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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

October-Novemeber

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Why Do We Have General Conference Delegations?
Alfredo C. Sas

September 4–22, 2019 marks the hour of the 23rd General Conference Delegation and Spiritual Meetings of the SDA Reform Movement, held in Itu, Brazil. With this event, the question inevitably comes to mind: Why are such meetings needed? Is there a biblical principle involved here?

Order and organization

Order is the law of heaven. The holy angels are well organized and follow complete order and discipline. We read about them:

“There is perfect order and harmony in the Holy City. All the angels that are commissioned to visit the earth hold a golden card, which they present to the angels at the gates of the city as they pass in and out. Heaven is a good place.”1

“Angels work harmoniously. Perfect order characterizes all their movements. The more closely we imitate the harmony and order of the angelic host, the more successful will be the efforts of these heavenly agents in our behalf. If we see no necessity for harmonious action, and are disorderly, undisciplined, and disorganized in our course of action, angels, who are thoroughly organized and move in perfect order, cannot work for us successfully. They turn away in grief, for they are not authorized to bless confusion, distraction, and disorganization.”2

God desires that everything connected with His work on earth should be done properly, following the order which He has established. The Lord instituted that the representatives of His church should meet together in a general assembly to make plans for the advancement of His cause.

“God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority.”3

The spirit of independence, disorder and disorganization which is prevalent everywhere should not exist among God’s people. The idea of pulling alone, or being self-sent messengers, is not according to the plan of God. Let all be submissive, respectful, and follow system, order and organization which was established with great sacrifice, after much prayer, study and diligent effort.

“Let none entertain the thought that we can dispense with organization. It has cost us much study and many prayers for wisdom, that we know God has answered, to erect this structure. It has been built up by His direction, through much sacrifice and conflict. Let none of our brethren be so deceived as to attempt to tear it down, for you will thus bring in a condition of things that you do not dream of. In the name of the Lord I declare to you that it is to stand, strengthened, established, and settled. At God’s command, ‘Go forward,’ we advanced when the difficulties to be surmounted made the advance seem impossible. We know how much it has cost to work out God’s plans in the past, which have made us as a people what we are. Then let everyone be exceedingly careful not to unsettle minds in regard to those things that God has ordained for our prosperity and success in advancing His cause.”4

“Never should the mind of one man or the minds of a few men be regarded as sufficient in wisdom and power to control the work and to say what plans shall be followed. But when, in a General Conference, the judgment of the brethren assembled from all parts of the field is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered.”5

“God has not set any kingly power . . . Every member of the church has a voice in choosing officers of the church. The church chooses the officers of the state conferences. Delegates chosen by the state conferences choose the officers of the union conferences, and delegates chosen by the union conferences choose the officers of the General Conference. By this arrangement every conference, every institution, every church, and every individual, either directly or through representatives, has a voice in the election of the men who bear the chief responsibilities in the General Conference.”6

In obedience to this principle established by God, the representatives of our church from all parts of the world meet together every four years to consider the most advantageous ways of organizing the work, and to select the most qualified officers to carry the heaviest responsibilities.

Working together

Let us keep in mind the inspired words of the apostle Paul, that the Lord “gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:11-–16).

Jesus Christ organized His church. He established different offices, as the Bible verse reads: Some apostles, some prophets, teachers, pastors, and others. A long list of officers in the church. Why is God’s church organized, and responsibilities shared among these various officers? The Bible verse is clear. The reason given in Ephesians 4:12 is:

1. “For the perfecting of the saints.” The members of God’s church in the Bible are often called saints. They must be perfect in order to be fitted for the kingdom of God.

2. “For the work of the ministry.” When we speak of the ministry we should understand that not all must be ordained ministers to do Bible work. The work of a minister is to serve, and for service the church was organized. Some servants may have greater responsibilities than others, but come to “the knowledge of the Son of God.”

To know Jesus Christ is not only to know that He came from heaven to this world, to be acquainted with the history of His crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and His intercession for us before the Father! These things are important to know; but to know Jesus Christ implies more than that. It is to have Him as our best friend, the first and the last, and the only one in whom we can trust fully. We should have a personal experience with Jesus, not simply to know who He was and what He is doing. Why is it important to “reach perfection”? Without it no one will be fitted for the kingdom.

The apostle Paul explains why these things must be followed, so that we should not be children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. If there was ever a time when new doctrines have come, it is now! This is why the church is organized, so that we may not be deceived. This was the concern of the apostle Paul. We should be united, and speak the same things, so that there may be no divisions among us.

True unity does not mean conformity in everything. Every person has his or her own thoughts and opinions, and there is a diversity of gifts in the church, but we still can have unity in this diversity. All the members are expected to help and serve others, and to fulfill these duties faithfully.

