Why I Will No Longer Defend the One Project



On September 1st, William G. Johnson published an article on Spectrum Magazine titled, "the One Project: Why I'm Mad" in which he expressed his frustrations over all the controversy surrounding the One Project. After expressing his appreciation for the Christ-centered ministry Johnson wrote, "[O]ne thing bothers me: Will someone, anyone, please enlighten me as to what is the problem with the One Project? ... I've inquired of many people including some at church headquarters in Silver Spring, but  all I get back get back is smoke—rumor, suspicion, hearsay, allegations of conspiracy, what others are saying, what they read in some book or viewed on a website, DVD, and so on." 

Johnson noted how the One Project team have been the objects of bullying, scorn, and gossip by church members who have bought into all the baseless propaganda floating around. "Even the children of the organizers have been targeted and vilified on Facebook", he added.

After reading this article, I quickly shared it on my Facebook page and expressed my solidarity with Johnson's thoughts. In my estimation, the vitriol surrounding a movement whose only agenda is to celebrate the supremacy of Jesus in the Adventist church is a repeat of the 1888 crisis in which rumors, suspicions, and conspiracy theories surrounded the presentation of a Christ-centered message. Even Ellen White was mistreated and shunned by many for supporting nothing other than the uplifting of our crucified and risen Savior.

Later that day I decided it was time to fight back. Two years earlier fellow pastor Nathaniel Tan and myself had co-authored a defense of the One Project after attending a gathering in Western Australia. The article, "The One Project: Danger or Blessing?" received a warm reception among ministers who were looking for some sort of resource to counter the rumors and accusations being leveled against the movement. However, there was one problem with the article. Because neither Nat nor I were members of the One Project the best we could do was offer a non-conclusive argument. Using all the evidence available to us we argued against the critics with the goal of establishing a foundation of trust from which we could more intelligently evaluate the movement. But at the end of the day we could not conclusively acquit the One Project of all the charges labeled against it. And while that article was a great start and resource for those seeking to defend the One Project I felt the time had come to make a stronger case.

With this in mind I sent a personal message to one of the lead One Project organizers in which I offered to publish an updated version of our initial article with a more conclusive tone. There were only two things I needed. First, their official endorsement of our article and second, a clearer rebuttal of the charges labeled against them - particularly the ecumenical and emergent church agenda charges. In my mind, such an article was desperately needed as I and other ministers tried desperately to diffuse the nonsense that has been floating around. In less then a day I received a reply which led to one of the most life altering conversations I have ever had. It was after this conversation that I officially decided I would no longer defend the One Project.

The reply stated. 
Hey brother....we have prayed hard about this and chosen to take the high road. To focus on Jesus and to ignore every accusation. We have also agreed to answer any direct question directly....not questions about opinions but about facts. So for now it is a lonely path.... Truth is that the One project could shut down tomorrow and we would not weep. It is not about TOP but about Jesus. How we celebrate all He is and how He is expressed through our tribe Adventism [Note: ellipsis included in the original message. No content has been removed for the purpose of this quotation.].
I wrote back intending to share my point of view. "We need a resource" I replied, "something we pastors on the ground can use to defend you guys. Something that will enable us to convince our church members to attend". While I commended the decision they had made in my reply I still wanted to fight back. All I needed was an endorsement to make a conclusive argument and we could republish with more strength than before. So I wrote back and tried once more to get this One Project leader to agree. That's when the following reply came through,
Thanks bro for reaching out. I understand your struggle. Honestly, I think the focus should be on Jesus and not the One project
And then it hit me. Up to that moment I had been focused on defending the One Project, but suddenly, as the words on my Facebook messenger sunk into my head a light bulb turned on and I realized that I, and all my colleagues, had been going about this whole thing the wrong way. We had gotten so caught up in defending the One Project that we had missed the point: Its not about the One Project. Its about Jesus.

