A list of some of my own favorite posts is below. But there
are also a few longer articles written by myself and others, which
can be found here .
Also have a look at the Moderator's Choice area for more goodies.
I gave this question to my youth Sabbath School class today, and it
generated good discussion, so I'll try it here:
There are three things a church can emphasize:
Believing, Behaving, or Belonging
Which one DOES the Adventist church emphasize most?
Which one SHOULD the Adventist church emphasize most?
Do you just have to take one or can you combine them?
"I believe you must behave to belong"
"I believe I'll behave as if I belong"
"I believe I belong, so I'll behave"
There must be many other ways of using these three words in a
sentence. See if you can be creative.
Subject: Why the SDA Church needs Lukewarm Couch Potatoes
[Third in a series of why the SDA church eventually needs everyone. SCT]
1) We need someone on which to lay the guilt trip "You may not be doing
anything else, but at least you can give us money and soothe your
conscience. Guilt-ridden people like this have provided major funding
for ministries in which I have been involved. I need one of these right
now. Give me a call.:-)
2) We need lots of lukewarm people in the church so we can cherish the
"Laodicea" image as part of our self-image as a church.
3) We need people to fill the pews to make it look like lots of people
are coming to church. It'd be real empty otherwise.
4) We need people to boost the membership count so we can get an
assistant pastor again. If they're paying tithe, so much the better.
Subject: If you have to ask....
I had never heard any SDA's consider soy sauce _verboten_ before. But I
guess there's a first for everything. In the recent times of my
experience with a non-SDA Chinese, she fed me several unspeakable things
I fed her "veggie meat" at least once and she was unaware that it wasn't
real meat. This brings up an interesting discussion point, namely, how
asking is too much? Try these scenarios on for size:
1) Your co-workers invite you home for supper. They are well aware
that you are a vegetarian, and have fixed you several vegetarian dishes
of Chinese food. It looks delicious. But what's that sauce on the
fried rice? Could it contain wine? Or is it the dreaded soy sauce? And
the dumplings. Were they cooked in lard? Did they throw a pork bone
the egg drop soup? They are very gracious, and you don't fear hurting
their feelings, but they don't speak English too well. Which of the
above delicacies, or other food that may be present on the table, would
2) You are in Switzerland and the professor you are visiting is taking
you out for dinner. Your French is rusty at best but you figure you can
handle ordering a pizza. The one you order has _fromage_,
and something called _thon_. When your pizza arrives, thon turns out to
be something that looks very much like ham (but you know it isn't,
because that's _jambon_). The professor speaks good English but has
never heard of thon before either. What do you do (remember he is
Alternative: if you decide to order the cheese fondue instead, do you
worry about the wine it is cooked with?
3) You are at a classy party where numerous hors d'ouvres are available.
You have a few crackers and some dip. The dip is quite enjoyable, but
you suddenly realize it contains some sort of shellfish. Before you can
spit it out the hostess walks up to you and asks how you like her dip.
What do you say? And would you ask if there was lard in the crackers?
Or pig pepsin in the cheese?
4) It's been a late study night with your mates from grad school.
They want to order out for some food. You know they will probably order
pepperoni pizza as usual. Do you 1) ask for part of the pizza without
pepperoni or 2) wait till the pizza gets there and pull the pepperoni
off the top.
Alternative if your mates prefer Taco Bell: You vaguely remember from
your Christian Education at Adventist Schools that even the Taco Bell
bean burritos are cooked with lard. You think your mates are also aware
But you are fiendishly hungry for some anyway. What should you do?
[Note, the impact of the SDA colonies on fast food is not negligible.
Several fast-food chains have now made it to Berrien Springs (none were
there in my day). All around the world, McDonalds will charge you the same
amount whether you want meat in your hamburger or not. But in Berrien
Springs they have a discount price for a no-meat sandwich. Subway makes
sandwiches available with veggie-meat. And Taco Bell, although it's a few
miles down the road, did some of its early test market of lard-free beans
in that area, and has now extended lard-free beans across its whole chain.
Of course, the militant vegan community also had something to do with
Subject: Subculture,Superculture, or Counterculture?
In various articles on SDAnet you have heard me celebrate the death of
the SDA subculture. However, since nobody has told the people at the
SDA colleges that the subculture is dead yet, it still persists in
these historical communities. This article is meant to delineate the
choices for the silent majority of SDA's who are moving ahead into the
brave new world of post-institutional Adventism.
