April 29, 2019

Why Do We Need the Lake Union?

The year 1844 lives in infamy for Seventh-day Adventists — we call it “The Great Disappointment.” Yet it was a bittersweet year as from the ashes of that experience there arose new life, a beautiful plant called the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

It was in that same year, May 24th to be exact, that Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, tapped out the first telegram using words from the Bible which capture the sentiments of today’s editorial. It simply stated, “What hath God wrought?” A question quite apropos as it launched the beginning of the information age in which we now have cell phones and satellites, email and text messaging, social media and e-commerce, and an “internet of things,” ranging from smart lights to thermostats, internet-connected refrigerators and oven ranges, just to name a few. All of these, to some degree, the outgrowth of Sam’s invention, some of which were and are technologies needed to aid the fledgling movement called Adventism in heralding the Three Angels' messages around the globe.

Mr. Morse, in his choice of words for the first wired communication, may have been looking back as well as forward. His telegraph message was borrowed from Numbers 23:23 KJV, the words spoken by the covetous and backslidden prophet, Balaam, as he attempted to curse Israel. But each of the three times he attempted to curse Israel, only blessings flowed forth from his mouth. His words also were a result of stark amazement as he looked over the Israelite camp, simply blown away by their order.

While certainly not perfect, as recent and even not so recent times attest, the Adventist Church is a biblical model of excellence that surpasses any corporate model of governance because our structure and processes are rooted in God’s Holy Word. Therefore, as ancient Israel enjoyed God’s wisdom exceeding that of all the leadership gurus of their day and ours, so does the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

“As Balaam looked upon the encampment of Israel, he beheld with astonishment the evidence of their prosperity. They had been represented to him as a rude, disorganized multitude, infesting the country in roving bands that were a pest and terror to the surrounding nations; but their appearance was the reverse of all this. He saw the vast extent and perfect arrangement of their camp, everything bearing the marks of thorough discipline and order. He was shown the favor with which God regarded Israel, and their distinctive character as His chosen people” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 447.2).

The union conference is an integral though small part of the today’s “ordered” church, yet its role is critical to the success of God’s work regionally, and worldwide. In short, the union conference connects missional ministries to church structure like tendons connect muscles to bones. And though the union conference’s role is crucial, it is probably the most enigmatic of all levels of church governance. So, what do union conferences do? In short, unions unite!

Union conferences unite regions for service, combining the strength of all institutions for the spread of the Good News and the finishing of the work.

Union conferences unite regions for service, combining the strength of all institutions to spread the Good News of Jesus’ return. As the local conference helps the local church stay focused on mission, the union conference plays a critical role in helping local conferences, hospitals, publishing houses, media ministries, and educational entities stay connected, and, maintain their missional spark. It also is the connect- ing point of the aforementioned to the division and world church. No other level of the church connects to all the other parts of the church as directly as the union, nor does any other part have the time to do what the union does. But before I speak further of the large picture, let’s start with one of my favorite areas in which the union conference plays a critical “connective” role — Christian education.

Dedicated Adventist teachers are making a difference in the lives of our children and teenagers. The Lake Union Conference Office of Education works hard to support our conference superintendents, principals, and teachers.

Throughout the year, the Union provides multiple professional growth opportunities for our superintendents, principals, Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) directors/teachers, and for Pre-K–12 grade teachers. The Union also assists the NAD with developing, in-servicing and purchasing new curriculum. The Union tracks teacher certification and issues Denominational Teaching Certificates. The cost of tuition for our teachers taking classes to renew their denominational and/or state certification is covered by the Union. Teachers and principals also can request tuition assistance for working towards obtaining a master’s degree in areas such as Curriculum and Instruction, SpecialEducation, and Educational Leadership.

ECEC centers, Pre-K classrooms, elementary schools and academies participate in a North American Division (NAD) accreditation process that begins with a self-study done at the local school level. A visiting team will review the self-study during an on-site visit and make needed recommendations, as appropriate.

The LUC Office of Education offers training for superintendents, principals and school boards in advance of accreditation visits. They chair all LUC ECEC and junior academy accreditation visits, set up academy accreditation visiting teams, and assist at all academy accreditation visits.

Union education directors serve on a variety of NAD committees. Our Union currently serves on the Multigrade Classroom Committee that has developed a multi-grade website and is in the middle of revising Lifeline: A Handbook for Small School Success (http://www.multigradeclassroom.com).

Each fall, the Office of Education invites the student leaders (i.e. yearbook editors, Student Association officers, class presidents) from each LUC academy to attend a Secondary Leadership Conference at Camp Au Sable. This three-day conference includes spiritual, educational, recreational and social experiences giving student attendees the opportunity to better understand their role as a spiritual leader on their academy campus.

The mission of the Office of Education for the Lake Union Conference is to provide leadership by strengthening:

  • Mission-driven Teachers...who understand the sacredness of their call.
  • Mission-drivenStudents...who see themselves as champions for Christ.

