On Sabbath, November 2, 2019, North American Division President Daniel R. Jackson preached his last year-end meeting sermon as president. He announced on Friday that he will be retiring in June or July 2020, meaning a new NAD president will be elected at GC Session 2020.
It was an emotional and heartfelt Divine Service, with beautiful music from Zina Johnson and her praise team throughout, and special music by the Burman University Choral Union — the same choir Jackson joined at the age of 14.
During the Ministry of Gratitude, Randy Robinson, NAD Treasurer, introduced Garrison Chaffee, Youth Pastor at the Paradise Seventh-day Adventist Church, who provided the congregation with an update on the efforts in Paradise, after last year’s Camp Fire that left thousands without homes, including Chaffee, and destroyed the Paradise Church and Paradise Adventist Academy.
Chaffee shared a graph of the structures lost in the town of Paradise to help the congregation better understand the magnitude of the devastation. Over 18,000 structures were destroyed in the Camp Fire, which spanned over 153,000 acres and killed 85 people, compared to the next most destructive California wildfire (Tubbs) that spanned almost 36,000 acres, destroyed just over 5,600 structures, and killed 22. (See “Top 20 Most Destructive California Wildfires.”)
“Thank you for remembering us… it’s a long road ahead of us. Thank you for your prayers, your encouragement, and your support,” said Chaffee.
The Church in Paradise has been renting a space and worshipping together, shared Chaffee. They are also serving the community, working with Maranatha to help provide and build shelters for the thousands who are still without homes, as well as creating and handing out care packages to families and individuals.
Chaffee said that shortly after the fire he stood in the disaster resource center, and saw organizations like United Way, Samaritan’s Purse, the Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation, and many others, and “as I stood there, I longed for my church to be there. So I just pray that, moving forward, whether it’s at the local church level or the conference level or the union level or the NAD or the GC level, that we will be better prepared after disasters and that we will do in our home land what we’re so good at around the world. Thank you for your prayers and support.”
Robinson then announced that the offering would be going to the efforts in Paradise. He shared that he and his wife talked it over and have written a check for $500, and asked that the congregation please consider giving whatever they are able to, whatever God has blessed them with the ability to give, however much that may be.
For those interested in giving online, you can do so through the Northern California Conference’s online giving portal here or through the Paradise Church’s online giving form here. You can also join the Paradise SDA Camp Fire Recovery Facebook group here.
G. Alexander Bryant, Executive Secretary of the NAD, gave the introduction for Dan Jackson. He shared that it was with bittersweet feelings he was introducing his friend and colleague for the last time for a sermon to this group. Bryant then asked nine of his colleagues, members of the NAD administrative team that meets on a monthly basis, to come to the dais as well. He had asked them all to share with him one word or phrase that they feel describes Jackson, and Bryant then read those attributes.
Some team members spoke to Jackson’s sense of humor and optimism; others spoke to his “soft heart, thick skin, and unwavering vision;” many spoke to how he modeled servant leadership and created an inclusive environment. “By seeking first to understand, he won our hearts, by taking responsibility and acting with courage, he then earned our trust, and through sharing, delegating, and empowering his team, he commanded our respect,” stated Elder Alvin M. Kibble.
“The legacy that Elder Jackson leaves behind is that he modeled servanthood leadership to all of us. On behalf of the admin team, you will be missed, we have been blessed, and your legacy is you have shown us how to lead in this century the way Christ would lead in a modern and challenging society,” concluded Bryant, as Jackson wiped away tears.
Jackson’s family, including his wife, Donna, their three adult children, and two grandchildren were present for Jackson’s last sermon. Jackson’s good childhood friend, Lee Patterson, was also present. They attended academy and college together and were in each other’s weddings. “We learned how to get into trouble together,” Jackson shared, saying they even got suspended in academy. “They had to change the name of the school after us,” said Patterson from the audience. “That’s right!” said Jackson laughing, before turning to the congregation and adding, “I’m not telling you anymore!”
Jackson’s sermon, titled “The Vision Fulfilled!” built on the year-end meeting theme of “Pursuing His Promises.” He acknowledged that the church sometimes makes terrible mistakes that it needs to admit, but that “this is God’s church and I’m a lifer. Not because of the system…but because of the God who called the church into existence through his Son Jesus Christ.”
“The Lord Jesus Christ is the only true north in the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” said Jackson, who continually pointed the congregation to Jesus throughout his sermon.
“Churches that spend all their time fighting about the nature of Christ, or the Trinity, or women’s ordination, are not churches, they are boxing clubs,” he added. “Too many people lose themselves because they see the fighting. Jesus must be the center.”
He affirmed the importance of the Sabbath but said that if you don’t have Jesus at the center of the Sabbath, at the center of the Three Angels’ messages, then don’t even bother talking to people about it because all you’re going to do is turn people off. “As Christians we have a responsibility to make sure people know we’ve been with Jesus… When we say we’re Christians but act anything but, we are tools of the devil.”
Jackson preached from the book of Isaiah. The description in Isaiah of what the Israelites were going through is not unlike the church today, he said. In times of fear and distress we become convinced God’s not aware of our challenges and we try to fix the problems ourselves which only makes them worse. Human effort has never solved spiritual issues. It only masks the disease. It does not help.
“Sometimes we think if we only pray louder or harder or print more warning documents, then somehow God will hear, that it will bring our focus and attention to Him and that He will hear better,” said Jackson, but “God does not need an awareness exercise. God does not need our help.” God wasn’t unaware of the gloom of His people in Isaiah, and He’s not unaware of our challenges in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
If we’re not present during the crisis of our brothers and sisters, are we doing an adequate service for God? asked Jackson. When I contemplate the the poor and hurting and starving, the hopeless in our world, and then think about the endless debates in the church, “I am often shocked and disappointed in myself, and in my church. Will we be vanquished by the enemy of legalism, secularism, materialism, and pluralism? Isaiah has a message for us today, as he had a message for the people of Israel in his day. For unto us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders and he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He was, He is, and He ever will be the light of the world and the hope for man’s anxiety and alienation, and the hope for the Seventh-day Adventist Church today.”
“We need to place our faith in God’s act of sending his Son for men. This is to be the cry of the church to the world — we serve a Savior who will share salvation with you. We serve one who has radically transformed our lives,” said Jackson. “We need a revolution in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We need a radical transformation…. In God’s intervention in human affairs, we find hope, and peace, and a place called home.”
Let us listen to the voice of God, and come to know him personally, Jackson concluded. “We are God followers, we are not church followers. The role of the church is not so that the church can be preeminent, the role of the church is to serve as the conduit where by we introduce men and women to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The NADYEM19 meetings are being live-streamed and are available on the NAD’s website here: https://www.nadadventist.org/news/2019-nad-year-end-meeting-news-and-video-coverage as well as on the NAD’s Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/NADAdventist/
Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org
Image: NAD Executive Secretary G. Alexander Bryant provided the introduction for NAD President Daniel R. Jackson, who gave the Divine Worship sermon on November, 2, 2019, at the NAD Year-End Meetings. Photo by Pieter Damsteegt, courtesy of the North American Division on Flickr.
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