There are so many reasons why we lose members. If you review your church membership lists you can come up with quite a few different reasons. Some are baptized as young members that grow up and move away and lose contact with the church. Others marry non-members with different values and slowly compromise and get wrapped up in their new life and quit coming. Some marry within the church but have conflicts in the marriage or divorce and one or both leave the church. Many are brought into membership without really being grounded in the truth and wander away. Some have pressure from other family members who don’t attend church or a different denomination that convinces them to leave. Some join for a social connection and when those connections change they stop coming. Some are caught up in an evangelistic meeting and get baptized and then realize they weren’t ready to make the commitment. Others are mistreated in some way or see other members mistreated and that turns them away. Some jump into church offices and get exposed to stuff they aren’t prepared to handle and get disillusioned or discouraged. Some join and find the church to liberal or too strict and fall away. Worldliness is a huge cause, people just get busy and don’t make the relationship with Jesus a priority. Some leave over doctrinal issues and policy disagreements. Some are disfellowshipped because they need disciplinary action when all other attempts fail to restore them. I’ve seen some ask to remove their names because they are aware that their lifestyle or interest is no longer in the church. I’ve seen some be very selfish and self-centered, even bullies, that leave when they don’t get the office they desire or their way on some vote. I’ve seen splinter groups break away for their own agendas. The list goes on and on… The remedy lies with each person individually to make good choices to keep their relationship with Jesus strong. The church can do things to help but it ultimately is a personal choice.
I left the SDA church in the 1980…based on the experience of my first 40 years as an Adventist. I left because the church had an unhealthy authority in my life, because of my coming to terms with my homosexuality, and because of the pain I experienced when I left the church and no one noticed. Because of these painful issues and my need to emerge as an individual from the cloistering, narrow thinking of the church, I couldn’t attend any church for 15 yrs. The PTSD of those days is still with me to a degree. These days I’m in control of my life, I’ve fully embraced my spiritual self as child of God, and I’m very active in my local UCC church. I do, on occasion, attend SDA services in my home town with family and appreciate the oppty. to worship with them, but the tension for me is very always present and heartfelt. My concerns: 1. the church gave my parents and family members no tools for accepting me as a gay son. 2. Ordination of women - really, you have to belabor this issue? 3. Science and teachings informing on the history of this world and a revision of a theology of a literal creation. 4. The literal and infallible fundamental interpretation of scripture. 5. the infallability of the GC…every heard of Folkenburg? 6. Understanding the biology, societal/cultural understanding, and genetics of gay and transgender individuals who are shunned. That’s right, just as Jesus separated people into acceptables and unacceptables…oh, that’s right, He didn’t do that. Nor did he ask any Christian church to anchor their beliefs on such a belief.
It is painful to follow the machinations of the church, but at the same time, I do appreciate there are those how speak up and enter the struggle, attempt to dialogue with leadership. However, I’m afraid a schism is fomenting and the leadership of the church has their collective leadership heads, deep in the sands of time.
I understand your history. It is not Atypical. I used to enjoy being a member of
SDAKinship and attending weekends at Rehoboth Beach in the spring, Nags
Head, N.C late summer, early Thanksgiving in Vermont with them. [I had a gay non-SDA friend I would pay his way and bring]. Once I took the Greyhound
bus from Macon to LA for a weekend convention.
The MCC is a good group. However there are other groups available to explore
who are INVITING.
Here are some books I have enjoyed exploring. “Plato or Paul?-the origins of
Western homophobia”, Theodore W. Jennings, jr. “My son, beloved stranger”,
Carrol Grady [an SDA pastor’s wife who’s G son committed suicide], “Love is an
Orientation”, Andrew Marin, “Radical Love - an introduction to queer theology”,
Patrick S. Chen, Seventh-Gay Adventists DVD, “Christianity and Homosexuality –
some SDA perspectives”, edited by David Ferguson, Fritz Guy, David Larson,
“Pastrix – the cranky, beautiful faith of a sinner and saint”, Nadia Bolz-Weber.
[she is pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints an ECLA mission church in
Denver, Colorado]. Google her picture!!
As you mentioned there are very little to none resources for SDA parents who
discover their adult size son or daughter is GL, or maybe Trans. And there are
no SDA resources for adult size children to explore their feelings in a healthy
atmosphere. So children and parents can come to terms with the new reality of
who their children REALLY area and be able to accept them for who they REALLY
are, and not what their fantasies want them to be, and to become angry because
their fantasies did not become a reality.
Hopefully, you can come to terms with the PTSD issues so they become more
“bad memories” and less emotional ties to the disappointments they caused.
Having been through those bad experiences in religion community, you can
assist other GL’s come to terms with God and enjoy a relationship with Him/Her
that they were deprived of growing up and coming out [at least to themselves].
And help them find a spiritual family.
Bless you. I know it must have been difficult sharing with us.
The church is not called to destroy itself. Even secular companies adhere to a certain mission or goal that excludes those that have chosen a different path.
I might add that while reading thought the comments here, I noted quite a bit of what, unhappiness, dissatisfaction or even bitterness? Sometimes it is not the church that is at fault. Not to excuse issues, but the experience of having been in administration for a while showed me that you will not make everyone happy no matter what.
I can’t speak for overseas except in Africa, where there seemed to be a lot of Adventists. But there may be manipulation of the books there. It should be addressed. And, one report does not a whole dismissal make.
i think this is true. Everyone has a different experience, and the church can drive others away, and they can drift away on their own, or may follow the ways of the world and leave. There are myriad reasons.
It’s sheep beating, I’ve noticed over the years that it’s a favorite pastime of higherups, Kim.
I experienced them, too, Tom. It was simply sick spirituality. She got up and actually taught that anger is a sin. Not resentment. Not holding on to it. Not acting on it aggressively or passive aggressively. Just the emotion. It was sin. I knew right then that I was listening to a psychologically unbalanced person who was advertising her own issues far more loudly than she could ever know.
Add to this her view that with every sin ones name was blotted out of the book of life, and only put back in upon confession of that sin, and it was clear that this was pathology masquerading as Christianity. She certainly was not sharing the gospel.
Imagine the holes from erasing so many names and rewriting them so many times! Would be a hilarious thought if it wasn’t so nauseating.
“Sheep Beating”…lol Yes, and sometimes it is done with a “cattle prod” for good measure.
What was the reaction of the church members after their presentation?
There was a lot of confusion at the time, Carol…because people were under the influence of LGT as it was. Two close friends thought that she was like an EGW figure. That was a positive for them, but just weird looking back on that reaction. Others, like myself, knew that something was wrong. The pastor and his wife were the ones who brought the Davises at that time. They were subscribers to LGT, and wielded real influence with some.
I once told this pastor that I would never a preach a sermon on the “evils of jewelry.” I also voiced my thought about making majors out of minor issues, to which he replied…“There are no minor issues.”
That spoke volumes.
I don’t know about now, because I don’t have access to 3ABN, or hear
some of the other SDA preachers, or not where the itinerate preachers
make their visits.
But I do recall as a teen hearing some “interesting” presentations that
didn’t make sense. So those types of persons have been around for
a long time, and as Paul says, Itching ears make them welcome. And
for some reason a lot of people like to be “scared” by these persons.
Many who do not seem to be well informed on what they say.
But invited anyway. And have a “captive” audience.
They can do a lot of damage to the Uninformed and especially the
children and youth in the audience that parents bring.
I was scanning a current issue of the Review–which I do read, cover to cover. It occurred to me that we usually talk about the “mission of the church” not the “mission of God” or the “mission of/for Christ.” I think that speaks volumes. “Work” needs to be an outgrowth of our experience of what God has done for us, not a mission for the church or for salvation.
Another reason some leave the church is that they have suffered grievously at the hands of those who are outwardly staunch upholders of church “standards” but in private are judgmental and abusive. That some of us have chosen to remain in the church is God’s doing, not anyone else’s.
I couldn’t agree more about the damage done to children who are exposed to this type of talk. Unfortunately, their parents often have no idea what they are bringing their children to hear. Also unfortunately, others do know and still bring them. The children are at the mercy of the adults.
The main reason that most of the 14 million members leave SDAism is that the ‘house is built on sand’, the only firm foundation is Christ Himself. When people study the bible (actually study it) they learn the truth that sets them free. And often, that ‘truth’ draws them away from SDAism. So be it. As this article emphasizes, the Leadership refuses to confront the Main Reason why folks are leaving – That many SDA doctrines are unsupported by scripture. (And then there are those acrid whiffs of hypocrisy we continue to note).
I haven’t read all the comments yet, so I might be commenting out of sync with the ongoing discussion above this. I left the church in the 80s when Australia’s Ayatola was purging the church here. I would have been cannon fodder eventually anyway, so I thought it best to make a pre-emptive move and withdraw my membership, even though we attended church for a few more years before we moved because of work and never bothered attending again…correction, we tried twice later and was about as interesting as a funeral service. Having said that, we visited a capital city SDA church last December and found the spirituality there about the equivalent of Woolworths supermarket here in our home town. It was good to catch up a friend from 40 years ago though; the unexpected highlight of our visit to the church.
