The Seventh-day Adventist General Conference Session and the North Pacific Union constituency session are both scheduled for this summer. With all that is going on in our world, it’s an excellent time to ask why we have these meetings?
The first reason we gather is to remember where God has led. Here in the Northwest, God has blessed with a good growth in membership, a resilient Adventist Education system, a strong outreach to youth and young adults, a new scholarship for NPUC students attending WWU, a new leadership development emphasis, new church plants and revitalization projects and an incredible increases in tithe and offerings. It is amazing how God has blessed, even during the pandemic.
Spiritual renewal is another reason for these meetings. Whenever God’s people gather, it is an opportunity for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. A focus on Christ and His matchless love opens hearts to receive the anointing of the Spirit. We do not want to miss this opportunity.
We also gather to refocus on the future. At the NPUC constituency session in August, delegates will hear plans to address the needs of our local conferences. The union's role is to serve local conference leadership as they move the mission forward.
Finally, delegates will elect leadership positions as presented by the nominating committee and consider recommendations made by the constitution and by-laws committee. The NPUC is also blessed to support the mission of Walla Walla University, which will hold their constituency meeting in the afternoon of August 7.
Since becoming the North Pacific Union president, I've worked with our executive committee to hone our purpose. 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. We have placed a strong emphasis on the value of servant leadership and collaboration. 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.
In the book, The Acts of the Apostles, by Ellen White, we find a beautiful description of the church’s mission. “The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world.” Another passage in the same book describes God’s vision for His church: “… through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to “the principalities and powers in heavenly places,” the final and full display of the love of God” (Acts of the Apostles, page 9).
The Seventh-day Adventist Church structure has been modified a few times in our relatively short existence, but always with a focus on our mission. You could describe our structure like a set of interlocking blocks.
The Unions are the building blocks of the General Conference. Every union of the world church is represented on the GC Executive Committee. Understanding that the GC cannot plan and effectively execute ways to carry the gospel to every part of the world, the Unions have been tasked with this responsibility in their respective territory. The GC and their Divisions (an arm of the GC) are tasked with serving the Unions in doing mission.
The building-blocks of the Unions are the local conferences within their territory. The building-blocks of the local conferences are the churches and schools within their territory. Unions serve the local conference leadership and the conference leadership serve their churches and schools. The local churches disciple and equip their members to accomplish the mission in their communities.
The church is not perfect, though we strive to glorify God in all we do. It does make mistakes, for which we ask forgiveness. “Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard. It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts” (Acts of the Apostles, page 12). The church is at its best when we strive together to glorify God, living God’s love in service to others and reaching out to passionately share the Gospel. Yes, we ask for forgiveness when we fail, but get up off our knees to continue forwarding the mission.
If ever the world needed hope, it is today. With of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the fear of nuclear war is spreading, and millions are afraid of the darkness enveloping the world. I recently had an opportunity to speak with a young adult who was fearful of nuclear war. He grew up a Seventh-day Adventist, attended our schools and knew our prophetic message.
As we talked, gradually faith and peace were restored by gently reviewing the scriptures he already knew, focusing on the love of Christ and the hope of the second coming. Darkness cannot dispel darkness. Only light can dispel darkness. A focus on Christ and His Word will restore faith and peace. As the theater of the grace of God, the church is where real transformation of human hearts takes place.