, writing for the North American Division
Three special reports examining the missional structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s North American Division were presented during the division’s year-end meetings.
The reports centered on advancing mission to contemporary audiences, advancing Adventist education, and the restructuring of the Adventist Church in North America for mission and stemmed from a historic gathering of the presidents, executive secretaries, and chief financial officers of each of the division’s administrative units, conferences, and unions in Dulles, Virginia, on May 13 to 15, 2014.
The reports prompted delegates at the year-end meetings this week to discuss the future of the church and its structure, organization, and mission. After the discussion period, sheets for two of the reports were distributed for attendees to choose priorities for the next phase of study and implementation. At the conclusion of the third report, attendees were asked to participate in a digital survey.
The three committees behind the reports then returned to work and will present their next findings in 2016.
Five specific action opportunities were presented in the first report, “Advancing Mission to Contemporary Audiences,” in answer to several areas of concern expressed at the Dulles meeting. Recommendations include developing a branding strategy centered on “Hope and Wholeness,” developing methods for “extending mission to modern and post-moderns,” creating relation-based evangelism, preparing mission-focused leaders and churches in local congregations through use of the book Becoming a Mission Driven Church, and developing a church officer “tool kit” through collaboration with an online resource called the Adventist Learning Center.
Three committee members — Mike Cauley, José Cortés Sr., and Paul Brantley — each presented sections of the report.
“We want to talk, talk, talk,” Cortés said of relational evangelism. “But people cannot relate to this. We need to relate with love and compassion. … Friendship evangelism, relational evangelism — this is the way Jesus did it with the disciples.”
Brantley said he wanted to make the church officer “tool kit” as important as a smartphone.
“We want the resources to be indispensible. What is indispensible?” he said, holding up his smartphone.
In a concluding thought, Cauley added, “The Lord will give us the grace to embrace change for effective mission.”
The second report offered ways for “Advancing Adventist Christian Education in North America” and was prepared by a committee chaired by Elissa Kido, director of the Center for Research on K-12 Adventist Education, and including Larry Blackmer as secretary, and 15 other educators, pastors, and administrators. The committee was charged with “examining, addressing and prioritizing the eight recommendations” they received from the Dulles summit. Some of these include innovative strategy development for the delivery of Adventist education, program development tied to educators, pastors, and members to encourage students in engaging in personal evangelism, and the appointment of a study group to compare Adventist education with better public and private schools in determining the quality of education and cost.
During the presentation, Kido said she had good news: Students in Adventist schools had higher-than-expected academic achievement based on their individual ability. This was ascertained through studying outcomes of standardized tests taken by millions of students in the United States.
In his remarks during the presentation, Blackmer said, “Choosing between education and evangelism is a false dichotomy. … I wonder what would happen if we planted schools and grew churches around them?”
The committee, after months of study and analysis, divided the 18 recommendations listed in their report into two categories, leadership and financial, and asked for attendees to prioritize their top five.
NAD associate secretary Kyoshin Ahn introduced the final Dulles summit report on church governance, “Advancing Adventist Mission in North America.” The 24-member committee that prepared the report ranged from pastors and administrators from the nine NAD unions.
The 110-page report gave details on what and how the committee studied the topic, as well as how and why the committee arrived at its conclusions.
“We tried to create a report that would make sense to you,” said Dan Day, an invitee to the committee.
Process and church history experts, including Monte Sahlin and Bert Haloviak, were invited to give the committee input through reports and historical documents. The committee conducted a survey of pastors, sending 8,000 e-mail surveys out and receiving about 2,000 back. Administrators were also surveyed division-wide.
Dennis Williams presented a cost-per-membership analysis, a case study based on the NAD church in Canada.
Key findings were highlighted in the report, and recommendations center on tithe redistribution and church restructuring. Committee secretary Alvin Kibble said the group recognized that driving tithe back toward the local church, “where mission is most fully expressed,” was crucial in proposing the three redistribution scenarios of tithe.
Sahlin, asked to study denominational structure options, presented a report that detailed cost savings and reallocation of resources through three scenarios where the driving model is a restructuring to a “union of churches.”
Kibble reiterated that the top priorities given to the committee included making recommendations “specifying ways that administration and ministries of the church can streamline operations and eliminate duplications where unnecessary,” and exploring at least three scenarios for “the redistribution of financial support from members for furthering the mission of the church.”
With their handheld voting devices, attendees were asked to rank their interest in the 14 categories that emerged from the report. The top five recommendations will guide the committee as it continues its work.
Each of the three groups will proceed with their work and report back in 2016. Information, including reports from these committees, is available at nadchurchstudy.org.