We Adventists call ourselves a “movement.” But as the new year dawns, are we still moving forward?
Movement involves making positive change. Mission and message do not change for Seventh-day Adventists, as Elder Lemon recently reminded us (click here), but methods of fulfilling that mission and ways of expressing that message must continually adapt to changing needs around us.
Consider the meaning of the word “church.” To early Christians, church was the assembly of believers called out of the world—but not to hold themselves aloof from worldly neighbors. Like our Lord, we must be incarnate in our culture to seek and to save the lost. We come apart from the world to worship and fellowship, only to scatter again throughout the marketplace and campus as the soul-winning fragrance of Christ’s love. This is the teaching of the New Testament regarding the meaning and purpose of the church, and it cannot change.
Unfortunately, the meaning of church got lost over time. When Christianity became institutionalized and faith was fossilized, “church” became a geographic location with ornate statues of saints. This forfeited the biblical meaning of church being the living, loving assembly of saints—the body of Christ that exists even where two or three are gathered in His name.
The first Christians, lacking corporate facilities, worshiped in home settings. Likewise, the early Adventists met in each other’s homes or in rented halls.
In the 1860s, J. N. Loughborough and J. N. Andrews, Adventist missionaries to the northeast Iowa town of Waukon, had become discouraged. To get their Adventist movement moving again, Ellen White risked her life in a dramatic winter crossing of the Mississippi River. (Read her thrilling testimony in Life Sketches, p. 330.) She prayed and worshiped with them in their farmhouse; consequently Andrews eventually became our first foreign missionary. And a little home church in Mid-America Union territory became the birthplace of Adventist global mission.
That was 150 years ago. What about today?
Thank God, our mission and message are alive and well in congregations large and small—some of them meeting in home churches that operate harmoniously in counsel with local conferences leadership. A few weeks ago I witnessed such an Adventist movement in the southwest corner of the Mid-America Union—San Juan County in New Mexico. I enjoyed fellowship with Farmington members in their lovely facility and also visited La Vida Mission, an outreach to neighboring Navajos. La Vida has a little chapel that hosts worship for local Adventists and students, and the mission also sponsors two thriving home churches for outreach.
What other opportunities are available to the Adventist movement? None greater than outreach to the Digital Continent—a term describing millions of Internet users who basically live online. A staff writer for Adweek reports that “Google experiences 25 million church-related inquiries a month.”* She noted that even savvy churches seem reluctant to seize this opportunity.
Think of it! Adventists talk about knocking on doors hoping to make cold contacts, while millions of spiritual seekers are knocking digitally on the church door. Does God want us to open that door so they can come in and meet Jesus as Savior and Lord of the Sabbath? This requires more than maintaining a worn-out website and boring Facebook page. It demands the same strategic thinking and commitment of resources that secular organizations devote toward success on the Web.
So then, what do you think? Is the Adventist movement living up to its name in your life and in your church? God says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isa. 43:19, NIV). May we all be blessed with the Spirit of discernment so that the Adventist movement can be true to its calling in 2013.
* http://pandodaily.com/2012/11/27/startup-faithstreet-lives-at-the-corner-of-tech-and-christianity/. Accessed December 3, 2012. Italics supplied.