• Connecting people to an abundant life with Jesus Christ and preparing them for His return

Church Growth/Evangelism


Teamwork 1474 1967 Ken Miller

By Marc Woodson, NCC President

And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons. (Mark 3:13-15, NKJV)

Last year, I started a series of articles delving into the significance of organizational health within the Northern California Conference. Over the past three years, our journey has been transformative. Rooted in the belief that as a mission-oriented, faith-based organization, our conference’s health is pivotal for achieving significant milestones in service to God and His kingdom.

The exhilaration lies in witnessing the positive impact our commitment to organizational health has had on our office headquarters, churches, schools, and various ministries. Like any pursuit of health, the results are not instantaneous, but we are gradually reshaping the way we carry out God’s work, steadfastly advancing our mission of reaching the people of Northern California.

As I shared in last year’s article, there are four key disciplines to practice on a journey toward organizational health. They are:

  • build a cohesive leadership team
  • create clarity for the organization
  • overcommunicate that clarity
  • reinforce clarity

In this article, I want to focus on teamwork. Let’s look at the example of Jesus, who, as a leader, selected a team of twelve ordinary men to advance His mission of ministering to a sin-sick and broken world. Jesus demonstrated that teamwork is a highly effective approach to achieving goals and getting things done. On this principle, He carried out His mission and established His church.[1]

Patrick Lencioni, in his book, The Advantage, comments on the value of having a leadership team, “few organizations invest nearly enough time and energy in making their leadership teams cohesive, and certainly not with the level of rigor that it requires and deserves.”[2] Moreover, Lencioni acknowledges the widespread misuse and misunderstanding of the term “team” and endeavors to provide a precise definition of what he intends by a “cohesive” team. In his clarification, he emphasizes that such a team functions in close collaboration, fosters interactive dynamics, and thrives on mutual interdependence.

Illustrating this concept, consider a basketball team as an apt example. Such a team typically shares a common objective: winning the game. Like a successful basketball team, healthy and cohesive teams engage in robust interaction and maintain alignment around pursuing a shared goal.[3]

Imagine what we could achieve if we all worked together towards the same goal. By building cohesive leadership teams in our churches, schools, and ministerial departments throughout our conference, we can more effectively fulfill our purpose – connecting people to an abundant life in Christ and preparing them for His soon return. Our united and aligned efforts would enable us to advance God’s kingdom together and make a lasting impact on those around us.

Ellen White shares this same principle of teamwork when she writes, “In counseling for the advancement of the work, no one man is to be a controlling power, a voice for the whole. Proposed methods and plans are to be carefully considered, so that all the brethren may weigh their relative merits and decide which should be followed.”[4]

Our aspiration for organizational health transcends mere programmatic efforts; it represents a profound cultural transformation. Witnessing the tangible impact of this journey is truly exhilarating. We are united in this endeavor, and the positive changes are palpable within our entities that earnestly embrace and embody organizational health principles. As we navigate this transformative journey together, let’s pray for pastors, principals, department directors, conference office personnel, and ministry directors.

Stay tuned for my next article, where I will share what it takes to build a cohesive leadership team.

[1] See Matthew 16:18; Acts 1:8.

[2] Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass), p. 20.

[3] Ibid., p. 21.

[4] Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 7 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press), p. 259.

Featured in Northern Lights, January 25, 2024

Welding A Solid Community Outreach

Welding A Solid Community Outreach 2000 1125 Ken Miller

Orangevale member Rob Purvis is an expert in welding. Collectively, with several other volunteer welding instructors, he teaches students this high-demand vocation. Not just the physical expertise of laying a bead of molten metal connecting two objects but the math, physics, and accuracy employers will demand.

Reignite Hope is a welding training school that Purvis was inspired to start in a pristine fifty-three foot semi-trailer temporarily parked in the Rancho Cordova church’s parking lot.

Its purpose is two-fold: To provide a vocation to those seeking to better their lives and to share Jesus’s love. Blake Jones, Orangevale pastor, exclaimed, “I love this ministry! It gives people a practical skill whereby they can make a living. And we also bring the gospel and our hope in Christ to them. We’re seeing God use this to touch hearts and lives.”

