“A church that does not do outreach is not a church; it’s a club. A congregation that doesn’t look at its world and say, ‘We can find a niche, we can find a place where we can reach souls for Jesus Christ’ isn’t a church,’” said Daniel Jackson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America at the start of his annual report, during the second business session of the 2019 North American Division (NAD) Year-End Meeting (YEM).
On Friday morning, November 1, 2019, Jackson’s report to the division’s executive committee in session followed the nominating committee report and vote on a new vice president for church ministries, undertreasurer, and stewardship director.
Before getting into the details of his report, Jackson said, “It is time for Seventh-day Adventists in North America and around the world to wake up to the reality that every person, everyone in this room, who has accepted Jesus as their personal Savior has been called by God to be a minister, His minister, and to act on His behalf in whatever way He has gifted us.”
In response to the morning devotional given by Gordon Pifher, vice president for Media Ministries, and the Ministerial Association report from the preceding day, he said, “Praise God! He has gifted us to multiply.”
“I love the theme this year, ‘Pursuing His Promises,’” Jackson added. “If ever there was a time we need to rely on His promises, it is this time.”
Jackson cited Romans 8:32, saying, “Based on this promise, every time we come together as Christians, we ought to be high-fiving each other. The promise is that God, along with Jesus, will give us all things. The church is not in a place of ease today. I would say some are peripheral to the gospel message that we've been tasked to give to the world. The others are right at the core and speak to the foundation of our work.”
Jackson jumped into his report by saying that he is more optimistic about the church in 2019 than he was in 2010 (when he became division president). He gave details on several initiatives and institutions of the division.
In addressing expansion and growth, Jackson touched on the Plant 1,000 initiative that started in 2015. “We made a decision … that we would plant, in this division, in a five-year period, 1,000 new congregations," Jackson said. "You heard what was said yesterday: 750 new congregations [have been planted] in the division in the past three and a half years. I think we’re on target to make 1,000.
“But as good as that sounds, it’s not enough. God has called you and me in our local congregations, in our homes, in our workplaces and classrooms, he’s called us to be His witnesses. He did not call us to be couch potatoes. So friends, go out.… Failure to view the expansive needs of the church is just failure, in a Christian sense,” he added.
Around the Division
In what will likely be his last report, Jackson spent the rest of his time highlighting the places on his road map that have been successfully charted, as well as places where improvement is needed.
Trends in strategic planning, education, youth, and young adults, women in ministry, hospitals and health systems, Pacific Press Publishing Association, Christian Record Services for the Blind, AdventSource, and Seminars Unlimited were explicitly mentioned in the report.
When talking strategy, Jackson thanked Paul Brantley, vice president of Strategic Planning, Assessment, and Research, for determinedly pushing NAD administration to plan, which has impacted unions and conferences. “You cannot do things without consciously and deliberately moving toward a goal, toward a path,” Jackson said.
Jackson moved on to tackle trends in education. “You cannot separate education from the work of the church. Best evangelists in the church are often teachers,” Jackson stated. He shared that more baptisms come as a result of Adventist schools than evangelistic meetings. It is a part of who we are genetically and spiritually. You cannot separate education from the work of the church. Adventist education, however, is in challenging times. “In the last seven years, we have closed 256 schools. I believe we’ve lost access to about 16,000 students,” he said. “If we do not at least consider how we may do things differently, we are going to lose institutions.… If you kill the educational program, [you] kill the church.”
Youth and Young Adult Ministries was mentioned next as Jackson said that the NAD should “infect” every young person with the gospel of Jesus Christ and incorporate them into our work. “We need them. We want them,” he said. “We have got to bring our youth and young adults more and more into leadership roles and community presentation.”
Jackson devoted some time to report on the NAD’s Women in Ministry initiative, in which the division supports the hiring of female clergy through financial assistance, mentoring, and training. Jackson clarified on stage that there are 175 female pastors — when the initiative started at the beginning of the quinquennium, the number was 102. “We won’t pull back on the Women in Ministry initiative.
“We thank God for the women in the North American Division who are participating as pastors, chaplains, educators, and administrators, doing their best for God,” Jackson said. “I hope and pray that I live long enough to see the day when we have 1,000 women pastors in the North American Division — not to have women for the sake of having women, or [for that matter,] men for the sake of having men — and having individuals who are called by God serving God and humanity, period.”
Jackson praised God for the Adventist hospitals, health systems, and medical institutions within the division. He identified that the rumors that the NAD hospitals are abortion factories aren’t true, giving an example that in the AdventHealth system last year, there were 30,000 live births and 26 terminations, which met the guidelines established by the world church in 1992. “They do ministry every single day, unashamed, in the name of Jesus.… They’re human beings, like the rest of us. But they represent the name of Jesus and the name of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in a magnificent way.”
Pacific Press Publishing Association was featured next. Said Jackson, “These folks are committed to publishing the Word of God and sending it out through every little town and village — wherever we exist. We praise God for our press and the work.” Jackson encouraged attendees to visit the fourth floor of the NAD headquarters to see a new display about the Press, including a copy of The Desire of Ages signed by author Ellen G. White.
Christian Record Services (CRS) for the Blind, under the leadership of Diane Thurber, has blossomed financially, spiritually, and missionally, Jackson said, calling CRS an outstanding ministry that is leading the blind, and those with impaired vision, to Jesus.
AdventSource, which became an official entity of the NAD earlier this year, was described by Jackson as a “great institution.” AdventSource not only serves North America; it is also a resource used around the world for Adventist teaching and training materials, as well as Pathfinder honors and other items.
Jackson concluded his journey on trends and some of the ministries of the NAD with Seminars Unlimited, publicly thanking Carl Johnston for his leadership and vision in serving to print a plethora of specific ministry materials.
God Will Not Give Up
In his final thoughts, Jackson told the executive committee, “We have nothing to fear for the future. The devil … wants to undermine and to destroy the church. He wants to undermine and destroy people’s confidence in Jesus and in the church that Jesus started,” he said. “But there is so much evidence from our past that God does not stop. God will not give up on His church, on His people.”
Telling those gathered that this will be his final YEM report, Jackson intoned, “What an honor you all have given to me to serve this division. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been days when I wished I was in Boston, throwing tea into the ocean to start a revolution. But I have cherished my work here. I love the people who work in this building, and I love our members throughout the North American Division. I want to thank you for that privilege.”