Afraid of losing momentum, the early Seventh-day Adventist movement resisted forming an official structure for almost two decades. Reflecting on past Protestant movements-turned-institutions, our pioneers vowed to avoid any structure inhibiting the march of present truth toward Zion.
So now, faced with relatively stagnant net growth, have the fears of our forebearers materialised, at least in the Australian Seventh-day Adventist Church? A Church better known for our breakfast foods than our soul food? If so, can the tide be reversed?
At a recent AUC Executive meeting, pastors and lay leaders from around Australia committed to lead the Church in becoming a “thriving disciple-making movement”. But what does this mean, and what will it take to become a thriving disciple-making movement once more? Communion, relationships and mission.
Communion with God
Zero. That is our guaranteed mission success rate if we do not have a thriving, growing experience with Jesus each day (John 15:5). God has no need or desire for us to finish His work; rather, He longs to finish His work in and through us. To do so we must have constant and continuous communion with Jesus.
“Read your Bible and pray every day” is more than a children’s song—it is the essential blueprint for communion with divinity. Are you daily spending time communing with God through prayer and Bible discovery? Are you listening and cooperating with that Still Small Voice as you go about your day? Before fixing our families, our churches, our structures, our communities, I would encourage and challenge you to reach up for a deeper communion with God each day, allowing Him to work in you so He can work through you.
Relationships with others
According to the apostle John, “sin” is “breaking the law” (1 John 3:4). Jesus explains that the law is essentially an imperative to love God and others (Matthew 22:38-40). So, by deduction, sin is the act of not loving God and others. Jesus died to restore us to loving God and others. Put another way, Jesus lived, died and rose again so we can have healthy, vibrant, loving relationships with Himself and those around us. He died to restore us to positive relationships, not merely to cleanse us from past wrongs.
" . . . we cannot be a movement if we don’t move."
How are your relationships? How would your spouse, children, parents, friends, church members, colleagues, bosses, neighbours or fellow motorists describe you? Do your family members aspire to have your faith and character? What is your relationship like with your brothers and sisters at church? How many young people in your local church see you as a role model?
Ask God for love, wisdom and strength to reach out to those around you so the world may truly know we are disciples of Jesus by our love for one another.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church exists to demonstrate the love and power of God in redeeming and restoring humanity to happiness, health and holiness (Matthew 5:14-16).
But we cannot be a movement if we don’t move. Move out of our homes and into our neighbourhoods, out of our churches and into our communities, out of our comfort zones and into the war zone of the greatest controversy in history. How many friends do you have who are not Adventist? How many new friends outside of your faith are you regularly making? How much time do we spend actively being in (but not of) the world?
Follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Leave home and mingle with people where they are—make friends, eat together and, when asked, tell others what Jesus has done for you. As you place yourself in places and spaces in need of divine light, God will shine in and through you to reach out to His children there. He will impress you with loving actions, healing words, genuine sympathy at the right time, in the right way, to draw others to you and ultimately to Himself.
The question we should be asking ourselves is not if the Seventh-day Adventist Church is still a movement. We should be asking whether or not we, as individuals, are still moving. Are we moving closer to God, closer to our fellow believers and closer to our communities? The sum is greater than the parts—the Church will move and be a movement as you and I commit to move in our sphere of influence.
Cristian Copaceanu is Personal Ministries, Sabbath School and Stewardship director for the Australian Union Conference.