One Project gives local feel to focus on Jesus

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Newcastle, New South Wales

In its second local gathering, the One Project added a more Australian flavour to the Jesus-focus that has caught Adventist attention around the world. Meeting at Newcastle’s City Hall, 360 church members and leaders from across Australia and New Zealand spent two days—July 20 and 21—discussing Jesus and His call on their lives and their church. Conversation groups, worship, prayer and preaching, culminating in a simple communion service, invited participants to discover, celebrate, share and experience Jesus in renewed ways.

The One Project is the theory but our local church is where we do the practice.

“This has been one of the most locally visioned and led One Project gatherings,” says Dr Lisa Clark Diller, One Project board member, speaker and professor of history at Southern Adventist University in Tennessee (USA). “The location, Australian speakers, even the table decorations and food, reflected this community—and that had an impact on the conversations and relationships that happened here.”

The weekend marked the third anniversary of the first meeting of a small group of Adventist youth pastors and university chaplains, from which grew the One Project, with annual gatherings now established on four continents. So many other people have resonated with the impulse to re-focus on Jesus that, for example, the Newcastle gathering was booked out some three months in advance.

Yet, for the One Project leadership, their personal experience remains core to this ministry. “In these three years, I have changed a lot in my life,” reflects Pastor Japhet de Oliveira, co-chair of the One Project and chaplain at Andrews University in Michigan (USA), of which the One Project is an official ministry. “I am recording my life, wanting to see a healthy progression in my life and faith. And I have seen it happen in the personal and work lives of each of our team members. It is from this that we speak. I want to make sure that we are bringing people to Jesus and allowing that to change them and build the church.”

This Jesus-focussed enthusiasm has drawn others into the wider One Project team, including Newcastle’s Joanna Darby who was one of the local preachers and with her husband, Leighton, did much of the local organising of the event. “When we experienced our first One Project, we were so inspired by it we wanted to share it with the people in our conference,” she reflects. “We are excited about the cross-generational interactions—church leaders and young people sitting together to talk about Jesus and what it means for our church. It was also important to have some local presenters and to be included among such fabulous preachers was a great honour.”

Director of youth ministries for the North New South Wales Conferences, Pastor Jeff Parker agrees that it was a privilege for his conference to host the One Project this year. “People who attended found it amazing and inspiring, and have said it’s challenged them to think about so many things,” he says.

Pastor Brendan Pratt, a departmental director for the Greater Sydney Conference, and Pastor Eddie Hypolite, senior pastor of the Avondale College Church and a co-founder of the One Project, were the other Australian-based preachers. “There was something almost prophetic about who Jesus is to our church and who Jesus really should be,” Pastor Hypolite says of the preaching at the Newcastle gathering. “Three years on from the very first meeting, our voices had a clear ring—it felt like Jesus came back for the anniversary.”

He says that his work in a local church has given him the opportunity to develop what the One Project’s theme—“Jesus. All.”—looks like. “The One Project is the theory but our local church is where we do the practice,” he explains.

Pastor de Oliveira says the Newcastle event will influence other One Project gatherings around the world. “The Newcastle team has been incredible,” he says. “Every element of the program was taken to a higher level.

“We don’t have a monopoly on this conversation about Jesus—but we do believe this is an important conversation. We believe we are called to fall in love with Jesus and to be changed by that. But we have a lot still to learn and I am looking forward to it.”

Two One Project events are planned for Australia next year—in Sydney (July 19–20) and Perth (July 26–27). More information is available at <www.the1project.org>.