Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, compared the challenges that are facing Adventist education to David’s fight against Goliath and presented hundreds of church leaders with Ellen G. White’s book Education to use as “stones” in a battle against worldly influences attacking Adventist schools.
Wilson, speaking in a Sabbath sermon that serves as his annual world pastoral address, appealed to Adventist educators and schools to always put the Bible and the writings of White, a church cofounder, at the center of Adventist education.
He invited five guests — an archeology professor, an Ellen White researcher, two high school teachers, and a church administrator — onto the platform to share how the Bible and White’s writings affect Adventist education.
But the big surprise for many of the hundreds of people gathered at the Adventist world church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, for the Annual Council business meeting came near the end of the sermon. Wilson instructed church leaders, many of whom double as educators, and others worshipping in the 750-seat auditorium to reach into book holders affixed to their seats. Instead of the customary church hymnals, attendees found brand-new copies of Education.
“I want you to have a new copy of the book Education, one of the most valuable ‘stones’ you will ever possess in your work that is a complement to the educational instructions in God’s Holy Word,” Wilson said. “The principles in this book, if read carefully and prayerfully, can change your life and the direction of your institution.”
A total of 1,000 copies of Education — 900 in English and 100 in Spanish — were acquired for Annual Council, Wilson said in a separate interview. Extra copies will be available for delegates who may not have been in attendance at the service and for others during and after the Oct 5-12 meeting.
Adventist education is on the minds of church leaders after they participated in a three-day conference on the topic immediately before Annual Council. The conference ended with participants holding hands in a large circle for group prayer.
In his 80-minute sermon, Wilson drew heavily on biblical texts and passages from White’s writings to make the case that the Bible and White’s writings are the blueprint for Adventist education.
“Let’s remember to fully use God’s instructions for His educational model found in the Holy Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy,” Wilson said. “Don’t forget where God has led us and what He wants to do in the future for Adventist education. For those of you who have gone to Adventist schools, remember what God has done for you in placing you where you are today as a leader. Don’t forget.”
He told three stories from the Bible: how David slew Goliath with a single stone in 1 Samuel 17:45-47; how the Israelites repeatedly forget God’s leading in Exodus; and how Uzziah, a king of Judah, prospered “as long as he sought the Lord” but was struck with leprosy when he went his own way by waving a censer in the temple in 2 Chronicles 26.
“What a lesson for us as leaders in Seventh-day Adventist education and in the church in general today,” Wilson said. “If we seek the Lord in all we do, He will prosper His church with the great mission task of proclaiming the three angels’ messages.”
The three angels’ messages, found in Revelation 14:6-12, are a call to recognize God as the Creator and to proclaim to the world that Jesus is coming soon.
Wilson said Adventist educators must not forget to seek the Lord — even as they prosper as employees of the world’s largest Protestant educational system of more than 8,200 schools and 100,000 teachers.
“Have we at times felt so competent in our own right as to outline the future of Seventh-day Adventist education without consulting the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy?” Wilson said. “Have we taken the ‘censer’ in our own hands, feeling that we have arrived and are more capable of determining the educational direction of our institutions than a simple ‘Thus saith the Lord’ from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy?”
Wilson paid tribute to dedicated teachers, including his late mother, and urged Adventist educators never to view themselves “better than God and His holy instructions.”
“In our educational work according to God’s model, we are not to seek for self-willed independence, for academic freedom that pulls us away from the elevated and sacred responsibility to train students as part of God’s great final proclamation of biblical truth and prophetic understanding,” he said. “We are to resist any efforts to employ higher criticism and the historical-critical method in our teaching and relation to the Bible which only alienates us from God and exalts self instead of Jesus.”
Instead, he said, teachers should use their classrooms “to lift up Christ, His Word, His righteousness, His sanctuary service, His saving power in the great controversy, His three angels’ messages, His creative power of a six-day recent creation, His health message, His last-day mission to the world, and His soon Second Coming.”
He said the educator had a much greater duty than simply providing book knowledge. Reading from Education, page 29, he said: “He cannot be content with imparting to them only technical knowledge, with making them merely clever accountants, skillful artisans, successful tradesmen. It is his ambition to inspire them with principles of truth, obedience, honor, integrity, and purity — principles that will make them a positive force for the stability and uplifting of society.”
Educators are to nurture students into their relationship with God, he said.
“We want them to be part of Mission to the Cities and Comprehensive Health Ministry,” he said. “Let them focus on Christ and His righteousness and faithfulness to God and His Word. Let them be part of Total Member Involvement under the leading of the Holy Spirit so they can actively participate in the last warning to the world. Jesus is coming soon!”
Mission to the Cities is a world church initiative to spread the gospel in the world’s biggest cities. Comprehensive Health Ministry is a church program aimed at meeting the physical, psychological, and spiritual needs of communities. Total Member Involvement seeks to encourage each of the church’s 19.5 million members to find ways to actively share Jesus every day.
Partway through the sermon, Wilson invited Michael Hasel, an archeologist and professor at Southern Adventist University in Tennessee, to speak about deconstructing Scripture, a method of interpreting the Bible. Hasel said teachers had to be cautious to make sure that the deconstructionist approach to interpreting the Bible, which denies the existence of absolute truth, did not enter their classrooms and neutralize God’s Word.
After him, Dwain Esmond, an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate, took to the stage to emphasize that White’s writings play a crucial role in instructing the Adventist education system.
Finally, three educators from California — Paul Negrete, principal of San Gabriel Academy; Bonnie Iversen, the school’s director of development; and Velino Salazar, president of the Southern California Conference and chair of the school board — told a remarkable story about how their K-12 school of 500 students had begun to thrive after its teachers decided to read Education and put its principles into practice.
This result is a good reason for church leaders to take a new look at Education, Wilson said.
“I want to put something in your hands: a stone that can help to destroy the “Goliaths” facing you — a stone that represents the real power that can give you victory over worldly influences and propel your schools to victory all through the blood and grace of Jesus Christ, the Master Teacher,” Wilson said.
“The fresh reading of this book under the leading of the Holy Spirit turned around San Gabriel Academy, and it will reinforce your pathway toward heavenly instruction in your life and in your school,” he said.
Wilson encouraged educators not to worry about criticism and personal attacks if they follow God’s leading and the Bible. The Adventist Church and its schools, he added, are not destined to simply become one denomination among many.
“This is a unique movement with a unique message on a unique mission led by the Captain of the Hosts, Jesus Christ, the Master Teacher,” he said. “The Seventh-day Adventist Church will not be neutralized and its educational system taken over by secular influences if we will humbly submit to the Lord and remember His biblical and Spirit of Prophecy counsels. We are not to blend with the world but to shine with heavenly distinction as we proclaim Christ and His distinctive Christ-centered biblical doctrines.”