Posts tagged Adventism
5 Beliefs That Kill Local Church Mission
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Last week, pastor Mike and I sat down for an interview titled, “How to Free Your Local Church from Last Generation Theology.”

The episode has quickly become one of the most popular for The Story Church Podcast which prompted Mike and I to agree to a follow up! That followup will be published next week (I hope), and for this week I do a follow up of my own by addressing 5 beliefs that kill local church mission in the Seventh-day Adventist movement.

Those 5 beliefs are:

  1. The belief that the law of God is an imposed legal construct.

  2. The belief that sin is a choice and not much more.

  3. The belief that we must become perfect to be saved (or for the Great Controversy to end).

  4. The belief that we alone have the truth (no one else!).

  5. The belief that our job is to warn the world about all the bad stuff.

Of course, there are other unhealthy beliefs that damage our capacity to do mission as local Adventist churches, but these 5 are the ones I highlight this week.

Check out the episode below! Don’t forget to subscribe, comment and share!

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How Political Should an Adventist Be?
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Should Adventists have anything to do with politics?

Or, should we just focus on the gospel and forget about politics altogether?

And if we do engage politics, how should we do it?

These and other questions are explored in this weeks new podcast episode interview with Andrews University Professor Nicolas Miller.

Listen and subscribe below!


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My Top 3 Frustrations as an Adventist Pastor
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I have been in full-time ministry now for four years. However, I have been involved in volunteer ministry for well over a decade. I started preaching when I was 17, and since then I have also done youth ministry, worship ministry, health ministry, evangelism and outreach. So while I have titled this post, "My Top 3 Frustrations as an Adventist Pastor" what I share has been on my mind long before I became one.

At the moment, our church is hashing it out with various issues that impact us worldwide. There is lots of heated debate on the union and conference levels over things like authority, ordination and hermeneutics. And while these massive debates can be frustrating, the truth is they are not anywhere near my top 3. Rather, those spots are reserved for issues that are much smaller, and yet arguably more important. So here are my top 3 frustrations as an Adventist pastor:

1. Our desperate need for a giant caffeine overdose.

No, I don't promote the use of coffee but don't miss the point. While coffee isn't exactly good for you, sometimes I wish I could spike everyone's potluck juice with two or three Allmax caffeine tablets. Maybe then we will find the energy to actually get up and do something?

OK, so maybe that's a bit polemic, but hear me out. At nearly every church I have ever been to, the pattern is identical. Eighty percent of people are mere spectators while twenty percent invest themselves year after year in service and mission (this is why no one gets excited about being in the Nominating Committee). And I'm not the only one. Most of the pastors I talk to have the same drama. And no one seems to know what the solution is. It's like many of us are super content to just show up, watch the church leaders do their thing and then go home. With that kind of culture, there is just no way the church can ever grow.

However, I have concluded that the current state of member involvement has less to do with the members themselves and more to do with a church structure that doesn't encourage involvement on any level. So it's not simply our members who need an Almax, our leaders need a double dose themselves. Maybe then we will find the energy to finally recreate our church structure into something more empowering? 

Solution:

Adventist leaders need to stop pretending that the 80/20 principle is normal. As already mentioned, I personally believe it is the result, not of lazy Christians (though that's there too) but also of a system that is designed to encourage passivity. We need to restructure the way our churches operate to encourage and reward involvement. 

For a simple approach to restructuring your church for missional success, check out the 7-day video course "The Church Optimizers Online Course." To gain access, subscribe here.

2. Our Forgotten narrative.

Adventism has the most beautiful theological system I have ever encountered. And believe me, I have studied many of them. Calvinism, the Westminster Confession, the Second London Baptist Confession, Dispensationalism, New Covenant Theology, Arminian-Wesleyanism, Catholicism and on and on. And in my estimation, none of those theological narratives are as compelling and beautiful as Adventism. But most of our members seem to be totally unaware of this. It's like they have forgotten, or perhaps never really known, what our story is.

On the other hand you have those who haven't forgotten what makes us unique, but have taken that narrative and divorced it of Jesus. This results in the imbalanced and repulsive theology so prevalent in many Adventist circles. And what do you get when you have a group of people who have forgotten Jesus in their story? You get a bunch of bored folk who argue and bicker about all kinds of dumb stuff. When we lack vision, we perish.

Solution:

I wrote a book on this titled "Why is Adventism So Weird?". You can download it here, read it and share it's challenge with your church family.

3. Our Severe lack of excellence.

I don't know if this is just a Sevvy thing, but boy do I see it a lot. Somehow, there is this cultural pattern among us that settles for mediocrity. Our churches look atrocious. Our services are boring. Our ministries are vague and uninteresting. Our Sabbath Schools are irrelevant. Our corporate worship vibes are substandard. Our websites, if we even have one, look like they were designed in the 90's. And if you ask me how many churches I have been to with a carpet that was laid in the 70's I honestly can't remember. I have lost count.

Sometimes we try and baptize our lack of  excellence with religious platitudes. "It's all about the Holy Spirit" or "All we need is the truth, not these other things" etc. etc. And I agree that those things are most important. But since when did they become excuses for mediocrity? If anything, they should be motivations for a greater commitment to excellence. After all, it was the Holy Spirit who enabled artists to design one of the most compelling ancient works of art - the Hebrew sanctuary.

Solution:

If you iron out the first two points made above, a commitment to excellence will follow naturally. Church members need to come to the realization that we are not there for ourselves. This can only happen if we restructure our local church to promote a missional culture and begin celebrating our narrative in that process.

So there you have it guys! Top 3 frustrations as an Adventist pastor. Do you have any (with solutions)? Share them below!

How to Become a RELEVANT Church
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What does it mean to be a Relevant church?

Is it all about having an edgy building, slick graphics on all your designs, a pastor in skinny jeans with tattoos and a cool band? Or does Relevance go way deeper than all of this?

Is "Relevance" reserved only for big, wealthy churches? Or it possible for a small Adventist church with outdated facilities and limited budget to become a Relevant church? If so, then how? What is the secret?

These are the questions we tackle in this months Pomopastor Podcast interview with pastor Ben Tavao, a leader and practitioner in the pursuit of relevance for Adventist churches..

Listen below!

3 Ways Adventist Churches Fail Parents
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Are you a parent?

If so, I dedicate this weeks blog to you. Because I too am a parent, and I have to admit - it's not easy.

But let me start with a quick illustration to set the foundation for what I will say next. When I was in Army basic training I noticed something interesting. The training itself wasn't actually that hard. I had been a wrestler in high school and when it came to physical training, I found that ten times harder. And yet, basic training remains one of the most difficult things I ever did. The reason is simple: sleep deprivation. Somehow, everything gets 20 times harder when you are sleep deprived. Tasks that you would normally be able to do with relative ease, become nearly impossible.

But basic training isn't the hardest thing I have ever done. Parenting is. Because now you can add emotional deprivation to your sleep deprivation and suddenly, the simplest tasks become overwhelming. As Emily Morrice noted in her article, "Moms with Hands Full Need the Church"

With young children, everything is more difficult. 
— Emily Morrice

That includes church. If something as simple as leaving the house or getting inside the car becomes ridiculously difficult with kids, can you imagine going to church? If you are a parent, you don't need to. You already know - its insane.

But here's the thing - even though life is difficult with kids there are ways to make things easier. There are all kinds of tools and resources to alleviate some of the stress. Nowadays, there are even barber shops designed just for kids with airplanes and fire engines for them to sit in during their hair-cut. It's genius! But in my estimation, when it comes to making worship meaningful for the family, the local Adventist church is generally way behind. Here are 3 ways in which we fail our families and what we can do better.

