Sometimes it is not how long we live on this earth that matters, but how we live and what we did during our sojourn on earth that makes the difference.
And there is no telling how much we have impacted the lives of others such that in death we are still greatly missed. But of all our good or bad deeds on this earth, it is the care, compassion, faithfulness, goodwill, understanding and concern we show toward our fellow human beings that count the most.
James A. Cress was such a person, and this is why with these words I have undertaken to remember and honor him. There is always time to express recognition and they tribute to a person whose ministry blessed many.
Particularly, I had the privilege to learn important lessons from his books, sermons, articles and personal conversation. He was a visionary man, an example of generosity and faithful friend.
Pastors, local church elders and their families around the world were blessed with the ministry of this spirit-filled man. The General Conference Ministerial Association lost a great spiritual leader, Elder’s Digest magazine lost its founder and I lost my best American friend.
I went back to some of his books and started reading them again and I selected some meaningful thoughts from my personal reading which I would like to share with you.
COMMON SENSE MINISTRY
“This book is dedicated to my spouse Sharon M. Cress in appreciation for her partnership in marriage, in acknowledgement of her service to pastoral families, and in affirmation of her call to ministry.”
1. “If you find yourself busier than Jesus, I encourage you to experimentally investigate your priorities.” p. 6.
2. “Encourage your members to reach beyond what they think they can do.” p. 8.
3. “Take time to listen to the message your family members give. They love you and want to see your ministry succeed.” p. 9.
4. “A visit need not be everlasting in order to have eternal benefit.” p. 51.
5. “Pastors will not always be perfect and may sometimes overlook a detail, but respect how much they do accomplish with the limited resources available.” p. 61.
6. “For spiritual growth, doing is more important than watching.” p. 80.
MORE COMMON SENSE MINISTRY
1. “Death is an enemy, but rest is a gift.” p. 26.
2. God calls you to preach Jesus and Jesus only. There is no need to preach anything else. If you think you have exhausted the supremacy of Jesus, begin again and retell the old, old story.” p. 45.
3. “All discrimination is sinful; the only escape is a deeper experience of the Saviour’s presence.” p. 55.
4. “Leaders whose counsel is derived from experience will be trusted by those who follow their leadership.” p. 59.
5. “Perhaps nothing builds trust more readily than leaders who listen carefully to the ideas and opinions of their followers.” p. 61.
6. “Every itinerant evangelist must remember that harvest is only conserved to the extent that the local church assimilates and disciples new converts.” p. 67.
7. “It is nothing else but spiritual child abuse to invite people to make a spiritual decision for Christ and then abandon them.” p. 67.
YOU CAN KEEP THEM IF YOU CARE.
1. “The Adventist church has generally failed to understand the difference between the event of accession into the membership roll of the church and the process of assimilation into the body of believers.” p. 11.
2. “We have placed much more emphasis on the word ‘Go’ than we have on the process of making disciples.” p. 17.
3. “You cannot teach an egg to fly before it is hatched.” p. 20.
4. “People must ‘be’ the church not just attend one.” p. 22.
5. “If the church is interested in what interests Jesus, it will be interested in numbers.” p. 63.
6. “A believer who is not ministering is, essentially, not a believer.” p. 73.
7. “Witnessing is not something we ‘do’ as much as something we ‘are’”. p. 74.
Jonas Arrais Elder’s Digest Magazine Editor