The Future of Adventism


(Spectrumbot) #1

In school, I remember my teacher telling us that we would never carry around a calculator in our pockets, therefore we must know how to do complex math in our heads. Fast forward to 2018, and I don’t know a single person who doesn’t carry around a calculator in their pocket. In a few short years, we have gone from floppy disks to MicroSD cards that can carry mind-boggling amounts of information. We are becoming more advanced in every area, and therefore more connected. As we become more connected, we are able to be exposed to new ideas, thoughts, and information we would have previously never received. For instance, I can simply ask my phone how many stars exist in our galaxy, and almost immediately I’m informed that there over 250 billion, give or take a billion. Whereas even 40 years ago, that information would have been reserved for scientists or people who subscribed to scientific journals. In such a short span, we have developed incredible devices that allow us to instantly message and video chat one another, as well as automate our homes with smart light bulbs.

When I was younger, I remember being handed out tracts from conservative Christian publishing houses that explained that if you watched Twilight or Harry Potter, you were essentially going to hell and must repent immediately by throwing away all modern entertainment and return to the Hymnal and Amazing Facts DVDs. Now, I see pastors of churches that make incredible strides in advancing the Gospel using culture as a way to better relate the message to new members. Successful churches, such as Hillsong, have brought so many people to its churches that it has become its own denomination. Meanwhile, an average of 6,000 to 10,000 churches die each year.

Churches like The Porch in Dallas, Texas have become so big they have campuses all over the state, and one in Tulsa, Oklahoma in which they simply stream the message being preached in Dallas on Sunday morning. This church has a series called “Asking for a Friend,” dedicated to discussing tough topics including abortion and gay Christians. They also have a series called “Lyrics & Lies,” in which they discuss the idea that women are not sex objects. How astounding it is that a church in Dallas has people from Tulsa attending its services, while they live in a state that ranks 12th in the nation as the most religious.

The short answer is they don’t see Jesus in their local churches anymore.

Churches like Mosaic, The Village Church, and Elevation Church have gotten to the point that so many people want to be a part of their services, they have had to install campuses across city and even state lines. If we, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, are the true Remnant and are the proclaimers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, why do so many church board meetings consist of brainstorming methods of attracting young people so our church doesn’t die?

We, as a church, have stagnated. More and more people are leaving the traditional four walls of a church building for sermons streamed on YouTube. At the time of this writing, the Adventist News Network YouTube channel has 6,300 subscribers. Mosaic, the church in the heart of Hollywood, has over 26,000. Mind you, ANN is backed by the General Conference, and Mosaic is one church with several campuses across California. Friends of mine who have grown up, are baptized, and continue to practice Seventh-day Adventism constantly flock to these online churches because every single message they have to share ties back into Jesus Christ and what He did for all of us. These churches are focused on the beauty and poeticism of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and every single week they act as if it’s an entirely new congregation who have never even heard His name before.

While we as a Church have focused on professing the message of Daniel and Revelation, churches like Mosaic have life-changing sermons like “Why Jesus?” with views of almost 20,000. Imagine one church filled with 20,000 people! That’s hundreds of times larger than the average hometown church. The sermon “Why Jesus?” is filled with sentences like, “When Jesus says ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life,’ what He means is, ‘I am what your soul is missing.” Meanwhile, Adventist News Network’s most popular video is Unity #GCAC18, in which the church uses divisive language to coerce those who disagree with the General Conference decision to not ordain women to the gospel ministry. The most striking line in the whole message is, “Let’s trust the General Conference.” Over 70,000 people have viewed this video. My question now is, which one speaks truer to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? While we debate and argue over whether or not women are seen as equal to men, churches that aren’t even in the same state as us are being filled with members who just want to hear about what Christ did for them. They aren’t hearing it from us.

I believe that collectively, we as a church have lost our core message. While the End Time message is important, what’s more important is the life of Christ. Paul did not say to believe in the Adventist interpretation of the Second Coming to be saved, he said to “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31, ESV). Why don’t we have seminars on the book of John as much, if not more so, than the books of Daniel and Revelation? The book of John was written “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

When I was in college, I spiritually left the church. I would never have announced that publicly because of the ostracism I would have received from well-meaning church members. I left due to the sense of legalism and lack of study of the life of Jesus. I dropped out of college and felt as though I would not return to higher education or the faith, in my heart at least.

