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Three Questions for Dwight Nelson

By Chris Estay
You have been in the same church for over 30 years, what have done to stay out of a ministry rut and how have you been able to stay relevant all these years?
If Isaiah 58:11 is going to become true for us, “You will be a well-watered garden whose springs will never fail,” then we’ve got to read, we’ve got to read, we’ve got to read!I try to practice what I preach and read 7-8 books at a time. If you are an e-book generation read 12 e-books a year but for every e-book also add a p-book (paperback book). We have to reactivate the circuits in our mind. If we are totally dominated with the pattern of reading we all do today, skim-skim-hyperlink surfing, then we have untaught our brain the capacity to go deep. Deep reading, deep studying, and deep praying come out of this fountain of fresh information going onto the hard disk. Reading actually has the greatest capacity to impact our minds, our thinking processes, our very spirits and souls. There is only one way to stay fresh Sabbath after Sabbath, besides prayer – Reading is the only way to refresh the soul and the mind.
If you can speak to all of the young Adventist pastors in the world in their first decade of ministry, what is the one critical thing you wished all they would do that would grow the rest of their career?
Without a question that is to develop a deepening prayer life. E. M. Bounds book Power Through Prayer is absolutely a truism in the universe “No prayer in the closet, no power in the pulpit. Much prayer in the closet, much power in the pulpit.”Look at Jesus getting up a great while before day.Drawing near to God and finding in Him our forever friend, going deep with him like Paul did, like Moses did, every great man and woman in the Book was a person of prayer.
If I can make one appeal to young pastors, it is that they begin the discipline of prayer in solitude and silence alone with God. Desire of Ages, page 83 sets the benchmark, “It would be well for us to take a thoughtful hour every day in the contemplation of the life of Christ.” That is the minimum, one hour with Him a day. This idea that I got five or ten minutes but it is quality time is rubbish. God’s not into quality time – He is into quantity time. When we were little kids we didn’t care if daddy spent three minutes of quality time with us we wanted quantity time with him rolling around on the ground. God is the same way He wants quantity time with you.
Rumor has it that you still have a few years left in your ministry. What do you plan to do during your last decade of ministry to keep growing as a pastor?
I have toyed with getting another degree. Specialize of going even deeper than I currently am. Nothing will expand your horizon like a new bibliography of required reading that you would otherwise not read. I am definitely going to do the CEUs of Adventist learning – Come on its free! Ten to twenty hours a year, we can all do that.
Sometimes changing and radically shifting the context of ministry will bring growth. Our people have been very gracious of letting me preach for 32 years in the same pulpit, but God may say “Ok I have one more new environment for you that will look completely different than this.” If He says that, I am completely open to that. Wherever God wants me, I want to go deeper in my relationship with Him. I want to max out and go all out for God in my last decade.
Look at Moses the older he got, the closer he was with God. The older Paul got, the closer he got. John the apostle was just young John boy, 18 years old, but as he aged he became John the elder and kept drawing closer and closer to Jesus. If Enoch walked with God for three hundred and some years, you and I can go deeper with God the older we get. That is what I hunger for. I want that for you and for every pastor.
Chris Estay is the pastor for the Sonoma and Novoto churches in California. Dwight Nelson is the senior pastor for the Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan