The 2017 North American Division (NAD) Year-End Meeting (YEM) focused on developing “New Perspectives” on how to best accomplish the mission of the Adventist Church in the NAD, which is to reach others with our distinctive, Christ-centered message of hope and wholeness. NAD officers, ministry departments, institutions, and entities gave presentations throughout the six-day meeting. Stories of pastor- and member-led initiatives were also shared. Below are brief summaries from some of the many presentations. Visit http://ow.ly/ErHA30grEEX for links to articles, videos, photos, and full reports.
G. Alexander Bryant, executive secretary, shared that there has been growth or steady membership in all of the nine unions and one mission conference in the division. In 2016, 36,226 people were baptized. The growth rate overall in 2016 was 2.97 percent; in 2015 the rate was 3.07 percent. Bryant said that while no other denomination in North America enjoys this kind of growth, the stats are deceiving. When losses (based on deaths, dropped or missing members) are factored in, the numbers shift to 1.53 percent in 2016; and 1.42 percent in 2015. “That’s the door we need to close,” said Bryant. “I believe that by God’s grace we can do something. . . . Our Christianity is often an arms-length approach to reaching out. We have to connect better with people.”
Ernest Hernandez, processing and communications coordinator for the Office of Volunteer Ministries, shared that the total of long-term missionaries serving 1-2 years, from around the world, is 1073—434 of those are from the NAD, 546 are from all other divisions combined, and 93 are from Adventist Frontier Mission. Hernandez also reported that 55 percent of volunteers overall are under 30 years old.
The report from Tom Evans, treasurer, began with the division’s financial statements, sharing dollar amounts and percentages for NAD assets, liabilities, net assets, working capital, and liquidity. Evans shared that, for the first time ever, tithe exceeded one billion dollars, with the exact amount of $1,002,275.749. That is an average of $18,910,863 per week for 53 Sabbaths in 2016. Tithe distribution percentages, and NAD expenses, including new office building costs were also given. Evans was joined by reports from Dave Weigley, Columbia Union Conference president and audit committee chair; Raymond Jimenez III, NAD Retirement president; Robyn Kajiura, General Conference Auditing Service associate director, North America; and Michael Jamieson, undertreasurer, who explained “where your money goes” during his in-depth report on tithe monies.
A strategic visioning report from Paul Brantley, NAD vice president for Strategic Planning and Assessment, provided an exercise in which executive committee members voted on what is understood about our church in regard to mission awareness, alignment, and accountability. After this, delegates were encouraged to write their thoughts and ideas on large yellow post-it notes in the NAD’s atrium. Sharon Aka, associate director of the Adventist Learning Center, facilitated this process. Several days later the results were tallied, and they will be used in future NAD assessments in these three areas, with a primary focus on accountability.
Taking Steps to Others
Pacific Press Publishing Association’s president Dale Galusha, with NAD president Daniel R. Jackson, introduced the initiative “Taking Steps,” a reference to sharing Ellen G. White’s book Steps to Christ across the division. Jackson asked delegates to vote after considering the initiative. Requesting that those gathered pray about it, Jackson said, “Is this something we can do across the entire division? Share this with our friends who don’t know Jesus?” A couple days later, the initiative was brought back to the executive committee and was affirmed by a vote of 150 to 17. “I know the value of this printed book is something we can’t take for granted,” said Jackson.
Five members of the Ministerial Association team offered reports: Ivan Williams, Ministerial Association director, and associate directors Dave Gemmell, Esther Knott, Jose Cortes Jr., and Brenda Billingy. Adjustments to continuing education for pastors, church planting, mentoring leaders, training laypastors, and an update on the Women in Ministry initiative were shared. Williams wrapped up the report by thanking God for the more than 4,400 credentialed ministers in the NAD. He urged young people sensing God’s call to consider pastoral work; and he shared that the next CALLED convention will be on June 21-24, 2020, in Lexington, Kentucky.
Youth and Young Adult Sabbath School
In a collaborative presentation, Tracy Wood, Armando Miranda, and Sherry Uhrig together described the gap in Sabbath school as one reason youth and young adults disconnect from church. Wood, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, said that Youth Sabbath Service is an orphan with little resources and training available. Miranda, Youth and Young Adult associate director, talked about meetings held in February that addressed the Youth Sabbath School challenge. Miranda said, “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken [adults].”
Two days after this report, Debra Brill, NAD vice president for ministries, referencing this presentation, brought this motion, which was seconded and voted: “Recommend that NAD Youth and Children’s Ministries develop resources for Sabbath School to provide options for the diverse needs of churches in the North American Division.”
Pastors Furman Fordham II and Ken Wetmore talked about their joint evangelistic effort Imagine Nashville [Tennessee]. With passion, the pastors described how they’ve had similar experiences growing up in the church and attending Adventist schools, marrying, etc.; and how they currently share many of the same situations as pastors working at churches geographically close to one another with one major difference: Fordham works for a regional conference and Wetmore does not. Providentially, according to the pastors, they connected through text messages and developed a collegial relationship with accountability.
Both shared that the more they cared about each other, the more they cared about each other’s congregations. They decided to “throw out the script” and try something new: hold outreach activities together. Five hundred people attended their first joint-church event; 800 showed up at the second event, which was based on a workshop model. “People are hungry for this,” said Fordham II. “And we’re starting to see ourselves as one body of Christ working in action. . . . What can your city become?”
Adventist Media Ministries
Each of the seven broadcast media ministries of the NAD gave fast-paced, 110-second video reports. Highlights included details on both live and broadcast evangelistic series and new outreach tools for Breath of Life, Faith For Today, It Is Written, Jesus 101, La Voz de la Esperanza, LifeTalk Radio, and Voice of Prophecy. Gordon Pifher also announced that Carlton Byrd, speaker/director of Breath of Life, was asked by NBC to provide their Christmas program. Said Pifher, “That’s millions of dollars of airtime we are not paying for. It’s free—what a blessing!”
Media Ministry Tidbits
Breath of Life 55 baptisms at Oakwood University
Jesus 101 After God’s Heart, 12-part series on David
Faith For Today 60 percent of Mad About Marriage attendees are not Adventist
LifeTalk Radio More than 120 stations in 5 countries
It Is Written Every Word, 1-minute daily video devotionals (365) in 2017
LA Voz de la Esperanza 24 evangelistic series across the NAD, and in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Ecuador
Voice of Prophecy 3 Sunday churches now keeping Sabbath after Shadow Empire series