Pastor Mark Finley is an experienced public evangelist, who currently serves as Assistant to the General Conference President, based in Silver Spring, Maryland. He has written more than 70 books and spoke recently about his new book, The Church Triumphant.
Do you believe that God’s people, coming from various cultures and perspectives, can find solutions to issues facing the church today?
I have great confidence in the ultimate triumph of God’s church. I believe in the church because Christ believes in the church. He has declared, “The gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The church has always faced issues that have had the potential to divide it, and it has come through every crisis. The question that needs to be asked is not, “What divides us?” but “What unites us?” We are united as a worldwide body through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in a common commitment to Christ, the teachings of scripture, a passion for mission and church organisation.
How should the church best handle disagreements between church members and between different church entities?
It really depends on what those issues are. If the issues are biblical in nature or serious doctrinal departures, church leadership on all levels is responsible for preserving the biblical foundations of Adventism. To erode these foundations is to erode our identity. As a denomination, we will always be growing and discovering new ways to express truth, but truth is truth and spans the ages. So-called new truth never does away with old truth.
If the issue is organisational, voted by the General Conference in session, and an integral part of church policy, leaders have the responsibility to abide by that policy. Policies are not doctrines. Policies are mutual agreements between responsible leaders. They do not dictate our conscience, but they do guide our actions as administrators.
What suggestions does your book give to help church members with differing convictions regarding the issues our church is facing?
In my book, I constantly point the reader to Christ as the Lord of the church. Jesus holds this church in His hands and will see it through any crisis. I also emphasise that it is the three angels’ messages that focus us away from our problems and debates to reach a lost world for Christ.
Why are you optimistic about the future of the church in spite of the many difficult issues it faces today?
I am optimistic about the church because Christ is optimistic about the church. I am optimistic about the church because, as I travel the world, I have met thousands of Adventists who are committed to Christ, the biblical beliefs of this worldwide movement, and our mission to the world. Their enthusiasm and commitment encourage me to know God will see His church through. I am optimistic because I have read the final chapters of Revelation and know that one day soon, “The earth will be filled with the glory of God” (Revelation 18:1).
What can church members in the pew do to advance God’s mission?
Every church member has been called by God to share His love with a lonely, lost planet longing for hope. What an opportunity we have to use the gifts God has given us in service for Christ, lovingly meeting the needs of those around us! What a great opportunity we have to do something as simple as distributing Christ-centred literature by the tens of thousands to people in our communities.
What is your hope and prayer for The Church Triumphant?
First, I pray that it will restore confidence that Christ is the Lord of the church and He will take it through the coming days triumphantly. Second, I pray that it will re-enforce our understanding of the uniqueness of Adventism as a prophetic end-time movement. Third, I pray that this volume will reignite a passion for mission and inspire our members to use their gifts to witness for Jesus. If the book moves the church forward in this direction, my prayers will be answered.
The Church Triumphant—and other books by Mark Finley—is available from Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand.
Dale Galusha is president of Pacific Press Publishing Association.