Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Points to ponder for the 21st Century

Mission Catalist Blog has an interesting article entitled: Which Denominations Will Thrive in the 21st Century?

The article lists 10 points, here are some of the ones I think are most important.

1. They proactively acknowledge and function with the understanding that real denominations serve congregations, and all they do points to enhancing the vitality of local congregations.

Most of us hate statements that begin with the psychobabble word “proactively” but the important point here is that a congregation needs to serve their congregations first. The vitality of the church is based upon the congregation’s attitudes and then the congregation can move outward to the community. The denomination is a conglomerate of local congregations therefore it is only as strong as the local congregations. The Denomination is a facilitator it does not serve the local congregation nor do the local congregations serve the Denomination.

2. They unite on a clear and compelling message that seeks to make a transformational difference in the world. That message is so powerful that it gives them great reason to work through issues that seek to divide them.

This becomes something that is often lacking in our churches. We don’t have a clear compelling message often in Adventist church this is because instead of the message of the Gospel revealed in the love and forgiveness and healing offered by God we focus upon the distinctives of the SDA church. As if our interpretation of Daniel and Revelation are more important then the clear and compelling love of God.

3. They develop clarity around their doctrinal values that focus on core doctrines and allow flexibility for congregations who do not agree with every non-core doctrine espoused.

Most churches do not develop clarity around their doctrinal values. Most including Adventists cling to traditional denominational beliefs, assuming that holding to the tradition is clarity. When you don’t have clarity because the doctrines are not well developed because the traditional view is only offered there is no flexibility on other so called non-core doctrines. Because traditions dictate that there are not non-core doctrines. In fact there are many non-core doctrines and in fact there are numerous interpretations on many doctrines however if the local congregation is not informed upon the different views they will act hostilely towards fellow Christian believers who hold to different beliefs.

8. They make peace with the parachurch world, and even become more parachurch in nature themselves. They partner with parachurch organizations to increase effective service to their congregations.

After skipping some which are pretty meaningless here we see something that is also frequently ignored. Local congregations should be involved with homeless rescue mission and food banks rather then try and reinvent those organizations. If there is a local congregation that has an active Adventist Community Service (formerly Dorcas) they should connect to other churches of other denominations in the area. This goes back to number 3 above however in that we have to discard the tradition that other Christian Churches are Babylon or apostate.

The congregation is an integration of so many factors and often we assume only one point of view. As I previously related in earlier articles here, what are heard in our sermons by our pastors is often only views based upon their views and their perspectives (The Problem with Preaching). For example in the earlier instance (Clean and Unclean Meat) where the Pastor answered questions from the audience in at least 2 of the 4 questions he did not offer anything about the predominant Christian perspective. He answered with traditional SDA answers; of course he was answering off the top of his head and was presenting what he believed. However to incorporate the ideas that are proposed to insure a vibrant church in the 21st century we have to actually change our techniques as well as our expectations. We don’t teach our people to think when we don’t give them information to think with. They will therefore lack flexibility and when issues divide them they will not seek ways to remain in unity on the big picture.


Dick Larsen said...

This is all true and could be good news butin my experience will fall on deaf ears.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for referencing my work. If you want more on this subject, go to Amazon Shorts at and download the emanuscript--Real Denominations Serve Congregations: