President's Recorder Articles
The conference inserts a newsletter titled Kingdom Matters into the Recorder every other month. The first page is dedicated to a message from Northern California Conference President Jim Pedersen.
Following is Jim Pedersen's article for the May 2014 edition on the topic of the seventh Strategic Plan goal:
INvest in the church's future
I grew up in a church-going home. Every week our family was in church. In fact, since my dad was the one who rang the church bell, we were always some of the first ones there! As a child I recognized the solemnity of the worship service. Each of the participants “up front” seemed to be very religious – and much older than I! Occasionally a young person would provide special music, but that was about the only time a youth was involved.
But then I got to high school, and things began to change. Perhaps it was the era of the 60s. Perhaps I was just getting older. Perhaps the church was shifting its approach. But youth began to be involved in the life of the church. The first time the pastor asked me to have a part in the worship service, I was petrified! But he prayed with me and talked me through what needed to be done.
Through the years, I’ve been thankful that there was support for youth in my home church. It kept me interested and involved. And I believe it helped prepare me for service on God’s behalf. When I think about biblical characters, many of them took on leadership roles in God’s work while still young. In the early days of our own denominational movement, most of the leaders were young adults.
It’s imperative that we keep our young people active and involved in the life of the church. How else will they learn? How else will they be prepared to lead the church into the future? Do you recall the advice that Paul gave to Timothy? “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12, New American Standard Bible). Paul is not just speaking to the youth; he’s also speaking to the rest of us.
Goal #7 addresses youth involvement: “Foster an atmosphere that helps young people understand and play a significant role in the Church’s mission.” This includes all levels of church life. Give our youth opportunities to be active. Teach and mentor them so they can be prepared to take on new and larger responsibilities. And be willing to be patient – even forgiving – when things don’t go exactly the way we older ones might do them.
What can you do to involve the youth in your church? Will you mentor a young person to take on a leadership role? Are you willing to turn some of the responsibilities of your church over to youth? Will you pray for all our young people, that God will pour out His Spirit and His blessing on them?
Following is Jim Pedersen's article for the March 2014 edition on the topic of the sixth Strategic Plan goal:
Unified in Christ
Whenever I travel by plane, I always hope for a safe flight, with an on-time schedule – without any turbulence! If I have to choose from among those three qualities, I’ll take a safe trip any day. As I was waiting for a delayed flight recently, I heard something said about a “mechanical issue.” My first priority changed from getting home on time to getting home safely! It takes all kinds of people working together to orchestrate an airplane trip – ticket agents, gate attendants, mechanics, baggage handlers, cleaning crew, food and beverage suppliers, ground crew, air traffic controllers, flight attendants, and of course the cockpit crew. And it also takes passengers of all kinds: young and old, first-time flyers as well as frequent flyers, local and international travelers, every color, every personality, every appearance.
Everyone involved has one goal: get the plane from Point A to Point B safely. I chuckle every time I hear an announcement such as: “This flight is bound for Chicago [or wherever]. If you planned to go somewhere else, this is not your plane!” It is good for everyone on board to be heading to the same destination.
In many ways, an airplane trip is an illustration of unity. While there are different people involved, not to mention different pieces of equipment, there is one singular purpose. Unity is what Jesus asked for on our behalf: “I pray that they will all be one, just as You and I are one – as You are in Me, Father, and I am in You. And may they be in Us so that the world will believe You sent Me” (John 17:21, New Living Translation). Jesus is calling His people, His Church – including us – to be united in our mission. We will approach it from different backgrounds and with different methods. But it takes all of us working together to reach the ultimate destination – God’s heavenly kingdom.
Strategic Goal #6 is about our United Mission: “Create a spirit of unity in diversity to accomplish the purposes of God’s kingdom.” While that may seem obvious, it’s not always as easy as we may think because we ARE from different backgrounds and perspectives, and we DO approach the work of the Church with different methods. It often is easier for us to work within our specific individual areas of locality, or ministry (church vs. school, etc.), or theological perspective, or cultural experience – rather than to cooperate together. I pray that those boundaries will become less important as we join hands in unity as believers in Christ, to accomplish the work God has given us all to do. “Father, may we be one!”