  • Mission-drivenPastors...who view education as a God-ordained piece of the plan of salvation.

At the collegiate level, the union is possibly one of the greatest reasons why we as Seventh-day Adventists have enjoyed having many schools of higher learning located in each region and, ultimately, have enjoyed nationwide financial, societal and denominational success. Adventists enjoy working in places of great responsibility the world over because the fit and finish that has been accomplished by parents, nurtured by churches, and honed to a high luster by our schools, grabs the employer’s eye.

One information technology firm hired an Adventist graduate after his internship, having stated, “Send us as many students as you can. He’s not only exceptionally knowledgeable of the field, but also has a demeanor that we love!”

In the Lake Union Conference, we have the privilege of having the flagship Adventist school for advanced degrees, Andrews University. Not only does the Union contribute financial support via the local conferences to Andrews University, but its officers provide counsel and guidance to its Board of Trustees, many subcommittees and its leadership team when dealing with tough issues in today’s difficult educational atmosphere. Market disruptors abound, but Andrews has not been left behind in the rapidly changing academic landscape, having secured the admission of many students both here and abroad through distance learning and new degree offerings that fit the changing job landscape.

Andrews University provides a Christian education which in the broadest sense far surpasses any ivy league-level school the world over. You may wonder if I jest in stating this, but do know the work at Andrews is very rigorous. The professors are selfless servants chosen from the cremè-de-la-cremè of Adventist schools from across our nation and globe. They are of the A-team and of the highest caliber in academia. They strive for excellence while keeping Christ first and foremost in the classroom. Their broad-based, Christ- centered curriculum turns out students who excel, not just academically, but professionally and socially, and have a greater capacity for leadership in any discipline than any school I can imagine. Their worldview is much broader as they can see from eternity past to the end of time, the handiwork of God in the arts and sciences. Most importantly, because our professors believe caring about our students is paramount to their success, students leave our school fitted with some- thing few schools can give — emotional, intellectual and, above all, spiritual intelligence.

Caring and concern, and moral and ethical behavior are hard to transmit in a room where 500-750 students or more come to hear lectures. From a Bible-inspired and informed curriculum and worldview rooted in the Great Controversy theme, our students are able to see the end from the beginning in all matters of business from agriculture to zoology. Hence, they are able to reason from cause to effect and excel at critical think- ing and problem solving in just about any environment. Meet a Seventh-day Adventist, meet a leader.

Our schools not only produce academic success, but people who are ethical in the behavior and friendly to their fellow man. We shouldn’t be surprised that companies across the country seek Adventist students with degrees from Andrews or any of our sister schools.

Certainly, this article is not meant to be exhaustive as there are many other things the Lake Union Conference and other unions do that are well beyond the space limitations of the president’s editorial, such as maintaining lines of accountability with our healthcare institutions, which I will review in a future editorial as well as I will cover more in depth the roles of our departments in shepherding the work at home and abroad.

The publication of this organ of the church, the oldest union paper, established in 1908, is one of our greatest responsibilities. It heralds the soon return of Christ! It has the esteemed privilege of having authors all the way back to Ellen White herself. It also helps Seventh-day Adventists know, whether they are in a small or large church in our region, they are not alone. There are thousands more who serve the Lord in Spirit and in Truth.

Through this magazine, we witness each other’s missional endeavors and celebrate what God is doing through each local church, conference, hospital or school that places content within these pages. Certainly, these pages enhance regional identity and help people who proclaim a message that is anything but a populist message, as it is the Elijah message. Even as judgment fell on Mt. Carmel, judgment also will come to this old world. Thank God for the new beginning that awaits all who trust in Him! Remember, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard the blessings that await the righteous.

In Sam Morse-like fashion, we have added new electronic opportunities for you to interface with us through wires and electronic signals that are rooted in his technology, based on digits.

Thank God for our very well-designed church, root- ed in the best of each of the Protestant faith communities from which our founders came following the Great Disappointment. I believe God chose them especially from these varied churches so they could bring us the best of sound biblical principles to put into practice.

Balaam pronounced blessings rather than curses, his words in response to his awe and possible disbelief as he looked over the Israelite camp.

You, too, might feel somewhat incredulous that this church has so much going for it, but I submit that it does, and so much more. Providentially, we were birthed in the information age to communicate the gospel next door and to the hungry and thirsty world around us. Share your love for Jesus with your neighbor as you thank God for the well-ordered missional structure we have. More importantly, thank God for the people that serve. Both are given to us by God Himself; because they are of Divine origin, I maintain, without equivocation, flawed though we may be in a myriad of ways, our people and our institutions are unequivocally, through God’s Holy Spirit, the absolute best!

Balaam’s words and Sam Morse’s still ring true today: “What hath God wrought?”