The Bible is the word of God. In it we discover the answers to all the “big” questions of life: who we are; where we come from; why we’re so messed up; who God is; what He’s done for us; what happens after death; etc. Yet instead of giving us the this revelation through one prophet such as Buddha, Mohammad, or Joseph Smith, God chose to use approximately forty different writers, each with their unique perspectives, temperaments, culture, experiences, education, and writing style to give us the revelation of our true history and His divine will. And yet they all together form a harmonious whole that is the Bible. Different writers teach the same truth in different ways that appeal to different people’s mind and experience.
Yet when it comes to the church, we have taken the approach more or less of one size fits all. For some reason we have believed that one church is capable of meeting all the diverse needs of the people living in its community simply because it is teaching the truth. But the truth is only taught in that church in one particular way and with one particular style. It appeals to one particular age group and to one particular level of education and economic status level.
I am convinced that the reason that the Adventist Church is struggling so much in North America is because we have a one-size-fits-all mentality, generally speaking. Idealistic authors and professors insist that we can transform our local churches into evangelism mega-centers which will reach out to the whole community with our message. Just follow steps A, B, and C they tell us and voila - instant success. This is a pipe dream my friends. One church can never, and should not be expected to, appeal to and meet the needs of the whole community in which it belongs.
Our churches have been lulled to sleep in no small part because of the big money that is thrown towards evangelism each year by our conferences. Millions of dollars are spent, handbills and advertising go out, tremendous results are promised, hired guns come in who can never be questioned, and all the members have to do is come. But when everything else is done for them it is not surprise that most can’t even do that. And the result: nine times out ten these meetings end in relative disappointment. People blame the evangelist, the evangelist blames the people, and the cycle goes on and on.
Instead of conferences spending in upwards of $5,000.00 or more per convert (not including all those who afterward leave through the back door of the church), they should be investing this money into planting new churches. The more churches we have the more diversity we have, and the better chance that the people we are trying to reach with our unique message will find a home. We have sacrificed Christ's method of evangelism at the altar of convenience. We have sacrificed diversity at the altar of conformity. We have sacrificed creativity at the altar of tradition. We have sacrificed mission on the altar of maintenance.
The church understands that it needs churches that speak another language to reach the immigrants and other diverse groups that pour into this country. Is it a little wonder that those churches are primarily the only ones growing? We need churches the will speak the language of the emerging generations in this country. The Bible gives us the blueprint: revelation through diversity. This should be the blueprint for our church organization as well.
A student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Berrien Springs, MI, Travis Walker blogs at Emerging Adventist.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/757