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Best Practices
December 15, 2010
Charles Dickens"But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round - apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that - as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, 'God bless it!'"
 - Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Editorial: Preaching the Advent at Advent
Worried about Christmas?
Media: Katia Reinert
Reading for Pastors: Are Churches Secularizing America?
Quotes: "A turkey never voted for an early Christmas."
News & ideas: AU InMinistry program
Events: NAD Adventist Ministries Convention cancelled!
Loren SeiboldPreaching the Advent at Advent
by Loren Seibold, Editor, Best Practices for Adventist Ministry

We Adventists aren't tuned in to the church year, except for a (at times, slightly strained) interest in Christmas and Easter. In the past, I've tried a few things like an Advent candle ceremony or an informal Lenten challenge - but our not being accustomed to these liturgies, for most people they landed with a dull thud.

What we are accustomed to is the expectation of the Second Advent - and the celebration of the First Advent is a great time to preach the second one.

I've been struck by how differently we talk of the two appearings of Jesus. The first is all warmth and happiness, peace and joy. The second is, for many of us, challenging and frightening, with overtones of anger. The first was preceded by some general expectations of time and event, to most of which most people didn't attend until it actually happened. With the second, we're often so occupied with signs and portents and intervening catastrophes that we can hardly see beyond to the Advent itself, and the heaven that follows. For the first we sing songs that are gentle, reassuring and joyful-"Silent Night," "Angels We Have Heard on High," "Joy to the World." Around the second, the hymns are militaristic and admonitory: "We Are Living, We are Dwelling in a grand and awful time," "Lift Up the Trumpet," "We're Marching to Zion."

Should there be that much difference between them? Might the second coming of Jesus be infused with more of the spontaneous peace and joy of the first? It is, after all, as the angels said, "this same Jesus" (Acts 1:11) who will come back. This same Jesus who loved children, healed sick people, forgave even those who persecuted him, and died for the sins of both His friends and his enemies.

Perhaps we could make the joy of His first appearing a pattern for contemplating the second.

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Church Communications
Raj DixitHave you thought about Christmas?
by Rajkumar Dixit, New Hope Church, Maryland

You may be groaning as you think about the Christmas season that is speeding towards us. If you are planning on having a successful advent program that reaches your community, you should have your Christmas planning complete.  Now is the time to think about advertising and marketing. Here are some things to remember as you plan:

This may be your only chance this year. The Advent season is one of the few times in a year when people are thinking about spiritual things.  Most non-church goers will visit during Christmas and Easter. Take advantage of the fact that this may be the only time a seeker walks into the doors of a church this year. Use everything in your artillery chest to share the saving grace of Jesus. 

You have permission to be profoundly Christian. Because Christmas is about he birth of Jesus, the founder of the Christian religion, it is the one time during the year where you get to speak freely and openly about your Christian faith.  I would not recommend that churches teach on the state of the dead or discuss the evolution vs. creation debate. This is the season to speak unabashedly about the love Jesus had for the human race. 

Let everyone know they are invited. For many seekers, there is an emptiness that exists during the Christmas season.  After spending weeks of shopping to bringing happiness to others, there can be a longing desire for spiritual matters. Don't make it hard for them to know your doors are open. Here are some ideas on marketing your Advent series.

Offer a Christmas Eve midnight worship service.  While this isn't traditionally done in Adventist Churches, it is very popular among other denominations. Last year, New Hope Adventist Church experimented with a late evening service that started at eleven o'clock at night, and ended promptly at midnight. There was a string quartet, singing of traditional Christmas hymns, and the reading of scripture. We were expecting about 30 people to attend, however, was surprised by the attendance of over 120 people, many from the community.  Here's an interview with worship leader, Rick Anderson, Jr. on this topic.

Get kids involved. Having children involved in your services can bring a light hearted atmosphere that is often needed in worship services. It also brings unchurched dads, grandparents, and extended family members to the worship service.  While many agnostics and unchurched people can easily say no to attending church, it is virtually impossible for them to turn down a child who is performing in a special service. 

Have your post-Christmas sermon theme already planned. Once a visitor comes to your Christmas program, you should have a compelling reason for them to visit again. A sermon series that answers a deep spiritual question, or touches on starting over will often strike a chord with seekers.

Rajkumar Dixit is a church communication consultant.  He is the author of Branded Faith:  Contextualizing the Gospel in a Post-Christian Era. You can read more at

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Featured Media
Katia Reinert was recently elected as the director of Health Ministries for the North American Division of the Adventist Church. Ms Reinert is a Family Nurse Practitioner and Public Health Clinical Nurse Specialist with training in depression treatment and the integration of faith and health. Prior to accepting the call to serve as the Health Ministry Director for the Adventist church in North America she was the Health Ministry Clinical Supervisor and Faith CommuKatia Reinertnity Nurse Coordinator for Adventist HealthCare.

Invite your church Health Ministries director watch her presentation at the 2009 Adventist Ministries Convention entitled "Church as a Center of Healing." You may also wish to download the job description for Health Ministries Leader Ministry here. Or if your health ministries director is just getting started you may wish to turn to the NAD Health Ministries webpage for help for the new healh ministries leader.

EGW iPhone App
EGW application enables you to read and search a collection of 17 Ellen G. White books, plus the King James Version Bible. EGW is the first iPhone/Ipad application developed by the Ellen G. White Estate. The complete published writings and other Ellen White related materials will be released as future low-cost apps.

You say you haven't got your Christmas Cantata ready to go yet? Check out what happened when North Point church borrowed a few iPads and iPhones in this live recording. Be forewarned: viewers may come away with a case of iEnvy.

