Address to the Constituency of St. Lucia Mission
Sabbath, January 31, 2015
Leaders, members, well-wishers, brothers and sisters, I wish you a Spirit-led 2015, and a pleasant and joyous Sabbath. It is with great delight and a deep sense of gratitude for your constant prayers and support that I address you today, God’s Holy Day.
The sun has set on the old quadrennium and has risen on the horizon of a new period. Though it is still the dawn of the new period, I cherish a calm sense of optimism—of hope—amidst dark clouds that pose great challenges to our sense of identity, mission and destiny. The Church now exists in very critical times. The words of Thomas Paine during the American War of Independence aptly speaks to us a Church embroiled in the cosmic war of the Great Controversy.
Thomas Paine in 1776 wrote:
“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
Indeed, my brothers and sisters, “these are the times that try men’s souls.” It is a time when neither shame nor fear constrains man’s conduct; when” evil is called good and good evil; when darkness is put for light and light for darkness; and bitter is put for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).
As soldiers in God’s army in the raging great controversy, we cannot be summer soldiers, nor should we be sunshine patriots.
Last quadrennium, we rallied under the theme, Modeling Christ’s Excellence.” The aim was to let the beauty of Christ’s radiate through our being and everything we did. His methods are to be our methods; His passion, our passion; His devotion, our devotion; His love, our love; and His character, our character.
The pursuit of excellence is a work in progress. We must continue to pursue excellence in our relationships and family life; in our service to God and fellowmen; in our prayer life and the reverent reading of the bible; in our demonstration of faith, and in our development of character.
For the next four years, the Holy Spirit has given the Church a theme which is, “Led by His Spirit.” We would like leaders, individual member and workers to diligently seek God’s direction before every decision and action, and to make prayer an instant and joyful experience. We would like to surrender our innate sense of independence and self-confidence and to consciously depend on God’s wisdom and direction. We may draw lessons from Israel’s conquest of Jericho simply by marching, shouting and trusting; from David’s defeat of the giant Goliath with one smooth river stone, and not with sword or spear; and Judah’s epic victory under king Jehoshaphat over their enemies with song and praise. God still fights battles for his people, because the battle is God’s.
Spiritual battles are won by faith and divine weaponry. Here, the counsel in 2Chronicles 20: 20 is instructive: “. . . Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in His prophets and you will be successful.” As a Church, we need to go back to trusting the simple words of the prophets—both in scripture and the Spirit of prophecy. Using the yardstick of higher criticism to interpret scripture and the spirit of prophecy will lead to skepticism, doubt and unbelief, not success.
Ultimately, God’s intent is to have His people trust Him, not human or political figures. In the case of Israel God wanted to be their king, not Saul or David; He wanted a temple, not a palace; and for their defense He wanted to give them the heavenly host, not an earthly army. God still wants to be first and last in the affairs of His people. This is the basis of the theme, “Led by His Spirit.”
In this new period, led by His Spirit we will seek to expand the frontiers of our evangelistic exploits. Last quadrennium, we baptized 3244 souls an average of 811 souls yearly. This period, we would like to baptize an annual average of 1000 souls minimum. The process approach using existing ministries like family life, health, youth, community services, women/men remain critical to the divine vision to reach St. Lucia for Christ. The implementation of Sabbath School Action Units is another must-do for effective conservation of existing members and making new disciples. In addition, we would like to make our church atmosphere friendly, loving and non-judgmental. Moreover, Churches that emphasize sound biblical preaching, maintain sound doctrine, manage conflicts well, nurture a healthy prayer focus, support a strong evangelistic and outreach program, encourage appropriate standards but avoid promotion of extreme viewpoints do well in church growth and conservation. We would like to consolidate such measures in this new period.
For us as a Church, finance continues to be a major challenge. But Led by His Spirit, we will emerge successful from the burdens of that challenge. We need adequate finance to fund Christian education, to fund ministry and evangelism, to fund community services and welfare needs, to assist struggling youth and struggling churches. It is important that the Mission be financially healthy.
