After 44 years of ministry for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Max Torkelsen is retiring, effective Sept. 25, 2016, at the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) constituency session.
During his role at the NPUC, Torkelsen has served as vice chairman of the Adventist Health corporate board and chairman of the Walla Walla University board of trustees.
He has particular interests in furthering the Lord's work through international communication strategies, including Adventist World Radio and LifeStyleTV.
The mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the North Pacific Union Conference is to prepare people for the imminent return of Jesus Christ by nurturing, educating and motivating its membership. We will empower our conferences to help each member demonstrate God's character of love through the power of the Holy Spirit and share the gospel message with other people through the development of individual spiritual gifts.
The office of the president articulates the vision that keeps Adventist work in the Northwest unified. Typically, the union conference president represents the church at various meetings, advises local conference administrators, and provides leadership or input to the committees of local conferences, the North American Division and the General Conference. This office seeks to make sure that leadership is accountable to membership.
What's Been Accomplished
Our 2011 constituency session called us all to a “Power Surge of Spirit-Led Ministry.” At that time, we noted several important challenges ahead and have sought to follow the Spirit’s leading to address these areas.
BIBLE WORK TRAINING — Successfully established our SOULS Northwest lay training programs to equip our young people and other church members to do Bible work in their local churches and communities.
COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS — Implemented our trade show book project to create a witnessing tool that members can use at fairs and targeted audiences at trade shows. The first book, with a motorcycle theme and entitled Live to 101: Escaping to a Long and Healthy Life, has had 100,000 copies printed and distributed. The second book is entitled Living a Long and Beautiful Life. Our women’s ministries organizations are in the process of utilizing this tool for successful personal witnessing.
CREATION STUDY CENTER — Established a Creation Study Center at our NPUC office. Through the direction of Stan Hudson, this is providing credible resources and presentations to students and churches, as well as hands-on experience in support of the biblical account of creation and a worldwide flood.
STUDENT SCHOLARSHIP — Provided matching funds in conjunction with local schools and conferences to encourage increased enrollment of Hispanic and African-American students in Northwest Adventist education.
FRONTLINE MINISTRY — In response to previous recommendations by our NPUC ad hoc mission advisory committee (convened during the last term), we have trimmed staff and contained our own office-related expenses in order to increase by 30 percent our subsidies to our local conferences earmarked for frontline evangelism.
FAITHFUL STEWARDSHIP — Faithful response to God’s blessings coupled with careful financial management by our NPUC treasury team has led to tithes and offerings above budget and office and ministry expenses below budget — a net blessing.
MEMBERSHIP GROWTH — While our growth rate has been below targets (see the challenges section, below), total NPUC area members now number, for the first time, more than 100,000.
SPIRIT OF PROPHECY — Organized a Spirit of Prophecy weekend emphasis at Walla Walla University in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Ellen White’s death.
CONNECTED MEMBERS — Our Gleaner communication efforts through print, web and social media have recently been voted Best in Class by the Society of Adventist Communicators. Coupled with grassroots efforts by our members and local conferences, our Northwest membership is better connected and informed than ever.
ETHNIC DIVERSITY — Our vice president for regional affairs and multicultural ministries has greatly expanded our ministry to new emerging ethnic groups including Kenyans, Ugandans, Eastern Europeans, Russians and Ukrainians.
The Challenges Ahead
Here are several important areas of focus for which new NPUC leadership may wish to prayerfully develop ministry plans and strategies.
INACTIVE MEMBERS — Total church membership numbers can be misleading — it’s the attending and involved members who actively cooperate with the mission. Our implemented reports of attendance show an average of about 43 percent of members who regularly attend church services. We have established a focus group to study ways of reconnecting with inactive members of all ages, including young adults.
ADVENTIST EDUCATION — We must productively deal with overall enrollment concerns and restore Adventist education as a valuable, irreplaceable service to our members.
WOMEN IN MINISTRY — While the NPUC has determined to be in harmony with the world church decision on women’s ordination, we must still increase opportunities for women who are called to minister to find open doors for their gifts within our Northwest mission.
YOUNG ADULTS — We must foster efforts within our local conferences to embrace opportunities for collegiate graduates and other young adults to effectively use their talents in multigenerational church mission.