Monday, March 22, 2010

Returning to Mt. Zion

Twenty years ago my family and I vacationed in Kissimmee, Florida.  On the Sabbath we attended a small church in town that met in an unremarkable building but was filled with extraordinary people.  One of the things I remember was that they had the potluck catered by a church members.  We had a blessed Sabbath but never thought we'd be back again. Little did we know.

We returned to Mt. Zion Seventh-day Adventist Church on Sabbath, March 20.  We would've missed the church if not for the sign (a new one since 20 years ago).  The church we worshiped in was still there but the congregation was gathered in a beautiful multi-purpose facility.  Instead of about 75 people in church there were three-times that number. What happened?

I noticed some things:  They are using media in their service like few congregations I have seen.  All the announcements are locally produced video-shorts with members doing it all. What a great idea.  And, most importantly, they involve the youth and young adults in the church at every step.  In addition, they are active in community service in the city.  No wonder they have grown.  They're doing what Jesus asks us to do:  "GO!"

A special surprise was the speaker of the hour--our friend from the Southeastern California Conference, Dr. Emil Peeler.  (You can get a taste of Dr. Peeler's preaching at  We were blessed by a spirit-filled message, uplifting music, and wonderful fellowship.  As we departed our prayer was that another 20 years would not need to pass before we would meet again in the New Earth.

God is at work in Kissimmee, FL through the Mt. Zion Church.  Check them out on the web at,

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Come Apart and Pray....Really?

It was the end of a long week of meetings that tackled some of the proverbial "big issues" that we grapple with as a church.  I had been away from home for a week and would've much preferred to just go home and rest. do you argue with the notion that we should stay together for another day and a half to pray together, right!?

That's how I entered into a first for Pacific Union administrators (at least to my meager knowledge!)  Conference presidents, Union officers, and a few others were going to spend Friday night and all day Sabbath in prayer and reflection.  How do you do that?  We typically move quickly from one meeting to another with little time for any corporate spirituality except for perhaps the Sabbath.

I really didn't know what to expect since this was a first for me as a church administrator.  Spending extended time with colleagues to pray was something I had done as a pastor with other pastors.  But as we gathered in the West Building of the Union headquarters for the celebration of the Lord's Supper on Friday evening, March 12, I uttered the prayer, "Well, Lord, I'm open to what you'd like to do with me."

As it turned out, by Saturday night I concluded that this was the best thing we possibly could've done as church leaders.  This WAS NOT another church committee meeting masquerading as a prayer session.  THIS was the REAL DEAL.  We actually prayed together, sang, reflected upon selected Bible and Spirit of Prophecy selections and did what we always talk about doing. We sought the Lord.  There we were no sermons.  Nobody was the center of attention.  We sought the Lord together and cared for each other spiritually!

I know that this may surprise some of our members but the people gathered in that upper room in the West Building (yes, its actually on the second floor) love God supremely, struggle with human frailty, love the church, and really long for Jesus to come.  This was the Church at its best because we were the New Testament Church at its core.

I was refreshed.  It's really true that Jesus gives you a renewal in His presence that no nap or mindless television viewing can come close to match.  And, I'm glad that we came apart to pray. Really!  I hope we do it again!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


In the Spring of 1980 a group of serious looking men in black suits gathered in the Indiana Room of the Andrews University cafeteria.   There to meet them were the graduating theology seniors--including a skinny guy from Illinois.  I will always remember these Conference President's and Ministerial Directors from the Lake Union territory meeting, greeting, and interviewing the earnest group of "minister's-in-waiting."  It was with a grateful heart that I received a call from the Illinois Conference to go to the Seminary (I wasn't married yet!!--a requisite to pastoring in those years.)

As I hosted the Theology Senior Interviews for the Pacific Union Conference at Pacific Union College (February 28) and La Sierra University (March 8) the circle was coming around.  And, I know that each of us who interviewed these soon-to-be graduates were mindful that we had been there before. Since 2005 this annual gathering has been the highlight of my year. It is the ultimate faith-affirming experience to dialogue with young men and women who have heard the call of Jesus for service.

Our two higher education institutions have designed their theology programs to maximize the exposure of young minds to both the Biblical and practical aspects of ministry.  The students that reach their senior year have benefited from an intentionally designed curriculum which promotes personal reflection upon God's call in their life for a life of ministry.

Each of these students spends about 30 minutes with each Conference leadership team for a personal interview followed by a luncheon together.  The goal is for each graduate to find a place in the "vineyard of ministry."  Even in tough financial times it is my conviction that we need to utilize these committed young people in some aspect of ministry in every conference territory.

As we parted company with these ministers-in-waiting I expected to see them engaged soon in serving the Lord of the Harvest.  They are the pledge of God that His work will be finished and we will soon be home with Him.