The Adventist Church, in the context I’m most familiar with (Australia), is in trouble.
Yes, we are growing, but by addition, not multiplication. Yes, our tithes are increasing, but slowly and maybe not enough to keep up with the cost of living in this increasingly expensive economy. We are increasingly out of touch with the communities surrounding our churches. Are there good things happening? Definitely. I love this community. I love the people, the vision and the message. I love the outreach initiatives that are dreamed up and implemented; the huge differences that some of us are making in the lives of others. But change is definitely needed.
We’re a Church of the grassroots, but those roots are weak. We have put clergy up on a pedestal that is hard for them to balance upon and meet our expectations, while it also diminishes the power of the members in our own eyes. This has led to a fairly inert membership that expects a lot from our leaders but not always from ourselves.
What do we do? It comes down to the three T’s. Time, talents and treasure.
"We are so busy doing church that we are not being church."
I’ve seen a few comments online recently alluding to the fact that we are time poor. I get it, I feel time poor too. Commuting for more than an hour each day, a pressure-filled, deadline-driven job, trying to finish my Masters and maintain a healthy marriage and other relationships—stress all around. I recently took a few days off to deal with some headaches I’d been having. The medical professionals I consulted couldn’t tell me for sure, but the two most likely causes: stress or eye-strain from too much screen time.
So I get it. I definitely need to look after myself better. But we all waste so much time too. If you’ve spent any time over the past few weeks watching television, playing games on your phone or scrolling through social media, then you’ve (brace yourself) wasted time. I will not share how much time I’ve “wasted” here. I would embarrass us both! But you get the picture.
The world has sold us a lie and we’ve bought it. We feel a sense of entitlement to leisure time, something as humans we’ve never had the luxury of experiencing before. I’m not saying, let’s not have any leisure time at all. But live intentionally. We’ve segregated and separated our lives so much, there‘s not much time left over for God. And we don’t bring Him with us in our work, play, school, even family time. Are you a Seventh-day Adventist? Or an Adventist seven days?
Time spent in church activities is not always time spent for the kingdom. Many of us are already flat out organising, practising and performing duties for church each week. But how many of those duties are key to the mission? We are so busy doing church that we are not being church.
It’s tiring putting on programs each week, up to a certain standard, each better than the last. So don’t. Change it up. Become more fluid. Don’t rely on the same people. Get involved. Let go of some of the control over your little area. The talents we need in church aren’t just music and preaching and creativity. They are hospitality, compassion, service, discernment and encouragement.
What about tithes and offerings? If we gave more sacrificially, the Church could do more. I know many churches wished they had a full-time minister but many of the members complaining aren’t returning tithe. I know the Church has made financial mistakes but it’s not the Church’s money and it’s not my money, it’s God’s money. We don’t have the same spirit of giving and supporting mission that we used to.
The Australian Union Conference has started a conversation about Church restructuring. It is consulting with church members widely and broadly about what Church could look like. This is encouraging. Our power always “lay” in active members. That’s how we can multiply the Church and spread the eternal gospel to the four corners of the Earth.