Bull and Lockhart described the dilemma in terms of Adventism being
forced to choose between the medical orientation and the spiritual
It seems that the idea of being a self-contained subculture is not for
the future. It never was right to be peculiar just for the sake of
being peculiar, and it is now not feasible. Those who have suffered
with the self-
consciousness of being different for so many years have now woken up to see
that in many ways we aren't different after all. Those who gloried in
digging up imaginary persecutors and conspiracy theories now are even
running short on these, as we have a church not capable of infurating
anyone except its own dissidents.
But is the only other way the alternative mentioned by Bull and Lockhart
to be the model minority, a superculture as it were, where the men are
handsome, the women are beautiful, and all the kids are above average?
Should we put our lifestyle forth as a sort of spiritual Epcot center?
I think from the limited experience we have with this option, we would be
ill-served to put ourselves on a pedestal to be examined with the
microscope of public opinion. As medical stars build up (John Harvey
Leonard Bailey, Ben Carson) their capacity for faux pas increases.
So should we become a counterculture? I'm not sure. I do think we need to
re-evaluate the emphasis on individualism which has permeated our religion.
We ought not to be afraid to violate cultural norms which are not consonant
with the gospel of Christ. At the same time, we shouldn't trail society
in respect for human rights, getting pushed at the point of law.
Subject: Making the church safe for baby boomers and yuppies
We discussed a few weeks ago about problems with guests at our church
who may not know how to behave just right or dress neatly or bathe regularly.
No real consensus came of that. Now we have a crisis with one of these
people that is coming to a head in our church.
"Joe" has visited our church semi-regularly for four years at least.
Often he arrives late, only in time for pot luck. When he does come in
time for church, he will sit in the back, not in the main sanctuary.
He's very self-conscious about personal cleanliness but that doesn't mean
he is always cleaned up. He has been homeless for most of this time.
He is essentially harmless and wouldn't hurt a fly.
Evidently in the period in which I was gone from Pittsburgh, and still
continuing now, there have been some problems mostly concerning the
compulsive and lengthy routine he goes through in the church's restroom.
People of authority in the church have been speaking recently about asking
him to leave and never come back, and when I heard their side of the story
I had to admit that there is really a problem which does need to be
addressed. Knowing "Joe's" track record it's unlikely that he could
his behavior enough to reassure the large number of people who are
uncomfortable with his presence for a number of good reasons.
Even with the clear-cut evidence in this case, it still makes me
uncomfortable to hear the attitudes of those proposing his dismissal.
Are we setting a precedent by throwing out those who don't fit? Will
this enhance the spirit of classism already prevalent in this church?
Who will be next? Is the throwing out of the homeless the price we must
pay to make our stated targed group, yuppies and baby boomers, comfortable?
Will Joe be willing to leave Abraham's bosom to drop water on our tongues
when the fire gets hot? (Echoes of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus).
Not so long ago at this very church, people of color were shown the door
and given the address to the local Black church. The reason used was
identically the same--some people would be uncomfortable with them there.
Those people who were uncomfortable with Black people are still with us,
and still uncomfortable, yet they haven't left the church, and the church
hasn't split apart. Are the homeless the next group that we must learn to
tolerate? Will it hurt the yuppies to learn to tolerate them any more than
it hurt the rednecks of a generation ago to tolerate integration? And, as a
city church, can we afford to ignore an important sector of the population?
Subject: Does Your Church Still Have a Civil Defense Coordinator
I wasn't born yet in the late fifties and early sixties when the fear of
nuclear attack from the Soviet Union was the greatest and everyplace
that was anyplace had a fallout shelter. (Although a book written by
Phyllis Schafly, of all people, called _Strike From Space_ typifies
the hysteria of the pro-Goldwater Republicans of the time.)
It would seem that the list of church officers for the church hasn't been
updated much since then. I searched my mind trying to think of a church
office that exists now that didn't exist in the early 1970's, which is
as far back as I can remember. I can think of the "loss control officer"
(a position currently held by my father in my home church) but otherwise
I draw a blank.
Some offices I can think of that most churches should have and don't.
Senior citizen ministries coordinator. In the large percentage of Adventist
churches our population has a large percentage of senior citizens.
Instead of continually lamenting this fact, we need to tap this resource.
It will only become more important in the next 20 years as the baby boomers
start to retire.
