21 Dec


I remember sitting in a classroom at Southwestern Adventist University that was taught by none other than Dr. Bill Kilgore. Bill was always practical in his approach to instruction and ministry. One of the many wisdom sayings of Bill went like this. “Jesus may be the answer, But Jesus is not the answer to every test question.” Turns out Bill was right.

Many Christians fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus is the answer to every issue we face in life, and, while in some ways that is true, in many other ways the answer is not that simple. While we are focused on explaining Jesus theologically to someone, we may often fail to assist them with present practical needs that they lack. Simply stating that “Jesus loves you” may offer some comfort, but it falls woefully short of offering that person a blanket on a cold night. If we are not deliberate in our approach, we can easily get caught between the already and the not yet.

This tension between what “is” and what “will be” is a biblical construct. For instance, if one were to ask, “When does a believer receive eternal life?” One Adventist may respond confidently, “As soon as we place our belief in Jesus as Lord.” Which this is true. Another Adventist might also accurately state, “We receive eternal life at the second coming of Jesus, whether we are a living believer, or a believer who has already been laid to rest.” This too is also true. There is a natural tension betwixt the two, between the already and the not yet.

Every Adventist today lives in this tension, between the completed work of Jesus, which we claim by faith (and because of this, we claim the promise of eternal life today) and the present reality that we are living in a world where suffering is universal. And if that is not enough tension for you, there is another tension which exists in our fellowship, primarily along generational lines.

In my admittedly limited observations, the Baby Boomer generation and many from Generation X are more inclined (though certainly not unanimously) to focus on the “soon” return of Jesus (the not yet), while Millennials and Gen Z tend to focus more on alleviating suffering (social activism) in the here and now (the already). This generational tension often creates a schism in many churches as they wrestle with what mission they should be about. Should we alleviate whatever suffering we can now, or prepare people for the return of Jesus in the time we have left?

Younger folks will often give up and leave if their local church refuses to address the issues of the here and now. Older folks will leave or disengage if the only focus of the local church is addressing community ills, without engaging in some type of intentional proclamation about “the last days.” By being deliberate about doing both, churches remain relevant participants in their community and members remain engaged socially and spiritually.

Adventists should possess an extra dose of compassion for those suffering around us, both in the already and the not yet. We should alleviate as much of that suffering as we are able, like Jesus did. Jesus used a 3-prong approach in His ministry that included teaching, preaching, and healing. If we are only focused on one or two of these areas, we are falling short of what Jesus has called us to do. We teach to educate folks and win their intellect to the message of the gospel. We preach to showcase the love of God for every living creature to win their hearts. We heal by meeting people where they are to restore their body, mind, and purpose.

For Adventists, our beliefs shape our mission. We have the privilege of representing Jesus everywhere we go. One might ask, “How could life get any more meaningful in the here and now as we minister to the marginalized and meet the needs of those in our sphere of influence?” Another may say, “How could life get any better as we open the scriptures to the people around us who are hungering for something to give them meaning in life and hope for the future of what is yet to occur?” The reality is that we need both! People around us need to be cared for now, and they need to know that God has an eternal plan for them, and that Jesus is returning soon.

Brandon Westgate is RMC youth director. Email him at: [email protected]

24 Apr


Recently, I was stretched. If you have ever been there, you know what I am talking about. I was in a situation where it felt like I was possibly (probably) in over my head. It was one of those moments when I felt like something had to give, someone needed to do something. I didn’t know exactly what to do or how to respond, but I felt compelled to do something. I realized that in the act of preparing to respond and then ultimately responding, even though it was not an easy situation to deal with, I grew.

But maybe that is the point of being stretched. When we are challenged to think outside of our wheelhouse and engage with a situation or a topic that we are not comfortable sorting through, we create a fertile place to cultivate new thoughts on the issue in a way that allows for the creation of new conversations.

I was stretched when asked to share my thoughts on the topic: “How is the church today impacting the culture?” In the interests of transparency, I need to say that my initial reaction was a negative thought. I said to myself, is the church impacting the culture? I think it would be a much easier article to write if the question was How is the culture impacting the church?, which is exactly what came out of my mouth to the person who asked me to write the article. It was my reaction to the request. But as I have considered the question, and pondered it for a few weeks now, I wanted to respond to this important question instead of reacting to it.