1. Stares and Comparisons

There is nothing worse for a parent than a kid throwing a tantrum in church. Oh wait, yes there is something worse. A kid throwing a tantrum in church with everyone staring and no one offering to help. Yep. That's definitely worse. And it happens all the time.

But I can also think of one other thing that's worse. Parents asking church leadership to think of ways to make the church experience easier only to be met with "Well, when I had little children we did it like this" or "My kids never acted like that". The message behind these comparisons is clear: "You are not as good a parent as I was because if you were you wouldn't be having any problems." But this is nonsense. Kids are different, some high energy and others low. And parents are different as well and have different stress limits. Comparing is a sure way of saying, "We don't really care about you."

The solution to this is a cultural shift and cultural shift only happens in conversation and relationship. Many of our churches lack in relationship (In Natural Church Development surveys, Adventists consistently score low in the "relationship" side of things) and this is the only real way to change culture. But this is a long journey. In the meantime, I encourage pastors to find ways of speaking possitivity into this space either through sermons, comments or a church email newsletter. I also encourage churches to create a space for parents to gather and worship together and to find an advocate for those parents who can develop ways of making life easier for them. This can be either an individual or a committee specifically assigned to that task (if the situation calls for it).

2. Substandard Parenting Rooms

I don't know how many Adventist churches I have been to with substandard parenting rooms. Whether they are way too small, under resourced, isolated from the main service or difficult to enter and exit with a pram the message these rooms communicate is "you aren't that important to us".

Churches, especially the older ones, need to prioritize a renovation budget and plan for their parents room and make it a space that nurtures the parents church experience rather than hinder it. If a renovation is out of the scope of reality, there are still other things that can be done. The bottom line is this: Most local SDA churches don't have a lot of budget invested in the children's department and yet, these are the ages where kids are already cementing their decisions for Christ. For example:

The current Barna study indicates that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%)...
— Barna Research

In light of this, we need to invest way more in our kids ministry than we do anywhere else.

3. Lack of consideration

I don't know how many times my wife has said to me, "why do I even come to church?" The kids don't listen, act up the whole time, which means she cant listen, worship or do any church thing. She either ends up sitting in the substandard parenting room or takes the kids to the car and sits there until I'm done preaching. Grant it, part of the problem is she doesn't always have my help because I have to preach. But I have spoken to many other parents who tell me the same thing. Some go to Sabbath school, and then leave right after because, whats the point of even trying to go to the main service?

At this point some people pipe up with the old, "If you don't take them, how will they learn to sit in church and behave?" Let me tell you why I absolutely despise that argument: because its d.u.m.b. 

I have seen plenty of people come to church for the first time ever with their nine or ten year old kids, and the kids sit perfectly still. They had no practice or training whatsoever. But hey, they were so well behaved! Know why? Because they are old enough to sit still. This whole, "you need to drag your 3 year old into this horrendously boring experience every week and then get mad at them and tell them off for not doing something a 3 year old is not meant to do anyways so that they can learn to do it" is utter nonsense. The real problem is our church services are never designed with kids in mind. They are designed to meet the needs of adults who favor a verbal-logical learning style (ignoring other learning styles such as visual, aural, physical and social). As a result kids, as well as teens and youth, tend to get bored. But for me, the worst part is seeing young moms who are single and seeking God come to church and have to leave early because their kid threw a tantrum. So this isn't simply an inreach issue, its an outreach one as well.

My suggestion is, we need to develop worship gatherings that can speak to every learning style and make life easy for parents with kids. A church designed exclusively for the verbal-logical doesn't have room for kids. They are a nuisance because they are loud and don't sit still. But a church gathering designed to incorporate movement, visual art, social interaction and sounds is a good place to start. Alternatively, a children's church running alongside the main service can work as well. But my main point is this - make the incorporation of children in worship an active and intentional part of your worship planning. If you take that first basic step, you will find and develop solutions that work in your local context.

Comment Questions

What other ways can local Adventist churches make church more meaningful for parents of young children?


Sources:

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/moms-with-hands-full-need-the-church/

https://www.barna.com/research/evangelism-is-most-effective-among-kids/

Top 3 Adventist Church Growth Myths
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Click here for video version.

Click here for audio version.

Do you want your church to grow?

I hope your answer to this question is a resounding "yes". Because if it isn't, seriously - what gives?

Of course, you may be skeptical about the church-growth movement with its "seeker-sensitive" approach and that's OK. You don't have to like that model. But you should still want your church to grow - not for the sake of measuring numbers like some corporate entity, but because God himself wants this. The apostle Peter makes this clear when he said, 

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
— 2Peter 3:9

God wants to save everyone! So should we.

But here is where things get weird. Regardless of how Adventists relate to "church growth" there seems to be a set of myths that accompany us when it comes to this topic. So in today's post, I want to talk about the top 3 I encounter in the many conversations I have on this topic.

Myth #1: God doesn't care about quantity, he cares about quality. 

The idea behind this myth is that God isn't interested in numbers joining the church but in true disciples who are walking with him. While this is true, the main problem with this statement is that it posits an "either-or" mentality. The truth is, God is interested in numbers as well! In fact, as we saw above he wants to save everyone. And the Bible uses growth language repeatedly to reflect this:

  • Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:41)
  • The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)
  • But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)
  • After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)

Of course, God doesn't care about numbers in the sense that a corporate marketing department does. He cares for each of us personally. We are not metrics to him, but family. However, there is a sense in which he cares about the growth of the church and celebrates it. So here is the truth: God cares about both quantity and quality. So should we.

Myth #2: My church can't grow because its too traditional.

This myth is often accompanied by a series of other myths such as:

  • We need a contemporary church service or we wont grow
  • The people in this church are too conservative. Until they change the church will stay stuck.
  • If only we could modernize our music and service style, the church would grow.
  • Our youth are leaving because they find the service boring. We need to make it more hip.

You get the point. And here is the problem with this myth. First of all, after reviewing lots of different surveys conducted by Barna Research and Natural Church Development I have found zero correlation between contemporary music and church growth. Youth retention studies have also found that the issue of music doesn't even make it to the top ten reasons why youth leave or stay. Seriously, you don't need a contemporary church service to grow. There is no conclusive evidence to demonstrate that (and this is coming from a guy who loves contemporary worship).

The other problem with this myth is that it creates a practically unsolvable problem. Unless we can somehow convince every single Adventist on the planet that they need to be contemporary then we simply wont grow. If we tried that approach, the church would be locked in ideological warfare for the next 100 years. Seriously, the worship wars of the 90's are so over. Contemporary worship is nice, but it's not a hill worth dying on. You can grow your church without it.

I am currently pastoring two traditional churches. While the work there has only just begun both churches are showing signs of revival and growth. And we haven't changed a thing about their traditional culture. Instead, we have focused on what really matters: peoples lives. So here is the truth: When you focus on developing a positive and inspiring culture that impacts the lives of people, your church will awaken and grow.

Myth #3: All we have to do is be faithful to the truth and God will take care of the growth.

Yes and no. Yes. We have to be faithful to the truth. But no, God will not magically grow the church just because we are being faithful to the truth. I don't know how many Adventist churches I have been to with this mentality and rather than growing they are dwindling. 

