A New (Old) Resolve

I am not usually one for New Year’s Resolutions. To be honest, I have trouble sticking with anything when I am artificially manufacturing dedication to a new pursuit. As such resolutions of this type do not normally appeal to me. However, as I outlined in this space last month, I am struggling with aspects of my spiritual family as we come to the close of a new year and so I am willing to try something new in an effort to start 2018 off on the right foot. So, criticisms of hypocrisy aside, here are the New Year’s Resolutions I would like to see our church as a whole adopt for 2018 –

First, in 2018 I hope my church resolves to truly exist in the world while not being of it. It is the greatest misnomer of liberal of progressive Christians (or Adventists) that they seek to drag the church into the mire of moral relativism or apostasy. Instead there is a desire, at least from my vantage point, for the church to be meaningful to the real lives of not only its members but the communities in which they live. There is a mistaken idea that this can only come through political activity, but I do not believe that to be the case. I long to see churches that meet the needs of their communities, whatever those communities, whatever those needs may be. Are we helping the people closest to us live full lives, regardless of their background? Have we taken the time to research the places where are churches exist, discover what is needed amongst the members of those communities and address those concerns? I’m convinced that there are at least some churches who do this, but I rarely hear of any consistent efforts in this vein.[1]I would love it if this became a thrust of the entire church as opposed to the burden of local congregations - few and far between.

Second, in 2018 I hope my church resolves to not talk about people if they are not talking with them. Over my years of consciousness in Adventism I remain appalled at how often churches talk about people with whom they have little to no contact.[2]I’ve been in Black churches that talked about White Adventists when very few people knew any. I’ve seen White Adventists talk about the Black Adventist Church in town when they had never been to visit. I’ve seen Adventist pastors talk about members of the LGBT community not knowing they had members of that community sitting in the pews. We convene a panel of men to talk about the role of women in the church. There is something important that happens when you meet people and get to know people outside of your theological, moral, and cultural comfort zones. What we often discover is that the people that are the subjects of our prejudices and stereotyping are nothing like our uninformed mental pictures. From there it becomes more difficult to speak of their communities in a disparaging way because we now know someone who will be hurt by our ignorant mischaracterizations. I would love to see our church make a concerted effort in 2018 to cross our theological, cultural, and moral divides to truly get to know people who God loves as much as He loves us.

Third and finally, in 2018 I hope our church resolves to remember that our mission is outward not inward. The goal of our church, according to the Bible is to “make disciples.” Our churches exist historically for that reason. While it is important that we continue to grow as disciples, that is not to be the sole (or even the primary) purpose for our existence. Our primary purpose, in my opinion, is to advertise Jesus to those who do not know Him and find ways to introduce Jesus these people. As such it is important that we present Jesus in a way that encourages others to become disciples. In that vein unfortunately we are climbing uphill, but it is a necessary climb if we are to fulfill the purpose for which Christ established us.[3]

In short, in this coming year I hope my church becomes the picture of Christ. I pray that we become more like him. I yearn for a church that reaches people the way Christ did.“Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’[4]I wonder how much good we could do in our communities if we spent 2018 doing the same.

[1]It is totally a possibility that the problem is that we don’t toot our own horn enough, but I’ll address why we should as we go on here.

[2]I am a lifelong Adventist so when I speak of “consciousness in Adventism” I mean since the age when I could meaningfully assess and critique my faith community.

[3]I don’t think I need to get into all the ways that Christianity (especially conservative American evangelicalism) has tarnished the reputation of Christianity generally.

[4]Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing. (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1905), 143.

Jason Hines is a former attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at Adventist University of Health Sciences. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at www.TheHinesight.Blogspot.com.

Previous Spectrum columns by Jason Hines can be found at: http://spectrummagazine.org/authors/jason-hines.

Image Credit: Unsplash.com

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8471

Good stuff, Jason. I like your focus on “making disciples,” not just proclaiming the Gospel. It does amaze me that we don’t more often acknowledge, too, that the one Sermon-on-the-Mount beatitude that addresses mission (as opposed to traits of character) is “Blessed are the peacemakers.” The concept is extraordinarily rich when seen in the light of OT shalom (see especially Ezekiel 34: 25-31). It is about whole-person prosperity for all–and this is surely God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.

But our official theology misses this altogether, and remains obsessed, all too often, with escape from the world God has made.

Selective reading of scripture surely is…a curse. Would be interested in your perspective.

Chuck

3 Likes

Then why does it look that way? They want to introduce worldly music; they often dress like the world, decorate themselves like the world, and lately, to some extent, eat and drink like the world, not to mention their defense of activities which the Bible condemns. What other conclusion is one likely to draw in the face of such activity?

If what you say is true, then I’d like to see some of these liberals defend the pillars of our faith, rather than disparaging them, as is so often the case.

@historic

2 Likes

So glad you did indeed not fail to include it.

Jason,

A few band-aids related to racism, sexual orientation, and outreach will not address the major SDA institutional mess.

The teaching approaches of pastors & SS teachers have promoted & perpetuated fanaticism, discouragement and anti-social, exclusive Adventitis.

For the most part, Adventists (people of the book) don’t read the bible, don’t read the SS lesson…(if they even attend.) warm pews listening to inept preachers regurgitating/parroting SDA clichés, obscure religious lingo and unexplained bible verses.
Those who scream “He’s attacking the church” are immature institutionals who are more loyal to a Saturday religious club than Jesus /truth.

The biggest effort needs to be made at the leadership & middle management (pastors) level. They are inept.

A few years ago, I had a veteran SDA pastor admit to me that he had been preaching wrong for 25 years.

The denominational system needs to be in intensive care, treated by genuinely consecrated Christians…not fanatic conference members.

I am in one of the larger SS classes in the conference that I reside.
A poll was taken on how many of the 40+ in the class took a few minutes during the week to read the 35 verses of Romans 12 & 13… Answer----3

"If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mk 8:38

2 Likes