Thus, we have embarked on a holistic and systematic approach to stewardship education and empowerment. A stewardship team has been selected to both empower our youth, single parents and others to earn, and to educate all in stewardship principles. Stewardship is about the effective management of life and ultimate accountability to God. In Matthew chapters 24 and 25, in the parables of the unjust servant, the talents, ten virgins and the sheep and goats all were held accountable by God in the manner they related to character development, their service to others, their treatment of their fellowmen, and their use of resources given in trust. The Christian must be faithful in every dimension of life, and he, the Christian, cannot be deemed faithful unless he is faithful in all aspects of life. Thus, I challenge all to practice faithfulness and demonstrate commitment in advancing God’s kingdom by returning a faithful tithe and offering to God.
Speaking of accountability, we at the Mission office endeavor to be accountable to God in the wise use of the tithe. The auditor of the General Conference after a thorough examination of our records has given us a clean auditor’s report at the end of the last audit. We acknowledge the diligence of the treasury department and the general adherence to administrative and fiscal measures by leadership.
As a Seventh-day Adventist Church, we continue to be guided by our motto which is: Identity, Mission and Destiny. In his Book, The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism, George Knight makes several observations that we cannot ignore. Knight observes: when churches become liberal, i.e. they reject the authority of scripture, when doctrine becomes unimportant, and distinctiveness is believed to be arrogance, and Christ is simply seen as an example rather than as the Saviour, they become neutered and ineffective. As a result, he observes mainline denominations in America shrunk by the millions between 1965 and the early 1990’s. Presbyterian membership plummeted from 4.2 million to 2.8 million members (34% decline), Methodism went from 11 to 8.7 million (21% decline), Episcopalianism from 3.6 to 2.4 million (34% decline), and the Disciples of Christ from 2 to 1 million (50% decline). Newsweek reported that “the mainline denominations may be dying because they lost their theological integrity.”
Further, Knight quotes Dean Kelley who asserts that conservative Churches are growing because they stand for something. “That is, people are looking for a church that stands over against culture, one that is arrogant enough to believe that there is truth and error and that it has the truth.” As a Church we must continue to believe in the special truths of the sanctuary message, the Sabbath as the exclusive holy day, the bible as fully inspired and authoritative, a literal six day creation, that God’s church is identified in the apocalypse as the remnant who keeps the commandment of God and have the faith of Jesus Christ, possesses the gift of prophecy, and is engaged in a deadly, cosmic, great controversy, but will endure and triumph and history will effectively climax in the glorious return of Jesus Christ. Undergirding all of these truths must be Christ’s love—the gospel. Failure to hold these truths will render us neutered, we will lose our distinctiveness and become unproductive.
In preserving our relevance, we must also nurture our schools. Adventist education is not only important but necessary. It is necessary as a barrier against the corruption of virtue and values that prevail in worldly educational institutions, as a channel to reinforce Adventist beliefs and values, as an environment where godliness is modeled, and a platform where the youth are taught to value service. In keeping with Adventist educational philosophy, we are working to make our educational institutions SAFE schools, that is, schools that are Spirit-led and spiritually sound, that emphasize academic excellence and rigor, that are financially responsible and viable, and that give excellent service. For many, this is a venture of faith. We cannot measure the salvation of our children in dollars and cents. God will provide when we demonstrate our willingness to send our children to Adventist schools.
Another relevant philosophy we hold dear is healthy living. The Church promotes NEWSTART as a useful, holistic approach to good health. God desires to sanctify us body, soul and spirit. We hold that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and must be faithful stewards of our health which is entrusted in our care. Therefore, we continue to promote temperance, which is abstaining from what is harmful and using in moderation that which is good. We abstain from alcohol in all its forms and from caffeinated drinks. We promote using foods in their natural form as much as possible, and strive to the ideal of a non-flesh diet. In addition, we promote adequate sleep, the generous use of water, regular exercise and placing our abiding trust in God, thus minimizing worry. If we do our best, God will save us from many of the diseases of the” Egyptians”.