The fact is, God gave the administration of the church over to human-kind. He blesses it, leads it, guides it and empowers it. Without him at the helm, we can do nothing. But when it comes to administering our resources and reaching the lost - he gave that task to us. We are the ones that have to plan, devise methods, develop strategies and put in the hard yard to get the work done. Yes, be faithful to the truth. But do more than that. Develop a simple and effective plan for how you are going to reach your community and get to work. Here is the truth: God is not going to administrate the church for you, that's your job. Your church clerk is not going to receive an email from heaven with a detailed community outreach plan for your church. You have to do it. And if you don't, get ready to age and die.

These are the top 3 Adventist church growth myths I have encountered. What myths have you encountered? Share them in the comments below.

Replacing Tradition with Creation
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When it comes to the conversation of Adventism, the church and our struggle to fulfill the great commission one word comes up more than any other:

TRADITION

Yep, that's right. I said the "T" word. A word which, in some sectors of Christianity is almost a cuss-word. A word which invokes emotional responses that vary from warmth and appreciation to disgust and aversion. I have concluded that no conversation on mission can ever occur without a season of wrestling with the "T" word.

Now here's the thing I have learned. Tradition is not a bad thing. Everyone likes it. Traditions are nice. They help create artistic and meaningful expressions of faith that we can celebrate. The problem emerges when tradition morphs into commandment. When the church comes to the place that it is unwilling to change, adapt or evolve on a non-essential simply because we have "always done it this way". And the end result of this attitude is missional ineffectiveness.

Don’t be a traditional Adventist. Be a creational Adventist. 

The only solution is to replace tradition with the powerful, theologically intense foundation of creation. If we, as a church, model our ministry and culture after God's creative heart we will be constantly creating new traditions that are meaningful to emerging generations and cultures. Its not about doing away with tradition, its about subverting it to a theological commitment to creation.

In other words, don't be a traditional Adventist. Be a creational Adventist. 

The best part is, there is already a huge movement of creational Adventists sweeping the church. This month, I interview a young, up-coming millennial pastor at Avondale university on  his vision for the future of Adventist evangelism and how creativity can restore missional effectiveness to our church. Check it out below!

To check our Lachland Harders project on creativity, visit The Worship Collective.

5 Types of Adventist Churches that Need to Go Extinct
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If you have followed my blog for any number of months you probably found it hard to miss the fact that I am freakishly in love with Adventism. That doesn't necessarily mean I am a fan of the local SDA church through. Adventism is a story and the local SDA church is the organization that is committed to telling that story. The story I love. The organization - not always.

Now allow me to clarify. I am not one of these anti-institution people. I do believe that institution has its place and I like it so long as it stays in its place (a dif topic for a future post). But sadly, the institution can, at times, step into a lane it doesn't belong in and when it does the story gets muddled. Below are 5 kinds of Adventist churches that get in the way of Adventism.

1. The "We're It" Church

Ever been to a church where the people feel like they are the only faithful Adventists left? "We're it" is the message you get when you go there. This kind of mentality breeds big heads - people who think way more highly of themselves than they should. It also breeds lots of complaining and whining about "those other churches", conspiracy theories about pastors and church leaders and unhealthy seperationism. The problem with these churches is they are so caught up in how right they are (and how wrong everyone else is) that they don't have the capacity to be missional.

2. The "Way-too-Faithful" Church

I once belonged to a church (that shall remain nameless) that was obsessed with being faithful to God. Now, allow me to be really clear here. There is no way to be "too faithful" to God. All Christians should aim to be radically faithful. But this church was different. It wasn't simply being faithful to what God had said. It wanted to go beyond what he had said. It would be like a husband telling his wife, "I will always be faithful to you and never run off with another woman. In fact, I will never speak to any woman ever again!" That's what you call being "way too faithful" which in all honesty, is not faithfulness at all.

Sadly, most western Adventist churches I have been to are like this. This is the result of two things. 1) The natural human inclination to focus on our own works and, 2) The work of independent ministries who market directly to peoples fears and insecurities. These ministries, all competing for the same churches to bring them in, have to develop unique selling points that appeal to the minds of people. So most of them operate off a "warning message" kind of marketing that makes people feel that there is this new spiritual danger lurking around that they need to be warned about. The end result is a culture of distrust that stunts the church's missional capacity.

3. The "By the Book" Church

This is the kind of church that is so committed to doing things by the book they could care less about anything else. Are the youth leaving? Have we baptized no one in 3 years? It's all good. We are sticking to the book and that's all that matters.

If you try and raise a discussion about adapting or innovating the way the church functions in order to facilitate discipleship and mission you get shut down quick. There is no flexibility. "We must do the right thing even if everyone leaves" they will say. Sadly, 9 times out of 10, the things they are being so rigid about are nowhere to be found in the Bible. These churches would do well to redefine their culture with Paul's words: "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God" (Acts 15:19).

4. The Nostalgic Warriors Church

A few years ago I was part of a nice and friendly church that shall also remain nameless. They spent years raising money for a new building and when they finally got it everyone was excited. The building was modern and had plenty of growth potential. But despite the new building, everything else remained exactly the same. The culture, structure and function of the church was not adapted in any way to facilitate growth. An ancient lectern was placed at the front of this modern church building that I feel captured the ethos of that community well. They were too in love with the way they had always done things and nothing was going to get them to change.

5. The "We're So Tired" Church

These churches come in two flavors. The mission-less flavor and the missional flavor.

The mission-less flavor kind are the ones that invest all of their time, energy, resources and focus on in-reach. You look at their yearly calendar, scan through the treasurers report or simply hang out with them for a week and you will discover these people place 99% of their church emphasis on themselves. They are tired of evangelism, outreach and mission. So they stop talking about it.

The missional one is different. It tends to be a reaction to all these other churches. Rather than recover the beauty of Adventism for everyone to see, these churches tend to assume that the problem with all the other churches isn't simply their structure but Adventism itself. They are so tired of the legalism and rigidity that they conflate those experiences with the Adventist worldview and then take the doctrines they don't like very much and store them away in the basement. The ones they do like they emphasize till they are blue in the face. The problem with both of these churches is that they are ineffective when it comes to the mission that gives Adventism its identity.

All of these churches, in my estimation, need to go extinct. Some will probably die a natural death since they have no life in them anyways. But if we are not careful, the cycle can repeat itself with different colors. Satan doesn't want the church to succeed and he has a thousands tricks up his sleeve to stop it. And the only solution is for the members, leaders and pastors of the local Adventist church to focus on Jesus and the mission he has given us at any cost to ourselves.

Rather than dying on the hill of tradition, live on the hill of innovation. Enter into eternity knowing you did everything so that by all possible means you "might save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22).

12 Ideas for Reviving Your Local Adventist Church
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One of the most common complaints I run into from Adventists who want to see their local church do amazing things is this: "No one cares."

In other words, optimizing the local church is exhausting because they are the only ones who are pursuing this goal. Everyone else is content to just sit there and do nothing (best case scenario) or constantly get in the way of progress (worst case scenario). Over time, these passionate Adventists burn out and give up. It's just way too hard.

But allow me to give you a bit of perspective. Before I do I have a question. If you lived to be 80 years old, how many weeks of life do you think you have left? Think about it. Say the number out loud. Or write it down.

According to Facebook Analytics, the vast majority of Adventists engaging the conversation on church optimization are millennials. So lets go with someone 28 years old. If they lived to 80, that's another 52 years of life (even if they lived beyond 80, a persons influence usually starts to drop significantly by then). Now multiply those 52 years by 52 (the amount of weeks in a year) and you will arrive at 2,704. 