Following is Jim Pedersen's article for the January 2014 edition on the topic of the fifth Strategic Plan goal:
Serve Your Community for Jesus
As I arrived home one day, a neighbor called out to me. After an exchange of pleasantries, she asked, “Does your church offer community service projects for your youth?” I assured her that we do. “I thought so,” she said. “My church [another denomination] doesn’t have those kinds of opportunities, and I want my kids to know that it’s important to do things for others.” I was happy to put her in touch with someone in my local congregation to make arrangements. Community service is on the minds of many today. It’s good to see people from diverse backgrounds getting involved in their local communities in practical ways. When people step up to help out, a great deal can be accomplished.
Christians should be the first to make a difference in their communities. Service should be part of our DNA, as it were, as Jesus’ representatives here. In Matthew 25:35-36, He told His followers: “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me” (New Living Translation).
These verses are part of a description Jesus was giving about the end of time. He outlined the kinds of things God is looking for in His people. You’ll notice that here Jesus did not present a list of doctrines to memorize, or give a set of spiritual activities to perform – which are important, of course, as Scripture states. But instead, here Jesus is focusing on how we relate to those who are in need, which is community service at its heart.
In verse 40 Jesus went on to say that His followers were amazed that they had done these things for their Lord. He responded, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the good activities of our faith communities. We’re busy with worship, Bible study and fellowship events. But the work of God’s Church is not supposed to take place only within the walls of our buildings. We have a responsibility to be present on the streets of our communities, with hands reaching out to help. That’s why our Strategic Goal #5 states that we will “enlarge Adventist ministry involvement in local communities.”
I pray that you will find new ways to represent Jesus in your community – remembering that as we help others, we are being a blessing to Jesus as well.
Following is Jim Pedersen's article for the November 2013 edition on the topic of the fourth Strategic Plan goal:
Education for Excellence
Can you recall the names of your elementary school teachers? While that may have been quite a while ago, their names are still etched in my memory: Mrs. Russell, Mrs. Blythe, Mrs. Hoshino, Mrs. Slaybach, Mrs. Adams, Mr. Slaybach, Mrs. Ehlers, Mr. Oshiro and Mr. Anderson. They all made an indelible and positive imprint on my life.
Each of these teachers committed his/her life to making a difference in children’s lives. They trained to teach their subjects with excellence. But the spiritual values that they imparted to us on a daily basis made a big difference in their classrooms.
There were many other schools in the town and plenty of educational opportunities. And there were undoubtedly many other wonderful teachers. Yet even though my school was small, I’m thankful for the eternal impact that my teachers had on me. I’m glad they kept striving for the best, to teach us God’s way.
I recall preparing to give the 8th grade graduation commencement speech. I had never given a speech before. One of the teachers, who lived down the street from me, evidently sensed my uncertainty. She offered to help me put together an outline of what to say. Her suggestions were good, but the speech went beyond just typical graduation-type themes. She helped me focus on a spiritual message for the students, which I still remember.
Many years ago, King David prayed: “Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you” (Psalm 86:11, New Living Translation). David was asking for what each of us should seek – something more than mere knowledge. He wanted the excellence of the mind and experience of God Himself.
That should be the prayer of our hearts, no matter what ministry we may be involved with, no matter what setting we find ourselves in. We should strive for the best, with the goal of making a difference in people’s lives now and for all eternity. Our NCC strategic goal for education talks about demonstrating academic excellence in teaching and learning, and preparing young people for Christian service now, as well as for heaven. That’s a great goal for the classroom. But it’s also a great goal for life and ministry in general.
“Teach me your ways, O Lord.” That’s a prayer not just for information, but also for a life of truth and service. That’s a prayer for excellence. Will you join me in that prayer today and every day?
Following is Jim Pedersen's article for the September 2013 edition on the topic of the third Strategic Plan goal:
Faithfully Growing God’s Church
Our home garden is doing well. The tomatoes are flourishing; the basil is better this year; and the tomatillos have just exploded in growth. We haven’t reaped too much of the produce yet as the planting was delayed. However, it appears there will be a good crop of vegetables and herbs to enjoy in the weeks ahead.
It would be wonderful if I didn’t have to be involved with my garden! “If only” I could look out the window and see the garden plant itself, all the items growing without any effort on my part, and the watering and weeding happening automatically. Then, how nice would it be if all the items appeared in the house, prepared and ready to eat?
But that’s not the way gardens work. Certainly God is involved in the process by providing that element of life in the seeds that are planted. He also created the sun, rain, and chemical processes to bring growth from the soil. But it still takes some effort on our part.
And God’s Church grows in a similar way. Yes, it is God’s Church. And by His Spirit things happen. But there’s a responsibility for us as well. Paul said: “After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7, New Living Translation).
