On May 22, the fourth episode of “Is This Thing On?” (ITTO) broadcast on Facebook and YouTube during the 2019 Adventist Christian Fellowship (ACF) Institute. Midway through the institute, which ran May 20-25, college and university students from public campuses, as well as some young adult local church members, asked and answered questions during the 90-minute afternoon dialogue with North American Division (NAD) officers Dan Jackson, president; Alex Bryant, executive secretary; and Randy Robinson, treasurer.
“Having this type of dialogue with Adventist young people from public colleges and universities is a first for us, and we are really looking forward to hearing what they have to say,” said Bryant before the event held at the Life Adventist Church of Berkeley, California.
Participants asked questions ranging from church policy, budgets and funding, social issues, and how young adults can have a voice within the different areas of church structure, from the local church level to the division.
In a departure from the previous events, ITTO Berkeley was broken into four segments. Each NAD officer conversed alone with the audience of 100 during the first three segments. Jackson went first, followed by Bryant and Robinson.
“We have traditionally focused the ‘lion's share’ of funding on our Adventist institutions,” said Jackson in answer to an early question on financial allocation. “And yet, the generation has changed. People are far more interested in mission, and mission on the campus. We're waking up and seeing this. And you all are giving us that awareness.”
Jackson gave his thoughts when asked how young people can contribute in a church that seems unwilling to welcome them in leadership roles. “God's work on this earth is not going to be finished by my generation. It will be finished by yours. That means you should ask, ‘How do I get involved in the local church?’ That’s really is where it's at.”
Jackson added,“My greatest desire — and this is true for the whole church, but specifically for young adults — is involvement. Don't be afraid to be involved in the work of the local church. I know that's difficult in some churches because ‘Brother Jones’ has been the elder for 212 years and doesn’t want to give the job up to you, but get involved. Do what you can, whether it’s involvement in Sabbath School, in outreach, in compassion ministries. Whatever it is that God has given you a passion for, put your needs before God and then do it. . . . Every single one of us is a minister.”
The questions continued to revolve primarily around finance, and church structure and politics during the next two segments. "I do not apologize for the millions of dollars we put into Adventist Education,” said Robinson when asked about more financial support for campus ministry on public colleges and universities.
“That said,” he continued, “we have to address your question. You have my commitment that I will address the need for funding for public campus ministry."
Audience members gathered at microphones positioned at the ends of the seat rows for the final segment of the afternoon. Dubbed the “lightning round,” those asking questions were encouraged to keep it short as all three officers waited on stage to give 30-second answers. At least a dozen young adults gathered in lines to ask questions — some of which required answers longer than 30 seconds.
One of the questions that came back to all three officers in the final round was: "How can the church show young adults that they are valued and important members of our denomination?”
“Number one, you are needed in the church. Your ideas are needed,” answered Jackson. “What can the church do to help you? . . . We are trying hard at the North American Division, not only in our employment practices, but also as we work through our various governance issues. We are trying very hard to bring young people into the equation. We must hear [sic]. There's a balance needed there, but we must hear.”
"We have struggled . . . What are your ideas on how we can attract young adults to the church?" Alex Bryant asks the university student who posed the question.
The answer: "Get involved in social issues."
While close to 100 sat in the live studio audience, many more watched online. According to Facebook statistics, 16,429 people were reached, with 2,482 engagements. The online audience was split almost evenly between men and women; and the Facebook crowd engaged in 729 reactions, comments and shares. ITTO was also broadcast for the first time on YouTube, where more than 400 viewed the event.