College ministries coordinator: If one college student can feel comfortable
and involved in a church, more are likely to follow.
Women's ministries coordinator: Here the goal should be to develop a
ministry by and for women.
Audio-visual coordinator: Instead of leaving this job to the pastor
or deacons, one person should lead the church's effort to acquire,
maintain, and smoothly operate projectors, TV's, and PA systems.
Computer consultant: In most congregations there is someone who can
give counsel and help on how best to use data processing technology.
If people think of more to add to the list, please respond. However,
I don't think we should wait for a Church Manual revision before
we begin this work. Usually if administrators see someone is doing a
good job with a new idea or new role, they are at least courteous
enough to stay out of the way and let them work.
Subject: Making the church safe for the Geritol set
The history of our church here in Pittsburgh is, unfortunately, often
marked by the time passed since a particular dispute. During the time
I was gone from Pittsburgh, the scandal caused by removing the wood rail
from the organ loft has been replaced by a new and greater one.
One of our church members teaches at Shippensburg State. For the last
several years she has brought the girls choir she directs there to give
us a worship service of all sacred music, and they have always been well-
received and given an appropriate program. None of them is to my knowledge
SDA. This past spring they also brought along their gospel choir.
Even SDA gospel choirs who know all the rules of being appropriate have
caused a stir in our church previously, so it's not surprising that a few
seconds after they kicked on their electric guitars and drums, a hue and
cry resulted. (All those who were there report that indeed the music was
loud, vibrant, and upbeat.)
A retired minister who was at one time our senior pastor got up while the
music was still continuing, marched up to the front of the church, and
said to the musicians "You can't do this in God's house." He continued
to make noise and commotion until such time as the deacons restrained
him and removed him from the sanctuary. The concert continued to its end.
All this happened in April, and in September it is still the talk of
the church. The retired pastor has become a hero to many others of the older
section of the church who felt the same way. (Some of whom had no use
for him when he was the pastor.) We have heard of the injuries
he supposedly suffered in this incident.
In conversations with the younger generation, I have heard suggestions
such as banning him from teaching his Sabbath School class, censuring
disfellowshipping him, even, forming a new congregation where we don't
have to put up with this foolishness, and many other things.
Personally, I feel we are challenged to the core by this incident. If our
church is a loving, caring, affirming church (as we declare ourselves in
our local mission statement to be) then it is our duty to affirm this man
as our brother in the Lord and find some way to open a channel of
communication with him.
So I ask, how can you communicate with someone when the only way he knows
how to communicate is through appropriated authority? He has worked his
whole life in the church, and the accepted method of discourse through
most of that time was to dig up a stack of quotes, and say "Ellen White
says this, Ellen White is inspired, therefore I am inspired, therefore
I am right, therefore you have sinned against the Lord and will miss out
on eternal life." We can not fault him for being a child of his
can we stoop to that level of using the Spirit of Prophecy as a club.
(There is in fact a Spirit of Prophecy quote against using the
Testimonies as a club, but for obvious reasons it can't be used against
We will not build consensus and be of one accord by running roughshod
over any segment of the population of our church. Yet the
God to 40 young people from Shippensburg plus other visitors that were
there is severe and we need to make sure it doesn't happen again. Any
are helpful. I would appreciate if people would focus on the issue of
communication and not on whether the outrage over wild music was
justified or not.
Subject: Tastes great! Less Filling!
Dave Buxton referred in his post on celebration to the Milwaukie church.
The background as I understand it is this: The SDA church in Milwaukie,
Oregon is the fastest-growing congregation in N. America, presently with
about 2000 members. They meet (last I heard) in a large Pentecostal
church since they have long since outgrown their sanctuary. Certainly
one of the distinguishing characteristics of this church (my information
is from my pastor who recently visited there) is their "praise and worship"
type of service. The other is a burgeoning small group ministry which
seeks, mostly successfully to involve every member in small group
In the past year, Tony Moore, pastor of my own Shadyside church in Pittsburgh,
has established the "praise and worship" style at our church. The
change has been enormous since for the past forty years or so Shadyside
has been very traditional and ultraconservative, with a large percentage
of its membership being senior citizens. The church has split right down
the middle on this issue, with two rallying cries.
We start every worship service now with about ten minutes of congregational
singing. The words to the songs are displayed on an overhead projector.
These are modern choruses, many are taken from the Praise albums by the
Maranatha singers. During all this time the congregation is standing.
