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The Ear: Japhet De Oliveira on The One Project


Seattle is upon us — the next “gathering,” a week from now, of the One Project.  

What’s it all about?

In 2010 five friends, all engaged in Adventist pastoral ministry, met for fellowship, reflection and prayer in Room 602 of a Denver, Colorado, Holiday Inn.  Two friends joined them, part of the time, by Skype.  After two days they “acknowledged again,” one of them wrote later, “that Jesus was number one.”

The five persons at the hotel were Alex Bryan, Tim Gillespie, Sam Leonor, Japhet De Oliveira and Terry Swenson; the two who participated from a distance were Eddie Hypolite and Dany Hernandez.  Their interaction gave birth to the One Project, whose fourth American conference takes place on February 10 and 11 in Seattle, when hundreds of Adventists will feast on Jesus-centered preaching, worship and discussion over a forty-eight hour period.  Similar gatherings — two in Australia, one each in Brazil, The Netherlands, and New Zealand, along with a Spanish only conference at La Sierra University — will occur later this year.  After Seattle, the next English-language American gathering will take place in early February 2015, in San Diego. 

“We love our church,” leaders of the One Project say, “and so we want the greatest gift for it — Jesus.”  All of Adventist life, they insist, should be “drenched in the Spirit of Jesus.” 

Japhet De Oliveira, who below discusses this year’s event, was until very recently University Chaplain at Andrews University.  Earlier he was Director of the Center for Youth Evangelism at the university, and earlier Youth Director for the South England Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.  The son of a Brazilian father and Mauritian mother, he was born in England.

De Oliveira has just become Senior Pastor at the Boulder Seventh-day Adventist Church in Colorado, a congregation, he is pleased to say, that wants to make Jesus “the core of all we believe and practice.”  A husband, father and cancer survivor, he is co-chair of the One Project Board.

Here is his perspective on what will go on in Seattle:

Question: Another One Project gathering commences in Seattle on Sunday and Monday, February 10 and 11, when over 750 people will come together in a hotel there.  What is going to happen?  What are One Project leaders planning for — praying for — this time?

Answer:  Our “Reflection” focus, or preaching theme, is “Present Truth.”  All over the planet, Adventists meet in small huddles to express the deep call of Jesus in their lives. Our prayer and intention for the Seattle event is to gather these dreams and visions into one place to change the current trajectory of our faith and lives.

Question: The One Project website declares: “Jesus.  All.”  And you are learning that many Adventists, on several continents so far, find such a focus deeply satisfying — like a thirst suddenly relieved or a confinement suddenly overcome.  What is going on?  Why does this ring so true and so fresh to so many? 

Answer: In any relationship a point comes when you might think to yourself: “If only we could go back to the way it was.” That could be true for your marriage or your parenting or your sibling or dating relationships. But going back is not going forward.  You need to look to your past and find strength to shape the present and the future.

The good old days don’t seem so good when we are honest. Jesus is constantly drawing us forward to a new challenge and fresh faith, and this can only be found in Jesus. That is why what I think of as the sacred echo emanating from the One Project has rippled across oceans.

Question: But many Adventists wonder if Jesus is enough.  Alluding to Paul, they say the Christ focus is milk and wonder when you will get to the solid food?   How do you respond?

Answer: Tim Gillespie really does a great job answering this question on our website, under #15.

In brief, the more I study the Bible, the more I see Jesus in both the Old and New Testaments. All Scripture points to Jesus (John 5:39), and the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 3:2 was not suggesting for one moment that Jesus is milk and we will eventually get onto something else more significant. Rather the context indicates that the Corinthian believers in Paul’s day were like babies, thinking that they could handle Jesus, but they really had little idea of the implications and consequences to being his follower. Paul had not yet unleashed the full gospel onto their minds. The full expression of the gospel is Jesus Christ.

Question: Practically every thoughtful Adventist agrees that our church is going through an identity crisis.  How is the One Project a contribution to this conversation? And is what you are doing “Adventist enough”?

Answer: That is a sobering statement and great question.  Saying “Jesus. All.” is not new. It is the language of old (Acts 4:12) that has been crystallized in a new phrase.  That phrase — that focus — has given us the privilege of creating the spaces we call “Gatherings,” so that people can come together to share “Reflections,” as we say, and attempt to “Recalibrate” their thinking and practice.  If Jesus is not in the start, middle and end of all we believe, we may as well drop our belief.  Which also means, if Jesus is in the start, middle and end of all we believe, then for the sake of the Gospel, we need to proclaim it. You can’t be more Adventist than by declaring — and living — your conviction that Jesus is coming back soon! 

Let us celebrate together the supremacy of Jesus within our faith.

See “A Short History of the One Project” on its website.

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