I could be cynical and suggest that you really should have called this article “Why am I Not a Spiritual Celebrity Superstar!” But I wont do that!
Much of what you say may well be correct!
Adventist church congregations, by and large are small! I happen to live about 20 miles from David Assherick’s local church. My daughter attends there! It is doing well by all reports. However, there are another two congregations of comparable size within a 20 mile radius, as well as a real handful of other smaller but vibrant congregations within that radius as well. Yes, David’s congregation has experienced some transfer growth but it is limited! David is an effective communicator and a real pastor but as far as I have seen his celebrity superstar status in the Adventist world is fuelled by his contributions on Adventist media.
In Australia at least, until recent years, the real celebrity superstars were the old breed of Adventist publicevangelists. Australian Adventists are attempting to revive this activity but our society is much more complex than it used to be and Australian Adventists are still searching for the appropriate formula to join the power of Adventist public evangelism with multiple media platforms that are available now.
Yes! As in the NAD many of our smaller congregations are dying by degrees as the average age of congregatants increases.
The success of our Adventist heathcare, educational and media institutions is in part the product of denominational input. However, much of their financial viability and institutional sophistification is underwritten by government and by philanthropy, which is something local congregations can rarely claim.
To my mind the most effective way to improve the long term viability of our local congregations, both small and large is two fold. First, the only thing that will revive and re-form our congregations and institutions and rebuilt those links between all of these is the work of the Spirit. Second, such reviving and reformation by the Spirit will engender a renewed paradigm of mission to the world that all phases of Adventist ministry share.
In the South Pacific Division there is a new emphasis on Discipleship. To this end, the bulk of the Division departmental leaders are now team members of a new umbrella grouping known as Discipleship Ministries. Thus, whether it is youth ministries,children’s ministries, family ministries, personal ministries or health ministries, all have the one aim of producing, maturing and equiping disciples of our Lord.
Such a new emphasis really requires a new paradigm of ministry through which all of us in our various capacities and with our various gifts all engage together in the mission of God in our world. This mission was really best illustrated to our feeble senses by the ministry of Jesus, whose ministry all Christian disciples are to continue until its completion. The vicar of Christ, the Spirit of God, is to bless and strengthen us as we engage in Christ’s ministry. As we do this we will think global but act local. The ministry of Christ was to the whole person - physical, mental and spiritual.
The kingdom of God is present through the ministry of Christ. Healing ministries as well as educational ministries as well as ministry of the Word seeks to push back on the kingdoms of darkness and restore individuals to the kingdom of light. This work of restoration is best conducted as individual disciples move in tandem with health-care, educational, and preaching institutions. But all must have the same focus and mission.
There is no conspiracy with Adventist circles to move away from such a mission. Yet, if we are just continuing to do business as usual without considering the deeper focus of our activity and ministry we will be defeated.
This kind of change in our ministry paradigm would be greatly assisted were we to adopt a new scheme of appointment to ministry roles within our communion of faith. This would also entail the development and implementation of new rites of appointment to ministry among the flock and in the world.
This is the foundation behind my long-term advocacy of a lateral scheme of appointment to ministry and the associated rites of induction and blessing to these various roles. Yes, there will always be layers of accountability and seniority in our mission and ministry. But this can be very different from a hierarchical system of dictation and worldly authority.
In such a lateral scheme of appointment to serve the flock of God and the world, some individuals will receive appointment as deacons, elders, and pastors of the flock. Others will receive appointment as resourcing specialists and still others will be appointed as administrators, be it institutional settings or as financial roles. Still others will be appointed to be educators, health care workers etc. But all regardless of their gender will be induced into their specific role by a generic rite of appointment and also receive a credential which details their role description etc.Notice that some of these will be in paid employment. Others will not be.
In this way, we would dispense with a global Adventist clergy class. The focus of such an appointments scheme will not be on the preservation of a hierarchy and on the process of clericalization and institutionalization. Rather, the focus will be on the mission and ministry that lies nearest.