“Love like you have been loved” by Jesus, was appeal by Tim Gillespie, lead pastor of Crosswalk Church in Redlands, California, and one of the principals of the One project (TOP). The event ended with a finale of its seven-year run of 32 gatherings celebrating the supremacy of Jesus Christ with more than 900 participants–young and old– meeting in San Diego, February 11-12. The gatherings held in the United States, Australia and Europe attracted tens of thousands of participants.

According to organizers, 63 participants came from several churches in the Rocky Mountain Conference, among them pastors and members from Boulder, Littleton, Campion, Aspen Park, and Cañon City, and LifeSource.

Among Gillespie’s questions was whether Adventists can “look into the future of the church and still be faithful, end-time people”? Following Jesus has consequences, he argued. But for followers of Jesus, this means “being courageous through authenticity.”

“People are not tired of love,” he was emphatic.

Gillespie was among the 16 presenters of the gathering reflecting on the theme “Oh, how I love Jesus.” The presentations affirmed the Adventist ethos and its beliefs, encouraged an on-going conversation on how to make the Seventh-day Adventist Church re-engaged “with the story of Jesus.”

With each presentation zeroing-in on various aspects of Jesus’ ministry, the last gathering of The One Project pointed to the centrality of Jesus as revealed and recorded in the Scriptures. William Johnsson, former editor of the Adventist Review spoke about the “Forgotten Women of Galilee” underscoring Jesus’ attitude toward women, a topic currently under heated debate in the denomination.
There were standing ovations for Johnsson and several other presenters as theological emphasis brought understanding to the depth of the Gospel record.

In a presentation on “Joseph, Father of Jesus,” Laurence Turner, Principal Lecturer Emeritus in Old Testament at Newbold College, England, the emphasis was on what it was to be known as a “righteous man.” It was in his [Joseph’s] life stage as a scholar to whom others went for answers that Joseph was challenged with what it meant to have Jesus born into his family. Joseph accepted a righteousness that challenged the norms of his society.

He went for the hardship of losing his reputation. Turner asked, “Is it possible for us to protect the reputation of the church and at the same time fail to truly represent the gospel”?

With the One project finale, an obvious question on the mind of the San Diego gathering participants was: “What next?” Testimonies of many expressed publicly what TOP has meant for them, sounded like a chorus: My faith was strengthened; it brought a sense of hope; I reclaimed my Adventist faith.

As one participants said, TOP “conversation moved me from membership to discipleship,” Japhet De Oliveira, senior pastor of the Boulder church and co-founder of the One project said that the gatherings “are not your church. This is not your church,” he said as he pointed at the participants.” He intimated that the ethos of the One project should recognize the local faith community as a place where the church is practiced as a way of life. For Japhet and the TOP team, the church is where we come from and where we live.

Pastor De Oliveira said that the future will mean waiting for the Lord, and listening where he would lead us. Alex Bryan, senior pastor at Walla Walla Church and co-founder of the One project, sounded a similar theme of going forward with a “re-engagement with the story of Jesus.” This is a “work for all of us.”
This phase of the One project was over, but the message of the gatherings will continue. Locally and everywhere, and “as a community dedicated [to being] centered only on Jesus,” in the words of Paddy McCoy, currently in ministry at Kettering Adventist Church. Looking forward, there are plans to meet with a leadership roundtable hosted at the Boulder Church in the month of October, and “everyone is welcome to join in, Japhet said.

TOP gatherings also provided a creative daily program for children–Top Kids led by Zan Long from Australia, and teens–genOne, led by Jessyka Albert, associate pastor from Boulder. As they sat in the front rows, the teens were brought into the conversation of the gathering. One participant commented, “They are an example of being focused. It’s so good to see them as an active part of this amazing event.”

The closing moments of the San Diego gathering saw the whole congregation participating in anointing one another on the hand. First, the fellow One project leaders thank Japhet De Oliveira for being the inspirational leader of the gatherings by publicly anointing him with a blessing offered by Dany Hernandez, senior pastor of LifeSource Adventist Fellowship in Denver. Then, all participants held small rose-wood trays with oil, taking turns addressing each other by name, and giving a blessing to be courageous, compassionate, gentle, understanding and to be blessed with “power to make Jesus All.”

The Boulder Church Worship singers and musicians, who provided musical inspiration to all gatherings in the United States, led all participants singing “In the fire, in the flood / Through the need / And through enough / We say Jesus, You are Lord of all.” The final gathering of the One project ended. But, the conversation will continue, a promise expressed and hoped for.

Photos: Rajmund Dabrowski