Then there is a short time to greet visitors, followed by announcements,
sometimes another song, offering (with no Doxology afterwards),
and scripture reading. Then follows the "Garden of Prayer" where those
with special prayer requests are invited to come forward for special prayer
during the morning prayer. Then follows special music, sermon,
closing hymn, and we're done (usually by 12:15 or so.)
I don't know how any part of this service is necessarily "Pentecostal"
in fact, we're not doing anything that SDA Black churches haven't done
Advantages to this style include that it is attracting new members. The
praise songs are easier for the congregation to learn and sing, so they
sing louder. The kids in my youth group like the changes (as do a surprising
number of the old folks. Our church has grown immensely in a sense of
community in the past year. Those who visit after an absence of a couple
years can hardly believe the difference.
People, including myself, have pointed out that the songs we are singing
are the popcorn of Christian music. They have fewer and more repetitive
words. Then there are the other changes (Removing the wood railing from
in front of the organ! Not using the big carved-wood pulpit! Not singing
the Doxology! Not having the elders and deacons kneel as they come in!
Sin! Apostasy! Heresy!) But these could be tolerated if it wasn't for
that horrible idea of *greeting* one another inside the church.
"It's like a circus in there."
We must face, however, that there really is less content in the celebration
service. The question becomes: is this really a problem? In the
SDA church, the pastor is paid mainly to minister to his own members
(Plans of mission to the contrary)--in real and ideal it is the laity
which should bear the burden of evangelism.
If the church doesn't and won't commit itself, isn't it then the job
of Christian charity to at least make them warm and comfortable?
As with most things designed by a committee, our worship service currently
is an eclectic mix of high-church and praise and worship traditions.
Since it is a compromise, no one is totally content with it.
Although we have no pentecostal elements currently, we cannot avoid
the fact that if we wish to carry the praise and worship tradition
to its logical conclusion, they will come. We are actively puzzling
about how best to obey the Biblical *commands* to lift holy hands to heaven,
clap our hands, praise God with timbrel, dance, and cymbals.
We must also realize that the logical destination of "landmarkianism"
is a dead church. I am actively searching, not for an unholy and
bastardized compromise between the two, but a third and better way.
I hope we can continue this discussion.
Subject: GC from the 50 yard line: An editorial
When I first got to General Conference session last weekend, my first
reaction was "Is this *my* church?" A business meeting was taking place,
and various observers in the gallery were clapping as various speakers
made their points in the argument at hand (which was some obscure
organizational document being considered to stall for time waiting
for the nominating committee report.)
Outside the Hoosier dome the hustle and bustle of all the exhibits reminded
me of nothing less than the temple of Jerusalem with all the buyers
and sellers outside the gates.
It was about 6:00 Friday evening when they elected the new president,
Robert Folkenberg. It's clear that he has in many ways over the past
week influenced the course that the session took. Throughout the week
actions were taken to downsize administration and place the funds that
are saved into the new Global Strategy program.
Yesterday, Sab. Jul 14, I sat on the front row of the third deck and
watched (from the 50 yard line) the proceedings. Folkenberg preached,
and he is very quotable. Some quotes from his sermon:
"If we don't share the church with our young people, we may not have
a church left to give them."
"If we give them a piece of the pie, they will stay for dinner."
"Jesus eliminated sin, not with stones, but with forgiveness."
"With a church in unity with Christ, evangelism will be not mandatory,
"Leaders must give members the basis for trust."
"If we focus on each other, our differences divide,
If we focus on the cross--differences disappear."
Several times he stressed that the true President of the church
is Jesus Christ. And he also invited the whole church to continue
as has been done at the General Conference session, to pray every
morning at 6:15 AM for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
His sermon was interrupted at various points by applause.
A comment with regard to the fact that he is only 49--James White was
44 when first elected G.C. president, George Butler was 39,
Ellen White was 17 at time of first vision.
I'm not sure if I had the hidden motive of wishing to be proud of my
church being international, 180-some countries, 6 million members, etc.
If I did have that motive, it wasn't fulfilled. I've come away from
the session with a deeper understanding of the need of the church.
It's not a perfect church, it's full of hypocrites just like me.
Looking at my local church, I don't know how I could have expected it
to be otherwise.
But I have also come away with a renewed confidence that despite the
problems, the church is still moving forward. I stand amazed at the
power of God to consistently work with such stubborn people as us.
