Ramon J. Canals, DMin, serves as ministerial secretary of the Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

I sat there in disbelief. I could not imagine what I was witnessing. The once peaceful business meeting had turned into chaos and confusion, with church members shouting and almost coming to blows over the proposed move and merger. This meeting was supposed to be a spiritual gathering—a time to come together in real communion with God and one another—yet it had become a battleground.

The church members had assured me that they would seek the Lord and be in communion with Him by fasting and praying. They knew we were dealing with a sensitive subject. That kind of conflict was not what I expected when I took on my role as their new pastor. I wondered whether this was what true Christianity looked like. Had we truly become consumed with our self-interests and desires? I felt disheartened by the behavior of persons in leadership claiming to be followers of Christ.

I left the meeting that day with a heavy heart and a sense of disappointment in my fellow church members and leaders. Despite this, I held on to the hope that one day, we would truly experience a deeper communion with God, and our behavior would reflect the love and kindness that is at the core of the Christian faith. “There is nothing more needed in the work than the practical results of communion with God.”1

Real communion

The behavior exhibited in that meeting went against everything Jesus taught us about love, peace, and unity. In Matthew 22:37–40, Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds and to love our neighbors as ourselves. For pastors, this teaching means not only are we called to preach and teach love, but we are called to live lives that reflect the love and grace of Jesus by putting others before ourselves. A genuine spiritual connection with God can help us love others more deeply, forgive more readily, and treat others with kindness and compassion.

As we proclaim the second coming of Jesus, we must remind ourselves to learn to get along on this earth if we aspire to live together in heaven. But too often, we become caught up in our own emotions and interests and forget what it truly means to be a follower of Christ. Instead of seeking to find a solution that would benefit everyone, we focus on our selfish desires and argue and fight to get what we want. I often remind myself of a simple formula to solve almost any problem: “If pride and selfishness were laid aside, five minutes would remove most difficulties.”2

As we read in Philippians 2:3, 4, we are called to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,” but in humility consider others better than ourselves (NIV). Christianity is about being like Jesus. And since we are constantly fighting the carnal battle, that can be accomplished only as a result of real communion with God. When we experience a genuine spiritual connection with God, we become more aware of His love for us, which can bring a sense of peace and comfort to our lives that we can extend to others. Our faith in God strengthens when we experience His presence and the transformative power of His love. These can give us the courage to face challenges and overcome obstacles.

Pastors, take this opportunity to renew your commitment to God and each other and strive to live your lives in a way that reflects the love and grace of Jesus. May we always remember the purpose of practicing spiritual disciplines like fasting and prayer and the practical results of communion with God. May our behavior reflect the love and kindness at the core of the Christian faith. And may we experience the transformative power of God’s love in our lives, bringing peace and comfort both to our hearts and to those around us as we navigate the complexities of twenty-first-century ministry.

  1. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), 47.
  2. Ellen G. White, Early Writings (Battle Creek, MI: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1882), 119.

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Ramon J. Canals, DMin, serves as ministerial secretary of the Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

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