I came back to the faith for one reason, and one reason only: Jesus. I did not come back because our church holds the one true interpretation of the end times. In all reality, I couldn’t have cared less about that. What brought me back was the beauty of the life of Christ. The sacrifice He made on the cross for every single person, and the fact that He would have done it for just one person is what drew me back in. The love of God drew me back to the spiritual land flowing with milk and honey, and along my way back, I did not care about what qualifies the Vatican as the little horn, or the fact that one day in prophecy equals a year. What I cared about was being free in Jesus, I cared that “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). I cared that “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). I am drawn in by the beauty of the life of Jesus, and everything that He gave up to bring me home.

The true message of Jesus has persisted through the ages and will persist long after everyone reading this is six feet under. People have given up their lives for this message, dedicated their lives to spreading it to every corner of the globe, and still do to this day. Why? Jesus. Why do churches like Hillsong and Elevation have such a following? Jesus.

A few years ago at Southwestern Adventist University, a student-run ministry called Elevate was started. It began as a handful of university students singing songs, and playing bits of a sermon, and discussing it afterwards. There was coffee and sometimes mini-muffins. It was scheduled during church service, so not many people were actually predicted to go. The Keene Seventh-day Adventist Church that the university collaborated with allowed them one small room that could fit maybe 20 or 30 people. A few months into it, Elevate was packed out the door. People were standing in the walkway, shoulder to shoulder with the guy in the media chair (not booth, chair). Almost no university students were attending the actual church service. The lead pastor came and asked all of us why we were stuffing ourselves into a cramped space only a little bit bigger than a broom closet, and the answer was simple: we felt Jesus in that room every single Sabbath.

Eventually, the church absorbed Elevate. It’s still supported by the church and university. Its time slot was moved from during church service to just before so the students would still attend traditional service. It was also moved to the Fellowship Hall, which can hold over 100 people.

Millennials (who are all adults in their 20s and 30s now) and Gen Z want to go to church, they want to participate in church service and go to Bible study groups. But they want to learn about Jesus when they go there. Christ brings all people to Himself. “Let all children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16).

The future of Adventism is found in one thing and one thing only: the captivating name of Jesus Christ. In an age where people can access a message from almost any church anywhere in the world instantly, why would anyone go to a church where there was no spiritual food?

If the Seventh-day Adventist Church wants to know why young people are leaving the church in droves, it must ask itself, is it truly preaching only about Christ? Or is it making sure that the 28 Fundamental Beliefs are studied and memorized, and that we are all found in compliance with the General Conference?

Hayden Scott is pursuing his Masters in Mental Health Counseling. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with his wife, two dogs, cat, and soon to be baby girl.

Photo by Andras Vas on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9269

(George Tichy) #2

I disagree. In my opinion, in 2010, when TW was inaugurated, the Church engaged in full speed trip! Full speed BACKWARDS, of course.

I wish we had at least stayed stagnated. :roll_eyes: But no, our Church train started to run backwards in time. And at the AC/2018 it finally arrived at its planned destination: Battle Creek again, with all those bearded men making determinations about women’s destiny in Church and grabbing more power at the GC level.

The Future of Adventism? I have no clue. I only know that the “Present of Adventism” is ugly and deteriorating by the day at the GC level. The only way to save Adventism from a catastrophe is either to completely dissolve the GC, or to “repeal & replace” the current crew managing it, the very people who are wrecking the boat for good.


(Jim Shipp) #3

In about 1972, the Campus Hill Church in Loma Linda started a summer ministry for youth in a vacant house. It was dubbed “The House of the Risen Sun”. It became very popular. Long-haired college students led in Bible studies. We sat on the floor, sang praise songs and read from the Good News New Testaments they gave out.

While the kids loved it and meeting attendance grew, there was a lot of resistance in the community. My parents were suspicious of the “Jesus Freaks” who were running it.

The same thing is happening today. Any change is considered dangerous. The young people see their own church as outmoded and old-fashioned. The world is changing rapidly and the SDA church is in danger of being the new Amish, a quaint but unattractive closed system.


(ROBIN VANDERMOLEN) #4

In my itinerant retirement, I find depleted, diminished congregations, very geriatric, hardly filling a few pews in what once were very expensive substantial church plants that were built to house large affluent congregations. Something is obviously amiss!

Male millennials honor and esteem their grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts and female cousins.

The overt misogyny and discrimination in Adventism is abhorrent to them.

—-Seven of nine Union Conferences in the NAD, are delinquent, derelict, disregardful and disgraceful when they shabbily devalue/ downgrade their clergywomen to second class status.