I realize that the unity which has been called for can only come as I do
my part, and I plan to make my voice heard and my actions felt.
Interesting that during G.C. week, we have on three occasions scooped
the Adventist Review G.C. Bulletin! Such is the power of an electronic
network. I left some SDAnet brochures out yesterday--we'll see if
anybody took them.
Subject: The Subculture Is Dead! Long Live The Movement
For those of you still mired in Adventist colonies, the above may come
as news to you. There is a whole generation of Adventist children growing
up that have no idea where or what Andrews University is. They don't know
what Numete is. ABC is a television network to them, not a bookstore.
Even in mini-colonies such as Hinsdale, the issues our people grapple
with are no longer the petty disputes so often seen in SDA institutions.
Affirm (and other magazines named after undergarments for the incontinent)
spell out the issues quite well for those people who have been
institutionalized in the Adventist colony, but are irrelevant outside of
My best estimate of the cause of death of the subculture: the discrediting
of legalism in SDA theology. This at once causes many of the regulations
of the Seventh-day Pharisees to collapse under their own weight of
inconsistency. But unfortunately people think the only alternative
is the "anything goes" antinomianism. They believe the logical fallacy
that if the rationale for keeping the standards was wrong, then the standards
themselves must also be wrong.
Statistics which I don't know but would be interested in knowing:
1) The percentage of enrollment at SDA schools made up of children
of denominational employees.
(The last year I spent in Pittsburgh it was 100% at our local church school).
2) The percentage of enrollment at SDA boarding academies where the students
are from broken homes. (It was high in my time and only getting higher).
While the Adventist colonies dispute over our young people getting into
"celebration style" those of us in the real world know that we can't
interest our kids in it because it's too tame for them. We wrestle
not against doctrinal impurity, but against Biblical ignorance.
We wrestle not against apostasy but against apathy. Sabbath afternoon
programs compete against Sabbath afternoon jobs.
A simple question for second-generation or more Adventists out there:
What were your parents doing to help the church when they were your age?
If your level of involvement is the same, then we might be able to
maintain the status quo. Only by increasing involvement can we hope
to advance. (That, and a generous measure of the Holy Spirit).
We have to find some way to break out of the business-as-usual mentality.
For myself, I've been a baptized member for fourteen years now. During
that time, I can point to nobody that I've brought into the church,
and one that I pushed out. It shouldn't be that hard to attract people
to our faith, especially the professionals that most of us interact with.
After all, the SDA church is per capita one of the best-educated churches,
much more so than the average population. Yet too much of the time we
I showed both my clubs to my Chinese friend. She wanted to join my health
club right away. She didn't have any interest in my church club. WHY?!
Thanks for tolerating these ramblings. If you feel the obituary on the
subculture is premature, feel free to complain. But if so, be sure
to explain why we still need a subculture and colonies (besides the
obvious reason of providing a place for single Adventists to meet members
of the opposite sex--which activity has always been over-regulated by
Subject: L'Establishment, c'est moi
(I am the establishment.)
After reading yet another editorial bemoaning the lack of leadership
roles for baby boomers in the church, I present a reality check:
1) I am not a baby boomer. I was born in 1965. (Baby boom ended in
2) I am almost 28 years old. That means I am not "youth" anymore,
and thus neither are the baby boomers who were one grade or more
ahead of me in school (for instance, the class ahead of me had 92
graduates, we had 56.)
3) I am not being "shut out" of leadership by any possible definition
you can think of. I'm an assistant Sabbath School superintendent (and
there is no head). Also leader of the youth SS division and assistant
director of youth activities (again, there is no head leader). I escape
being on the church board only by directly refusing it.
4) The idea of "older generations holding on to power" is largely a myth.
The older generations want relief from the duties they have been performing
much more than the baby boomers want to take those duties on. Whenever
I have encountered conflict in the church, it has been between various
groups of movers and shakers.
5) If one considers the situation in Pittsburgh, there we have a "baby
boomer" pastor under the authority of a "baby boomer" conference president
in a union (Columbia) which is the most sympathetic to change of any
in North America. Yet change is not forthcoming. The gridlock is not
due to misadministration--it is due to lethargy on the part of the membership.
6) There are two ways to relate to establishment: Fight it or build it.
I've generally chosen to build it. It is only as this is done that people
can feel ownership in the church. I am the establishment. (Fortunately
I don't have to fill this task alone.)
Remember, institutions are only as good as the people committed to them.