We talked some more and just when I thought the conversation couldn't get any more Spirit-led, the following message came through,
Talk of the Jesus you have come to know and share is more powerful than anything. Honestly people ask me all the time how did we make the One project so successful was it the round tables was the great speakers etc. and for those moments the human nature is yes...of course my A style driven attention to detail makes it amazing.....but that is 1% 99% is that the vision is beyond anything we could ever capture. You can't contain Jesus. That is what is attractive. That is what is water that quenches all thirst. That is Jesus. All.
The words in that message where the slam dunk the Holy Spirit was trying to bring to my attention and the attention of our entire church. We have missed the point. I realized then and there that the One Project team doesn't really care about the One Project. They don't really care about their names being out there, about hosting interesting gatherings, or about having a place in SDA history. The One Project team really doesn't care about the One Project all that much. What they care about is Jesus. What they want is to lift him up. What they want is to bring Jesus so close to the heart of Adventist culture that the One Project wont even be needed anymore. In many ways their existence is bitter sweet. Sweet because its Christ-centered. Bitter because we have come to a place in our culture where we actually need to be reminded that its Jesus. All. And for the One Project, their greatest success is not more numbers, more funding, or more fame. Their greatest success would be to shut down because their ministry is no longer needed. Their greatest success would be to inspire the Adventist church to such intimacy with Jesus that they no longer have to host another gathering to remind us that Jesus is what its all about.

Shortly after this, our conversation ended. And I decided then and there that I was done defending the One Project. Sure, I'll answer questions if people have them and the One Project team is happy to do likewise. I'll also continue to support them and attend their gatherings as much as possible. But I wont spend anymore time trying to argue against the critics or attempting to gather resources like bullets to shoot back. Instead, I want to begin working in such a way that I make the One Project unnecessary. I want to bring Jesus into everything I do and everywhere I go and I want to invite the entire SDA church to join me. 

This isn't about our theology. It's already Christ-centered. This is about our culture which so easily forgets that Jesus is everything. Join me in making Jesus all. Join me in creating the kind of culture in Adventism that forces the One Project to shut down, not because we attacked them and their families, not because we published books and DVD's with conspiracy theories and baseless accusations, but because we became so focused on Jesus that the One Project literally became redundant.

But some may ask "What about the critics? Should we just allow them to continue unchecked? Aren't we, by our silence, letting them win?" To be honest, that is the main question I struggled with. But after my dialogue with this One Project leader I realized that making Jesus the center, not only at One Project gatherings, but in everything we do in Adventism would not only make the One Project redundant but it would also take away the power the critics have. By fighting we only encourage more division and more "choosing sides". By electing to focus on Jesus instead we are refusing to throw fuel in the fire of strife and division. Eventually the criticisms will expose themselves and will die off. We don't need to contribute to that. It will take care of itself. As for me and for us, lets forget about the critics and the One Project. Let's refuse to be distracted, out flanked, and sidelined by lesser things. Let's lift Jesus up more than ever before. If we do we will reignite a fire in our church that we desperately need - a fire that can only be ignited by intimacy with Jesus.

In closing I would like to say one more thing. When I first attended the One Project I felt a sense of hope for our church I had not felt in a long time. I have chatted with Alex Bryan, Lisa Diller, and Japhet De Oliveira about this. To me the One Project, imperfect as it may be, represented all I longed to see in Adventism. And I erroneously placed my hope in it. This is why I was so ready to fight for the movement. But then I was reminded by the very One Project leader who impacted my life forever, that the One Project is not the hope of our church. The hope of our church is what it has always been - not an event, a gathering, or a conference but the Christ-centered local church. So when I invite you all to make Jesus the center of Adventism I am not inviting you all to start more conferences, organize more retreats, and publish more books. I, and the one Project, are inviting you to make Jesus the center of your local church. Make him the heartbeat of your Sabbath School, your worship service, your gatherings, your board meetings, your elders meetings, your budget committee, your small groups, and your children's ministry. Let him define how you treat one another and how you interact with the broken community that surrounds you. Re-evaluate everything from the ground up leaving no stone un-turned. Demand of every facet of your local church's existence a deeper and more humble submission to the person of Jesus Christ. If we do this we are promised, the whole world will be drawn. Not because of how cool, hip, or organized we are but because he has promised "When I am lifted up I will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32).

So there you have it. I'm done defending the One Project.

Today, I choose Jesus. All. 

Join me.

9 comments:

  1. I met the Lord in 1998 but the SDA I met was so Ellen-centered I had to rethink. So, seeing that it's becoming more and more obvious is encouraging!

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  2. I think that right back at the start when The One Project started in that hotel room, that they may have just talked about how our image of Jesus affects EVERY aspect of the way we do Christianity. The focus is good and I'm all in favour of Jesus being my all in all. Thanks for a brilliant, honest and insightful article. x

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  3. I hoped for some good answers.... thanks for trying. But your article here leaves me rather unconvinced and yet even more convinced that TOP critics are justified. Blessings on your Sabbath, Daryl

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    1. Daryl, if you are looking for a TOP defense the article I posted 2 years ago focuses on that. You can access it here:

      http://www.pomopastor.com/2014/08/the-one-project-danger-or-blessing.html

      My point in this article is I dont really care anymore whether people like TOP or not. If you think the critics are justified then so be it. Maybe they are. My focus from now on will be to lift Jesus up more and more. If TOP turns out to have been problematic I will have lost nothing because my focus is on Jesus. If they turn out to have been blessing, then cool. At the end of the day we need more of Jesus not TOP.

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  4. I once worked with a man who loved to talk about Jesus. One day he kept me standing around, doing nothing, for about 8 hours as 'we' discussed Jesus. Since he was the 'lead man' on our little project, what could I do ?
    His dream was to start a 'Christian' radio station.
    He seemed to be a 'Jesus all' person.

    Then I learned more about his 'jesus'.
    He told me about his favorite 'jesus' movie in which 'jesus' was portrayed as laughing at Peter when Peter turned away and sank beneath the waves.
    This man was ever-ready to find a way to make a joke about his co-workers, at their expense. Clearly the 'jesus' he 'beheld' taught him to do this.

    One morning he led out in a plot for the whole crew to humiliate the new crew supervisor. They kept at it for some minutes until the new supervisor begged to understand what they were doing and why.... It was sickening to watch and I left the job soon after.

    You see it was that supervisor's plan to have me lead an upcoming project, and I realized that I would have to fight 'jesus' to gain the respect of the crew in order to succeed.

    When 'One Project' supporters of 'Jesus all' smirk at the question, 'Which Jesus ?' -- implying a choice between such false 'christs' as I encountered at my former job, or the True -- that 'smirk' 'says all' to me. If it was the 'True'that they had framed in their imagination, then there would be no humiliating 'smirk'. The 'True' defended the dignity of 'all' -- of Mary of Magdala, and of her accusers, and of Simon, her uncle, . . . and of me.

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    1. Sorry dude. I'm kind of confused. What exactly is your point?

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  5. http://www.fulcrum7.com/blog/2016/3/20/9gd30yruy7bjomne82h451g2ip45hi http://advindicate.com/articles/2014/3/4/one-project-present-or-emergent-truth https://atoday.org/whats-wrong-with-the-one-project/ What do you think about these articles? You must have read them. But, these articles seemed to tell things as they were. They let us think. And I don't think even if I get free ticket I will not want to attend. When there will be another place or worship or sermon that I can attend.

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    1. Oh sorry Pastor, first I 'bumped' into your blog via the Haystack with its newest articles about Why Adventism is Weird.

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    2. Hi Augustina. I disagree with the articles by fulcrum7 and Advindicate. Those two sites represent an ultra conservative brand of Adventism that I find disturbing. I dont place much confidence in what they say. As for the Atoday article, its not actually saying theres something wrong with the 1P. Its a sarcastic piece that invites people to check it out for themselves instead of trusting in hear-say. Which is what I have concluded. If you really want to know, go to one of their events. If you dont really want to know, then just leave them be. But regardless of what you do, keep Christ at the center. You will never go wrong if you do.

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