God calls all of us to be involved in the growth of His Church. We each have a responsibility to help with the task Jesus gave us: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you…” (Matthew 28:19-20, New Living Translation).
It would be wonderful if God’s Church grew all by itself! But that’s not the way it works. That’s why one of our conference-wide strategies is to “cultivate a healthy ministry environment that grows Adventist Christian disciples.” We want to be faithful to the calling of God, not only to have the healthiest atmosphere for church growth, but also to train others and find ways for all of us to be involved with that growth. Will you join me in that challenge?
Following is Jim Pedersen's article for the July 2013 edition on the topic of the second Strategic Plan goal:
Using God’s Gifts for His Glory
High school was a fun time! At least that’s my recollection. There were great experiences with music groups, memorable social activities – oh yes, and sometimes going to classes, too! There were also leadership opportunities of many kinds. I remember that one of the teachers called me aside one day and suggested that I consider running for Student Association president. I honestly hadn’t considered that idea, but after hearing this teacher affirm and encourage what he saw in me, I took the chance and ended up winning the election.
We often focus on the various gifts given to the Church of God by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12). It’s evident that God provides what is needed to help His Church thrive. However, He won’t force us to open the gifts and actually use them. It’s up to us to let those gifts be developed for His glory.
I’m reminded of Jesus’ parable of the talents. The master – Jesus – gives special gifts to his servants – us – with the expectation that those gifts will be used productively. Two servants used the gifts wisely, multiplying them for the benefit of the master. But one servant buried the gift, hoping that would be enough to satisfy his master – but it wasn’t.
As I was thinking about these gifts, it dawned on me that there are several important aspects involved. Yes, we need to intellectually know about the gifts He makes available. Yes, we need to identify what specific gifts He has given to each of us. But is that all there is? Why do some of God’s people use their gifts, while some don’t? Could it be that, at least for some, there has never been encouragement and mentoring/training in how to use the gifts most effectively? Is it possible that the opportunity has never been given to put the gifts to use?
What I’m talking about is leadership development within the body of Christ, which is Goal #2 of the NCC strategic plan. There are so many places where God’s people can make a difference – and I believe it’s important to be proactive in that process. It means that we will intentionally be producing effective, spiritual leaders in our churches, schools and ministries. It means encouraging our members, including our young people, to step up and be trained to take on leadership roles both large and small. It means improving pastoral and educational leadership. And it means identifying and affirming in one another what God is doing in His Church.
I pray that God’s Spirit and His gifts will continue to be poured out on us. May we each use those gifts to be the most effective, spiritual leaders possible, for the growth of His Kingdom.
Following is Jim Pedersen's article for the May 2013 edition on the topic of the first Strategic Plan goal:
Our Message At its Core
The dictionary says “core” means: the central, innermost or most essential part of anything. In our world, the core is found in a variety of places.
For instance, I love apples. As a child, I thought they only came in three colors – red, yellow and green. But today, we can buy so many different kinds, colors and shades, and in a wide range of sweet and tart. However, at the center, literally, of each one is the core, filled with the seeds to produce more apples. While most of us don’t eat the core, it truly is the most important part of the fruit.
Or look at a nuclear reactor. I don’t pretend to understand it all, but I’m told that the core is the portion of the reactor that contains the components of nuclear fuel that result in the necessary nuclear reactions to make it all work. It’s a very complicated and involved process, but at the center of it is the core.
When it comes to the message of God’s Church – there are so many wonderful truths to uncover. It’s hard to summarize into a few words, yet there must be a central message, the “core” of what we believe. It’s the foundation for everything, the most important part of our faith.
As we worked on our new NCC strategic plan, our number one goal became this: “Core message: Understand and communicate the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ.” On the surface that sounds fairly simple. And yet it is something that so often gets overlooked or is not understood and communicated in all its fullness and beauty.
For the Christian, the core message is found in the words of Jesus: “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life” (John 6:47, NLT). It is also stated in John 3:16: “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (NLT). It’s a simple message: we’re saved by God’s grace alone.
The declaration “anyone who believes has eternal life” is a complete message. There’s no “and,” “but,” “however” or “in addition” to it. It stands on its own. Yet so often we try to add something to help explain our point of view, or to express another important part of Scripture. The core message needs to stay what it is: “Anyone who believes has eternal life.”
Once we fully understand this important core for ourselves, we can then learn how God wants us to grow in that experience, to understand how the rest of Scripture weaves together from there, and how to share that joy and knowledge with others. I hope you will join me as we focus on our basic core message: Jesus is our salvation!
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