Posts Tagged: Seventh-day Adventist Church

Addressing White Privilege in Me

Last week I wrote a blog, on white privilege and a friend of mine that read it asked the great question–how? How do we address the problem of white privilege? And she challenged me to give provide practical steps to the “how.”

So in three parts I want to share some thoughts I’ve had on the “How.”

  • White Privilege in Me
  • White Privilege in My Home (the next generation)
  • White Privilege in the Church

I start by addressing white privilege in me because I agree with the words of Leo Tolstoy,

“Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Leo Tolstoy

I’ve been on a long journey with discovering the deeply rooted prejudices that exist in me and my lack of recognition of the privileges I possess over others due to the color of my skin. As I reflect on that journey, four stories from that I can apply practical application to my life now, and maybe you can as well.

Story One:

When I was a Freshman in High-School I got my first real black friend (I had other people I called friends who were black, but they were more acquaintances or friends of my parents); her name was Danielle. Danielle and I met at a picnic table at Loma Linda Academy. I happened to be at the picnic table because one day early in the 3rd quarter of the school year, I was thrown out of the library study hall. When I went back the next day, the librarian informed me the banning wasn’t a one day deal, it was permanent, but no one told me where else I could go. So without a car or a great desire to walk anywhere–I found myself at a picnic table every day (one could do that in California). One afternoon as I was carving something into the picnic table, a young lady, a young African-American lady, Danielle, came and sat down by me and began to talk. It was odd that Danielle was talking to me, she was a junior–but that wasn’t the odd part. What was odd, I hung-out with a group of people who wore white laces in their Doc Marten’s, and I had a WP written on my trapper keeper; it was a WP I was carving into the picnic table that day Danielle approached me. She saw what I was carving and said, “that is so stupid.” And then she proceeded to continue talking to me . . . not just that day, but every Tuesday and Thursday at that same picnic table. She later told me I was quite a jerk to her when she sat down, but she knew I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was. By the end of that year, I would have counted her as one of my closest friends. And that friendship began to change me. Not the way all friendships change us, but in my philosophical world view, some of the “white pride,” I had adopted in my life. It is hard to not do some self-analysis when there is a person you care about in your life that opposes darkness in your soul.

Practical lesson one: 

Having a friend of color then helped grow me. If I want to continue to grow in this area of life I need to have black friends now.

Story Two: (A shorter story)

A year later I was living in Ohio and even though I now had a black friend, Danielle, had moved to Maryland, and I was growing, I still had blind spots. One of my blind spots was a Confederate flag that hung on the ceiling of my bedroom. One day my friend Gerald, an Asian, walked into my room. He looked up and saw the flag and asked me, “What is that?” I was immediately embarrassed, he then said, “Only racists of have those. Whatever.” That was the end of the discussion, but soon after that the flag came down.

Practical lesson two:

I need friends in my life that will be honest with me and call me on my non-sense as Gerald did.

Story Three:

Jump ahead to my days at the Seminary. I was asked by the chaplains office of Andrews University to oversee the revival of a vespers program called United Vespers that happened once a month. I went to the first United Vespers and it was dead! There were a few white kids there and they were half asleep. Where was everyone else. Over the next several weeks I visited several other gatherings: Mosaic, a great musical celebration made up of a packed house of mainly white preppy kids. Adelante’s Vespers, a smaller gathering of the Hispanic community on campus, warm loving people. I also attended the Asian club’s vespers, great food, great fellowship, also a small gathering. But it was the last vespers on campus I attended that changed my world, BSCF (Black Student Christian Forum), amazing preaching, amazing music, and wall to wall people. And I realized if I could somehow get BSCF and Mosaic to connect we could truly have a united vespers. And so I went to my friend Dilys, a Jamaican student there at the seminary, I shared with her my vision and asked her to help me make the connections (Dilys was friends with everyone on campus). She did and by the grace of God Fusion was born (if you were on campus at Andrews in the early 2000’s to late 2000’s you are familiar with the Fusion vespers). That vespers (which happened once a month) exploded, it got so big the school, with the help of Ron Whitehead, let us move it from the gymnasium to the Howard Performing Arts Center and you had to get there early to get a seat–and it was diverse–all the colors and people’s on campus. I share this longer than necessary story, because through my time at seminary and more specifically my work with Fusion and my friendship with Dilys and her husband Delroy, I got connected to a larger black community than I had ever known before. And as I became a real friend with many of these individuals I would sit and listen to them talk and as I heard them share their stories and their pain, I realized they had experiences, that first I could never relate to, but second that I knew I never would have to relate to, based upon the different colors of our skin. I also was able to ask them sincere questions about the stereotypes I held in my head and they helped me understand how to work through those views.

Practical lesson three: I have to listen to the stories of others. The world is evolving and people’s stories evolve, so I have to keep listening!

Story Four:

I watched in sadness the news in 2016 as I saw the events that brought about the Black Lives Matter movement, and then on July 7, 2016 police officers were ambushed by a man who was angry over police shooting black people and as he stated he wanted to “kill white people.” I watched now horrified on my computer the event unfold. Then the next night just before bed, I went to the Facebook page of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists and I began to read some of the comments on their page related to the Black Lives Matter movement and the things Adventists were posting made me sick and angry. That night I scrapped my sermon, and I wrote a few thoughts, and the next day I went into the pulpit and told our congregation, “we must do better.” I don’t remember what I said or how I said it, but it was intense and mainly off the cuff–something I never do. As I was driving home from church that day I was about to turn onto my road when the Holy Spirit said to me go down to Emmanuel-Brinklow and apologize (Emmanuel-Brinklow is the African-American Adventist church a mile from the Spencerville Adventist Church). This impression from the Lord was as a strong as the day I stood up and accepted Him as my Savior and as strong as the day He called me into ministry. I wanted to resist, but I couldn’t. So I drove down there, black churches go a little longer than our predominantly anglo churches 🙂 So when I walked in the preacher was nearing the end of his sermon, I decided to just wait in the foyer until he was done, at the conclusion as the worship band was playing Pastor Tony walked to the back door to shake hands, I stepped forward to introduce myself and then I said, “I just wanted to come and say sorry for what is happening and I want to be a better neighbor.” Pastor Medley stopped the music he told everyone to sit back down and then he walked me to the front and said you need to share this with everyone, and so choking-up I repeated what I said. After that service some of the stories members shared with me and the way that community embraced me–I went home and I wept, I couldn’t stop crying.

Practical lesson four (actually multiple lessons in this one):

First, I need to open to the Holy Spirit always in matters of how I interact with people of other races. Racial conflict is a result of sin. I ask Jesus to reveal in me the dark spots of my heart concerning impatience, arrogance, and lust–why not my prejudices, my accepted white privilege? Second, own the collective hurt of the black community and say “sorry.” It doesn’t matter if I have perpetrated every wrong, I can still let them know I am sorry for what my people group has done and I should be sorry!

So those are the “how’s” for me of continuing to overcome my biases and my blindness to white privilege:

  • Surround myself with a diversity of friends
  • Have honest friends that will call out my prejudices and blind spots
  • Listen and ask questions willing to change when you hear the answers
  • Be open to the conviction of the Holy Spirit
  • Say sorry

What about you?

How White Privilege Inhibits Christian Perfection

This morning I read these words, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. The context of this text is not referring to the day of worship we keep, or the style of worship we embrace, or the way we dress. In context, it’s talking about each of us growing in our love for our fellow man. We are emulating the perfection of Jesus “only when we love with an ALL embracing love.” (John Stott) My heart is broken because I have seen much less than perfection in three recent events, the killing of #AhmadArbery, the killing of #GeorgeFloyd, and the racist display towards #ChristianCooper. And one cannot ignore the obvious commonality in all three of these events—white people using their privilege to physically harm (in two of these cases) or potentially harm black Americans. 

While this privilege cost two of them their lives, and there is nothing more horrific than that, it was the incident in Central Park that illustrates why the other two events can happen. 

Amy Cooper said to Christian Cooper (no relation), “I’m going to tell them an African-American man is threatening my life.” She, however, did not say these words because she genuinely felt threatened. If she had, why would she approach him and take her eyes off of him to make the phone call? Why was she not screaming like she was in trouble until she was far away from Mr. Cooper and until the police were already on the phone? In my heart, I believe that Ms. Cooper said what she said because she understood something clearly. She understood the same thing that the police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd understood. She understood the same thing that the men chasing down Ahmad Arbery understood, which is; if there is a dispute between people of different skin colors, the individual with the lower levels of melanin is likely going to be believed over those with higher melanin. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong! In other words, and I’m speaking to my white brothers and sisters here, we hold privileges that our black brothers and sisters do not have! 

