The statistics are daunting. Only 2.5 percent of the North American Division Seventh-day Adventist church membership is currently made up of young adults. Estimates of our young adult attrition report losing up to 70 percent of people ages 18-30.
Alarm bells are sounding as article after article, graph after graph paint a very bleak picture for the future of our church. It cannot be denied that the North American culture is shifting in a way that the Adventist church is having a very hard time keeping up with. Therefore, the church is finding it increasingly difficult to keep young adults engaged, never mind reach the unchurched with the gospel.
With all this battering our senses and psyches it is easy to slip into a mindset where we hole up and wait out the storm. Continue the course because it seems our efforts are for naught. Our hope and morale have left the building.
With all due respect
I am, of course, being intentionally overdramatic. However, I haven’t seen much good news shared recently. Therefore, I would like to share a prophetic vision a friend of mine recently gave me. It comes in the way of a short video clip from the movie Apollo 13.
In the clip we watch two characters list several seemingly insurmountable problems in trying to get the lunar module of Apollo 13 to reenter and land safely back on Earth. Overhearing the hushed conversation, Gene Kranz, the NASA Flight Director, responds to the comment, “This could be the worst disaster NASA has ever experienced.” After straightening his shirt and adjusting his tie Kranz turns to the men and says, “With all due respect sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour.”
Without being dismissive of the problems and issues our church faces I’d like to give courage and the idea that this could indeed be the Church’s (notice the big ‘C’, meaning the whole body of Christ not just the Adventist place in it) finest hour.
All hands on deck
Church history is filled with dark spots, seemingly insurmountable odds and challenges, and yet God’s people have continued to move forward in grace and power. The Church has pushed through those times because individual believers continued to act in faith. In Holy Spirit creativity and perseverance they found ways to advance the gospel.
In the Apollo story it wasn’t just Mission Control that ensured a successful mission. In its darkest hour NASA relied on everyone, from the directors to the assembly line crew, engineers and floor grunts alike. Only together, collaborating under intense pressure, did NASA find a way to make success happen.
Here is how I see that playing out in our situation. We cannot afford to sit idly and wait for church administration and leadership to figure out and fix things. Success will not come from the top down. Rather it will come in pockets, pockets of believers empowered by God to reach out in their circles and love those around. The gospel will aggressively advance as individuals intentionally watch their “neighborhoods” (home, school, work, gym, store) for where God is working, and then join Him in loving, redemptive acts. Where is God working? You can be assured that wherever there are people God is up to something redemptive. How do we join Him? We join God in redemption by first loving Him then by loving others. The results are up to Him. Remember that our job isn’t to make people believe truth, but to share the Truth.
Pray for fresh eyes as you go about your routines. Develop a relationship with the same cashier at your grocery store. Ask God to reveal His work in that person’s life and help you find ways to love on that person. God only asks for your availability. In Spirit-given courage live a life that demands a gospel explanation then expect Him to follow up on His promise to give you the necessary words as they are needed.
A fantastic resource I leave you with is Greg Finke’s book, Joining Jesus on His Mission: How to be an Everyday Missionary.
Collaborating under intense pressure, in God’s grace and power, His people can see salvation come. While things might look very grim in our post-Christian society, lift your head high because this could indeed be the Church’s finest hour!
Author Shayne Daughenbaugh is intent on nurturing a spiritual community of believers in his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska.