Focus on Mission
Another North Pacific Union constituency session is just around the corner. While it is hard to believe it’s been more than five years since we last gathered, much has changed since 2016. Today, our country seems more divided than ever in the wake of the polarizing events we’ve come through.
As a church, we have important work to do. Our mission is to reach all people within the North Pacific Union and the world with the distinctive, Christ-centered, Seventh-day Adventist message of hope and wholeness.
When we gather for our constituency session in August, we’re going to do four things to help us remain focused on our mission of reaching one more. We will remember, renew, refocus and act.
Just as we will do in person, in the next few pages, I want to remember how God has led us. I want to encourage spiritual renewal and invite the Holy Spirit to continue leading us. I want to refocus our attention on the future and outline upcoming plans. And finally, as Northwest members, I want to look at the ways we can take action to continue carrying out our mission.
Our mission is to reach all people within the North Pacific Union and the world with the distinctive, Christ-centered, Seventh-day Adventist message of hope and wholeness.
- Youth and Young Adult Involvement
- Adventist Education Support
- Cutting-edge Evangelism Emphasis
- Small Conference Collaboration
- Leadership Development
Our Special Role
Headquartered in Ridgefield, Washington, the NPUC facilitates the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church throughout Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. We provide services and resources for more than 100,000 church members in more than 500 churches and companies throughout our territory, as well as 125 elementary and secondary schools, one university, eight summer camps and many community outreach ministries.
Since becoming the North Pacific Union president, I've worked with our executive committee to hone our purpose. Our vision to live out our mission is this: As Christians looking for Jesus soon return, we will reflect His character, show His unconditional love for all people and passionately share the gospel.
There is power in God’s unconditional love. That stands in stark contrast to how the world views power. The world has a love of power, and it is tightly grasped to control others.
Unlike the world, Jesus laid out a different example for us in the form of service. A servant’s heart can harness untold power when we love the way God loves. Here at the union, our special role is to serve our six conferences in ways that enable our ministry to thrive and grow in the local church. We have placed a strong emphasis on the value of servant leadership and collaboration with our local conferences.
In our efforts to lead and collaborate, we’ve trimmed our operations to allocate as many resources as possible to the local conference. We’ve accomplished this while still fulfilling the vital duties assigned to unions in our interconnected church structure.
I’m very proud of our efficient team. Tasks like pastor and teacher credentialing, curriculum development, member and public communications, legal review and financial oversight and training are performed with excellence. We are the smallest team of any union in North America, even though we represent more members than several other unions.
As Christians looking for Jesus soon return, we will reflect His character, show His unconditional love for all people and passionately share the gospel.
Remembering His Leading
I’m grateful for the many ways I have seen God at work since 2016. Even though we’ve been through some very challenging times, remembering God's blessings and leadership gives us the courage to move forward in faith.
In early 2020, COVID-19 thundered across the Northwest, causing one of the most dramatic ministry shifts in the past century. I was preaching evangelistic meetings at the time. It was so painful to make the decision to cancel meetings and close the church doors just when people were engaged and excited about all they were learning from the Bible.
My meetings were not the only ones affected by the pandemic. Dozens of churches were forced to shut down. Churches and schools faced significant challenges to alter their ministries. It was a discouraging time.
Despite the radical overnight shift our churches and schools faced, God provided strength, wisdom and resilience to enable education and church community to continue. I am incredibly proud of our pastors, teachers and church leaders across the union who made heroic contributions to ensure ongoing ministry.
At the union, we quickly retooled and began regular remote meetings with conference leaders. Our staff found new ways to encourage and support those we serve. In-person training events shifted to virtual conferences. The 2020 Children’s Ministries Convention, Urban Ministries Convention and several other online conferences supporting pastoral staff, provided valuable resources to our members both in English and Spanish. These virtual platforms enabled more attendees than ever to access this training.
I’m grateful we were able to partner with the North American Division to provide additional financial support to our conferences during the pandemic.
Another pandemic blessing was the continued faithful giving by members across the Northwest. We experienced strong tithe gains despite the shutdowns. Many took greater advantage of online giving options to share their tithe and offerings with the local church and conference. Today, approximately 60% of members give online.
Pandemic Conference Support
- Alaska Conference: $84,284.33
- Idaho Conference: $95,289.18
- Montana Conference: $84,156.14
- Oregon Conference: $298,958.74
- Upper Columbia Conference: $246,984.76
- Washington Conference: $217,003.95
- Total: $1,026,677.11
A Time of Renewal
God’s faithfulness and leading have been so evident. He has empowered our faith community through some very challenging times. Just like Jehoshaphat in 2 Chron. 20:21, I invite you to praise God for His enduring love and faithfulness. We have so much to be thankful for.
While I am awed by God’s leading, I feel an urgency. The world, in turmoil around us, is looking for answers and meaning. Now more than ever, I feel the need to reflect God’s love. A focus on Jesus and His matchless love opens our hearts to receive the anointing of the Spirit.
We desperately need the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The outpouring of God's Spirit is what will empower us to overcome the challenges our church faces as we emerge from the pandemic.
Refocusing on the Future
As churches and schools find a new normal, it is vital to refocus on the future and the opportunities for outreach ahead. As we look to the future, there are several main areas the NPUC plans to prioritize.
First, we plan to continue placing priority on youth and young adult engagement. Our church needs strong committed leadership today and tomorrow. Priority must be given to finding, equipping and mentoring young leaders.
Our work with the Growing Together initiative across the union during the past quinquennium specifically targets this vital need. It brings members of all ages together to build a thriving multi-generation church ministry team.
In addition to the Growing Together work, we’re continuing to fund education opportunities at Walla Walla University for NPUC students not currently attending Adventist schools. We’ve already committed $1 million for this cause with more to come.
In addition to young adult engagement and mentorship, the NPUC plans to continue working to build up the outreach efforts of our three small conferences. We began this work in Idaho with exciting results. In 2020, plans were made to begin a major evangelistic effort in Idaho in 2021. Dozens of meeting sites were selected and speakers booked.
In the final days of 2021, Idaho led the union in baptisms for the year and celebrated its second-highest number of baptisms on record. This outstanding effort was successful due to the collaboration between the union and our large conferences. The Oregon, Upper Columbia and Washington conferences not only share a portion of their tithe to support growth in the smaller conferences, but they also have committed their evangelist teams to provide one campaign a year in each of the three conferences.
Evangelism is not the only place we’re working to build and focus on the future. Every year, the NPUC works with our conference leadership to provide customized leadership development to officers, directors and pastors. We provide coaching, training and resources to equip and grow our leadership team. We’ve worked with the North American Division by using some of their resources as well as developing some of our own.
Acting Through Faith
Here’s where things get real. This is where you and I talk about what’s going to take our faith community beyond serving ourselves and into the realm of truly making a tangible impact for Christ.
We can make all the plans in the world, but they won’t achieve any lasting results unless we’re intentional. The Internet and social media have enabled people to spot fake news faster than ever before. You know what? That's exactly what they'll see in us unless we actively seek Jesus.
Let’s intentionally seek to know Jesus and reflect His love in all our interactions with others. We have to choose the things that He wants in order to be more than a hollow Christian. When we daily seek to learn about Jesus and study how He lived out God’s love here on earth, that’s when people will begin to notice.
Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32, ESV).
When people see Jesus, and when they see God’s love lived out through us, that’s when real power will begin to flow through the church. That’s a goal worth working toward. Won’t you join me?
It has been a real honor to serve you this past quinquennium. I look forward to seeing how God will lead and guide the NPUC as we move forward together in His power and might!