In addition to her shared understanding with the police officers in Minnesota, and the men who chased Ahmad Arbery in Georgia, Amy Cooper correctly expressed the core problem in modern society. Namely, that “racism is real, and I can use it to my advantage.”

The saddest part about each of these incidents is that any semblance of justice was likely only brought about because there was a camera present. In the case of Arbery, the men who ended his life were finally arrested because a video recording of the incident surfaced more than a month after his killing. In the case of Floyd, we know that when cameras are not present, there has been no justice for victims of similar incidents. If we go back far enough, even when I was a kid, we know that even with cameras present, sometimes justice is not done (remember Rodney King?). Finally, I want you to ponder how the incident with Amy and Christian Cooper (again, no relation) might have turned out if the police HAD shown-up? What if they heard the account of a white woman who said an African-American man was threatening her. Who ends up in handcuffs in that scenario? The frantic, screaming, white woman claiming to be attacked? Or an African-American man standing his ground? 

Folks, we have a problem. It’s called white privilege. And while most of us don’t take advantage of this privilege in egregious ways, many of us remain part of the problem. It’s a problem because we only allow our privilege to confront us when we have horrific, unspeakable video evidence placed before our eyes—which is the reason I’m writing this post—and that, my friends, is not enough! We have not done enough.

Until we acknowledge our racist and prejudiced feelings—even our potential for those feelings—we will not change. Until we acknowledge the existence of white privilege, it cannot change.

“You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. 

We begin emulating the perfection of Jesus “…only when we love with an ALL (red, yellow, black, and white) embracing love.” 

Let us begin the process of perfection today by acknowledging there is a problem in our world, in our nation, in our church, in us.

Multifarious Thoughts on Women’s Ordination

I’ve jotted down some thoughts based on a response to a friend this week on the women’s ordination issue and then I just went a little crazy Seth Godin style (not that I am the genius of Seth Godin just his free flowing style):

Something to remember in regards to the women’s ordination decision at San Antonio this summer is that a “yes” vote isn’t forcing anyone to go along with the ordination of women. No church, no conference, no Union, no division will HAVE TO ordain female pastors with a “yes” vote.

A “no” vote actually does force people to go against their beliefs.

I can see how folk can be convicted that women should not be ordained. How can I see this? I see it because I see in the Bible that there is no absolute “yes” nor is there an absolute “no” to the ordination of women.

In the writings of Mrs. White there is no “Thus sayeth the Lord” either for or against the ordination of women (which by the way should say something to us when she has commentary on every issue under the sun…and above the sun too :)).

For these reasons I can understand why some would come to the conclusion against women’s ordination because in the absence of these absolutes from the Bible or Mrs. White people must come to a conclusion from a multitude of variables. And it would be arrogant to assume the variables that have lead me to my position should be the same for everyone else.

Can I ask my brothers and sisters that oppose women’s ordination, with the absence of a definitive “yes” or “no” in these two authoritative places, are you able to likewise see how I could get to my conviction?

Do you my friends and colleagues that see this position different than I do believe that I can be, that I am a Biblically faithful Seventh-day Adventist even if I believe women should be ordained? If your answer is “no” then we have of course no place to work from, because you’ve chosen to place ordination at a level I have not, at a salvific level. However, if your answer is “yes, I can see how you could come to a different conclusion on WO’s than I do.”

Not that you agree but you can see how I could reach the conclusion I’ve reached, absent of definitiveness in the Bible or the writings of Mrs. White.

If you can see this, and if you do believe I can be a Biblically faithful Adventist while still believing that women should be ordained; why wouldn’t it make sense to support a decision that would allow me and people like me to serve in conjunction with my convictions and would in no way force you or people like you or your church to operate outside of your convictions?

A “yes” vote on women’s ordination is the only vote that does not force anyone to practice ordination outside of their convictions. No individual. No local church. No conference. No union. No division. A “no” vote forces individuals. Local churches. Local conferences. Unions. Divisions to function outside of their convictions.

I don’t believe a “yes” vote should be cloaked in the framework of “a vote for unity.” It makes it sound like if we don’t vote “yes” then those of us that support women’s ordination will rebel.

I believe a “yes” vote should be cloaked for those in opposition to women’s ordination in the framework of “a vote for acceptance.” Not acceptance of women’s ordination personally, but acceptance of other Biblically faithful Adventist’s having a different conviction.

I believe more individuals in support of women’s ordination should also state their opposition to the ordination or acceptance of practicing LGBT clergy within our denomination. Not because I want to oppose something that isn’t even on the table, but because this is the accusation and scare tactic being used Stephen Bohr and others to undermine the cause of women’s ordination.

Do I deny that there are some that do have this agenda? Absolutely not! But the world should know the great majority of us in favor of women’s ordination in North America do NOT have this position that Elder Bohr and others are insinuating.

I wish that those in favor of WO would stop saying that if we don’t vote “yes” on this we are going to lose our young people. For one, we’ve already lost a majority of our young people and it has nothing to do with WO. For two, a large percentage of young people I’ve talked to and asked, “would you leave the church over this issue?” have said, “no. I wouldn’t be happy, but no I wouldn’t leave the church.” The other large percentage has said, “What are you talking about? 🙂 ”

I think the millennial mind is a unique thing none-of-us should speak definitively on! It is as bad of argument as all the baby boomers that have said to me, “If we want to get the young people we need this type of music.” Here is what the millennials say to that:

Blogger Amy Peterson put it this way “I want a service that is not sensational, flashy, or particularly ‘relevant.’ I can be entertained anywhere. At church, I do not want to be entertained. I do not want to be the target of anyone’s marketing. I want to be asked to participate in the life of an ancient-future community.”

Millennial blogger Ben Irwin wrote: “When a church tells me how I should feel (‘Clap if you’re excited about Jesus!’), it smacks of inauthenticity. Sometimes I don’t feel like clapping. Sometimes I need to worship in the midst of my brokenness and confusion — not in spite of it and certainly not in denial of it.”

The scare tactic of “we will lose our young people if we don’t ordain women” is just as bad as “this will open the door for LGBT clergy.” Both are not helpful to the discussion.

I believe everyone on both sides of the discussion should watch this sermon by my friend Kessia Reyne Bennett. She lays out well her position, a good position, “that it is not a woman’s right or anyone’s right to be ordained.” ORDINATION is NOT a RIGHT

A “yes” vote is the only vote that has the potential to make the statement: “we agree to disagree now lets move forward with mission.”

I’m afraid a “no” vote at this juncture will keep this issue alive another 5 or 10 years and thus continue to be a distraction to the mission of the church, at which point the next generation will vote “yes” but we will have already lost those 5 or 10 distracted years.

I say this not because I plan to go against the church if it votes “no” but I believe there is too much momentum in support of women’s ordination at this time and many will keep it alive ’till the General Conference in 2020 or 2025.

That said if the vote is “no” I pray for God to give those of us in favor of women’s ordination holy amnesia and silent lips, ’till it is time to set the agenda for General Conference 2020 and then kindly request again the World Church’s support of our conviction.

May God shock and humble us all in San Antonio!

Okay I’m done.

Do This ONE Thing To Grow Your Church

It is hard to reduce church growth down to one thing. In fact it probably should almost never be done; but in this post I am going to do just that…

I want to give y’all just one method to grow your church.

Yes it will grow MORE with many other things involved.

It will of course grow MORE if prayer is the driving force behind all the things you do.

Your church will grow MORE if it is a healthy church…

If the music is inspiring…

The Preaching is alive and Biblical…

If there are friendly greeters…

But I am not talking about MORE growth…

just SOME growth!

And so for that I want to give the ONE thing that you can do, that every church member can do to grow their church.

INVITE!

Yep, invite!

Maybe the saddest reality about the lack of church growth in North America is that every church could grow but most aren’t and the primary reason…

NO ONE is inviting folk to come visit their church.

This is truth!

Thom Rainer reports that in their research of the unchurched 45% of all unchurched would say “NO” if someone they knew invited them to church. 5% said they would probably be hostile in their rejection of the invitation.

Wait a second…

Do you see what that means?

It means, 55% of all unchurched people would respond positively to an invitation to church by someone they knew…and guess what? They don’t even have to know the invitee well!

55% indicated they would still respond positively even if the invitee was just an acquaintance! WOW!

We spend time focusing on the 45% that would say, “NO” and more than likely we’re scared to run into one of the 5% percent that have a burr in their saddle…yep I just used that idiom like the old man I’m becoming…

But we should be spending time focusing on the 55% that would say “yes!”

Picture a church of 100 members.

If each of those members invited one person per week that would be 5,200 invitations in a year.

Now applying Thom Rainer’s research we would surmise that 55% of those invitees would accept the invitation and attend church at least once.

That means a church of 100 members inviting 100 people each week by the end of a given year would have 2,860 guests pass through the doors of their church. Not only that but 55 new people would be in church every single week! Can you imagine how exciting that would be to have 55 NEW people worshiping with you each and every week? That would be awesome in a church of 200 or 300, much less 100!

Now I want y’all to pause and think about a couple other statistics very quickly. These statistics come from Pastor Nelson Searcy.

The average church loses 3 members per 100 members each year due to death, a move, apostasy, or just becoming inactive.

So let us go back up to our church of 100 members; in order for that church to maintain it’s membership of 100 people all they would have to do to not decline is win the hearts of 3 of those 2,860 guests that attended their church in a given year.

3 FOLK!

I didn’t say 300 or 30 or even 13…just 3! (Contact me on Twitter @chadnstuart and I’ll share with you just a couple things that you can try at your church to turn three guests into members).

But this blog post isn’t about maintaining, although that would be a huge step for many of our churches since 80% of all our churches are plateaued or declining, no this blog is about growth.

So let me share with you how many guests you need to retain in order to grow your church at a steady pace.

Are you ready for this huge number?

5 per 100 members.

So in a church of 100 members, if every member is inviting 1 person per week, roughly 2,860 of those invitees would become a guest at that church, and if that church retained FIVE individuals per year they would grow at a steady pace.

Because the next year 102 people would be inviting 1 person per week (remember there is an average of 3 members lost per 100 a year) and that means 2,917 people would attend the church as a guest (based on Rainer’s 55% percent rule of thumb) and with more guests there would be more chances of guests becoming members…and so the next year if 5 more joined, the membership would now be up to 104 and 2,974 guests would attend…

And maybe within a few years, because everyone wants to be a part of a growing church your church would start retaining 7 guests or more a year and then your church, believe it or not, with just the retention of 7 guests a year would be considered a rapidly growing church in North America.

So will you make a commitment right now? Will you commit to help grow your church? It takes just ONE thing…

The ONE thing: Love Jesus enough to invite someone to come hear about Him at your church just one time per week!

 

 

 

For the Sake of The Gospel: A Solution to End the Women’s Ordination Debate

This is a wonderful video short illustrating the value of the moderate view, on what has been the most hotly debated issue in The Seventh-day Adventist Church over the last three years. There have been some (like myself) that have been staunchly in favor of women’s ordination. There have been others that have been staunchly opposed to women’s ordination. Then there is a group that has a preference and believe the ideal is male leadership within the church, and it is from within this group I believe the largest contribution to the entire debate has been made. A contribution that if embraced will hopefully end the debate, or at least tone down the rhetoric, but more importantly will move us forward as a church FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL!

Oh and Nate Dubs I’m proud of you for using your gifts in this way!

Watch and see what you think:

How Committed is Your Church to the Disney Princesses?

dpIf you think of animated Disney films probably some of the first images that come to your mind would be princesses: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty (sorry I don’t know her actual name), Ariel, etc.. Disney’s entire history is shrouded with princesses, yet in 2010 Disney recognized princesses were not the success stories they once were and Disney exec of animation informed the world that Disney was putting a moratorium on any new princesses…”at least until someone has a fresh take on it…” and Disney stuck to this until of course the smash hit this past year of a movie entitled “Frozen” (not an endorsement I just know a lot of people are singing the song and it has made a lot of money). But can you imagine the courage it must have taken to announce, to make the decision that “the past was nice, but we have to change if we are really going to move forward successfully”? “So either bring us a fresh idea on a princess or no new princess movies at all.” Wow! The announcement was so large there were articles written about it in the LA Times, Forbes Magazine, babycenter.com, and more.

Why would Disney do such a thing? Because they recognized you can’t grow into the future if you are overly committed to the Disney Princesses of the past.

How committed is your church or your school to the Disney princesses of the past?

In his book, “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” Thom Rainer reports on the analysis of churches that have died and the 12 factors they discovered that lead to these deaths.

The very first trait which Rainer said was, “the most pervasive and common thread of our autopsies” was, they were in love with a Disney princess of the past and hoped she would revive again to bring the church back to greatness. Well not a literal Disney princess and Thom Rainer doesn’t use those exact words, but his meaning is the same.  Rainer uses these words, “the dying churches lived for a long time with the past as hero.”

These churches talked about how many people used to attend their church. They talked about how great their church used to be. And when people would try and change things these churches would resist, insisting that they could still get back to where they were with things just as they are. They were unwilling to change because they were once great and surely they could stay the same and become great again. They were in love with the Disney princesses and wanted to keep making them hoping they would eventually take them back to their former greatness.

Y’all let us be very honest the majority of Seventh-day Adventist Churches and schools (elementary & secondary) are dying or plateaued in North America. Is it because we are more committed to the Disney princesses of the past than looking toward new ideas, methods, structures, & solutions? When someone comments on our decline do we become defensive? Bringing up the past? Making excuses?

  1. “Oh our church used to be full, if we could just get the right pastor.”
  2. “We used to have so many students in attendance and if we just hang-on a few more years I believe we can be back there again.”
  3. “The conference hasn’t given us the support that we need.”
  4. “If we could just keep more of our tithe.”

Many churches and schools are going to die because they were more committed to what they once were, rather than realizing who they are now and adjusting to their current reality.

I believe there are a “big three” things that Seventh-day Adventists should be committed to that came from the past because they are timeless in their ministration unto the people of God in the present:

  1. The Trinity: God The Father, His Son Jesus Christ, & The Holy Spirit
  2. The Word of God
  3. The writings of Ellen G. White

Everything else from the past, while being held fondly in our hearts, should be available to change.

  • Church service times (11 a.m. is not sacred)
  • Church structure (General Conference, Division, Union, Conference, Local Church)
  • Church service format (We don’t have to start with announcements and a hymn)
  • Online campuses
  • Satellite campuses
  • School satellite campuses
  • Merging of schools…or maybe even better if feasible: following Mrs. White’s counsel and encouraging each church to have their own school thus…
  • Dividing of schools
  • Location of schools (see above)
  • Less ordained ministers in administrative positions and more in the field
  • Non-traditional evangelism receiving the majority of the evangelistic dollars
  • Sabbath Schools each day of the week rather than just Sabbath morning
  • The placement of Bible Workers taking precedent over placing associate or even head pastors in churches/districts
  • Tithe distribution
  • Every pastor must plant a church that can adequately support them or they no longer have a job (oh wait that is from the past, but I still love it!)
  • Congregational expectations of a pastor

The list could go on and on. Maybe you have a few?

My appeal to the church I love:

If it’s not one of the big three then let go of all that you think made us great, honor it appreciate it, but to quote the latest Disney princess, “let it go, let it go”; because in North America 1.3% growth is not great and clinging to the Disney princesses of the past hoping greatness arrives once again does not justly serve the cause of this movement that Jesus placed on earth to usher in His Second Coming!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genesis 1:29 Supported in Six Minutes With No Words

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” -Genesis 1:29

SAMSARA food sequence from Baraka & Samsara on Vimeo.

Ten Most Read Blog Posts for February 2014

In this past month of February, my blog was viewed more times than any other month in it’s history and more times than the entire first year (2011) of “Outside the Pulpit.” This was due to the fact that three of the blog posts are in the top ten viewed of all posts in the 3 1/2 year history. So here are the most viewed posts on “Outside the Pulpit” for February 2014. Thank you for being a reader of this blog! I hope if it is a benefit to your life that you will share it with others.

If you missed any of the following posts I hope you will enjoy your read.

The Top Ten:

  1. “Why the Recent Rhetoric in the Church Makes Me Want to Shout About “Spiritual Formation” This post was not only the most viewed post of this month, it is the new number 1 viewed blog in “Outside the Pulpit’s” 3+ year history.
  2. Help! Adventist Ed is Dying: I was criticized by some for this article and I believe some of the criticism was fair, a point I made then about that post and I make it again here about the opinions I had in this post, “Take ‘em or leave ‘em as a parent that will soon have three kids in Adventist Ed, these are my thoughts.” They were just my thoughts.
  3. How I Hope Adventists Will Respond to the Kenneth Copeland/Pope Francis Video.
  4. Why I Get Defensive
  5. Please Count! This post to me is so important and can be a real help to folk, I hope more will read it!
  6. Please Move to The Middle
  7. A Response to Elder Stephen Bohr’s “Reflections on Deborah & Huldah”: This post was written back in October of 2013 but due to of course the nature of the ordination debate and the attention it continues to receive this blog has remained well read each month.
  8. Faster Pastor’s Episode # 7: “Is Christmas Compatible w/ Christ?” This was the most recent Faster Pastor Episode we did and also the most viewed of any of the episodes we have done. Dr. John Reeve joined us and we were blessed by his insights. David has moved off to Australia that may actually make it easier for us to do more Faster Pastor’s since he’ll be more permanent and not roaming all over the world now that he is the Senior Pastor of a church down there.
  9. Glad to Know I’m Still a Child of The King: I’m always a little saddened that my spiritual posts are not nearly as well read as my “controversial” posts. I guess that is just human nature. Though I hope we all realize, a controversy will never enhance our lives only the love of Jesus will. With that in mind I hope you’ll read this post for the first time, or 2nd time if necessary!
  10. The Superiority of Adventist Education–Please Read & Respond: This post was written back in 2011; yet at times it still pops up in the top ten list. What can I say? People are passionate about Adventist Ed, as well they should be!

Those are the top ten. Some new posts coming soon in March. Thank you again for being a great group of readers. I’d love to have you share any or all of these posts if you feel others would be interested.

 

 

 

Why the Recent Rhetoric in the Church Makes Me Want to Shout About “SPIRITUAL FORMATION

So today I was listening to a book on tape, in this book on tape there was a chapter heading, “Spiritual Formation.” I listened to the entire chapter and guess what? Afterwards I didn’t want to go and empty my mind, burn incense, light candles, chant in repetition or deny the infallibility of the Bible. In fact the authors description of “SPIRITUAL FORMATION” made me want to read my Bible more, spend more time alone being guided by the scriptures to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. He impressed upon me the need to have a consistent devotional time, and that part of Spiritual Formation included being willing to be more generous with my money to the cause of Jesus, particularly the local church…can you believe such heresy? I say tongue in cheek!

At the end of the chapter the thought that came into my mind and started to drive me crazy, “There are so many in our church that would have shut the audiobook off, or closed the book (if they were actually reading it) the moment they heard/saw those words, “Spiritual Formation” and they would have missed out on some great counsel! Why? Because over the last 3+ years many in the Adventist church have taught our people to be scared of words and phrases, like: “spiritual formation,” “liturgy,” and “kingdom growth.” Even “meditation” is being spoken of like all meditation is bad…I sure hope the folk that believe that fallacy never read the writings of Ellen G. White, there are over 800 references of “meditation” or “meditate;” and oh boy they better not read the Bible either, since there are a good thirty times meditation is mentioned in that GREAT book.

Why would I even say that? Because I really believe some would be shocked! They’d be shocked because we don’t teach them to read and to study and to discern truth for themselves, we teach them to be scared of certain words and so many of the sermons I’ve heard say, “Spiritual formation is evil. It is about meditation, and mantras.” And therefore meditation is wrong, even when there is a very good kind of Biblical meditation, but these people don’t know that, all they know is what we’ve told them to be scared of. We’ve taught them to be scared of words, just like the pharisees taught the Jews to be scared of Jesus because He used the words, “I Am.”

In preaching in this manner and writing EXTREME books on this topic not only are we teaching our people to be scared of words, we are also teaching them to be very judgmental.

I was given a CD of a fairly popular and well known speaker amongst Adventists, he is one that frequents many camp meetings. I’d heard him on a couple different occasions and was usually blessed by his messages. Then I received this CD and I listened…what I listened to was fear mongering and a call to judge, not to judge on actions, not to judge on doctrine, just to judge based on words. This preacher was speaking of a pastor of a mega-church and pointing out all the areas he was in error; which by the way, how far have we fallen when we think that is an acceptable topic for a Sabbath morning service? Anyway, he then said this, which blew my mind, “When you hear our preachers (Adventist preachers) use the term ‘Kingdom Growth’ you know they have been under the influence of (name of the Sunday preacher here) and you need to be on guard.” REALLY? REALLY? This semi-well known pastor with at least a moderate amount of influence told a bunch of folk to judge their pastors based on a phrase, “Kingdom Growth.” I’ve been using that phrase as often as I can ever since; yep, there is a rebel in me.

So we’re teaching our people to be scared of words. We’re teaching our people to be judgmental based on phrases. We’re also teaching our people how to be mere reflectors of man’s thoughts, rather than true discerners.