(Steve Mga) #5

Jim –
10 years later, 1982,1983 began the decimation of the Southern University Theology
Department.
The ONLY CRIME — Teaching the Bible, and the Bible ONLY!


(Jim Shipp) #6

I was a minister during the purging that went on post-Ford and Rea. There were agitators on every campus, recording lectures and mounting campaigns against professors and administrators. Some of those “save the church” activists are busy now in trying to keep women repressed.

It makes them more dangerous when they have the blessing of people at the top.


(George Tichy) #7

They are really an embarrassment to the name of the Church.


#8

One needs to determine if bigger is better. I doubt that it is. bigger is easier and bigger is more entertaining and bigger is way easier to hide out in and not really do anything. Not that big or mega churches don’t do anything many have wonderful outreach activities. But that does not mean that the outreach is done much by the average members

One other thing ANN is not really a ministry outreach so it does not have sermons. If you are going to compare then you have to compare numbers of outreach related SDA ministries.


(Steve Mga) #9

Ron –
Bigger may or may NOT be better.
But we NEED to Evaluate – WHAT IS IT??? that all these people are hearing
that they are looking for? That is meeting a heart-felt NEED they Sense???

Jesus said “I” am the way, the truth, the life.
That means Jesus said, I will meet ALL YOUR SOUL NEEDS.
Perhaps that is what is being spoken to.
What is MISSING in SDA EVANGELISM.
What is MISSING in SDA WEEKLY CHURCH so “Church” ends up a Geriatric pew crowd.


(Phil van der Klift) #10

Compliance monitoring is nothing new. The only difference now is it is out in the open rather than covered up and denied.


(Sirje) #11

Yes, and the irony is that when you respond to the Jesus Christ Paul preached you are automatically ready for the second coming and happy for it - instead of trying to beat the clock struggling with 28 separate issues.


#12

The agitators had no business hiding in classrooms, recording lectures and discussions.

The agitation led to the firing of upstanding professors of integrity. And the university president for standing behind his faculty. And resisting compliance with the agitators.

It wasn’t a secret. Church alternative presses covered the situation. I read about it living several states away and followed the saga.

Similar to Merikay Silver’s story.

We have a history. Looks as if history is repeating itself. Tragic.


(George Tichy) #13

Are you referring to Frank Knitell at Southern?


(William Noel) #14

The war on scripture was in full swing when I was there in the latter 70s and the church was ruthlessly destroying Des Ford and anyone who was suspected of believing anything he taught. If you were a theology major like I was, your career prospects were endangered if you didn’t spend a greater amount of time studying (and debating) the writings of Ellen White than the Bible.


(Ray Smith) #15

The SS lesson this week on Revelation 14:6,7 proves Hayden’s point. When creation and the Sabbath take precedence over Jesus and all that God has accomplished and continues to accomplish in our lives there are serious questions to be asked.


(Eugene Borg) #16

an-Ovation1203


(Leandro) #17

The problem in the first place, is or was when we called ourselves Remnant. We assumed too much. It was as if the remnant church has died and resurrect itself in the 1800’s. We did not even care that by claiming as remnants, we condemn also those who are were non-adventist. A remnant will always be a remnant it will not die and resurrect later. The bible is clear that there is a remnant in the election of grace. Let us be modest. We have the nerve to call ourselves remnants when only the Shepherd knows his flock.


(Leandro) #18

Because we take pride in the uniqueness of our doctrine. So unique that only us has the _doctrine of investigative judgment._If investigative judgment was the reason why Jesus entered the heavenly sanctuary, how did it became parallel with the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary? And also, can the blood of Christ make the holly of hollies unclean? And how sure were our pioneers that there will only be one and only one decree to rebuild Jerusalem from the past until the future?


(Leandro) #19

One statement of Ellen G. White (verify if you want) says she had seen in one of her visions the 144,000 assembled in a perfect square formation. How can you assemble 144,000 in perfect square?


(Frankmer7) #20

The end time message according to the NT is the gospel…the announcement of the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection revealed God’s victory over all the evil powers, including death itself. It revealed that God had broken into this world in a decisive way that would never be defeated, that the new creation had already begun, and would be culminated with Jesus’s return.

The Adventist end-time puzzle piece prophetic scenario is an aberration. It deflects attention from the gospel, is ostensibly centered on law/sabbath and Adventist uniqueness, and is built on one method of interpreting apocalyptic texts that leads to these curious interpretive results. It ends up actually becoming an impediment to the gospel.

When Jesus alone isn’t enough for us, then all our extras amount to nothing.

Thanks…

Frank