United in Love: An interview with Daniel R. Jackson

Ministry’s editors dialogue with the president of the North American Division.

Derek J. Morris, dMin, is Editor of Ministry.


Willie E. Hucks II, DMin, is associate editor of Ministry.

Derek Morris (DM): When you were elected president of the North American Division (NAD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 2010, many people within the division had never heard of Dan Jackson. So perhaps it would be helpful if we could begin by knowing a little about your life and ministry.

Dan Jackson (DJ): I was born in a “mixed” family. My mother was a very committed Seventh-day Adventist; my father was an atheist. For the first 14 years of my life, I did not show much interest in religion and Christianity, although I went to church every Sabbath with my mother. At 14, while involved in a lot of drinking and a lot of home break-ins to steal alcohol, the Lord spoke to me. In a two-week window of sobriety, I told my mother, “If I do not attend a Christian school, I will not be a Christian.” My father was absolutely hostile to the idea, and sternly refused. I woke up one morning in the summer of 1963, and my mother said, “We’re leaving home.” We left home and hid with a Seventh-day Adventist who had a farm on the outskirts of Edmon­ton, Alberta, Canada, until the time came for school, and there I went to school.

I still didn’t have a strong com­mitment to God, but I got baptized when I was about 16. I did that because I believed it was the right thing to do, and I knew my mother was praying for me. But when I met Donna, the woman I eventually mar­ried, and who has been a wonderful and supportive wife, she led me to Christ. It was from that time that I really felt that the Lord was calling me to ministry. So I’ve served as a congregational pastor for 26 years. Part of that time was spent in Asia, teaching religion at Spicer Memorial College in India, while also pas­toring the college church. I then returned to Canada and pastored for another ten years. Then, in 1996, I was called to serve as president of the Manitoba-Saskatchewan Conference. From there I went to British Columbia, as conference president, and then to the Canadian Union as president. Now I am in this current assignment.

Willie Hucks (WH): What are the most important lessons you have learned since becoming president of the NAD?

DJ: I have discovered that the more deeply you become involved in the organizational work of the church, the more you need to be on your knees, and the more you need to sense your own dependence upon God. The issues we face in each suc­cessive area of administrative work become more intense. And we get into the area of God-size problems. That does not mean that the simplest problem at the local church isn’t a God-sized problem. But I think the more you become involved in admin­istrative work, the more you realize that it is fool’s play to think that one’s experience or ingenuity can deal with the issues you face. That’s a very difficult lesson to learn because, on the one hand, you realize you have been asked to do God’s task; and, on the other, you carry around in your head a knowledge of who you are. And that carnal man would very easily rise and have the ascendancy if you didn’t realize your need for constant connection with God. I will be honest with you; my wife is so important here because she knows me better than anyone else, and so she knows those intersections where she comes and assists and reminds and prays with me.

WH: What special contribution do you believe NAD members can make to assist the world church in its mission?

DJ: There’s not one division in the world church that does not experi­ence the level of faithfulness of the members of the North American Divi­sion. I’m not talking about money. The bulk of the mission group still comes from North America. Last year, the NAD processed requests for 8,000 volunteers from North America, fanned out all over the the world, another factor comes to my mind: I say this with great humil­ity that NAD is probably the most faithful and cooperative division in the world. Yes, when it comes to certain issues, NAD members have some strong feelings, and they will continue to mediate those feelings in godly ways, until they come to the fruition that they deserve.

 Consider the faithfulness and generosity of our people. We are moving toward that faithfulness reaching a peak of one billion dollars in tithe alone by the end of the year. Is that not inspiring? In addition, when I think of the question as to what contributions NAD makes toworld in volunteer ministries. So both in the organized work and the volunteer ministry of the church, every day every division in the world church experiences the faithfulness of NAD. 

DM: We’re told that we’re losing the majority of our young adults in NAD. What is the cause for that hemorrhage, and what can be done to retain and engage young leaders in our church?

DJ: Again, that’s a question with a complex set of answers. It is true we are losing significant numbers of our youth. I’m not exactly sure how much, but I heard what the percent­age is. A recent statistic concerned me even more: of those who stay in the church, about half of them don’t attend church regularly. So, do we just say, “Oh, those people who have left, they’ve just been drawn away by the world, and they’ve lost their way spiritually”? That’s a glib answer, but it also has a big excuse in it for the church. I don’t think we ought to duck those issues. We need to be more intentional in our work with our young people. We have a number of activities, a num­ber of programs that are designed for young people. One such is “Just Claim It,” an annual convention for youth that is coming soon and we’re expecting 6,000–7,000 of our young people there. Last summer a youth congress in Orlando, Florida, drew 12,000 youth. We have groups like GYC (Generation of Youth for Christ), an independent ministry that has attracted and energized a great following—between 6,000–7,000 young people. This is a growing movement in the church, which the young people are actually initiating, and I think it’s great. And they’re trying to focus on the all-sufficiency of Christ.

But how do we incorporate them into the actual work of the church? Volunteerism has emerged as a strong avenue of witness and ser­vice; last year nearly 8,000 young people from all over NAD volun­teered to serve and witness worldwide.

Another area we are exploring is campus ministry. We have some 100,000 Adventist students on secu­lar campuses, and what a blessing it will be if we can plant several of our committed young people on every college cam­pus in America. Well-chosen and prayerfully admin­istered, these volunteers, while pursuing their studies, can be ambassadors of the Word.

WH: In light of the call for revival and reformation, and The Great Controversy project, what initiatives has the NAD implemented to promote these endeavors?


DJ: The North American Division has been very involved in the whole discussion of revival and reformation—not just discussion but implementation of the program in a practical way across our division. We have a number of things that we have really strongly advocated and promoted. We have developed a North American Division prayer card where we have asked our people across North America to pray for every conference every day. We have also advocated the Global Rain and the 7-7-7 project (see www .revivalandreformation.org/). Earlier this year, January 13–15, we had a very powerful prayer conference in Orlando, with about 500 people attending from all across the divi­sion. Most of our conferences have responded to the whole idea of revival and reformation. In North America, we’re calling it “transfor­mation.” The idea is to change life, as God would have us live.

WH: The NAD, like so many other world divisions, has this great diver­sity in terms of its membership. How does the church maintain unity in the light of such diversity?

DJ: I believe that unity has many faces. There is a unity that is synony­mous with conformity. We conform to the teachings of Scripture, the 28 fundamental beliefs of the church, and our understanding of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. There is no softness in the North American Division on that position; we fully support them. We will not com­promise on our doctrines of faith. So in that sense unity expresses conformity. But there is also a unity that is not uniformity, and we do not expect all of our people in North America to dress the same, to look the same, to wor­ship the same. We have so many cul­tures. I have said it over and over again. The world church talks about the 10/40 initiative. In North America, the 10/40 Window just moved next door. And we have every right, every determination, to attempt to under­stand the cultures that are coming into the context of the North Ameri­can Division. That means respect for the actual diversity and talents of the ethnic and racial groups that are in our midst. I dream of a North American Division membership that does not see gender, age, color, race, or any of those things that harm church unity.

DM: If you were to send a Tweet to the world church, from the North American Division, a short, simple message that really comes from your heart as the president of this division of our world church, what would it be?

DJ: Quite simply this: we love you, we are brothers and sisters, and we always want to be that way.

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Derek J. Morris, dMin, is Editor of Ministry.


Willie E. Hucks II, DMin, is associate editor of Ministry.

October 2012

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