Students are a mix of individuals wanting to retrain from other careers, laborers, unhoused, or re-entering society from incarceration. Placement services, word of mouth, and even probation officers forward candidates to the program, and the training is free of charge to the student. After training and graduation, a newly certified welder can walk into a business and professionally weld.

This outreach takes a missional approach, and the participation of the Orangevale and Rancho Cordova churches is integral to the program. Besides providing a location to park the rig, they provide a meeting room, and church members help with meals, which the students greatly appreciate. They also give bible studies, write resumes, and other helpful services.

Debbie Purvis, Orangevale member and co-director, stated, “We currently have sixteen students in the program, and the Holy Spirit has been moving, convicting hearts, with several students deciding to follow Christ!”

Kietrich Germany, district pastor of Rancho Cordova and Stockton Mayfair churches, commented, “I am so overjoyed to have this outreach in our parking lot to serve our community in such a practical way. This type of help can be truly life-transforming. There is nothing quite like the self-dignity supplied by being gainfully employed. I truly believe this kind of ministry causes Jesus to smile.”

Featured in Northern Lights, November 30, 2023

The Mysterious Seven

The Mysterious Seven 1752 1048 Ken Miller

The story continues from the October 26 Northern Lights Article Baptisms and Mysterious Guests.

This story continues in the words of Sasa Andelkovic. district pastor of the West Sacramento and Sacramento Yugoslavian churches:

Recently, after a sermon, I made a call to baptism. Seven guests in the back row all stood and emphatically raised their hands. I didn’t even recognize them!

Observing the seven new faces in the back row, all eagerly raising their hands for baptism, stirred a multitude of questions in my mind: Did God guide them to us? Is this genuinely happening?

Post-service, I approached them, discovering they had recently relocated from Nepal and were raised in Hinduism. Their journey to Christianity began in 2010 when the compassionate acts of local Christians moved them. Engaging in community service and medical missionary projects, they gradually embraced the message of salvation in Jesus.

Despite their limited understanding of Biblical theology, they remained faithful, praying daily for guidance. Baptized in Nepal under the belief of purification, they continued reading the Bible, seeking the truth. As they studied and prayed, they felt God warned them that “the end is near and that they must be ready for it.” Not fully grasping the Biblical meaning of “the end,” it indeed became a real threat in their lives. At the same time, they started experiencing much persecution from gangs in their local community.

They were bullied constantly and even beaten with sticks. One of them was stabbed. Another was pushed to the ground and run over by a motorcycle. Astonishingly, the faithful band was still willing to risk their lives for Christ, somebody they admittedly did not wholly comprehend yet. What they did come to understand was that God is real, loving, and was collecting them to Himself.

As time passed, they were able to flee to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where a hired “travel consultant” took their passports and consigned them to a debtor sweatshop. They had to work for a year, “earning” their

documents back. But their faith didn’t waver. Eventually, with the help of some missionaries, they traveled to Guatemala and then to Mexico. From there, they could enter the United States with refugee status, later settling in Sacramento.

So how did they end up standing in my church, all at once, in joyful hand-waving after my baptism call? They met Linda Quillen, a Granite Bay Hilltop Church member. She encouraged them to attend one of our churches, and through that introduction, they eventually stumbled upon one of my sermons online.

Reflecting on this experience, they lived their lives with the same unknown we do, not knowing much, but they followed God the best they knew, and God brought them to the destination. What is also astounding to me is that we prayed that God would send us people hungry for the truth. Little did we know that God would bring this wonderful Nepalese group to our humble West Sacramento church. It was like God looked at the globe and said, “Let me see what church would be right for them; here it is West Sacramento.”

Featured in Northern Lights, November 30, 2023

Oakland Market Street Church Celebrates 100th Anniversary

Oakland Market Street Church Celebrates 100th Anniversary 2000 1125 Ken Miller

On November 4, 2023, the Oakland Market Street Church marked a significant milestone—its centennial celebration of spreading the gospel. Jose Marin, NCC Executive Secretary, expressed his honor at being part of this momentous occasion. He acknowledged the church’s profound impact on the African-American community in Northern California and its broader influence across the Pacific Union throughout the past century.

Since its establishment in November 1923, the church has stood as a pillar of faith in its current location. Members, guests, and church leaders celebrated under the three-fold theme: Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Present, and Preparing for the Kingdom.

Rudy Peters, NCC African American Ministries Coordinator, highlighted the enduring legacy of Market Street, stating, “The Market Street church has been connecting people to an abundant life in Jesus Christ for generations, with several families now serving in this same community.”

The festivities commenced on November 1 with a Wednesday night celebration featuring the Precious Memory Choir performing a specially crafted 100th-anniversary theme song by Derrick Hall, Dr. Joyce Johnson, and Sanara Fulmore.

President of the North American Division, G. Alexander Bryant, delivered the keynote address, making the occasion even more memorable. Senior pastor Edwin Frederick Brown described the celebration as a glorious day filled with gratitude and praise to God. Kai Simone Hodges, church youth pastor, said the event felt like a grand family reunion, brimming with memories and love.

NCC President Marc Woodson expressed, “It was a joy and an honor to celebrate 100 years of ministry with the Market Street Church. Market Street is a historic church and the oldest African-American congregation in our conference. It was an inspirational weekend and a great time of reunion! I was so glad I could participate in the festivities.”

Featured in Northern Lights, November 16, 2023

Napa Community Church Celebrates 150 Years

Napa Community Church Celebrates 150 Years 2000 1125 Ken Miller

November 4-The Napa Community Church celebrated its 150th anniversary.

Members and guests of the church crowded in for a celebration marked with jubilant singing and speakers. Diane Bennett, church secretary, exclaimed, “It was a great sabbath! We had over 230 congregation members, and 180 watched online. We have a great heritage here.”

Marc Woodson, President, stated, “I want to congratulate the Napa Community Church for its ministry to the greater Napa community for an amazing 150 years! It was a blessing to participate in the worship service and bring greetings on behalf of the Northern California Conference. I enjoyed the slide presentation from Ted Calkins that showed the church’s history in pictures.”

At the celebration, Mayor Scott Sedgley of Napa expressed his appreciation towards the church, praising the age diversity of the congregation. He acknowledged the importance of having more kids in the community and commended the church for providing a nurturing environment for children. Sedgley thanked the church members for their positive impact on the community.

Jose Marin, Executive Secretary, remarked, “What a blessing it was to be a part of the 150th Napa Community Church celebration, where the church commemorated its origins and its profound impact through pastoral ministry and Adventist education. This impact continues to shape past and future generations, preparing them for a life of service here on earth and for the eternal ages to come.”

Featured in Northern Lights, November 16, 2023

Mulching Mission Movement

Mulching Mission Movement 2000 1125 Ken Miller

October 10- It was all hands on deck as the NCC administration offices locked the doors and workers descended on Maidu Park in Roseville for the annual community service day.

In 2022, workers spread sixty yards of forest mulch at another Roseville park. This year, 300 yards were piled around the new location. The contrast in job size raised a few eyebrows. Albert Miller, NCC superintendent of schools and project coordinator, looked across the park at the piles and drily stated, “Well, it ain’t gonna get done by itself.”

While the mulch group shoveled and raked the piles methodically, smaller teams painted perimeter gates bright yellow and refreshed red curb paint along driveways. Four baseball equipment shacks were painted grey and blue. By the end of the workday, finished painters joined in the mulch movement, and the team completed all the jobs.

Brian Casteluccio, Roseville Parks, Recreation and Libraries Superintendent, wrote, “I want to send a huge kudos to your team. They did a great job! It was a very successful volunteer event. Your work is greatly appreciated by the City of Roseville and the community.”

Featured in Northern Lights, October 26, 2023

Baptisms and Mysterious Guests

Baptisms and Mysterious Guests 2000 1125 Ken Miller

God is doing some fantastic things in the West Sacramento SDA Church.

Sasa Andelkovic, district pastor, explains, “During the pandemic, our church attendance significantly dropped. Around the same time, many of our youth graduated from high school and went to college. Our church looked desolate. Only about twenty-five people were attending on Sabbath, one-third of normal.”

The congregation began earnestly praying that God would fill their church, especially with young people. Andelkovic continues, “From our prayers, strange things started to happen! We had a student from UC Davis join us with her boyfriend. She had learned about the Sabbath over the internet, and two more young adults arrived at our church having seen our web page.”

The new guests attended Bible studies, eager to know more about Jesus. Church members worked diligently to include their new friends in activities, drawing them into the church. Andelkovic states, “We were happy to see things happening and the spirit moving, but that was just the beginning!”