In other words, if you are 28 years old today, you only have 2,704 weeks of life left. Half of it is spent sleeping. 

Go back to your original answer. Was it anywhere near close? Maybe, maybe not. But here is the point. You don't have a lot of time. If you are older than 28, your have less weeks. And if you are younger, you don't have significantly more. In fact, a baby born today will only have about 4,000 weeks before they turn 80. Our life is, as the Bible says, "a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away" (James 4:14).

The question is, what will you do with that time? How will you invest your vapor of a life? Will you make a difference in God's kingdom? Or will you allow the negative attitudes of others to stop you from doing what you have been called to do?

I hope you choose the first option. However, here is where I need to introduce a challenge. When I joined the Army at 18 years of age, I quickly learned the following phrase: "Work smarter, not harder." Solomon the wise put it this way:

If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.
— Ecclesiastes 10:10

Sadly, many church members and leaders I know who want to optimize their churches do not know how to work smart. They have a passion to see God's church grow into a relevant and world-changing movement and they go in, full steam, only to be met by opposition. So they tackle and blitzkrieg their way through. Sometimes they succeed. Most of the time they fail. All of the time, they burn out.

As church optimizers we need to learn how to work smart, not hard. We have to sharpen our axes so that cutting the tree down requires less strength. Below are 12 tips I have picked up along the way that have enabled me to make a difference in the churches I serve without burning out.

1. Find the Pain-Point

Here's the thing. Everyone has a pain point. Its human psychology. All of us have one. And the number one way to find support in a local church is to find the pain point of that local church. What is it that hurts so bad they are willing to do anything to fix or prevent it? You can tell a church "change or your youth will leave!" or "change or the church will die!" and they wont even bat an eye. So you assume these people just don't care. Not necessarily true. The problem is that "youth leaving" and "church dying" are your pain-points not theirs. Those are the things that motivate you to act. But they don't motivate them. So if you want support, you have to start with their pain-point, not yours.

How do you do this? You have to sit down with people and ask them the right questions. Listen to their stories. Ask them how they became Christians. Ask them how God has led them. And ask them what they fear the most for our church. That final question will give you an insight into their pain point. Then, after you have heard a few stories, craft your invitation to church optimization as a solution to their fears and pain-points. Not yours. 

2. Get an influencer on board

As you work to discover the pain-point in the church, identify who the main influencers are in that church as well. You don't need everyone on board. You just need the main influencers. If they buy into the church op. process, everyone else will follow. So make sure you get close to them and build strong relationships with them. Once they are on your side, the rest of the journey is super easy.

3. Become a sniper

Snipers are some of the deadliest and most feared combatants in the modern battlefield. They can take out an enemy a mile away without ever being spotted. The job of a sniper is simple, to take out one target at a time. They are never focused on more than one. They focus, shoot and then move on.

If you want to optimize your church you need to become as focused as a sniper. Dont try and do too many things at once. Develop a road map. Put your end-of-the-year goals down under December and then work your way backward. How will you achieve those goals? Every month of the year should have no more than 3 goals that will lead you toward your main goals at the end. Focus on those 3 goals month by month. Sort them out, and then move onto the next. Do not try and do too much at once. At times you will feel like progress is slow. But trust me, slow is good.

4. Ask them why

This one is easy. Try and have a conversation with everyone at your church. If it is a large church, aim for those most central to the movement of the church. If it is a small church, aim for everyone. Ask them this simple question, "Why does this church exist?" And write down their answers. Once you have visited everyone you will realize that 1) no one agrees on why, 2) if they do say the same answers they tend to be cliche and 3) most people will sit there for a while and think before answering which means they are basically making it up as they go. Make sure you record those answers. 

Once you have all the answers, present them to the church or leadership team. Show them how no one knows why the church is there. Create charts from them if you like (10% say this, 20 % say that) and stress that if we don't know why we exist, there is no way the lost people around us will know either. This will motivate the church to develop a clear and simple mission focus they can all unite on.

5. Ask them to grade themselves

Present the following quote to your church:

Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.”
— Ellen G White

Every Adventist loves this quote. Next, break the quote down into its verbs:

Reach (Evangelism) > Mingled (Fellowship) > Showed (Worship) > Ministered (Ministry) > Bade (Discipleship)

Ask the church to grade how they, as a local church, do in each of these areas using a scale of A to F. If they are honest you may end up with a pretty shocking grading scale. Ask them if this is OK. Once you are done, invite them to enter a season of prayer repenting before God for the way in which they have failed to fulfill his will for their church.

This step is not to be taken lightly and it is not to be treated as some gimmick. This is real, heart-wrenching stuff and only through the agency of the Holy Spirit can it be accomplished. So pray. A lot.

6. Get your ducks in a row

One of the worst things I have witnessed in church is when young people passionate about moving the church forward come up with an idea and present it to the board without having their ducks in a row. Church boards have a lot of stuff to handle, so if you are going to pitch an idea to them, it needs to be well thought through and ironed out.

Start by telling them how this idea will benefit God's kingdom. In other words, "What is in it for the Kingdom?" and make sure you get your main benefit across from the get go. Then, add a personal story that highlights why its important to you followed by a brief description of your project. The #1 thing you want to do when you describe your project is address their fears. For example, if your church is really scared of new trends that they fear will lead the youth astray, stress your commitment to the Bible and the values of your local church. Alleviate their fears and answer their questions before they ask. Finally, transition by addressing finances. How much will this cost? And how will the money be managed? This needs to be well thought through. End by confirming the value of your project and highlighting how it will positively benefit the local church.

Most board pitches I have seen start with a personal pain-point the board doesn't feel, and then proceeds to offer some solution that raises more questions than answers and ends by asking for money. This might work in some churches where the joy of seeing youth involved outweighs everything else, but it wont work in all of them. The sad part is people walk away feeling that the church doesn't support them, when in reality they simply made a proposal that caused more fear than hope. Whenever you pitch to the board, pitch hope.

7. Go with the flow

Remember that the SDA church has a structure for governance. The most powerful meeting at the church is the business meeting. So if you want to make a massive difference, make sure you have followed at least steps 1-5 above and then present your ideas at the business meeting. If you have gained the confidence of your church, you wont have any problems. Recall also that officers are elected via the selection committee which appoints the nominating committee which in turn nominates the new leaders. If you posture yourself as a leader, chances are you will be nominated for a leadership position. So go with the flow. 

8. Light a fire

The best way to light a fire in a local church is to start a small group. Find those passionate about church op. and gather together. Start a Friday night program or mid-week meeting and use it as an opportunity to read through a book or do some training on how to revive your local church. Be careful not to allow a negative spirit to dominate the group. Some complaining may be healthy as people get their disappointments off their chest, but quickly turn to solutions and the hope that we have in Jesus.

As you do this, the members of the group will light up and the fire will spread.

9. Create Memories

The key to intimacy in a church is the same as everywhere else: memories. You have to create memories. That's how people grow close together. So organize events, camps, leadership retreats etc. Have birth day parties for your older members, baby showers for the new moms etc. Making memories is the key to crafting an intimate church family.

10. Preach deep

If you have the opportunity to preach, go deep. Seriously, Adventists are a people of the book. It is in our DNA. Our tribe will never be compatible with the "motivation speech" or "positive thinking" approach to preaching. That stuff can be in your sermons. But make sure they are not the center. Adventism is about pursuing God's heart. And if you go deep, people will respect you.

11. Add, don't subtract

Never see your work as subtracting from what previous generations have done. See it as adding to their legacy. They have gotten us this far and its time we built on their foundation. You are not there to subtract. You are there to add.

