I love my church!
I cannot stress that enough. I am a “home-bred” Seventh-day Adventist, and I would never have it any other way. Because of the immense love I have for this movement, it occasionally bothers me where we are right now. In the last 10 years, I have visited Seventh-day Adventist churches in at least four different states, and only a few of them were “thriving,” if you can call it that. Yet, every once in a while I hear someone cite statistics proving how “great” our church is doing.
But it’s all denial.
Truth is, we are struggling! We hide behind inflated numbers instead of acknowledging our struggles, and we allow things to get worse. But it is time for a change. Here are three things that I believe the church needs to do to turn things around.
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1. Return to the Mission at Any Cost
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'” (Mt 28:18–19).
This Bible verse is what our church is all about! Or, at least, it should be. If there are a dozen “ministries” in the church and yet none are producing new disciples, then those “ministries” are useless! We have gotten distracted by our comfort and egocentricity, and have forgotten what our true mission in this world is. Going back to this mission will require painfully radical change. We have to turn our churches back to the world! We have become way too self-centered! Jesus’ orders were to go out—not to come in! Our mission was never to bring people into our buildings and get them to be vegetarians. Our mission is to go out of our buildings and make disciples that will follow us back. It’s sad that people have to come into our temples on Sabbath to find out what we are all about, because they cannot see it in any other way. What is it going to take?
2. Get Rid of Our “We-Have-the-Truth” Attitude
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (Jn 14:6).
Jesus’ statement of self-disclosure was full of power. He identifies Himself as “the way,” “the truth,” and “the life.” The theological implications of this statement are incredible. However, I want to focus on the second characteristic: truth.
God is truth. The most arrogant thing humans can say is, “We have the truth!” No we don’t! Don’t get me wrong—I am fully devoted to our theological foundation as Seventh-day Adventists. But we cannot boast about having the truth because no one can ever fully know God, who called Himself the truth! The moment the human mind fully understands God, He will cease to be God. Therefore, it will never happen! We, as the remnant, have a prophetic role in the last seconds this world has left. We know some truth, but we will never have all of it. Yet some of us think we do. This mentality of “theological arrival” is what is keeping the church from moving forward in many cases. It has filled our hearts with an unholy pride and a sense of exclusivity that has made us lazy and undisciplined students of the Word. We need to once again become like the young men and women who started this church. They were willing to keep a teachable heart as they studied the Word of God and were eager to do whatever it took to follow His will.
3. Embrace Change
“Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood” (Ac 15:19–20).
The very first executive meeting the Christian Church ever had was all about change. There were a group of Jewish Christians who believed that it was necessary for new Gentile converts to keep all the ceremonial provisions, including laws about sacrifices, festivals, and circumcision. However, under the leadership of Peter the new movement understood the need for change. They recognized the necessity to move away from culture and tradition in order to bring the Gospel to the world.
I once heard someone say, “We change when the pain related with the status quo becomes greater than the pain related with change.” I have found this to be true in many areas of life, but especially within the church. There used to be a time when Seventh-day Adventists were the “cutting-edge” of technology in regards to proclaiming the Gospel to the world. Then technology evolved. But we did not. Change is necessary for any organization to survive. We spend too much time and energy coming up with “biblical” arguments to excuse our unwillingness to change, to leave the known for the unknown. Imagine how different things would be if we embraced change and used it as a launching board to bring the Gospel to this generation. We have to stop complaining about post-modernism, technology, and music styles and embrace them as tools to glorify God as we bring the Gospel to the world.
Family, it is imperative that we rethink our ways. The times in which we are living call for radical measures and it all begins with you and me. My prayer is that first, we are able to really grasp the importance of our commission to bring the Gospel to the world. Second, that we keep a humble and teachable heart so that God can continue to reveal Himself to this church. Lastly, that we remain committed to Him to the point of changing and letting go of all the traditional baggage that slows us down in the final stretch of our run.
I love my church!
This article was originally published at 2worlds1god.blogspot.com. It has been reposted with permission.[/box_holder]
Author: Manuel Gomez is a theology student at Southern Adventist University and a proud red-headed Cuban who enjoys Starbucks. His passion is to help others experience a real encounter with a real Jesus who loves and walks intimately with each of us. He also runs his own blog at 2worlds1god.blogspot.com