By AT News Team, November 27, 2014: An open Bible study of Christ’s “Sermon the Mount” has been initiated by The One Project with an invitation to anyone, Adventist or not, to participate. Each day a couple of verses from the New Testament record is the focus and each person is invited to share the one, two or three most important questions or reflections that they have as they read the text.
“We hope that you will be blessed as we dialogue, read and brainstorm together, focusing on Jesus,” states the invitation distributed on the Internet by the convening group of Adventist pastors, youth workers and Bible scholars. The Bible study will continue over the 40 days leading up to the next One Project gathering in San Diego, California, on February 8 and 9 next year. This will be the 17th such event since the project began in July 2010.
The speakers for the event will include Dr. Ivan Williams, the ministerial director for the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in North America; Pastor Chris Oberg, the senior pastor at the La Sierra University Church in Riverside, California; Pastor Japhet de Oliveira, chaplain at Andrews University in Michigan; Dr. Alex Bryant, senior pastor at the Walla Walla University Church in Washington; and Tim Gillespie from the faculty of Loma Linda University in southern California; and a number of others. All of the speakers will address some portion of “The Sermon,” the most central scripture presenting the teachings of Jesus.
Bryant explains The One Project by telling the story of its beginnings; “In the autumn of 2009, I preached a series of sermons on the campus of Andrews University, where Pastor Japhet De Oliveira served as senior chaplain. There … I met Japhet for the first time, and we engaged in the first of what has turned out to be innumerable conversations. The theme of our dialogue [was] ecclesiology, the church. We discovered a shared passion and concern for our church. We acknowledged a mutual desire: that the church might enjoy a rich and meaningful future. And, in particular, we longed that emerging generations of young adults would fall in love with the church as we had.
“The following year, in the summer of 2010, we invited three pastoral colleagues to join us for a retreat in Denver, Colorado. We spent two days together, praying, talking, laughing, crying; but most of all, dreaming about the church. Ecclesiology had brought us together. But something happened in the Mile High City that we (or at least I) had not expected: We left not thinking about ecclesiology, but, rather, Christology. It seemed that over and over again as we mused upon the possibility of a bright future for the church, the conversation quickly turned to Jesus. (In fact, we celebrated communion before we dismissed our time together.) At the time, I’m not sure I could have articulated what had happened to us, and to our conversation. Later that year, reading the German theologian Jürgen Moltmann, the meaning and significance of the Denver dialogue’s direction came into focus for me. He wrote; ‘The crisis of the church in present-day society is not merely the critical choice between assimilation or retreat into the ghetto, but the crisis of its own existence as the church of the crucified Christ. The question of ecclesiology, however unpleasant as it may be for conservatives and progressives, is no more than a short prelude to its internal crisis, for only by Christ is it possible to tell what is a Christian church and what it not.’ (The Crucified God, 1993, pp 2-3)
“These words clarified the not-so-subtle shift in our conversation: we had come to the conclusion that if our church was to have life we would need, first and foremost, to shift the conversation to The Life … from church to Jesus. Ecclesiology would never go anywhere good until we talked Christology. How could we sit inside the sanctuary of the church of Laodicea all the while Jesus was standing outside the building, knocking and calling to be let in? Church talk before Christ talk, we realized, is putting the theological cart before the horse. Jesus must be first. (Revelation 3:20)”
Bryant invited Email comments and at The One Project web site on these two key questions: (1) What does your local congregation look like with Jesus. All.? (2) What does your life look like with Jesus. All.?