The Nagging Wife, the Church Manual, and an Upside-down Map

LEAD Conference devotional message highlights God’s missional blessings when we do our part.

Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review
The Nagging Wife, the Church Manual, and an Upside-down Map
Pioneer Memorial Church senior pastor Shane Anderson shares a devotional message on the opening day of the General Conference 2023 Annual Council on October 5. [Photo: Enno Mueller, Adventist Review]

“Three angels, tried and true, and something new.”

This is the God-given recipe for Seventh-day Adventists with a heart for mission and making disciples, Pioneer Memorial Church senior pastor Shane Anderson said in his morning devotional on October 5. Anderson’s message at the General Conference headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, opened the Leadership Experience and Development (LEAD) Conference for the members of the General Conference Executive Committee, a day before the official start of the 2023 Annual Council.

In the next few minutes, Anderson explained how those three elements connect to disciple-making and shared some stories about how God is working to draw people to Himself.

Three Angels with a Message

“In this, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, if you are going to make disciples for Christ, it means sharing the three angels’ messages,” Anderson said, referencing three special messages for the last days as detailed in Revelation 14:6-12.

As Adventists, he emphasized, “we have not only been given the task of sharing God’s love and serving others; we have been given the command of [doing it] in the specific context of the three angel’s messages,” he said. “If there is no three angels’ messages, there is no Adventist Church.… If we take the three angels’ messages out of the Adventist movement, we cease to have a reason for being.”

Tried and True

When we think about making disciples for Christ, we cannot forget the tried and true, Anderson said.

“Simply because we have always done something in a certain way does not mean we have to stop doing it,” he said. “Some ideas for expanding the kingdom of God and making disciples for Christ have been used for decades and are still being used simply because they work,” he reminded the audience.

Anderson shared his own early experience as a church pastor, when he learned how the old tried-and-true prophecy seminars still work to draw people to Jesus. Even he believed at the time that prophecy seminars were outdated and backward, he said, but when Anderson attended a full seminar, he was the first convert to it. “It really changed my life and transformed my ministry,” he acknowledged, as prophecy seminars worked for both people of religious and secular background.

Something New

Referencing Paul’s message on Philippians 1:15-18, Anderson emphasized that God can use an amazing range of things to advance His kingdom. “Paul is telling the Philippians that God is so astonishingly creative that He can take less than perfect and at times even bad things and transform them into good things for His kingdom.” He then shared several examples from decades ago and more recently, on how God used the seemingly least likely methods to reach others.

First, he shared the story of a successful traveling salesman who one night checked in at a hotel. Despite all appearances, his life was crumbling. “He had a beautiful home and a wonderful career, or so everyone thought, but he was as empty as empty can be,” Anderson shared. “His life was falling apart.… His wife has been telling him, ‘I am ready to leave you.’ ”

There, at his lower point, he opened his night table drawer and found a Bible. He felt insulted, but looking up to the ceiling, he said, “I’ll give you one chance; if I can find one good thing in this book, then I’ll read more of it.” When he put his finger on a random text, he read Proverbs 27:15: “A nagging wife is like a dripping faucet.”

That salesman at that particular time was astonished at the wisdom of Scripture, Anderson shared. “He continued to read, he went back home, found a church, he was baptized, and he became involved in ministry for the Lord, making disciples for Him.”

The Most Unlikely Volume

The second story was about a man lost in despicable behaviors, who nevertheless loved checking out used bookstores. “He went to a used book sale, he found a book that he read,” Anderson shared. “He was so impressed that he searched and found a church, and he became a Seventh-day Adventist deeply involved in ministry.”

The book he found and read was not Steps to Christ or The Desire of Ages, Anderson said. “It was the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual,” he revealed to the laughs of the audience. “Reading that manual, he said, ‘If there’s a God in heaven and He cares so much that He has given such wonderful principles of organization, I want to be part of it and know that God.”

Misreading a Map

Yet another story Anderson shared was about a person who used to take and sell aerial photographs. “He was remarkably successful at doing this,” he said. One day, before GPS devices became available, he went across town to go to an appointment with a prospective customer.

“He got his map out, he laid it out there, he got into his car and began to drive to his destination,” Anderson said. But things were not going well, as the roads didn’t seem to coincide with what he could see in the map. And the sun was setting. Frustrated, he pulled into a random parking lot, took out his map, and suddenly discovered that it was upside down! He realized he was at the exact opposite side of the county from where he was supposed to be.

The salesman got mad and started hitting his steering wheel in frustration. But just then, he glanced through his car’s windshield and saw a lighted sign that said, “Prophecies of Hope Seminar Tonight.” “Well,” he said, “since I have nothing better to do, maybe I’ll go inside and cool off for a little bit.”

The man came inside that night and every night onwards. “At the end of the series, it was privilege to baptize [him],” Anderson said. “He became one of the most gifted soul winners that I know of. There will be dozens and dozens of people in the kingdom because of an upside-down map.”

Creative Disciple-making

Anderson said this proves the power of God. “If God can use these things, some of which are not good, and creatively turn them to good for His kingdom, how much more can He take our righteous creative efforts and do the same?” he asked.

He added, “What ministry for God’s kingdom you have been ignoring? What God-given gifts in your leadership team members or your church members you have been holding back on, keeping them from making disciples for Christ?” Anderson then suggested, “If an idea for making disciples of Jesus meets biblical standards, and if it absolutely does not water down Adventist beliefs, and if the Spirit has no objection, then do it! Do it! And watch as the Holy Spirit uses the old tried and true and the new to make faithful disciples of Christ.”

Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review