In time, the church had its first baptism, a rebaptism. This decision by a gentleman seemed to encourage others. Andelkovic exclaimed, “As a district pastor, I am there every two weeks, and when I baptize, I always appeal to the congregation, asking if others wish to make that commitment. After this baptism, every time I was there, a new hand would go up in the church!”

“After the third Sabbath with a baptism,” Andelkovic continues, “I jokingly told the congregation that we needed to continue the tradition asking, ‘Who will be baptized next?’ I couldn’t dream up what happened next! The whole back row of the church stood up joyfully, waving their hands. I was stunned! It was a group of people I hadn’t even met yet! Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to meet them and hear their stories.”

Andelkovic states, “The original couple from UC Davis just made a commitment too, requesting baptism as well, our cup runneth over.”

Andelkovic reflects, “You just never know how God will answer your prayers! We often ask for blessings and then try to predict how He will work. But I must tell you, this experience left me in awe of how His way is not our way, but the experience is always wonderful!”

[Stay tuned for a story of the mysterious back row!]

Featured in Northern Lights, October 26, 2023

Catrina LeSure Ordained

Catrina LeSure Ordained 1983 1197 Ken Miller

September 23, Catrina LeSure was ordained at the Palo Cedro Church.

Her father gushed in his introduction, “Catrina has loved the Lord from a very young age. With that came a desire to serve others. As a result, she graduated from Andrews University with a degree in Education.”

Her first job out of college was a junior-high teaching position, and while she loved the kids and being their teacher, it fueled a desire to go deeper. She returned to Andrews, studied for the ministry, and pursued service as a pastor.

After entering ministry in Idaho, she answered the call to the Palo Cedro church, where she is currently the youth pastor.

Marc Woodson, NCC president, praised, “We are very proud of Catrina today; she has served the Lord well and served with courage, and we are glad she is a part of the NCC.”

Featured in Northern Lights, October 5, 2023

Willits Church Commits To Serving Unhoused

Willits Church Commits To Serving Unhoused 834 574 Ken Miller

Members of the Willits Church continuously show their servant’s hearts and passionate hard work, positively impacting their community.

Jeb Berbasal, district pastor, stated, “From a deep sense of duty and love for their neighbors, they have created ‘Serving with Compassion,’ an initiative to feed and serve unhoused persons in the area.”

The ministry team serves many people weekly, feeding, praying, and clothing with love and encouragement. Bersabal continued, “This outreach is also about manifesting faith through action. Serving others with compassion is a sacred duty that strengthens both the giver AND the receiver.”

Bersabal concluded, “The core of its mission is not just about the food; it’s about letting people know they are seen and valued as part of caring for them.”

Featured in Northern Lights, October 5, 2023

A Perfect Fall Picnic

A Perfect Fall Picnic 2002 1125 Ken Miller

NCC teachers, pastors, employees, and their children came out on Sunday, September 24, to the annual employee appreciation picnic held at Sacramento Adventist Academy (SAA).

Planned and organized by the NCC administration and staff, the shady schoolyard was festooned with culinary delights and activities for all ages. Carmichael Cougar Pathfinder Club provided enough corndogs and their secret recipe tartar sauce to please a baseball crowd. Sacramento Spanish Pathfinders offered an eclectic buffet of Mexican foods and salsas. Sacramento Slavic brought their food trailer serving варе́ники and налисники (pierogis and blintzes) complimented with gourmet ice cream and drinks.

NCC Youth Director Eddie Heinrich, son, Kyler, and SAA students enthusiastically monitored a sea of children as they frolicked in the bouncy house, the massive inflatable obstacle course, and the famous climbing wall. A fierce game of nine-square-in-the-air seemed to have no end as children jumped and hit the ball.

Pastors, teachers, and staff from as far away as Redding conversed and laughed, relaxed at picnic tables, enjoying the complimentary fare. Friendly conversations and kids’ laughter were intermixed with more competitive gamers bouncing from table to table, stirring interest in the softball game or pickleball court.

Marc Woodson, NCC president stated, “I want to thank our directors and staff that planned this event and worked tirelessly to make it happen. I also wish to acknowledge our NCC employees who connect people daily to an abundant life in Jesus.”

Featured in Northern Lights, October 5, 2023