The 2019 North American Division Year-End Meeting kicked off Thursday, Oct. 31, at the division’s headquarters in Columbia, Maryland. This year’s annual business meeting will host the division’s 341 members of its executive committee to hear reports, nominate personnel, amend policies, and fellowship among like-minded leaders and laypersons who are dedicated to the mission of the Church. The theme for this year’s six-day meeting is “Pursuing His Promises,” which leaders hope will inspire delegates to offer continuous praise to God.
“We want our meeting to be a spirit-fest — a time of not just dealing with the business of God’s work, but also with the privilege that we have to praise God for what He has done, is doing, and will do for us,” said Daniel R. Jackson, president of the North American Division, during his opening remarks.
In the opening minutes of the session, there were several references from Jackson and other leaders about one of the local major league baseball teams, the Washington Nationals, who won the World Series the evening prior to the start of the meetings.
“When the Nationals won the World Series, did you notice what the players were doing? They were acting like children — jumping up and down and hugging. Most of us are like that when our teams win, or when some great event takes place,” said Jackson.
“Listen, friends, we have a Heavenly Father that says to us, ‘I’m with you always. I’m with you when you’re happy, sad, defeated, angry, and hostile.’ We ought to be praising God and thanking Him for the fact that He has invited us into fellowship.”
The Future and The Present
The first report of the evening was delivered by the members of the NAD Ministerial Association. The director, Ivan Williams, and his associate directors, José Cortes Jr., Esther Knott, Brenda Billingy, and Dave Gemmell, took turns sharing how their office supports those who have been called to ministry by partnering with the nine Adventist colleges and universities within the NAD territory, sponsoring seminary education, empowering women in ministry, and offering continuing education and internship opportunities.
“We stand energized by all of God’s promises,” said Williams. “God promises to call, equip, and [help us] multiply.”
The team also highlighted the alarming reality of the state of pastoral employment throughout the division.
“The Baby Boomer balloon of pastors is starting to burst. We’ve been saying it’s going to happen, now we see it’s really happening,” said Gemmell. “Workforce is going to be changing. Half of our pastors are Baby Boomers, they are retiring.”
During the next decade, more than half of the division’s 4,300 pastors will eligible for retirement. Last year alone, more than 750 pastors were eligible for retirement.
“We need anywhere between 150-300 pastors to join our ranks every year over the next dozen years to keep up with the retirements,” continued Gemmell.
The Ministerial report served as an opportunity to introduce church leaders to the “NextGen” initiative, which officially launched at the 2019 Chosen International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The goal is to help employ at least 2,500 new pastors within the next 10 years by encouraging children, youth, and young adults to consider a career in pastoral ministry.
“We want to encourage them to be open to the call of God and the Holy Spirit,” said Cortes. “Children and youth are not only the future of the church — they are the present. Without them, there would be no church today.”
Cortes also focused on need for church planting in the division. According to Ministerial, a church plant is “a newly recognized mission group – less than five years old – that equips disciples who serve the community, worships regularly, and is on the path to becoming a multiplying church.” Throughout the past three and a half years, 750 churches have been planted in North America. The current quinquennium’s goal is 1,000 church plants.
To help assist with planting efforts, the Ministerial Association is taking its bootcamp to the west coast. The first Church Planters Bootcamp West will take place in Pine Spring Ranch, California, Nov. 7-10.
At the end of the report, executive committee members accepted a motion to designate year 2022 as a year of “Multiply,” as presented by the Ministerial Association. Recommendations for the year include baptizing 50,000 people, equipping members to be involved in mission, and planting 400 churches.
According to Williams, 2022 was selected to give the association enough time to build awareness. The team will promote “Multiply” to pastors during next year’s CALLED – Pastors’ Family Convention and throughout 2020. The following year, 2021, will be dedicated to sharing the goal with local churches. The ministry will also partner with the Adventist Learning Community to offer a book, podcast, and audio and video content to support the effort.
The final report of the afternoon was delivered by Adam Fenner, director of the Adventist Learning Community (ALC), who presented the various ways the comprehensive digital resource hub equips leaders for their ministries.
There are currently 11,500 people enrolled in various courses offered by ALC, with 10-20 new people signing up every day. In addition, ALC collaborates with unions and conferences to provide continuing education units (CEU) for pastors and teachers. Courses for pastors include, Grief and Funerals, District Pastoring, and Church Planting with Refugees in Mind. Courses for teachers include, Curriculum Mapping, Coaching Distinctively Adventist Sports, GenZ for Teachers, and Adventist K-12 School Board Membership Training.
"That's what we focus on at ALC, to make sure everyone has the knowledge, resources, skills and talents that they need to do their ministry,” said Fenner. “Whether they be in volunteer ministries, or if they're pastors, teachers, or administrators, we want to make sure that they’re equipped and empowered to do ministry.”