(Thoughts and reflections as I watched the General Conference Annual Council 2017.)
It happened when I was pastoring a smaller church in a large metropolitan area. We had a growing number teens and young adults in that church--but most of them weren't involved in church beyond weekend attendance.
Silvia and I invited this growing group of young people to a social evening. At some point in the evening I asked these teens and young adults why they weren't involved more. They responded that the "old people did everything" and they "felt judged if they did it any way but the way it has always been done."
So I asked them what they wanted. They wanted inspiring music--not just hymns (yes, even in the early 2000s, some church were still singing hymns, and this church was still using the 1941 edition of the SDA church hymnal--not even the 1985 copy!) They wanted to be involved in worship. At that time, my church had two elders and they always accompanied me on the platform. One did the offering appeal--the other the morning prayer. Next week, they traded. And they wanted more social activities. And they had quite a simple list of things that most Adventist churches had addressed a decade before.
"In that case," I responded, "why don't all of you who are baptized come to the next church business meeting and make it happen?"
"The adults won't let us..." one said.
"They will contradict us and overrule us..." said another.
"I don't know," I told them. "Not many people come out to church business meetings."
Last year on this day, I was struggling. I was a pastor in between churches. It was a dark and uncertain time for not just me, but my wife and kids. We all felt alone and alienated. I started claiming these two promises that I posted today, one year ago on my Facebook page--and I am still, claiming them--every day.
Reflecting back I realize just how much support there really was. My conference admin was excellent to me with regular calls from my president, VP, and ministerial director to visit, always praying with/for me/us. How many friends called or stopped by. And how many of my pastor friends were praying for us, calling us, or texting us. Looking back at a dark time in life, I realize just how close God was through such friends and colleagues.
Today, one year later, I'm pastoring in a church that is excited about what the future holds. They are excited to work for Jesus. They love my family. And my family feels accepted. We can see how God has led. It so miraculous--it's exciting to think that God cared THAT much.
I totally resonate with this statement: "Satan's efforts to hinder the work and to destroy the workmen have not ceased; but God has had a care for His servants and for His work. In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what the Lord has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history" (Life Sketches, 196)
I write this Sabbath morning as an encouragement for any of my friends or colleagues who are struggling. Jesus is there. It may not feel like it. And the feelings you may have may not be pleasant, leaving you feeling deserted and distant. But keep praying. Keep holding on. You're not alone.
If you'd like, I'll pray with you too.
I am finally publishing the results of my own, unscientific survey on reasons why the Adventist church sometimes feels less evangelistic today. The history of this comes from reading an article from Thom Rainier where he asked why churches aren't as evangelistic as they once were. I wanted to know what Adventists thought about these responses and others. At the bottom are 14 of the top reasons Rainier got in his Twitter survey, and how they resonated with those who follow my blog. I've taken four of the statements that stood out to me and highlighted them first. While some results didn't surprise me, others were rather astonishing. I'd be interested in your thoughts and comments after reading them.
I wasn't at the Annual Council meetings this past Tuesday when the GC Executive Committee voted to send the question of Women's Ordination to the General Conference Session in San Antonio next summer. But I was watching the proceedings as best I could with Twitter and Facebook.
According to the Adventist Review, delegates listened to presentations and engaged in discussion for six hours this past Tuesday (October 14). More than 40 delegates stood to speak to the motion. It was discussion and debate that was punctuated with at least 17 public offerings of prayer and who knows how many more private prayers. The motion:
It's all official. Silvia and went today to get our driver's licenses transferred and our new license plates. We are officially residents of the state of Washington. It may not seem like a big deal--but when you move around the country as much as we have, it is nice to be settled and have the security of that "I belong," or "I'm home," feeling.
But then add to that this: