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ChurchRight Current Issue: April 2021 - May 2021

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Follow His Plan?

The rallying cry of the Church of God (Seventh Day) United States and Canada is “Focus on Jesus and follow His plan.” But what is His plan? What does it entail? At least the following:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, ESV throughout).

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 39).

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19, 20).

“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

All these expressions of Christ’s plan for His followers fall into the categories of evangelism and discipleship. We are to share the good news concerning Jesus, and when someone receives Jesus as Lord, we are to teach that person to focus on Jesus and follow His plan.

Many Christians seem somewhat afraid of the e word (evangelism), but that fear may be caused by a misunderstanding of what evangelism should be. It is not trying to convince others that they are wrong and we are right. A Bible-waving Christian in an old Charles Schultz comic exclaims, “I take my religion seriously. I get into arguments almost every day!”

Jesus did not tell His disciples, “You will be My debaters” but “You will be My witnesses.” A witness simply tells what was seen, heard, and experienced. A witness for Jesus simply tells what has been learned and experienced concerning Him, and not only with words. Evangelism is how we live, not just what we say.

Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). That’s a great place to start. Focus on Jesus and follow His plan!

— Loren Stacy

Are You Faithful?

The SWD had its first Super Sabbath of the year February 26-27. Speakers were Pastor Barry Mauldin, Superintendent Chip Hinds, and Elder Antonio Vega, who urged the church to walk by faith and endure in trials and tribulations. They encouraged listeners to live by God’s principles regardless of what we face. The theme “Are you Faithful?” confronted the Church on her commitment to the Lord in the midst of our political, personal, and spiritual environment.

Joining worship teams from our sister churches in Brownsville, Texas (Shalom); Jasper, Arkansas; and San Antonio, Texas (Ceralvo), we worshipped virtually for the honor and glory of our Lord. The children participated with their own program, exploring through the life of Daniel what it means to be faithful at their young age. We had a blessed weekend!

Training teachers.

The SWD’s children’s ministry started its teacher training workshops January 31 for all leaders who work with children in the district. This training will be yearlong, providing basic structures, classroom activities, and prior knowledge that can be used with children of any age. Sixty brethren have registered and are taking the courses,
with room for more.

Virtual marriage conference.

On February 7, the Marriage Ministry of the SWD held a virtual conference called “Biblical Sexuality,” led by speakers Zuri and

 Raquel Gutierrez. Over 100 couples in this Zoom conference were encouraged to work on their communication skills and to explore more details through some of the Church’s books on the topic, like Sex: Created, Fallen, and Redeemed.

Mini Super Sabbath.

The SWD children’s ministry held their mini Super Sabbath on Sunday, February 21, focusing on the theme “My Best Friend.” Children learned that Jesus is their best friend and that He is always there for them. Meeting virtually on their ministry Facebook page, children had opportunities to win prizes during the service.

Senior painting classes.

Every Thursday during January, February, and March the seniors ministry of the SWD has provided free painting classes for all our brethren in that demographic group. Folks from all over the district have enjoyed their classes and fellowshipped with others during the sessions.

Zoom!

In my current world, zoom has a whole different meaning than the one in the dictionary. And while I am adjusting to it, I don’t like it! Zoom now means I work many different hours in Zoom meetings.

I sometimes teach a Sabbath school class by a Zoom connection at 9 a.m. on Sabbath. Then I preach at noon on Zoom with a church in another time zone in our district. During the week, I connect some evenings to local church Bible study groups. We meet often with local church boards on Zoom.

From January to March in this new year, I have had over 25 of these meetings in our “new normal.” These include meetings with the other superintendents and GC officers, board of directors, and NAMC. I have even joined in Zoom meetings with other countries. Some meetings have had well over 100 people connected.

Our Central District board met on March 21 via Zoom this year to plan activities for the rest of 2021 and into 2022. We set our budget (balanced) and planned some evangelism, Super Sabbaths, camps, retreats, and more. For now, our district Super Sabbaths will connect virtually with the Southwest District in their awesome Super Sabbath productions.

Our NAMC License and Credentials Committee met for two long 14-hour days and five straight evenings in February and March. We even had the option to hook up on Zoom from our homes to do a Lord’s Supper!

The Central District has no ministry pictures to share in this Churchright. Activities during the pandemic and this past year have been minimal. But most of our churches are back in meetings, and we hope that activity this late spring, summer, and fall will begin to return to normal.

Congratulations, Pastor Mata!

Elder Oscar Mata, pastor in Sioux Falls, SD, was named Hero of the Month for January. The last issue of Churchright reported about his work as a hospital chaplain ministering to COVID-19 patients. As a frontline worker, Oscar has witnessed both victory in recovery and sorrow in watching many people lose their lives. Oscar, you are a hero, and we commend you for your courage and faithfulness.

