The Seventh-day Adventist Church is my home

Wrestling with two different visions of church, David Toogood explores what his ideal church would look like.

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The Seventh-day Adventist Church is my home.

I remember spending school holidays as a kid following dad around from town to town listening to him preach the gospel of Jesus. I remember at the age of 12, receiving my own call into ministry from God like a bolt of lightning from heaven. I remember being given leadership and positions of increasing influence in this church from the age of 13. I remember receiving another call from God into ministry six months after graduating high school while I was running in the opposite direction. This Church has taught me the gospel of Christ, mentored me in faith, showed me what it means to live in community and wrapped its arms around me in my darkest moments.

This Church is my home.

After the conversations and decisions made at the General Conference Annual Council I felt like I woke up in someone else’s house. It initially left me confused and disoriented, uncertain as to what it all means and what the future holds for my Church, my home. The Church that I currently see emerging and the Church I had grown to love and thought I was both called and employed by God to build, look and feel like two very different churches. Two very different homes.

The reality is my Church has never been or ever will be perfect. It’s full of some pretty messy people and I’m certainly one of the messy ones. My Church has a long way to go before it steps into all that Christ has for it. In many ways, it always will. But right now I fear it is heading in a direction I will struggle to identify with. What I thought I was both called and employed to build was:

1. A church that firmly believes in the God of the Bible and understands that God is love. That His love was first expressed within the community of Himself as Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. And that through His love is the best and only way to interact with those who see things differently to us.

2. A church that welcomes any and all into its community—regardless of appearance, and regardless of past and/or present lifestyle—and that understands Jesus was prepared to associate with people from all walks of life right where they were, even if it meant looking bad to the religious leaders around Him.

3. A church that fights for those who don’t have a voice or position of influence to fight for themselves. Determined not to turn a blind eye to the injustice and oppression in our world but to stretch out an arm of compassion that lifts people out of darkness and into the light of the gospel of Christ.

4. A church that is excited about God’s gift of the Sabbath and His act of creation but doesn’t view these beliefs as things to dictate or coerce behaviour, but as gifts to be enjoyed in all their expressions.

5. A church that genuinely wants the best for its people and teaches balanced and wholistic health in all areas of life as encouraged practice, not mandated law.

6. A church that unites around the mission of the gospel while celebrating the diversity of its community. Diversity of nation and culture; diversity of expression and style; AND diversity, or should I say inclusion, of both genders in pastoral leadership.

7. A church that affirms God’s intent for our world and our relationships while understanding that we all fall short of His standard. Not desiring to single out any one sin as worse than another but seeking to build community with those we have traditionally steered clear of.

8. A church that seeks Scripture, not man, as its only authority. 

"My Church has a long way to go before it steps into all that Christ has for it. In many ways, it always will. But right now I fear it is heading a direction I will struggle to identify with."

9. A church that recognises the ministry of Ellen White as guidance that points us to and encourages continued conversation around Scripture, not as final authority or as quotes to sling at one another.

10. A church that acknowledges the profound gifting of people and leaders both within Adventism and in the broader body of God’s church—seeking to absorb the absolute best cultural and spiritual content available to further God’s kingdom on earth.

11. A church that doesn’t forsake its identity but seeks to build bridges of commonality with the faith community as we seek to bring the gospel of Christ to a broken world together.

12. A church that prays for and stands by those of all faiths who are persecuted for their beliefs, believing that God’s desire is for all to be set free.

13. A church that boldly proclaims the gospel of Christ—believing that He alone is worthy, He alone redeems and He alone transforms. There is nothing we can do to add to that and nothing we can do to subtract from it. Jesus is both the Author and Finisher of our faith.

14. A church that teaches Bible prophecy (and honours our heritage in it) while having the gospel of Jesus as its only test of membership.

15. A church that seeks to lift one another up and dust each other off as we all inevitably face the realities and complexities of life on this earth.

16. A church that celebrates creativity in worship and the arts and sees all cultures as having a true, relevant and authentic expression of praise to God.

17. A church that seeks to distribute material and media that meets the needs of a hurting world and leads people into a meaningful personal relationship with Jesus.

18. A church that is confident in the second coming of Jesus Christ and lives in hopeful expectation of His soon return while going about the business of reaching the lost with the gospel.

My Church still has a long way to go before it becomes the church described. Despite this it is still the place I call home. It is still the place I am called by God to build and lead. And I still believe God’s Spirit will move, lives will be transformed and the kingdom will grow.

So, in the aftermath of decisions and conversations that I personally believe to be both troubling and outright wrong, there is only one thing I can do: lean even more into God’s calling on my life. To live, breathe, share, teach, preach and follow the gospel of Christ.

No matter what, my ministry must continue to adhere to the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians when he says, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Who’s with me?

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