I find that many of us tend to react instead of responding. We hear a question and we already have an answer before we have really thought through all the ramifications of our answer. We react. A healthy response generally takes time and thoughtful consideration.

So, how is the church impacting the culture? For purposes of clarity, the “church” in this article is not viewed as some institution or organization. The church in the context of scripture and in this article is, at its core, a people who have a faith relationship with Jesus. Also, for clarity, I am only addressing specifically how Seventh-day Adventist people are impacting the culture.

As Seventh-day Adventists, per our statement of beliefs, we have a couple of definitions when it comes to describing the “church.” One of those is the Seventh-day Adventist Church organization, the other is much broader. Belief number 13 of the 28 fundamental beliefs begins with the opening sentence, “The universal church is composed of all who truly believe in Christ … .” So, we believe in a universal church, or group of people who have a faith relationship with Jesus, regardless of what denomination they claim as their faith identity. Since that group covers a wide array of beliefs and practices, I will limit my article to how Seventh-day Adventist believers are making an impact on the culture in which they live.1

From the inception of the Seventh-day Adventist church in 1863, and as we celebrate 160 years of organization on May 21, 2023, its people have been advocates for cultural change where it was needed. Ellen G. White, Joseph Bates, and many other of our pioneers were staunch abolitionists in an era where slavery was an accepted practice. It was not popular to speak against such a powerful cultural institution, yet they did so with bravery and wisdom. The temperance movement also helped shape our fledgling denomination as many church members were speaking out against vice and teaching their neighbors about the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices. They spoke to issues of violence as well.

Fast forward 160 years and some of those same issues that the church was combating then, we are still combating now. Instead of tobacco, which has mostly lost its attraction to the culture today, we now are dealing with a Fentanyl epidemic. Instead of open slavery, we have human trafficking. Statistics tell us that there are more people enslaved today, estimated at 40 million people, that at any other time in human history.2

So, how is the church responding to these crises? Regarding the drug crisis and addictive behavior, we could react by saying something mean-spirited about how people just need to make better life choices, which would not be helpful. Or we could get together and do something big. I am proud to share that, as a church, we responded to the challenge instead of reacting and have established a global network of support. Local worship centers can establish a recovery group in their area to offer personal support to help those in their sphere of influence find a path to wholeness.3

Regarding domestic and other forms of violence, our church is responding as well. The global initiative End it Now, extending to more than 200 countries, is our effort to raise awareness and advocate for the end of violence around the world.4

There are many other ways that the church is impacting the culture as well. Things like food banks, assisting people who are experiencing homelessness, chaplaincy care, health seminars, educational scholarships, and, of course, offering spiritual guidance in local worship communities.

But there is always a tension that exists that we tend to not talk about. How should we respond to some of the issues we face in the context of a soon-coming Jesus? If the world is soon to end, and we believe that it will only get worse before it gets better, then how involved should we get with these issues? Are these things merely distractions that pull our time, efforts, and resources away from our core mission? I believe those questions are worth considering.

A reaction statement may be that we should just focus on sharing the gospel. A thoughtful response may consider all these questions and ask another question. Could it be that finding a way to get more involved with the people impacted by these issues is what our mission truly is at its core, to love God and love people? I believe it is.

How will we respond to some of the many other cultural challenges moving forward is yet to be determined. I pray that we respond like we have historically, from a place of deep love and commitment to God and the Great Commission, and with an abiding and deep compassion for people who are struggling to sort through this thing we call life.

Brandon Westgate is the RMC youth director. Email him at: [email protected]

1  https://www.adventist.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/ADV-28Beliefs2020.pdf

2  https://50forfreedom.org/modern-slavery/

3  https://www.adventistrecoveryglobal.org/

4  https://www.enditnow.org/

08 Jun


RMCNews with Brandon Westgate – Ward, Colorado … Glacier View Ranch is expanding its facilities by beginning construction on the first new building project since 1995.