3. For “the edifying of the body of Christ,” and the body is His church. He is the head and the church is the body with many different members as God disposed, and this body should be edified. What is the meaning of the word “edify”? It means to construct or to build up, so that the church may reach perfection.

We must continue cooperating with the body, and build it up for the perfection of the saints, until we reach unity of the faith, and we know who Jesus Christ is.

Paul was not the only one concerned that unity should exist among the believers:

“That union and love might exist among His disciples was the burden of our Saviour’s last prayer for them prior to His crucifixion. With the agony of the cross before Him, His solicitude was not for Himself, but for those whom He should leave to carry forward His work in the earth. The severest trials awaited them, but Jesus saw that their greatest danger would be from a spirit of bitterness and division. Hence He prayed: ‘Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth. As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.’

“That prayer of Christ embraces all His followers to the close of time. Our Saviour foresaw the trials and dangers of His people; He is not unmindful of the dissensions and divisions that distract and weaken His church. He is looking upon us with deeper interest and more tender compassion than moves an earthly parent’s heart toward a wayward, afflicted child. He bids us learn of Him. He invites our confidence. He bids us open our hearts to receive His love. He has pledged Himself to be our helper.”7

We all know the prayer of Jesus found in John 17, especially verse 20, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” Thus He included all who would believe on His name, that they may all be one.

“Union is strength; division is weakness. When those who believe present truth are united, they exert a telling influence. Satan well understands this. Never was he more determined than now to make of none effect the truth of God by causing bitterness and dissension among the Lord’s people.”8

Satan understands that when the people of God are united they are strong and if there is division, that constitutes weakness. For this reason he is determined to cause division. The Spirit of Prophecy continues:

“The world is against us, the popular churches are against us, the laws of the land will soon be against us. If there was ever a time when people of God should press together, it is now.”9

Whenever there are difficulties and differences, what should be our duty?

“Upon the occurrence of trials in the church let every member examine his own heart to see if the cause of trouble does not occur within.”10

Many times we have trials, and the worse meeting in any committee is to solve problems. The instruction from the Spirit of Prophecy is: Let every one examine himself or herself if he or she is not the problem! Sometimes the very one causing problems does not realize that he or she is the cause of the problem.

“By spiritual pride, a desire to dictate, an ambitious longing for honor or position, a lack of self-control, by the indulgence of passion or prejudice, by instability or lack of judgment, the church may be disturbed and her peace sacrificed.”11

What are the causes of problems in the church? The Spirit of Prophecy enumerates them:

1. “Spiritual pride!” Does this spirit exist? Yes, otherwise the Spirit of Prophecy would not have written about it!

2. “A desire to dictate.” If there is any point above all that I strove to correct in my years of administrative labor, it was to eliminate from any level of our church the spirit of dictatorship, because that can cause great problems.

3. “Ambition.” Those that aspire for positions do not understand the responsibility of holding a position. If they did, they would not have any desire to be there.

4. “Lack of self-control and indulgence of passion and prejudice, instability, and lack of discernment.” If we want to be united and to have no problems in our church, let us avoid spiritual pride, a desire to dictate, seeking positions, lack of self- control, prejudice, instability, and lack of judgment, and let us pray that these things may be eliminated from among us.

From the same chapter, in volume 5, we read further:

“Difficulties are often caused by the vendors of gossip, whose whispered hints and suggestions poison unsus-pecting minds and separate the closest friends. Mischief-makers are seconded in their evil work by the many who stand with open ears and evil heart, saying: ‘Report, . . . and we will report it.’ This sin should not be tolerated among the followers of Christ. . . .

“Christians should regard it as a religious duty to repress a spirit of envy or emulation. They should rejoice in the superior reputation or prosperity of their brethren, even when their own character or achievements seem to be cast in the shade.”12

“Those who are truly converted will press together in Christian unity. Let there be no division in the church of God, no unwise authority exercised over those who accept the truth. The meekness of Christ is to appear in all that is said and done.”13

Let us focus on the prayer of Jesus Christ, that “we all may be one.” In spite of our varied characteristics, we still can reach unity of action.

It is my desire and prayer that the Lord may bless us all, so that the spirit of unity may prevail, that we all may be one with Christ and each other. This is my wish and prayer!

References
1 Early Writings, p. 39.
2 Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 649.
3 Ibid., vol. 9, p. 490.
4 Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 27, 28.
5 Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 260.
6 Ibid., vol. 8, pp. 236, 237.
7 Ibid., vol. 5, pp. 236, 237.
8 Ibid., p. 236.
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid., pp. 241.
11 Ibid.
12 Ibid., pp. 241, 242.
13 Ibid., vol. 9, p. 147.