12. Plant

All of the above tips will only work in a church that is relatively healthy. They may be dead or dying, but the people are still courteous and reasonable. This stuff wont work in a church hijacked by fanatical leadership and ideologies. If that is your case, check out episode two of the podcast here for some tips. If that doesn't help, you may want to consider moving on. If you have gathered a support group then explore the possibility of planting another church.

Whatever you do, don't give up. You only have about 2,000 weeks to work with. Make them count.

3 Must Have Elements for a Thriving Adventist Church
why adventism (1) Cropped.jpg

In my last few years in full time ministry, first as a youth pastor and now as a senior, I have discovered that there are three must have elements to having a thriving church. The first two, I am sure you have all heard of at some point but the final one I honestly have never seen anyone address before. So, I would like to take some time to do so today. 

So here you go. The 3 must have elements for a thriving Adventist church:

1. Inter-Generational Worship. 

Inter-generational worship aims to foster intimacy and unity between all the members in the church regardless of age/ generation. Its about allowing the gospel to knock down those "baby-boomer VS millennial" walls by bringing us all together to nurture and empower one another.

Growing up, my church always felt like it lived in a perpetual state of "youth VS adults". Any church that has this kind of culture simply cannot thrive. However, there is hope! Research has shown that "warm intergenerational relationships... involving young people in every ministry has allowed... churches to thrive."[1] So how do you achieve this? Kaleb Eisele, founder of Humans of Adventism and social media manager for the Orangeburg SDA church, shares how his church worked to foster this inter-generational connection:

We started out by addressing the age gap first. We dedicated several sabbaths to exploring each living generation and what formed them, then had a Q&A where we got to talk with the members that belonged with each about things we didn’t understand. It was all about understanding each other better, not about who was morally superior. That opened up a ton of dialogue and relationships.

[We had five gatherings], each dedicated to a different generation: Silent, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. We used available statistics from Pew Research and the Barna Group, and a few books like James Emery White’s “Meet Generation Z.” There was a section for each on historical events that happened as they aged, a second section on trends and tendencies (political views, income trends, employment trends, religious affiliation, etc.). The last section was an open discussion...

The real key here was that it was intentionally open to the value of each generation and their skill sets. We went into this with the mindset that we wanted to work together as a church, but didn’t know how to do that effectively. In the end, a majority senior citizen church decided to support a lot of newer methods, even though they didn’t themselves want to carry them out. That support changed a lot for us.
— Kaleb Eisle

2. Multi-Cultural Community

Multi-culturalism in the church is also about allowing the gospel to break down the cultural walls that divide us. It's about people from all over the world being able to gather together and love one another unreservedly regardless of their diversity. Africans can worship with Asians, and Asians with Middle Easterns, and they in turn can worship with Europeans, Australians, Latinos and so on and so forth. While all of these cultures are diverse multi-culturalism in the church means that we can celebrate our diversity and honor the flavors we each bring to the family of God.

Before I move on allow me to say something I believe is important. A Multi-Cultural church is NOT the same as a Multi-Colored[2] church. Multi-Colored churches happen when a bunch of different cultures exist in one church and tolerate one another. In these kinds of churches, the diversity is not celebrated it is simply endured. Most of the time, the dominant culture ends up setting the tone for everyone else and you are considered a good member if you comply with that dominant tone. This is cultural negation at best, and the residue of colonialism at worst. Multi-Culturalism is about celebrating one anothers diversity, not tolerating it. Churches that are mono-cultural or Multi-Colored will never thrive because they are driven by a sense of cultural supremacy that has no place in the family of God.

Ashlee Holmes wrapped up the value of a multi-cultural church best when she wrote,

Though uncomfortable at times, the pursuit of multiculturalism in the Church isn’t just nice—it’s necessary. We ultimately develop richer, more wonderfully complex views of God and a deeper love and appreciation for one another when we choose to actively participate in one another’s stories that are different from our own, that originate from different places.[3]
— Ashlee Holmes

3. Poly-Expressional Culture

Remember what I said above about the one element that often gets ignored? Yeah, this is the one. So what exactly is it?

Every culture has subcultures. For example, in the USA where I am from there are a myriad of sub-cultures. There is the preppi, upper class culture, street culture, country culture, back woods culture, beach culture and on and on. Here in Australia there are the bogans, the bikies, the surfies and on and on. The point is that each of these subcultures express themselves in diverse ways. They may be from the same overarching culture, but they express themselves differently according to their sub culture. Those subcultures are what I refer to as "expressions".

Why does this matter? Because I have been to churches that have amazing inter-generational worship and are as multi-cultural as they come. It's amazing. The youth groups are strong. The worship service is inspiring. Everyone loves it! Unless...

Unless you are the young emo girl with black lipstick and piercings and people at church keep their distance because you are weird. At that point your multi-cultural and inter-generational gathering becomes exclusive. "You are welcome here, so long as you aren't too odd". Is the message that this girl receives.

Last week, I sat down in McDonalds with a bikie. He wants to follow God and loves the Adventist message but has stopped coming to church. When I asked him why his answer was clear, "I don't fit in". People at church were nice to him, but he was a bearded, tattooed guy with piercings all over his face and hair as long as Rapunzel (OK, I'm totally exaggerating but you get the point). But the real issue is that he came from a totally different world unfamiliar to most Adventists. He came from a world of drugs, women and violence and when he left church in the morning he was looking at another six days of that kind of environment. He eventually concluded that, while church was nice, he just didn't fit in with all those nice people.

Sometimes I feel like our churches are designed to assimilate anyone who is middle class and belongs to a sub-culture that is not too left of center. But the moment someone is, they no longer fit in.

A poly-expressional church is a church that is intentional about embracing and loving on anyone, regardless of their subculture. The preppies don't sit in one corner with the other preppies while the geeks sit in the other side of the room and the hipsters in the sound booth. The bogans don't hang out in the back row while the seasoned Adventists sit at the front. A poly-expressional church breaks down the dividing walls of sub-cultural expressions and makes everyone feel valued, welcome and loved not just "allowed".

So how do you foster this kind of culture in your church? I believe its the same way you foster all the other ones - intentional conversation. You have to name the elephant in the room and have healthy discussion on it. Host a series of afternoon talks on how to build truth seeking relationships with a diversity of subcultures and even highlight some of them and explain what their value structures are. That way people are informed and its no longer the unspoken thing floating around.

These 3 elements I believe are must-haves for any Adventist church that wants to thrive. I pray we can all have the conversations necessary in our local churches to foster this kind of space.

Questions for the Comments

  1. Which of the above is your church doing the best in? And which one needs more work?
  2. If your church has succeeded in one of the above elements (or more) tell us how!
  3. What do you think about the Poly-Expressional element? Do you agree that it is important? Or disagree?

[1] Embree, Christina. "Why Intergenerational Worship? And Why Now?", [Web: https://refocusministry.org/2015/08/17/why-intergenerational-worship-and-why-now/]

[2] Holmes, Ashlee. "Why Multiculturalism Is a Must for the Church" [Web: https://relevantmagazine.com/god/church/why-multiculturalism-must-church]

[3] ibid.

Quote by Kaleb Eisle: Posted as a comment in the Facebook Group "Adventist Evangelism & Church Optimizers Group" [Web: facebook.com/groups/pomopastor]

Welcome to the Podcast!

Great news everyone!

