UPDATED July 23, 2022, 3:05 p.m. ET
On Sabbath morning, July 23, 2022, Daniel R. Jackson, former president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, passed to his rest after several months of battling cancer. He was 73.
Jackson, who served the Adventist Church for 49 years, retired in July 2020 after serving as NAD president for a decade. As president, Jackson made many contributions to the church in North America during his 10 years of service at the division, including the building up of the NAD Ministerial Association; the creation of a missional strategic plan; and the addition of the Guam-Micronesia Mission, Oakwood University, Pacific Press Publishing Association, AdventSource, and Christian Record Services for the Blind.
In addition to the division moving to its own headquarters in Columbia, Maryland, in 2017, record tithe came in annually during Jackson’s tenure; almost 1,000 churches were planted; more than 300,000 people were baptized; and the legacy Adventist media ministries (Breath of Life, Faith For Today, It Is Written and Escrito Está, Jesus 101, La Voz de la Esperanza, Lifetalk Radio, and the Voice of Prophecy) found their own homes and identities. During this time the number of women working as pastors and chaplains doubled; the Adventist Learning Community, a robust digital ministry resource, was created; both the Young Adult Life initiative and Big Data + Social Media department came to fruition; and the division started the magazine Adventist Journey.
Jackson was elected on June 28, 2010, by delegates of the world church at the General Conference Session in Atlanta, Georgia, and reelected to this position on July 6, 2015, at the 60th General Conference Session held in San Antonio, Texas. The General Conference Session is the highest governing body in the Adventist Church.
Jackson, a native Canadian and, with the exception of five years of service in the Southern Asia Division, lived and ministered in the North American Division. He was a graduate of Canadian Union College (now Burman University) and Andrews University, from which he holds an M.A. in Religion in Systematic Theology. Jackson is one of the authors of the book Becoming a Mission-Driven Church.
He was known for his love of music, keen sense of humor, and mission-mindedness — all hallmarks of his ministry throughout the years.
During his career, Jackson served the church as a pastor, teacher, and administrator. But Jackson, who frequently started a talk or sermon reminding his audience that he was “a broken man in need of the Savior,” often said that foremost, he was a fellow traveler on the same path as every Christian headed toward the kingdom.
“Elder Dan Jackson was not only a fellow colleague in ministry, he was also a true friend and brother who demonstrated his faith in real and practical ways. Having served with him for 10 years I can say with authority that he was the genuine article. It is no overstatement to say a giant among us has fallen,” said G. Alexander Bryant, current NAD president and successor to Jackson.
Bryant continued, “He stood firmly on his convictions with courage and humility. He would often lend his voice to speak up for the marginalized and the disenfranchised among us. He embodied the concept of servant leadership; and he empowered others around him and assisted them in striving for their God-given potential. This church has been tremendously blessed by his ministry and is the better off because Elder Jackson walked among us.”
“Elder Jackson was such a godly man and a wonderful leader,” said Kyoshn Ahn, NAD executive secretary. “His kindness and courage inspired many members. His love for the church was infinite and unlimited. He simply lived out the gospel he preached so passionately. God has immensely blessed the church and the NAD with his leadership and service.”
Current NAD treasurer/CFO Randy Robinson said, “Elder Jackson had a passion for Jesus, for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and for the members of the North American Division. You could not be around him for any length of time without recognizing each of those three passions. During his tenure, he led the church in North America forward as he depended on the grace of Jesus. He will be deeply missed!”
“When Dan was elected NAD president in 2010, I felt that he was the man of the hour and what we needed in leadership,” shared Thomas G. Evans, former treasurer/CFO who worked with Jackson for more than eight years at the division. “He lived his love for Christ and promoted it to those around him. He reminded all of us that we are broken and need the Lord. One of the highlights of his tenure was the move of the NAD office from the GC in Silver Spring to Columbia, which continues to prove to be a blessing to the division.
Evans added, “Dan was also a family man. He loved Donna and his kids and extended family. He will be missed by all who knew him.”
A Visionary Leader, A Humble Spirit
During a tribute at Jackson’s 2020 retirement, Bryant shared how shortly after the 2010 election, Jackson discovered a note in his desk that was written by Bob Dale, a former executive secretary of the division, that outlined a 70-year-plan for the division. The plan included moving the division’s headquarters from the General Conference building into its own building.
“He started on a journey that seemed to be an improbable journey. In fact, many people even [in the NAD] did not believe it was possible,” said Bryant. “And here we're now celebrating our third year-end meeting in this building. It speaks to Dan’s leadership, courage, and it was not without bruises and pain. … But he moved forward anyway.”
Jackson never imagined he’d become the president of the Adventist Church in North America. In a 2020 interview with Dan Weber, former NAD Communication director, Jackson said that he thought there would never be a chance he’d serve in any administrative role.
“I had no aspirations to be an administrator. And no clue that it would ever happen,” he said. He talked about how he and his wife Donna raised their children with the belief in Christ’s soon coming. “Our burning desire was just to win souls for Jesus and see Him return.”
In regard to his work at the NAD, Jackson shared that supporting women in ministry was a significant part of his lifework. “I have always had the belief that women ought to be treated on an equal basis with men. God has gifted women just as He has gifted men. He’s called women just as He has called men. There’s ample evidence and direction of that in Scripture,” Jackson said. “When I came to the North American Division, we thought through some of the strategic initiatives that the NAD team would undertake together. Women in ministry was one of the highest priorities.”
As he retired, Jackson shared, “What I’ll cherish most is the idea that during our time we were able to help get the mission of the church in focus. That all of the adjustments we made administratively were shaping, shaping, shaping the idea that this work has only one target: under the direction of Jesus we are moving forward in mission. I pray that mission continues to remain our church’s focus.”
Jackson had a burden to reach others with the gospel message — to share the hope and wholeness found in Jesus. “We are called by God to plant ourselves in the soil of human need — as different and as difficult and as hard as the soil may be today,” said Jackson in his 2017 NAD year-end meeting sermon.
“Where does love call us?” asked Jackson. “We will never discover the answer to that nor the true basis for effective Christ-centered ministry with more seminars, with better personal coaches, or mentors, or by looking to others.”
The answer, Jackson said, is found in the Apostle Paul’s words in Hebrews 12:1, 2. “The best way for me to understand my life and my service for God is to keep my eyes fixed upon Jesus as my Example and my Mentor.”
“Serving has always been a privilege,” Jackson shared near his retirement. “I’ve always held the idea that God would move us into this role in great reverence. … It is the people that make the job very rich and a huge blessing. I deeply respect and revere what God is willing to do in the life of a scamp from Edmonton, Alberta, and a wonderful woman from Sidney, British Columbia.”
Jackson is survived by his wife, Donna, who served as an associate director for the NAD Ministerial Association before she retired in 2020; three children; and four grandchildren.
UPDATE: Condolences may be sent to the family via email to JacksonFamilyCondolences@nadadventist.org. A memorial service for Jackson will be held on Aug. 12, 2022, at 1:30 p.m. PT (4:30 p.m. ET) at the Rutland Seventh-day Adventist Church in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. There are plans in progress to live-stream the service. Please pray for the Jackson family.