Scholars and health professionals joined to celebrate Seventh-day Adventist world church President Jan Paulsen's life of service and 35 years of denominational leadership January 23.
The recognition, which came during Saturday morning worship services at Loma Linda University (LLU) Church, included special presentations and a message from Paulsen.
Paulsen, world church president since 1999, was honored with a Festschrift, or a collection of articles and essays contributed by many authors to honor a colleague.
Entitled, "Exploring the Frontiers of Faith," the 463-page book was published by the German Adventist publisher Advent-Verlag and includes 28 essays by a range of contributors. Longtime colleagues and friends of Paulsen, Reinder Bruinsma and Borge Schantz, edited the volume. Contributors include Bert B. Beach, John Graz, Bryan W. Ball, Wim Altink and Niels-Erik Andreasen, as well as Bruinsma and Schantz.
A notable contributor to the volume is retired University of Tübingen missiology professor Peter P.J. Beyerhaus, a Lutheran, under whom Paulsen studied while earning his doctorate.
Presenting the Presidential Medal to Paulsen, LLU President Richard Hart said the world church leader "is a true academic. He led two of our academic institutions, the Adventist Seminary of West Africa, which is now Babcock University, and Newbold College. We truly consider him one of our academic colleagues."
"I appreciate this honor," Paulsen said after receiving the book and the LLU medal. During the presentation, Paulsen's wife, Kari, and son, Rein Andre, joined him on the platform.
Although a Festschrift, which is German for "celebration writing," is published either for a notable achievement, a birthday or retirement, Schantz noted that the book was prepared for the first two reasons and not the latter. The presentation came almost three weeks after Paulsen's 75th birthday.
"I have personally always greatly respected Jan Paulsen and have always regarded him as one of my role models," Bruinsma said. "He is the kind of leader who is honest and straight with you, while at the same time you feel safe. The book is a symbol of the deep appreciation of us, editors, authors, fellow-ministers and friends, for who Jan Paulsen is and what he has done."
For the morning message, "Lessons Learned Along the Way," Paulsen touched on six lessons learned as part of what he said was "a testimony of my experiences."
He said the "most valuable" lessons he learned "were when I failed. There is a certain honor in failure if you learn your lesson and move on." Leadership, he added, can be "very fulfilling and very frustrating; it can give you inner peace or inner conflict."
Noting that "no one has modeled leadership better than the Master Himself," Paulsen said it was "most fulfilling to serve, then you can look back and find purpose" in that servant-leadership.
Among the six lessons he said came from his decades of denominational leadership is that the leader "is not the owner of this business; God is," Paulsen said.
The sixth lesson, which Paulsen said he was still learning, was "to respect and value vision, humility and integrity." He added that vision is the "clear view where you are going, humility defines the climate in which you make the journey and integrity is the character which will describe your engagement." Paulsen concluded his message by noting John the Baptist's words about Jesus, as recorded in John 3:30: "He [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less." (NIV)
"I pray," Paulsen said, "that in my service, I [have] lifted Him up."
Paulsen's message was presented at two morning worship services of the Loma Linda University Church, which archived the sermon online at www.lluc.org.
Following the first service, church member Gary Thompson, who lives in Loma Linda, said the sermon was "great; the whole [service] was great. I really enjoyed it." Thompson said he was impressed with Paulsen's candor about the ups and downs of leadership.
Also participating in the day's activities was Dannielle Wuchenich, an attorney and a member of the University Church. She recalled first meeting Paulsen at Newbold College. Wuchenich compared the encounter now to "40 years ago and in a different setting," noting Paulsen was a generous teacher. "I remember how well he handled the questions from his students," Wuchenich said.
-- with additional reporting by Rajmund Dabrowski, Adventist News Network