Central servants.

Working out of their home office in Cottage Grove, MN, Ken and Sandra Lawson faithfully serve the district, with Ken as superintendent and Sandra as administrative assistant and coordinator of District Ministries. This has been their main assignment since May 2016. Ken and Sandra put out the Ministerial Forum, the quarterly magazine for the NAMC. Ken is also the assistant chairman of the License and Credentials Committee. They both retired once and are looking forward to another retirement soon!

Facebook Blessings

The district office published 90 Facebook videos in 2020, and more than 4.3 million viewers clicked on them. Over half a million viewers watched the entire video after clicking. The promotional cost was $0.003 per click/view (three cents per every 10,000 clicks/views). Praise the Lord!

These figures represent the results from only the Spanish videos posted on Facebook on behalf of the NED office, not any other platform or videos posted by NED congregations. Imagine if we could include figures from the entire General Conference or from all our CoG7 congregations around the world?

This item was not in the annual budget, but the Lord provided through earmarked offerings for this purpose.

Making a Difference

After recent devastating floods in Guatemala and other nations in Central America and in the Caribbean, the seventeenth district of the Church of God (Seventh Day) in

 Guatemala received $2,000 worth of blessings from our Lafayette St. congregation in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Guatemalan district superintendent, Elder David Villanueva, facilitated the transfer of funds and then personally delivered provisions to some families in dire circumstances in different congregations. Funds were also delivered for medical needs.

Women’s Ministry

What a year! The pandemic forced us to cancel events, meetings, retreats and the like, but thank God, our agenda was not totally shut down. Our annual women’s ministry service may not have been in person, but Zoom and Facebook Live allowed some of our groups to gather virtually and share what the Lord was doing in their lives.

One of the highlights of 2020 was the retreat, hosted by Area 3 and held virtually from New York, with 187 attending and many more watching from Canada, England, Jamaica, New Zealand, and the US. The program was well planned and included meaningful workshops, good old-fashioned praise and worship, and even a Saturday evening scavenger hunt with excellent participation and much laughter. We praise the Lord for His goodness.

We purchased our own Zoom plan and have made it available to any of our women’s groups in the Northeast District. We put it to good use every week with services, Bible studies, prayer meetings, and retreats. Several groups are currently using it (Saginaw, Michigan; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Ossining, New York; Lanham, Maryland). We have even done some virtual fundraising through these means. We look forward to more requests for this service so we can remain connected and informed.

Our prayer shawl ministry sends out shawls to those in need of prayer. Let us know of anyone who could be blessed with this precious gift of assurance.

Thank you for making our women’s ministry possible throughout the years.

— Esther Winchell, Director

The Power of Story

Note: The following testimony by Esther Winchell is in response to From War to Peace, the personal story of her husband, Tom, and what Christ has done in his life. It is part of the GC’s “My Transformation Story” video series at cog7.org (News/Featured Videos). We invite you to view these stories and share them with others.

As Tom and I were taking a friend to the airport one day, my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but I had a feeling I should answer the call. The only ID was Nashville,Tennessee. When I answered it, the man asked if I was Tom Winchell. I told him he was driving and would call him back.

The man’s name was Tony. He went on to tell me that he had gone to high school with Tom and had just watched his testimony on YouTube. In fact, he watched it twice and was amazed at the change in Tom and wanted to tell him that he was glad he found peace and forgiveness. He also told me that he had lost track of Tom. The last he had heard, Tom had gone into the service. Tony wanted us to know that he was going to have his kids watch the video about this man that he went to high school with and how God had changed his life.

I told Tony, “Tom has to hear this” and handed Tom the phone. They spoke a little while (we were in Detroit and traffic was terrible), and Tom decided to call him back. Tom told me that he was friends with Tony and another guy, and that they were called The Three Amigos.

We just never know whose life we are going to touch by sharing what Jesus has done in our lives. This call really encouraged Tom. He couldn’t believe the video had reached someone he actually knew.

I thank Heber Vega and the Northeast District for giving this opportunity to Tom and investing in him.

Gjesdal Named Artios Co-Director

Pastor Loren Gjesdal has joined Makayla Ross as co-director of Artios Christian College. Having been appointed to this position by General Conference President Loren Stacy and then confirmed by the GC board of directors, Gjesdal fills the vacancy left by the resignation of longtime co-director Israel Steinmetz. Loren Gjesdal is an Artios graduate (BA in Christian Leadership, Pastoral Ministry), with education and experience in business and management. He resides in Albany, Oregon, with his wife of thirty years, Nickki, and their three adult/teen children. A licensed minister, Gjesdal co-pastors the Marion, Oregon congregation, a ministry he continues to fulfill as he serves Artios part-time.

We thank Israel Steinmetz for his many years of service within Artios Christian College and its predecessor, LifeSpring School of Ministry, and wish him well in the next season of his life and ministry. We welcome Loren Gjesdal with gratitude for his willingness to serve in this new role and with great anticipation of all he will bring to Artios.

IMC Zone 1 Virtual Gathering

CoG7 churches in the English-speaking Caribbean came together via Zoom on Sunday afternoon, February 14, for worship, inspiration, and encouragement under the theme “Strength for Today — Bright Hope for Tomorrow!”

Participants reflected the far reach of the work in the Caribbean in its impact on the Church around the world, including the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom. For example, the program was emceed by Pastor Robert Crawford, president of the British Conference and a son of the Church in Jamaica. He is also the IMC representative for Zone 5, which covers the African continent.

IMC secretary John Klassek brought greetings from Australia, and Paulo Coelho, Zone 7 representative from Portugal, attended as a special guest. IMC President Ramon Ruiz and General Conference President Loren Stacy also attended.

Program highlights included worship music provided by the Treasure Coast congregation in Port St. Lucie, Florida (Al Haynes, pastor); special music by Marjolene Rose; an inspiring presentation by Pastor Troy Christopher, leader of the work in Guyana, on the need for unity and collaboration; and a message by Whaid Rose titled “Embracing Our New Reality: Three Steps Forward.”

Approximately 150 attended the virtual event. The Zone 1 reps are Karell Wilson (Jamaica), Whaid Rose, and Calvin Burrell, who could not attend due to a power outage caused by ice storms that weekend. This was disappointing for all of us, since Elder Burrell was the chief organizer of this program.

Active conferences exist in Jamaica, Trinidad, Cayman Islands, St. Martin, Barbados, and Guyana, with contacts in many other countries throughout the region. The participants appreciated the encouragement and challenge, and expressed a strong desire for more events of this nature on a more frequent basis. Your prayers and support of the work in the Caribbean are much appreciated.

— Whaid Rose

Updated Tracts

The Path to Christian Living. After we have trusted Christ as Savior and been baptized, what controls our behavior? Legalism? Antinomianism? Or the gospel of

 Christ? This tract helps to answer what should motivate us and empower us to right living.

Maintaining Spiritual Health. “You are what you eat,” many declare. This statement makes the valid observation that our health is impacted not just by our level of activity, but by what we consume. The same is true of our spiritual health. In this five-part study, we learn about how to take care of ourselves through proper spiritual nourishment and spiritual exercise.

Visit publications.cog7.org to read these tracts. You can also order copies from the online store at cog7.org.

Focus on Jesus?

The rallying cry of the Church of God (Seventh Day) United States and Canada is “Focus on Jesus and follow His plan.” But what does it mean to focus on Jesus?

It means to fix our attention on His identity. He is our Creator (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). He is our Lord and Savior (Philippians 2:11; Luke 2:11) and the long-awaited Messiah (John 4:25, 26). He is the One to whom has been given “All authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18, NASB throughout). He is Immanuel, God with us (1:23). To focus on Jesus, we must remember who He is. When He says, “Love one another; just as I have loved you” (John 13:34), it’s not a suggestion; it’s a command.

To focus on Jesus, we must follow His example. Jesus came as a servant and as a sacrifice (Mark 10:45). He set aside His position and power for the sake of others (Philippians 2:3-8). He endured interruptions and resistance and betrayals. He faced every temptation any of us face, yet He did not sin in word or deed or thought or attitude (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus’ example is one of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22, 23). Anytime our words, deeds, thoughts, or attitudes are not marked by those attributes, we fail to focus on Jesus.

We must not look to anyone or anything else other than Jesus. If we fix our eyes on the world and the things of the world, we lose sight of Jesus. However, if we focus on commandment-keeping or on proving ourselves correct or others incorrect, we fail to keep our eyes where they need to be.

A steadfast focus on our Lord will lead us to being and doing everything He desires for us. A steadfast focus on anyone or anything else will lead us away from Him because we’re replacing Him. It’s worth asking ourselves, “On what are my thoughts and conversations and Bible studies really focused?”

I encourage you, focus on Jesus.

United example

Area 3 hosted a Super Sabbath November 20-21 through our social media platforms. Speaking on the theme “Unity in Christ,” Elders Noe Reyes, Chip Hinds, and Daniel Flores urged the Church to be united in our example so that the next generation can reflect Jesus’ reign in their lives. The Houston area worship team led us into God’s presence during both days, and Moises Capetillo translated all the sermons.