The Podcast is now up! Check it out below, enjoy the content and don't forget to subscribe, comment and share. My dream is that this blog will become an online space where church leaders and members can build a community of support where they can learn, grow and be inspired to transform their local Adventist church.

Top 3 New Years Resolutions for Pastors and Church Leaders

2018 is here! I seriously am shocked at how quickly that happened. And with a whole new year ahead of us comes the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. New Years is a time of opportunity, so today I would like to share my top 3 realistic and achievable New Years resolutions for pastors and church leaders.

1. Prioritize Family

We all say it. We all talk about it. But its not that simple is it? In my experience, talking about putting family first tends to be more of a "right thing to say" in ministry circles and less of a "right thing to do". And here is what I mean: In ministry you can get called out if it looks like you haven't worked enough but if you worked too much, no one seems to say anything. In ministry, you are praised if you are present, active, involved and reliable. But if you establish patterns to balance ministry and family people get disappointed because your presence diminishes, your activity becomes limited, your involvement measured and you have to redefine your meaning of "reliable" from "always there, in person, on a dime" to "always there, not necessarily in person, when it counts."

If you follow the traditional pattern of ministry, you will be everyone's hero. You will accept preaching appointments everywhere, take on every Bible study contact you can get, and dive into every ministry and meeting at your church. If you take the latter approach, you wont be everyone's hero, but you will have your family's happiness which is way cooler. So do it. It's what matters most. And when people get ticked off, remember resolution number two.

2. Live for an audience of One

Ministry is just like any other public role. You don't get rich, but you can get famous. If not worldwide, definitely locally. You are a public figure when you are in ministry, whether your Facebook account has 5,000 followers or not. And when you are in the spotlight like that, its easy to get caught up in peoples expectations.

Some people want you to preach about this, others about that. Some want you to be here, others there. Some want you to dress more classy, others more mellow. Some want you to be more "professional" others more down-to-earth. And the expectations extend beyond you to your family as well. Some want your spouse to fit their predefined idea of what a pastors partner should do, how they should dress, carry themselves and what ministries they should be involved in. And then there's the kids. People have expectations there too. And if you live trying to meet everyone's expectations, you and your family will end up exhausted and incapable of leading.

I had a church member at one of my churches walk out 2 minutes into my sermon and never came back. That person now attends another church. When asked, my head elder confided that she left because when I preach I use phrases like "good morning guys", or "dude, man, etc." and she didn't like it. I guess she was expecting me to say things like "brothers, bretheren" or something like that. My reply? "Sorry dude, I'm a Puerto Rican from Jersey. I have always been a Puerto Rican from Jersey. And I'm going to die a Puerto Rican from Jersey. I will not become someone I am not to satisfy some other persons narrow expectations". My elder smiled.

People will always have expectations of your and your family and some will get upset when you don't fit the mold. So don't do it. It's dumb. Live for an audience of One. Preach, teach, dress, talk, walk, live, breathe and move to make your heavenly father smile. No one else.

3. Make yourself Redundant

I believe that a good leader is the leader who makes his/herself redundant. In other words, a good leader spends so much time training and equipping his team to do everything he does that eventually his presence is no longer needed. Bad leaders do the opposite. They can revive a church and do amazing things while they are there but once they leave everything falls apart. The entire thing depended on them. They did not work themselves to redundancy. The tragedy is that such leaders are incapable of leaving a legacy that extends beyond five inches of themselves.

I spoke to one of my colleagues a month ago about the church she pastors. When she first got there, the members expected her to do everything. The church had woes like you would not believe. It needed a youth ministry. It needed to iron out wrinkles in lots of areas and it needed a strategy to go forward. During board meeting they all looked at her and said, "well now that you're here you can do..." She stopped them. No way. "I am not doing anything" she said. "We are."

Her goal is to train and equip this church to succeed independently so that when she leaves they can continue to thrive and grow. That's leadership. Anything less is babysitting.

So there you have it! These are my top 3 New Years resolutions. I will definitely be aiming to live these out by God's grace in 2018 and I invite you to do that same.

What other NY resolutions do you have? Share them below!

3 Army Leadership Lessons for Pastors & Church Leaders

This past month has been a special month for me. I turned 32 years old on the 21st (wohoo!), and on the 11th was Veterans day (I was a soldier in the US Army back in the day).

As I think about my time in the Army there is one massive thing I am grateful for in that experience - the opportunity to learn how to lead. Now, I am not a perfect leader by far. I make tons of mistakes all the time. But the military gave me a solid leadership foundation I can always go back to. In today's post, I would like to share three leadership lessons I learned from the Army that are a must have for pastors and church leaders.

1. Live by the Leadership Singularity.

A singularity is basically the most simple state of a thing. It's used in science a lot when discussing the origin of the universe and points to a time where everything we now see in the universe was once "single" thing (this is like the super elementary definition). Leadership is the same way. It can be complex. It can have many variables, scenarios, hacks and tricks but if you boil effective leadership down to its most simple "singular" state you would arrive at this four letter word:

Care

.

Caring about others is the leadership singularity. A Sergeant First Class taught me this as I was getting ready to become a Sergeant myself. "Just care about your soldiers" he said, "and the rest will follow".

So pastors, care about your church members. I mean really, truly care. You will make lots of mistakes as a leader. Don't let the lack of care be one of them. You can bounce back from many a fumble. But if you don't care about people and they know it (and trust me they will) there is seldom any bouncing back from that.

2. Embody your people.

In the military, good leaders are those who embody their soldiers. In other words, they don't look at their soldiers as employees, volunteers, stepping stones or tools to accomplish the mission. Rather, they look at them as family. These kinds of leaders will live and die for their people. They will take any flack, endure any heat and remove any obstacle to see their people succeed. They are not interested in their peoples performance so much as they are interested in their people. They don't have a "me" and "them" approach either. Everything to this kind of leader is "us". If you insult their team this kind of leader will stand up for them even if you compliment her/his leadership personally.

Pastors should learn this lesson, and learn it well. I don't know how many pastors and church leaders I have met who go on and on about how bad their church members are. When others speak badly of their churches these leaders take no offence so long as their personal "amazingness" is recognised. And many times, they view their churches as a stepping stone to future and better opportunities. They don't embody their people, and it shows.

3. Be a bearer, not a wearer.

In the military everyone wears rank insignia. When you become a sergeant, you receive the three stripes in the picture below. These three stripes symbolise your role as a leader and are recognised and respected everywhere you go. However, there are two types of sergeants in the military: the wearer, and the bearer.

The Wearer:

This is the sergeant who wears the stripes and enjoys the respect that comes with them. He/she can give commands, demand respect and exercise control in certain situations. However, the stripes also come with a burden to bear. The burden of care, nurture and sacrifice. The burden of standing up for your people and, at times, taking a punishment on their behalf so they don't have to. Wearers do none of that. They wear the rank and welcome all its accolades while refusing to bear the burden that comes with it.

The Bearer:

By now, you know what the bearer is. They welcome both the kudos and the burden. They lead selflessly and see themselves as servants not taskmasters. These kinds of leaders are loved and people follow them because they are inspired, not required.

So there you have it! My top 3 Army leadership lessons for pastors and church leaders. And if you haven't noticed, Jesus exhibited all three of these as well. He cared deeply for his people, embodied them and bore the burden of leadership all the way to the cross. So you don't need the Army to teach you this stuff. You just need to look to Jesus. Let's lead like him.

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What Drives me Crazy about Adventist Churches

In this post I would like to share my greatest frustration about Adventist churches. I am not speaking simply as a pastor, but as a life long Adventist. And while there are lots of areas in which our churches could improve, here is my personal #1.

