The One Project: In Search of Community

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The One Project: In Search of Community

Sunday at 1:1 Boulder was a full day, with six presentations, six “Recalibrate” discussions, and three Q&A sessions. Our Recalibrate group retained the same core participants throughout the day, and things went more smoothly as we got to know each other better.

A few noteworthy points and quotes from today’s presentations:

Peter (Japhet De Oliveira):

When Peter saw John following him and asked “Lord, what about this man?” (John 21:21), he revealed his problem of comparing himself with John. We create tension in our hearts by comparing ourselves to other humans instead of Jesus.

The Rich Young Ruler (Terry Swenson):

This man’s question, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life” (Matt. 19:16, NLT), indicated that he was trusting in his own efforts for salvation.

When Jesus looks at you, He sees you, and He loves you. When we follow Jesus, we begin to see people as Jesus sees them.

The Thief on the Cross (Mark B. Johnson):

The thief will have a lot to teach the rest of us when we get to heaven, because he was one of the only people who was close enough to Jesus to see what happened throughout His entire crucifixion.

Thomas (Dena King):

Dena shared several “spiritual myths” she’s busted, such as “If you associate with people who believe differently than you, you will lose your faith.” She specifically addressed a sentiment regarding spiritual practices that’s common among critics of the One project: “If you open your mind too much, even though you’re seeking God, the devil will sneak in.” She believes that when we ask God to give us something good (especially when we seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance), He will not trick us and give us a counterfeit, because He is stronger than Satan (Luke 11:13). I haven’t decided yet whether I agree fully, but it’s a point worth considering!

More insights on Thomas’s story: “A Blessing to Claim: Another Look at ‘Doubting Thomas’”

The Roman Centurion (Sam Leonor)

Jesus started out without hesitation toward the home of this Gentile “outsider” to heal his servant. There’s no place His love will not go.

The Samaritan Woman (Monica Wernick)

Jesus will go out of His way to find us. He’ll fill our bucket so full that we won’t even need the bucket.

The day ended with each of us having the opportunity to anoint a fellow participant with a dab of olive oil and read a blessing to that person. (Excerpt: “May Jesus bless you with openness, understanding, and respect.”) Doug Logan, a member of our discussion group and one of the presenters, told me that an eyebrow-raising phrase mentioning “the light within” had been removed from an earlier version of the blessing used at previous events.

As the last song died away, I felt a bit sad to leave all the new acquaintances I’d met. One of the most inspiring was Ann (sorry if I spelled her name wrong), a woman a few pews ahead of me whom I noticed doing sign language throughout the songs. She told me that when she lost the ability to sing, she had questioned how she could continue to worship God. She had then learned sign language so that she can still praise God, even if she can’t use her voice to sing.

So Let’s Get to the Controversial Stuff…

“I don’t see what all the controversy is about,” my husband said when the day was over.

In many ways, I had to agree—yet I see why some Adventists are concerned about the overall tenor of the One Project.

This was clearly a more “liberal” strain of Adventism than I subscribe to. That was clear from the amount of jewelry being worn, the coffee being served in the lobby, and the fact that in two days I heard two people make a joke about the idea that your angels won’t follow you into a theater. Yet I hesitate to mention these things, knowing that my tendency to take pride in adhering to the behavioral markers of “good Adventism” is no more righteous than others’ urge to flaunt their independence from such norms.

At times I heard theology that I didn’t agree with. For instance, Mark Johnson’s view that God does not cause the final death of the wicked and that Jesus’ death did not “pay” for our sins is one that has gained significant traction in the Adventist Church. While this view is supported by some Bible texts and Ellen White quotations, there are other passages that contradict it, and we need a view of the atonement and God’s justice that is robust enough to encompass them all. (See “How Are We Saved? The Character of God and the Atonement in the Adventist Church” for more on this topic.)

Some ideas were expressed that could have troubling implications. For instance, the ideas that we can all manifest the gift of prophecy at times (by speaking timely words of encouragement, for instance) and that we should all “shepherd” each other (by holding each other accountable) seem to reflect a low view of spiritual gifts, minimizing any specific calling that might give one person a special role.

There are aspects of the One project that I don’t endorse. Yet I’m disturbed by the level of vitriol aimed against the group. I met one older man from a church in Colorado who had come to check out the One project specifically because of the controversy he had heard over it—turmoil that he said had contributed to some members leaving his church. After observing what was actually happening, he was a bit puzzled over the attacks.

I’ve heard questionable theology in Sabbath school, from the pulpit, at independent ministry events, and, yes, at the One project. Knowing the challenges of the times we live in and the even greater deceptions ahead, we Adventists must rightly be discerning and assess biblically the teachings we hear, even within the church.

The Challenge of Community

There were two words I heard a lot this weekend: “tribe” and “community.” “You are not really a follower of God unless you are in community,” one presenter said (I’m pretty sure it was Japhet!). It’s ironic that in the aftermath of the General Conference Session, some in the church seem willing to abandon the worldwide Adventist community because the church has voted to follow a perspective different from theirs on a particular issue. Being “in community” is not easy for our individualistic society.

Just before leaving the One project, my husband and I chatted with Mark Johnson, who’s a county public health director in Colorado as well as church board chair at the Boulder church. He spoke of his passion for revitalized health ministry in the Adventist Church, of the need to follow Ellen White’s counsel to integrate health ministry into everything we do.

These are sentiments that I’ve heard from so many corners of the church lately—from General Conference officials to independent ministries—that “comprehensive health ministry” could be called a movement.

Are we so busy attacking one another that we have no time and energy left to work together toward such God-ordained dreams? If so, it might be time to recalibrate.

(Photo: It was a privilege to “recalibrate” with these folks and others throughout the day. That’s my husband, Greg, to the left of my empty chair!)

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Rachel Cabose is the consulting editor of The Compass Magazine and a freelance writer. She previously worked as associate editor of Guide magazine at the Review and Herald Publishing Association. Rachel and her husband, Greg, live in Michigan.