I was at a camp meeting. The evening speaker delivered a wonderful message, but he went on a tangent. In this tangent he began to condemn those associated with spiritual formation (he didn’t give context to this), he just used those catch words of course. But what drove me even more crazy was at the end of this little tangent he said, “that is why we shouldn’t be reading anything outside of Adventist literature.” REALLY? REALLY? I love this man, he has been a blessing in my life, I don’t know him, but I’ve read his books and listened to his sermons. But REALLY? I couldn’t take it so I confronted him afterwards, “How could you say that?” I asked. Well in the course of the conversation he acknowledged we should, and he even quoted Mrs. White referencing her statement about our need to be well read in the literature of the age, and how of course he didn’t mean don’t read anything outside of Adventism (he has a doctorate from a non-Adventist university). I asked him then why he said it, he didn’t have a great answer, something to the effect of wanting to protect the people. That is not protection though, it is dumbing people down. To this man’s credit he corrected the statement in his seminar a few days later and acknowledged that is not what he meant; unfortunately there were only 150 people at his seminar versus the 2000 that heard his original statement.

We’re teaching our people to be scared of words. We’re teaching our people to be judgmental based on phrases. We’re teaching our people how be mere reflectors of man’s thoughts, rather than true discerners.

But maybe most of all we’re teaching people how to miss the good and beautiful truth completely. The pharisees were so focused on all the potential negatives that could happen around the Sabbath day that when someone, Jesus Himself, actually showed up on the scene keeping the Sabbath they way it should be kept…they missed it completely! I worry that we are teaching our people to focus so much on the negative that they may actually miss a lot of good when it is being done right in front of their eyes.

Someone smart in my life said, I’m not sure who said this to me (maybe it was David in our Faster Pastor episode on Christmas), but whoever it was this is brilliant, “Words and symbols only have as much meaning in your life as you allow them to have.”

Our church needs to learn this! The words Spiritual Formation or any others like this only have the meaning that one attaches to them and if we attach all kinds of fear, judgment, and ignorance to them that is exactly the meaning they’ll have in people’s lives.

But maybe some people out there are using those same words and they are doing a great job of teaching about Bible Study, Sacrifice, Prayer, Service, Repentance, Tithing…but our people will never know; cause they’ll close the book the moment they see the buzz words our church has decided to condemn and attach unnecessary negative value to over the last 3+ years.

Lord help us to spend more time teaching people about the beautiful truths of Jesus and in the glorious light of Jesus’ truth maybe we can trust them to be able to discern error for themselves.

 

 

Please Move to the Middle

This blog isn’t a discussion of my political views, nor is it a discussion on conservative or liberal church views.

No this is a short blog with some free advice on a little thing every church can do, no matter how big or small, to make their church a more comfortable environment for guests.

And this piece of advice involves one simple act…

…a move to the middle.

When a guest arrives at my house one of the first things I do, if they are going to be there for a while is to invite them to, “sit down” or “have a seat.” If other guests are there and all the seats are taken we say, “let me grab you a chair.”  If my kids are in a seat that would be more optimal for the guest to sit in I say, “please move Dayton/Landon, so our guest can sit in that chair.” If there is only one seat left and I was sitting in it, I say, “Here take my seat, I’ll just grab another chair” or “I can just sit here on the floor.”

Why?

Because the comfort of my guest is of utmost comfort to me.

Why should it be any different in a church? Our guests, after God, should be our top priority. But so often, probably without any forethought or malice in very little areas, maybe seemingly insignificant areas we actually show a lack of regard for our guests at church.

One such place we show a lack of regard for our guests is in where we choose to plant our behinds during the worship service.

In most churches I have been to, most members immediately gravitate towards the back rows & the aisles.

In both cases I would urge members…please move to the middle!

Why to the middle? Because just like in our homes our guests should have priority in their seating to what would be most comfortable to them; and there are definitely two things which are not comfortable for a guest:

Needing to crawl over or push past people in a row to get to a middle seat…

&

Being forced to walk towards the front of the church to find a seat.

Most guests, especially the truly unchurched, want to come into a church & sit without any notice or recognition–yes they want to be greeted and treated warmly at the door and in the foyer; but once they are in the sanctuary they want to draw as little attention as possible. Something which cannot be accomplished as easily if all the members are sitting in the aisles seats and in the back rows.

So this weekend when you attend church, I would like to encourage you dear church member…

…Move to the middle

Unless you are a Mom or Dad with young children, or someone with an extremely small and active bladder there is NO reason you have to sit in the back of the church, nor in an aisle seat.

So for the sake of the guests, make a big difference with a small movement…

…to the middle.

Maybe even move all the way up front. I promise the preacher won’t bite & maybe, just maybe this one little act will make the guest feel more at ease to come back for a second visit…isn’t that after all our hope with all our guests? That they will feel comfortable and want to come back?

 

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