Rocky Mountain Conference administration, youth department personnel, and GVR staff assembled on June 3 for the groundbreaking ceremony on the 10-thousand square foot maintenance building, which will protect maintenance equipment from the weather. The building is part of a larger plan to protect and preserve the equipment used at GVR for maintaining the property and the road.

“This has been needed for a long time. The equipment at GVR will be preserved more effectively by having this building,” said Sam Hasty, associate director of camp ministries.

Echoing Hasty’s sentiments, Dan Hansen, GVR camp ministries director, said that putting everything away will “…add to the aesthetics of camp and make things more organized.”

Assistant youth director Jessyka Dooley said the building is “a beautiful balance between fun and the practical of what’s needed.”

Reflecting on the first construction project in nearly 30 years, Darin Gottfried, RMC vice president of finance and GVR board chair, explained that RMC members made it possible. “This is a much-needed facility for GVR. The faithfulness of the people in the RMC has made the funding for this project possible. I am continually amazed by the stewardship of the people of this conference.”

This construction is one-way RMC members are meeting the practical needs at GVR. “This building will extend the life of the tools and equipment at GVR, which will make us better managers of the resources allocated for ministry here. If we don’t have to use the funds here to replace equipment as often, then we can use those funds to further enhance the mission of RMC,” said Doug Inglish, RMC vice president of administration.

Mic Thurber, RMC president, is also grateful for the faithful giving by church members. “Our people have consistently demonstrated that they are not only interested in, but supportive of, youth ministry. This is just one more demonstration of their commitment to make sure we have the tools needed to reach our youth with the message of hope and salvation in Jesus.”

Reflecting on Thurber’s comments, Brandon Westgate, RMC youth director, said, “This is ultimately what all this is about.”   He added, “As a youth department, our goal is to minister to the youngest members of our RMC family. To do that, we need a place not only to facilitate spiritual conversations but also a place that creates opportunities for young people to experience joy and fellowship while they learn what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. We are fortunate to have GVR and MSR in our conference as ministry locations whose primary purpose is to help our youth discover and develop their personal walk with Jesus.”

— RMCNews with Brandon Westgate, RMC youth director; photo by Mic Thurber

26 May


By Brandon Westgate — School shooting. Two words that simply do not belong adjacent to one another in the same sentence, and yet we find ourselves wrestling with the loss of both innocents and innocence once again. The senseless loss of life in that small town school in Uvalde, Texas has left us stunned, heartbroken, and angry.

Stunned because these acts of violence against the youngest members of our society seem to hit us differently as we come to grips with the reality of human, sinful nature. The depths to which humanity has fallen and just how evil man can be is revealed through these heinous acts. To think that someone could rob a child of their most precious right, the opportunity to grow up and realize their full potential, is devastating and can shake us to our core.

Our hearts break not only as we contemplate the loss of innocent children but as we also realize that the siblings, parents, and extended families of these victims are grieving in a way that makes condolences, however sincere they may be expressed, seem trivial. As emotions swell, our grief and frustration can quickly devolve into anger towards the person responsible for committing such a heartless act of unfettered hostility.

So, what are we to do?

How are we to respond in a way that is healthy?

How can we make sense of such evil that was intentionally focused on these children?

To simply say this is a fallen world we live in or that evil is being unfettered among us, so that we should expect things like this, doesn’t help much. While these statements may be true in some way, they offer minimal comfort to those who are mourning and to those seeking a real answer to these complex issues.

It is true that we are living in unprecedented times. In Matthew 24, Jesus was asked what it would be like prior to His return. In verse 12, Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”

It would be easy for us to take that one verse and find a measure of justification for the evil that seems to rule the day. But in taking such a stance, where is the hope for the future? I speak of the hope that each one of us possesses, the hope that gives us the motivation to plan and dream and live our best life with assurance and confidence?

This may be an excellent time to remind one another that our hope does not come through legislation that may or may not be enacted. Our hope does not come through who governs us locally or nationally. Our hope does not come from what great things we might do as a nation.

