metropolises, citing examples of growth in some of the largest cities in the NAD. He reported that, “from the year 2012 to 2016, the growth in these top cities, was tremendous. … San Antonio, [Texas], grew by 31 percent; Cincinnati, [Ohio]; by 26, Columbus, [Ohio], 25, Houston, [Texas], and Philadelphia, [Pennsylvania], by 24 percent.”
“And we praise God for our Hispanic ministry in the North American division,” said Jackson, citing the large movement Caravan of Hope that will travel (and is operating through local church members making friends and planting seeds) through 30 cities in 19 states. “Listen, friends, they have a goal to reach,” said Jackson. “With 500 pastors, and the work of [our members] their goal is to reach 80,000 people, and, ultimately, baptize 30,000.”
Jackson also shared what challenges face the NAD. These include a failure to place the mission as the top priority, the potential disenchantment of all age groups, financial ability to fuel the mission in the NAD, the potential of decreasing funds, and pluralism inside and outside the church.
Two specific experiences recently created awareness that disenchantment threatens the church in North America. Jackson told the YEM delegates that he received an email from a woman who wrote, “I have been a Seventh-day Adventist all my life. … I am now wondering what happened to my church. … I’m 87 years old, and I live in a community of people my age, and we’re all talking the same language.”
Another experience occurred around the same time when, in Battle Creek, Michigan, a few weeks ago, a grandfather approached Jackson with tears in his eyes. The man told Jackson that his teen granddaughter said she “is leaving this church.” He asked Jackson to write “Emma” a letter, which Jackson did.
Recounting, Jackson said, “I appealed to her to stay, ‘because we need you, and God needs you.’ And that is true of every person. We have got to be honest with each other. We can’t gloss over everything. That’s not what the world is about. We don’t live in that kind of world. And furthermore, we don’t live in that kind of society.”
Regarding the pluralism shift in the NAD, Jackson said, “The problem is that pluralism is leaky. It leaks into the church, and we begin to have ideas that perhaps are not biblical. I have a concern for that, and so should you. May God give us the wake-up call that we need to root our thinking in His Word.”
Despite the challenges, Jackson is excited about what is happening in the NAD. He reported on training initiatives for conference leaders.
Jackson also mentioned the Women in Ministry initiative, saying “Let it be understood that we will not be deterred. We have a mandate from God. We will one day, hopefully, have 1,000 female pastors in the North American Division.”
Jackson concluded his YEM report with reciting 2 Peter 1:19.
“We are not alike; the church is made of all kinds people,” said Jackson. “We need to join hands together, rise above our circumstances, and finish the task. … We will do well to pay attention to this [verse in 2 Peter]. … We have one true north Star in the North American Division. His name is Jesus. We serve Him, and He will lead us until the time when He comes. We will not stop. We will not be deterred. And, read the end of the Book, because we know Who wins.”