Why I "Criticise" Adventism (Even Though I Love It)
A few months ago, I received an anonymous text message that went something like this: "stop criticising our church. If you don't like our church then just leave."
While I don't receive messages like this often, they do come from time to time and they are always the same. First, they are always anonymous (I cant figure out why because despite that line in my resume that says "former Army Sergeant" I am like the least scary person you will ever meet), second they are always hostile and third, they are always awfully wrong. Wrong because it is my love for the Adventist church that fuels everything I say. Wrong because to say nothing about the failure of our local churches and pretend everything was cool would be as far away from loving our church as you can get. And wrong because criticism is necessary if we are to grow. Not the toxic arrogant kind but the constructive redemptive kind. It is the latter that I always aim for.
But there is one other reason why this kind of thinking is wrong. And here it is:
It Assumes our Church Has Never Been Amazing.
Contrary to what most might think, these anonymous messages are not coming from people who think our church is amazing. Which is weird because if they are mad when someone says "we need to fix this, change that etc" then you would think that maybe in their heads they are like, "Our church is killing it! Stop dragging it down." But nothing can be further from the truth. Instead, this mindset thinks very little of our church and its mission.
How do I know? It's really very simple. Our church, the Seventh-day Adventist church, is an amazing church. Not perfect, of course. But definitely amazing. Born out of the Millerite Disappointment, composed of a bunch of embarrassed folk who were kicked out of their home churches, with little resources, structure, financial backing or even a doctrinal system it grew to 20 million members in just a short 155 years and established a global presence with schools, churches, hospitals, publishing houses, mission stations and aged care. The level of innovation, courage and divine power it took to become such a movement astounds me. And now, as we navigate a new epoch filled with new challenges and obstacles to missional success it is time we add to our legacy by adding to the story of innovation, courage and God-dependence our pioneers have left for us.
If you truly believe our church is amazing, then use your voice to add to our legacy. The mindset that claims there is nothing for us to change is not a mindset of appreciation for our church. It is a selfish mindset focused on keeping things comfortable for us. But our pioneers didn't reach the world by being comfortable. They reached it by innovating (adapting, changing, creating, pushing the boundaries and limits of human ingenuity), stepping out in courage knowing God was with them and depending on his spirit and not traditions, customs, administrative bubbles and familiar methods (which Ellen White repeatedly opposed).
So when people say to me "stop criticising the church. We are fine" to me that sounds like "I don't really love our church or its mission but I am comfortable with how things are so don't stir the pot." So here is my response to that mindset:
I love our church. I love the innovation that fuelled it. I love the courage that defined it. I love the God that has led it. So I want to add to that legacy by calling for more innovation, more courage and more God-dependence. Join me!