Our hope comes from the power of God, given us through the Holy Spirit, who both inspires and empowers every believer to good works. Hope from God pours out of the heart of every sincere believer, and that God-fueled hope is felt in the hearts of others who have been impacted by it.

You see, Jesus didn’t stop His statement in Matthew 24 with a message of doom. He continued His thought in that very next verse, “But he (or she) who endures to the end shall be saved.”

Jesus knew that we would face challenging moments such as these inexplicable acts of violence which rob children of their innocence. But He wraps up his thought here with a message of hope. Yes, we live in a sin-sick world. Yes, sometimes it appears as though evil has won the day.  But Jesus offers hope to every person with a promise of eternal comfort.

These present events serve as a stark reminder of the contrast between the present world we occupy and the promised world that will ultimately be our forever home. While we are here, it is the heart-filled actions of believers that push back against the tide of evil.

We are to overcome evil with good. As we collaborate with Jesus, we offer comfort and hope to one another so that every selfless act of kindness serves as a reminder that the God of mercy has an ultimate plan to save all who come to Him by faith.

Even so, come Lord Jesus!

–Brandon Westgate is RMC youth director; photo by Brandon Westgate

10 Mar

Serving, Socializing, Seeking, Seeing

Editor’s note: Brandon Westgate, RMC’s newly-appointed youth director, shares his vision and outlook for the youth department.

By Brandon Westgate …

Serving (How can we help?)

The youth department exists to serve the youth and young adults of the churches in the Rocky Mountain Conference. They are the epicenter of activity and engagement. We desire to help equip, encourage, and inspire local leaders to create opportunities for the youth and young adults to grow in their faith walk with Jesus.

This includes promoting local events and organizing larger conference-sponsored events like Greater Summit and our summer camp program. We are here for you. Please reach out and let us know how we can help.

Socializing (Let’s hang out!)

Many of our young people have been impacted by the challenges brought on by Covid-19. Aside from the virus itself, these younger church members have been exposed to bickering in their own homes, local churches, and schools about mask mandates, vaccines, and social distancing. They have been witnesses to the divisive results of political and social agendas perpetrated by well-intentioned older saints within our midst.

The results are that some families that socialized together no longer invest in one another, and our younger members feel caught in the middle. Many of these are left trying to navigate the emotional minefield that lost friendships (due to grown-ups isolating from one another) have brought about.

This is one reason why creating opportunities for our youth to interact in a non-threatening environment is vital. This is the key to building a solid faith-based community. We are social creatures, and the younger we are, the more we need positive social interactions to nurture healthy development. Events like Greater Summit and our summer camp programs at Mills Spring Ranch and Glacier View Ranch and grassroots gatherings such as MVMNT events work together to foster continued spiritual growth for our younger members.

Seeking (You find what you seek!)

Speaking of summer camp ministry, preparations for summer camp are already underway. The RMC youth department is busy at our camps, hosting various groups and readying the facilities for the 2022 summer camp season. We are planning an impactful program for the young people who are fortunate enough to find themselves at summer camp. Our theme this year is “WILD.” We will focus primarily on the story of Ruth and hope to bring out of that story some wild aspects, including Ruth’s WILD commitment and her WILD faith.

A big piece of our summer camp program is making sure we have a motivated and spirit-filled summer camp staff.  If you or someone you know is 18+ or a graduating high school senior and would like to be involved in the summer camp ministry, visit  https://www.rmcyouth.org/summerstaff, where you will find an application to be part of something WILD!

Seeing (I see you!)

You may be reading this and are wondering, “How can I help?” First, pray for and with the young people you know. Prayer is a powerful, yet underutilized tool. Second, as you see youth events scheduled, please make sure that you prioritize these times so that our young people can engage with their peers in healthy, safe spaces. If needed, perhaps you can help with funding or by providing transportation, or even by providing refreshments (hint: pizza is always a win). And please remember to take some time and engage a younger church member in a conversation. Make them feel seen and they will feel like they belong!

Regardless of age, we are all in this together. So, let us press together to equip and inspire our youth to contribute their energy and talents to spread the gospel message of grace in our homes, churches, and communities.

–Brandon Westgate is RMC youth director; photo supplied