Family life is a huge concern for the Church. The enemy seems to be succeeding in very large measure in destabilizing and destroying families. As a Church, we must arrest the slide and seek to preserve the most important unit in society. This calls for personal commitment and sacred respect for our marriage vows. In an effort to protect families we need to give attention to, and ensure our relationship is given priority in spite of the many competing activities such as the all-absorbing nature of social media, self-improvement pursuits, Church and community activities, or mere work schedules. The experts identify three areas that must be met for marital satisfaction: passion, commitment and intimacy. Those require time, energy, discipline and properly adjusted attitudes.
In an attempt to assist in strengthening the family structure, the church through its family life department encourages the local churches to host regular and properly planned programs that address the basic, critical needs of the family. Secondly, that premarital counseling be conducted in a thorough and adequate manner, and that post-marital counseling for newly-weds be conducted in an attempt to help diagnose and address early symptoms of marital fall-outs. In addition, we have made full-time pastoral counseling services available by appointing Pr. Wulstan Charles as director of counseling services.
In recent times we have been reviewing procedures and protocols in conducting special services. As regards funerals, we wish to recommend 90 minutes as the ideal duration. Generally, our funeral services are too long. With immediate effect, a maximum of 45 minutes will be given to the family for tributes and eulogy and other items, and a maximum of 45 minutes for preliminaries, signing of register, and sermonette. In addition, whenever the service takes place in church, it is deemed a church service. Thus no family member is at liberty to prepare or amend a program without the input and guidance of the district pastor. The district pastor is in charge and responsible for all services conducted in the church. We ask that all cooperate in this regard.
In addition, family members are given the privilege to select a pastor(s) of their preference to perform certain functions at their wedding or funeral services. However, the district pastor remains in charge especially for funeral services. As regards weddings, the status officer presiding is really in charge. However, all arrangements for use of the church must be cleared by him.
At the ministerial level, we have also discussed protocols governing baptism. Preferably, any candidate for baptism should be baptized by the pastor of the church where he desires his membership. However, if circumstances influence his baptism outside of his district, the district pastor should first be contacted for clearance. It is dangerous baptizing or re-baptizing persons whom we do not know or one’s reason for re-baptism we do not understand. We must close the loopholes.
The Mission is now sixteen years old. And we must now prepare for conference status. The only significant factor hindering the process is the financial challenge we face. If we must overcome that challenge, we must improve significantly our funding of schools. In addition, based on the scale of operations, we need to increase our tithe income to $7million this year. We call the membership to faithfulness; all must do their part.
Further, we must stay together, and must operate as one seventh-day Adventist church in St. Lucia. The local church has its function while the Mission oversees certain administrative functions, cast an overall vision and provide support in terms of personnel and general enforcement of standards. The preservation of the roles played at various levels is critical for unity and progress. The respect for leadership, and due regard for the membership are also necessary for good relations and in keeping with sound biblical counsel. As the messenger to the remnant church counsels, God is not leading a group here and a group there; He is leading a church. Grievances must also come through the correct channel. Conflict resolution must be first exhausted at the local church before calling on the Mission office for intervention. Let us stay together. We are brothers and sisters irrespective of where we come from. We are strong when we are united.
Brothers and sisters, we thank you for your commitment to the cause, for your prayers and sacrifice. We acknowledge the role also of our workers in their respective spheres. In spite of challenges confronting the Church there is solid evidence that God is with us. Our involvement in the society is strong. Let us bear positive witness and let our light shine so that God may be glorified. Let us allow God to fight for us; the battle is the Lord’s. Together, let us claim victory in 2015. We cannot be defeated for we are led by His Spirit.
Pastor Johnson Frederick
Saint Lucia Mission of Seventh-day Adventists