Series: Followers of Jesus
Message: In the World
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Purpose: Don Pate
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 13:1-14 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Every Christian tribe has their own internal jargon, along with quips and anecdotes. Some are funny, others are not, and some simply reflect lessons that we learn from. October 22, 1844, was not a fun day for early Adventists. This was before our tribe was formally called together, but thousands upon thousands of people—many of whom would later form the Seventh-day Adventist Church as we know it—around the world gathered in small groups, fully expecting Jesus to return at some point on that day. Their ability to grow through that disappointment, to admit that they were wrong but to discover what was beautiful in Jesus through returning to the Bible is a powerful story in itself. It led the Seventh-day Adventist Church to formulate our Fundamental Belief #24.
Today, however—this particular October 22, 2018—is just over one week past the day when our Church took a policy decision about unity with a vote of 185 to 124 in favor of establishing committees dedicated to ensuring compliance on several issues. While it is these leaders’ sincere attempt to bring unity to the Church, this day triggers a process of enforcing centralized Church authority over everyone, irrespective of context or understanding.
So how are we to respond to this?
During that meeting, several men and women—leaders from all over the world—pleaded for a different approach. A good friend and follower of Jesus, the president of the Norwegian Union of Seventh-day Adventists, Pastor Victor Marley, valiantly appealed for a change. Below is a portion of his 2-minute speech:
Today’s proposal . . . strikes at the very idea of authentic unity. It proposes a top down structure, where GC administration can, if it so wishes, bypass Divisions, Unions, and indeed Conferences to get its way. Our policies have served us well, distributing power, with compliance handled locally and with cultural sensitivity. This power resides with our members, and leaders therefore are compelled to work for consensus. This is the Adventist way.
A particular weakness of this massive compliance oversight system, is the appeal process for compliance committee rulings. Not wanting to “bite the hand that feeds them”, the committees, chosen by and accountable to GC ADCOM, will likely render judgements true to the will of GC ADCOM. The “defendant” may appeal, but only to the very committee who pronounced judgement! The same committee investigates, judges and hears appeals, all under the watchful eye of GC leadership. This centralization of power is dangerous. It is not the Adventist way. It is not Christ’s way. It reverses the very organizational safeguards our pioneers set up here in BC in 1901.
Therefore, I cannot betray the faithful members of the Norwegian Union by delivering their church into the hands of the few. I cannot betray churches around the world by giving their power to the GC. I cannot betray Sister White’s counsel, who in connection with the reorganization of the church in this very town, wrote “It has been a necessity to organize Union conferences, that the General Conference shall not exercise dictation over all the separate conferences.” (Ellen White, Last Day Events, p. 55). And, I will not betray our Lord, who said we are not to “lord it over one another”.
This proposal threatens our mission and unity. It focuses attention on internal politics rather than the call of Jesus to save a lost world. I cannot vote for this proposal and I appeal to my fellow members here to join me in voting “no” to these unsafe proposals.
Recalibrate: What would you do if you disagreed with an authority in your life? How do we teach our children to be respectful and yet strong enough to stand against injustice?
Respond: Pray for discernment and wisdom.
Research: A really great book worth every parent’s time is Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud.
Remember: “If you love your neighbor, you see, you have fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8, KNT).
Japhet De Oliveira is senior pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, and is co-founder of the One project. Originally from southeast London, he served in the South England Conference for nine years—as a pastor and later as conference youth director—before moving to the United States in 2006. He is married to Becky and they have two sons, Joshua (18) and Jonah (14).
Draw a love heart on a window that your child can see through. You might use lipstick or a liquid chalk marker. Look through that heart and say what you love about what you can see. Is there something you can see that might need some extra love? With your little one, talk about how you can both love more.
Have you seen posters that show the “house rules”? These are a list of things that show how people should act. These posters say things like “always tell the truth,” “work hard,” and “do your best.” Can you think of and/or design something that would encourage kids just like you to be kind to each other and their world? What are your “house rules"?
Jesus gives everybody a choice. They can keep going on their own path or they can follow Him. But following Him means they can’t stay on their own path and that’s why the choice is hard for them—for all of us. He leads. We follow. That’s tough for us. But He has given everybody the choice. I like the fact that He doesn’t just offer the chance to follow Him to the rich people or the temple people or the privileged people. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are filled with stories of Jesus offering the same chance to average nobodies. Given the opportunity, I might have targeted the privileged people, but Jesus said “C’mon” to everybody. And, by the way, He still says it today—to everybody. That includes you!