Adventist Churches are "All Talk"

OK, definitely not all of them. But many of them. And here is what I mean:

Adventist's talk a lot about spreading the gospel and reaching our communities. But for the most part its all talk. When it comes down to it, we don't really want to reach our communities. We only want to reach the kinds of people who will respond to our narrow methods of evangelism. We don't spend time studying the culture. We don't invest in getting to know their worldviews, their art, their language or their value systems. We don't take time to build bridges with them and to familiarise ourselves with their world. We don't adapt our outreach and ministry efforts to connect with them and we don't recalibrate our own personal lives in order to more effectively reach them. Instead, we draw a cultural box in our own heads and unconsciously (or maybe not?) chose to reach only those people who fit into our box.

Don't believe me? Let me ask you, what would your church do if a bunch of druggies showed up next weekend? Or a couple of gangsters? How about a group of curious students from the local university who identify as LGBT+ or one of your youth brought their postmodern, sceptic friend to church? Now of course, the chances of these people turning up are slim to none to begin with. But for a moment, lets assume they did turn up. What would we do? Would we know how to speak to them, communicate with them and journey with them if they decided to keep attending? In my experience, I have seen most Adventists are so out of touch with the culture around them that they have almost no capacity to engage with anyone who doesn't fit into their box in some way shape or form.

Some would respond by saying "I would just love them". A great start. But just loving them is meaningless if it is not accompanied by action that communicates that love. And such action is culturally defined. For example, a friend of mine who was baptised a few years ago recently confided that he has been struggling big time in his walk with God and is beginning to backslide. He comes from a gang culture and even though he wants to follow God he has never been able to replace his gang friends because the church offers him no alternative. The people there are nice yes. They love him and support him. But they don't understand him. And because they don't understand him they have no idea how to show him love in a way that he needs.

And why don't they understand him? Because none of them have taken the time to do so. Not one has even picked up a book on how to understand gang culture, let alone engaged him or others like him in conversation. They just assume he fits the box and must be OK. Multiply this anecdote by several thousand and you will get a glimpse of what happens in our churches all across the world.

Let's face it. Our way of doing church, evangelism and outreach is designed to reach middle-class people who don't have too many vices and who are comfortable in a sort of old-school European kind of setting. We talk about outreach. We talk about evangelism. We talk about the great commission. But its all talk. The inconvenience of love - which calls us to adapt, learn, grow, think, devise and become students of the culture is missing in our Adventist churches. And this is the #1 thing that drives me crazy about Adventist churches.

So what is the solution? I believe acceptance is number one. But this acceptance must be followed by repentance. And then, at least begin with the simple and easy step of picking up a book, watching a YouTube video, or reading a few articles on how the culture around you thinks, speaks and relates to the world around them. But don't stop there. Step out of the box you have manufactured - the one where you can exist comfortably with all the people who think and see the world the same way you do - and begin to build relationships with the people outside that box. If all of us did this we would change the culture of our local Adventist churches and finally be ready to minister to our communities.

Some Resources to get you Started:

unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity... And why it Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons

World Religions Podcast By JR. Forasteros

How to Get Along with Others by Ellen G. White

How to Revive your Local Adventist Church: Step Zero

How do you revive your local Adventist church? That simple question has a ton of answers. For some, reviving the local Adventist church means the church must transition from traditional to contemporary. For others, it means that the church must acquire a good pastor. Some will put their focus into church governance, structure and processes. Others will go straight into creating a strategy. And if you ask me, I would say that step 1 is this:

you have to discover your story. 

However, there is a step before step 1 without which you will struggle all your days as a church. I call it "Step Zero".

Picture a person going for a walk. They do some stretching, get their Spotify playlist loaded and their headphones comfortable. Then they take the first step. But before they took the literal step they took a metaphorical step in order to ensure they could have an enjoyable and productive walk. That metaphorical step consisted of stretching, Spotify and headphones.

That was Step Zero.

They could have gone for the walk without Step Zero, but by doing those basic preparations they set themselves up for a way more enjoyable experience. In my estimation, church optimization needs a Step Zero. Can you move ahead without it? Sure. But it won't be anywhere near as smooth. While your church's style, governance, structure, strategy and story are important Step Zero is the warmup that can get you and your church prepped for going on that journey.

So what does Step Zero look like for a church? I am not an expert so I don't pretend to have it all figured out, but in my experience it has come down to 5 simple actions:

1. Build Relationships

This is so obvious some of you may be rolling your eyes right now, but trust me this one is seriously the key. If you fail to build relationships you will fail to optimize your church. Period. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

2. Visit, Visit, Visit

Don't buy the "modern people don't like visit's" nonsense. Everyone likes a visit. What modern people don't like is wasting time. So it boils down to whether they consider your visit a waste of time or not. And that depends on whether they perceive you to be authentic or phony. If you are the kind of pastor, elder or deacon who is agenda driven, self-centered or uncaring then yes, you are a waste of time. But if you are the kind of leader who is relationship-driven, cares about the well being of others and has no agenda other than to love people then no, you are not a waste of time. Please, come visit me.

3. Invest in your leaders

In Adventist churches all your leaders will be volunteers. Rarely is a person in leadership actually paid for their role in an SDA context. This means you need to invest in them. When you publish your Nominating Committee report don't just include your leaders names - take the extra time to add their emails as well. Then, email all of them every quarter to ask how they are doing and what you can do to help them. Celebrate them from the front. Visit every single one of them. And stand up for them.

4. Update your Church Roll

Please, for the love of all that is good and just in this world, update your church roll!

OK, let me put it differently so it makes more sense: Nearly every church I have ever worked at has incredibly outdated membership rolls. It's crazy. One church had a roll that was 22% accurate. They had over 100 people that had not been there in years, around 50 who were members of other churches, and even 5 that had died. Out of nearly 260 names on the roll, only 60 of them where actually at the church.

But here is why its important. How your leadership manages its membership roll says tons about how much they care about their members. The only reason I knew the roll was so out of date was because I set a goal to visit all the members. The roll had been out of date for nearly 10 years and no one had noticed. In the business world, one of the most important things you have is your client list. This tells you who your customers are and enables you to market new products to them. It is an indispensable resource. In the church, the membership roll is one of the most important things you have. It tells you who your people are and enables you to communicate easily with them. You can move forward without it, but its way smoother if its updated. Involve your elders so that you can actually change the culture of member care at the church as well.

Updating a roll can take up to a whole year of back and forth work so if you haven't done it, get started! And if you want some tips on how to go about the update, comment below and I'll share how I do it with you.

5. Preach the Bible

Two things here. First, if you are a terrible public speaker stop whatever it is you are doing and get better at it. You don't have to be the next Billy Graham, but you should be able to get up front and say something simple and meaningful. If you can't (you know who you are) then do something about it. Please. I'm begging you.

While preaching is only a small percentage of what pastors and elders do, it carries the most weight sometimes. Seriously, your ability to communicate effectively can be the difference between someone inviting their friends to church or not. Don't brush it off. For those interested, I highly recommend the book "TEDTalks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking". It is seriously, the best of its kind.

Second. Preach the Bible. I don't know why that seems to be so hard for people but I hear it over and over again. Shallow, cheesy, uninteresting and straight up irrelevant talks. If you are going to go up there and take 15-30 minutes of my life (no longer please) then at least honor my time by sharing God's thoughts with me, not your own.

