I remember when I was a teenager going through my fathers closet and all of a sudden I saw it, a striped navy blue and green neck tie. This tie which had been out of style for 25 years was all of a sudden back in style. Suddenly my Dad's closet became a treasure chest of wardrobe additions that I quickly began sporting to school. Suddenly everything that was old and boring was new and trendy.
As I have recently been observing the new trends in the Christian world, at least in the postmodern West, everything old in Christianity is all of a sudden new and trendy again. The emerging generations are, instead of rejecting Christianity as many predicted, rejecting their parents brand of Christianity. As part of this generation, although I can't pretend to speak for everyone, I like many have grown up witnessing the imbalance in Christian practice, the infighting over interpretation of certain doctrines, the church politics, and the racism within the church that calls itself remnant. I like many in my generation rejected it and we said to ourselves if this is Christianity than I want nothing of it. And so we all went through our rebellious late teen and early twenty years. But then something curious happened. We also began to get sick of what the world had to offer us. It too was a lie and its promises empty. Materialism and Hedonism were not giving us peace and so now what? So we began a search for God and many of us came back to the same church we rejected only to be disappointed to see that nothing had really changed since we had left. So what do we do now? I say that we reject the wrong and affirm the right. We should not throw out the baby with the bath water, but it is time for the emerging generation to take ownership of this church and stop blaming our parents, teachers, and pastors for what is wrong and start igniting the changes on our own. Do you really want to wait another ten to twenty years for them to retire?
When I said everything that is old is trendy again this is fantastic news for a church who has usually been the tail and not the head when it comes to methodologies in reaching the communities we live in. Well I have good news for you. Since everything old is new again, guess what, spiritual discipline, self denial, humility, serving the poor and needy, veganism, and dare I say charity, are all back in style. This generation has seen the lie that the “American Dream” is. How all it has done is made people work harder to by things that they can't afford, to impress people that don't know, and have created a debt which they cannot pay. This life has resulted in the consumer driven society in the history of the world. Well it is time to rebel against it. It is time to point out that “the emperor has no clothes.” That no one is really happy and no one is really content because our focus has been primarily inward. Like Jesus Said, "where your treasure is there will your heart be also," and "he who seeks to save his life will lose it."
It is time to admit that the way that we have been doing church has been misguided by the notion that quantity is more important than quality. Thus we have been emphasizing church growth through strategic planning and target marketing instead of emphasizing spiritual growth and friendship evangelism, spending thousands of dollars on advertising evangelistic meetings at the expense of spending almost nothing on spiritual retreats and discipleship resources, baptizing people before there is evidence of conversion, giving up church discipline and essentially lying about our churches membership by keeping inactives on the roll for years instead making church membership a privilege and holding those baptized to high standards. Who are we trying to fool by doing that anyway? Our true numbers in this country are probably 50 - 60% of what the books say. It is time to admit that the church is dying in North America and if we don't change what were doing we are going to die.
Well the answer to our dilemma is in our roots. The Adventist Lifestyle. Yes, the very thing that I dismissed as outdated and out of touch I now see as the answer. if you don't believe me I will try to present convincing evidence through this blog that it can only be through our lifestyle as Christians that we can make any kind of impact in the world today. We have moved past rationalism as a society - Adventism needs to move past it in our outreach as well as inreach. Rationalism does not make Christianity Truth to this generation, but living Christianity the way Jesus taught it will! We need now more than ever a church who embodies the life of Christ in its action, in its deeds, not just its words. As they Apostle James said, “show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 2:18; 1:27)
Travis Walker is a M.Div student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI. He blogs at Emergent Adventist.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/653