Reading for Pastors

This is a "must read"! Michael S. Horton, "Are Churches Secularizing America?" Quote: "If conversion and revival are 'simply the philosophical result of the right use of means' rather than a miracle of God's grace, all you have to do is find the right techniques, procedures, and methods that work across the board: in business, politics, and religion. A lot of the church growth literature of the past few decades assumes the same outlook. Could evangelicalism grow and experience success even if God didn't exist?"

What if your congregation sues you?
Can they do that? It appears that they can!

Do you celebrate your congregation's actions - or excuse them?

Great piece from Seth McBee at Contend Earnestly: We need to preach more grace, but act righteously, too! Quote: "If one reads and looks deeper into Jewish culture, the terms "to learn" or "to hear" are very closely related and they always have the idea that one hasn't learned anything or really heard until they do."

From CT's Christian History Blog, an interesting piece about celebrating the Annunciation to Mary. Why don't pro-life evangelical Protestants talk much about the Annunciation? Quote: "Most Protestant Christianity has been 'Mary-lite', being aware of the danger of idolatry and non- or anti-scriptural teachings (and, latterly, dogmas)."

In the above CHB essay, Ted Olsen introduces an idea new to me: "Integral age," the tradition that the prophets died on the anniversary of their conception or birth, which sheds some light on why Christmas ended up in midwinter, and challenges the notion that late December was chosen because of pagan midwinter solstice associations.

Do faith-filled families mean better families? The Family Research Council's latest studies has been interpreted by some to suggest the opposite. While the highest number of evangelicals are in the American South, that's also the region with the most broken families.

Interesting article on one of the most controversial parts of Christian doctrine to Muslims: the idea that Jesus was a result of a union between God and Mary.  (Which leads to the question: how much of your faith language do you nuance for the sake of mission?)

To the Point
Do give books for Christmas. They're never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal.
 - Lenore Hershey

In the bleak midwinter/ Frosty wind made moan/ Earth stood hard as iron/ Water like a stone/ Snow had fallen, snow on snow/ Snow on snow/ In the bleak midwinter/ Long ago.
 - Christina Rossetti

A good conscience is a continual Christmas.
 - Benjamin Franklin

A turkey never voted for an early Christmas.
 - Irish Proverb

Aren't we forgeting the true meaning of Christmas? You know, the birth of Santa.
 - Matt Groening (The Simpsons)

Christmas is a time when people of all religions come together to worship Jesus Christ.
 - Matt Groening (The Simpsons)

At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.
 - William Shakespeare

Next to a circus there ain't nothing that packs up and tears out faster than the Christmas spirit.
 - Kin Hubbard

Dear Lord, I've been asked, nay commanded, to thank Thee for the Christmas turkey before us... a turkey which was no doubt a lively, intelligent bird... a social being... capable of actual affection... nuzzling its young with almost human- like compassion. Anyway, it's dead and we're gonna eat it. Please give our respects to its family...
 - Berke Breathed, (Bloom County Babylon)
News, Ideas & Reminders

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Upcoming NAD Events

Do you have an event you'd like to invite NAD pastors to? Send details to 

GYC 2010. Dec 29, 2010 - Jan 2, 2011, Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. "No Turning Back" is the theme for the 9th annual GYC conference - four days packed with spirit-filled messages, inspiring Bible study, fervent prayer, solemn worship and awesome fellowship. The theme is taken from Luke 9:61-62, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." Phone: 734-418-2857. For more information, email:

Spiritual Renaissance Retreat. Dec 30, 2010 - Jan 2, 2011, Monterey Hyatt Regency, . Begin the new year refreshed, challenged and inspired. Designed for singles, couples and families. Speakers include: Norman and Heather Knight, Lonnie Melashenko, Robert Melashenko, Roy Ice, Terry Newmyer, David Newman, Helen Pearson and Michael Pearson. Programming for children at the same time as seminars. Phone: 707-965-7106. For more information, email:

NAD Adventist Ministries Convention. Jan 9, 2011 - Jan 12, 2011, This event has been postponed until 2012. For more information, email:

Andrews University Music & Worship Conference. Mar 24, 2011 - Mar 26, 2011, Andrews University, 100 US 31 Highway, Berrien Springs, MI 49104. The eighth annual Andrews University Music and Worship Conference. If you're interested in exploring worship and worship music in ways that are theologically profound, practical, and inspiring, you will definitely want to join us. Sponsored by the NAD Church Resource Center and Andrews University's Department of Music, Department of Christian Ministry and Center for Youth Evangelism. Phone: 800-968-8428 x4 or 269-471-8352. For more information, email:

United Youth Congress 2011 - iServe. Apr 6, 2011 - Apr 9, 2011, Orange County Convention Center, 9860 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819. Youth, young adults, youth leaders and parents/chaperones are invited to attend. We will have inspiring worship, training seminars, service projects in the community, an evening at Universal Studios, Saturday night concert, recreation, and much more! This package includes hotel and meals. For those who do not want hotel and meals, click here. For Sabbath Only, click here. Phone: 800-732-7587. For more information, email:

STANDOUT. Apr 15, 2011 - Apr 17, 2011, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI. STANDOUT is a spiritual retreat for high school students, hosted on the campus of Andrews University. Throughout two days of spiritual exercises and group activities, we'll challenge you to tap into the amazing power of God so that you will STANDOUT and set your faith in motion! Phone: 269-471-6372. For more information, email:
Best Practices is a Vervent publication of NAD CHURCH RESOURCE CENTER. Editor: Loren Seibold, Ohio Conference. E-mail: Best Practices. You are free to republish pieces from Best Practices in your own newsletter or blog, with attribution to the Best Practices newsletter and the author of the piece.