I am so disappointed with the direction the church is heading, as are so many faithful members in this forum. Having lived as a non-descript Christian in the community since my withdrawal, and content with my choice both at the time and still now, I can honestly say that my walk with God is none the poorer for not having church attendance in my lifestyle. We have the notion in our head that Christianity is churchgoing. Well, in Australia there are more Christians voting with their feet out of the little religious fishbowls where there are too many oversized self-proclaimed big fish, than there are in the churches. The challenge to churches is to minister to the community spiritually without pressing for attendance or membership–to minister to people where they are in order to give them spiritual tools to enrich their lives WHERE THEY ARE, without any efforts to pew them. That is what many would enjoy and welcome. Something as simple as a printout or email of the sermon for the week delivered to those in the community would go a long way towards an effective ministry. Perhaps a sharing of the Sabbath school pamphlet and perhaps a monthly visit to follow up–not to get them to church, but just to connect with them. It is indeed so true that often people just want to connect with others who say, in effect, “You matter” without an ulterior motive to get them to church and then leave them. It’s a ministry of adoption. You adopt them and and committed to stick by them through thick and thin while they still have breath.
Anders Nygren said something that is a favourite statement for me: "
“fellowship with God has not man’s holiness as its goal, but is an end in itself…. Love is always an end in itself, and the moment it is degraded into a means to some other end it ceases to be love. Fellowship with God has its meaning in itself; and just as it is a perversion of fellowship with God when a man seeks it in order to gain something else (even his own ethical perfection) by it, so it is a perversion also when behind God’s will to fellowship we look for something else that might furnish a motivation for it. On God’s side, too, the fellowship is an
end in itself” (1953, pp.109, 111f)"
Fellowship with God is an end in itself, regardless of where we are in life; there is nothing more–no perfection, no last generation perfection to be gained from it. True fellowship with God cannot but change us as we are exposed to his humbling love to us which we become more sensitive to as we live, but this is not what we seek; fellowship with him IS the end of all. We do this by fellowshipping with people, not for an ulterior motive of getting them to church, but to just enjoy their company where they are, as they are. That is what it is all about. Enjoying the mystery of their life with them.
Another idea I shared with a retired SDA friend of mine recently that i think is worthy of attention is the notion of pastors helping people as they exit the church to foster their spiritual growth while not being members or attendees anymore. Perhaps a task for someone with the right personality in the church to followup. Again, all that is needed is an occasional visit with material and even perhaps a BBQ extended at home without the agenda of getting them back to church.
These are people who are the easiest to minister to and assist as they find their way through the challenges that face them ahead, if the church leaders and members could only get out of their own way, and stop tripping over their own prejudices and see all people as valuable as God sees them. God is leaving with them as they leave the church; he has not forsaken them; why should the church membership? The notion that only spiritually sick people leave the Adventist church is nonsense.
Well, I’ve ranted too long, and I could say much more, but…great article and like all good things raised, nothing will be done, because the Curia are not listening!
Yes, “the shaking” is the mind-set whenever it appears a person is “leaving”. And
don’t consider they still desire to be “friends” with God, but in a different setting.
Seventh Day jihAdventists are some tough folk
But, the carnage had no humour. The sorrow of preventable marital and family breakups; the atmosphere of the brown shirts ratting to the SS on any possible candidates for the firing line was only comparable to some of the similar atrocities carried out elsewhere in the world under a different guise of pretense.
One more thing I would like to add without denigrating the testimony of Brian Litzenberger and the hard road it took for him and God to find his way out of the hole he had dug for himself, is that the choice of testimony selected for this General Conference Summit confirms some underlying assumptions not immediately apparent:
- Only spiritually sick people leave the Adventist Church;
- the only solution for those people is to return to the Adventist Church.
To have chosen a testimony from someone like me who lives a rich spiritual life outside the Adventist Church and, indeed, outside any church, is not a message the Summit would want to present, nor, indeed, would the listeners be prepared to tolerate.
God bless you Brian, and I expect you can identify with Jacob when he said, “My days have been few and tough” (Gen. 47: 9). Somewhere it says that the way of sin is hard. How true! What a God we have!
We can do no more than trust in his confidence in us, and not our own confidence in ourselves.
Well said Steve.
I agree. I have attended far too many services where the speaker emphatically stated that people do not leave the SdA church because of doctrine, but because of personal conflicts with family and fellow members; that ex-SdAs all believe that the SdA church has “The Truth ™” but they are either hurting or in rebellion; that there is no satisfactory life for an ex-SdA outside the church because they know “The Truth” which cannot be denied.
All nonsense and all a violation of the injunction against bearing false witness.
But churches are all about self-preservation and the SdA church is no different. The Catholic Church taught “hors de l’église, point de salut” (no salvation outside of the Church). SdAs took up the teaching with vigour and gusto.