And that's it guys! Step Zero. I encourage leaders to do Step Zero for an entire year before diving into Step 1. Of course, there is give and take depending on your church context, but that's the general gist. Share your thoughts below!

PS. I will be publishing a book on optimizing your church for revival and mission which will be a much more detailed version of the blogs you read here each week. If you want to know when the book is available don't forget to subscribe to the mailing list! You can do so below).

An Open Letter to the Pope: Sorry Dude, but Doctrine Matters

Note: I published this article in 2014 when the media was buzzing with recent protestant steps toward reuniting with the medieval church of Rome and bringing the reformation to an end. Today, as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the reformation I decided to re-share this post. It is just as relevant today as it was 3 years ago when I first wrote it. Enjoy!

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The religious world has been buzzing after Pope Francis appealed to the Pentecostal conference for unity among believers. For some, Pope Francis' words are exactly what they have been longing for. And no wonder! Ever since the early days of the reformation the followers of Jesus have been fragmented into ever increasing splinters. Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptist's, Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals, Adventists and the list goes on and on. As a matter of fact, these denominations represent only some of the larger bodies. But the reality is that Protestantism is broken into thousands of smaller components resulting in a plethora of beliefs all claiming allegiance to the Bible. For many years Christians have been clamoring for unity in Christ and decrying the walls that separate Protestants from Protestants and Protestants from Catholics. It is with no wonder then that Pope Francis' humble appeal for unity is received with enthusiasm and joy by many.

In his video to the Pentecostal Conference Pope Francis' used an illustration to clarify his appeal. He said:

The Holy Scripture speaks of when Joseph's brothers began to starve from hunger, they went to Egypt, to buy, so that they could eat. They went to buy. They had money. But they couldn't eat the money. But there they found something more than food, they found their brother. All of us have currency. The currency of our culture. The currency of our history. We have a lot of cultural riches, and religious riches. And we have diverse traditions. But we have to encounter one another as brothers. We must cry together like Joseph did. These tears will unite us. The tears of love.

I don't actually disagree with Pope Francis on this. I think it is absolutely imperative that Christians treat one another as brothers and sisters, with love, respect, and appreciation regardless of our theological differences. I agree with Pope Francis when he says, "[a]ll of us have currency.... [b]ut we have to encounter one another as brothers." However, here is where I draw the line:

Does Pope Francis define doctrine as currency?

He doesn't actually say so in this video and I refuse to put words in his mouth. However, he does come awfully close when he speaks of all of us having "religious riches." As a Seventh-day Adventist the greatest religious treasure that I have is our doctrine, or (as I prefer to put it, our God-story). While I am all for more unity, respect, compassion, and love among believers of different denominations I cannot sacrifice Adventisms God-story for the sake of unity. It is just way too beautiful to sell out.

Some may be wondering what I mean by that so here are some examples. Am I meant to sacrifice the beautiful message of the Sabbath, which celebrates Gods creation, redemption, and restoration of humanity, in order to be united with those who don't value the Sabbath? Am I to sacrifice the truth about Hell which shows us that God is not a sadist or torturer but is instead a loving and just Judge, for the sake of unity? Am I to surrender my commitment to Sola-Scriptura, and replace it with pagan philosophers like Plato and Aristotle whose works set the foundation for much of Catholic and Evangelical theology? I am all for unity, but not at such an expense.

But why is the God-story of Adventism so important to me? Two reasons. First of all, suppose you are married and your spouse is accused of committing a crime. Everyone in your family is out to get him/her and only you know the truth about your spouse. But to stand up for your spouse means that your will not be united with your family. What do you do? Do you tell the truth about your spouse? Or do you embrace the lies for the sake of unity? I don't know about you, but I choose the former.

Likewise, much of what is believed and taught about God is a lie. Am I supposed to embrace those lies so I can be united with those who believe them? Or am I supposed to stand up for the truth about God and tell others what he is really like? I don't know about you, but I chose the latter. I believe Adventisms God-story is the most accurate and beautiful picture of God from any other theological system around. And I will tell that story even if it means division.

The second reason why I believe the God-story of Adventism is so important is because your God-story ultimately determines your ability to love. We become what we behold. And if our God-story muddles the love of God you will be constantly beholding a muddled picture of God which will result in a muddled concept of love. While I can appeal to the long history of Christianity for this, allow me instead to give you a few examples from my life and my own denomination that evidence this.

As a Seventh-day Adventist I have encountered many people who get it and many people who think they get it. By "it" I am referring to the truth. Those who get it are always balanced, loving, tender, and compassionate. They care about others and give of themselves unreservedly. But there are others who think they get it. These are often imbalanced, unloving, rigid, and more concerned with the "standards" than they are with souls. This group is often characterized by conspiracy theorizing, criticism, and legalism. But what is the difference between these two groups? Aren't they both Adventist? Yes. But they have a totally different picture of God. The former group is passionate about the gospel. They speak much of the love of Jesus, his tender mercy, his compassion, and his grace. They recognize their own daily need for mercy and forgiveness. They see God as caring, interested, and empathetic. They see him as an intimate friend in whom they can place all of their trust. The find rest in him and their hearts and minds are always filled with Jesus. Though far from perfect they always aim to be more like Jesus and reflect his perfect love for humanity. This is their picture of God and the more they behold it the more like him they become: kind, warmhearted, and merciful.

The latter group is passionate about the rules, the standards, and the law. They speak much of the sins of the church and how bad it is. They criticize church leadership as much as they change their underwear and they are fascinated with the negative, the pessimistic, and the controversial. They see God as strict, unbending, and rigid. They see him as one who demands holiness or else, and one whom is pleased with harsh obedience. They believe they must be sinlessly perfect in order to go to heaven and as such, they strive against sin and are always ready and eager to rebuke another. This is their picture of God and the more they behold it, faulty as it may be, the more like it they become: mean, critical, and unmerciful.

The same is true outside of Adventism. It has been in the past and will be in the future. All those who have the wrong picture of God will, in his name, and as the believers of old, justify all kinds of sin and atrocities in the name of Jesus. It was his picture of God that led Saul of Tarsus to persecute and murder Christians. It was their picture of God that led the medieval Christians to do likewise. It was a wrong picture of God that justified the Crusades and the Inquisition. It was a wrong picture of God that justified the Protestants as they drowned Anabaptists for no other reason than denying infant baptism. And it will be a wrong picture of God, a faulty God-story, a twisted doctrine, that will justify persecution again in the future.

It is because of this that I must say to the Pope:

Sorry dude, but doctrine matters.

It simply is not possible to love like Jesus if you have a broken doctrine. While there may be exceptions such is not the rule. Generally speaking the masses treat each other in a way that is consistent with their view of who God is and what he is like - a view they derive entirely from their doctrine. I know you never actually spoke of doctrine but you came awfully close. I also know that there are doctrines you yourself would never deny for the sake of unity. I cannot see you denying apostolic succession, Sunday sacredness, or transubstantiation for the sake of unity. Neither can I deny my faith as a Seventh-day Adventist for its sake. The Pentecostals may have accepted your call and many others may follow. But I must lovingly and humbly decline for I can never compromise the truth about who God is for the sake of unity.

Truth matters. Doctrine matters. The God-story matters. Not only must I tell the truth about who God is and what he is like, but doctrine is the brush that paints the picture of God. Use a bad brush, you get a bad picture like the one that says God will torture sinners in Hell throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. Use a good brush and you will get a good picture like the one that says that while God is just and will punish the wicked he will not needlessly torture them for endless ages. Use a bad brush, you get a bad picture like the one that says that salvation comes by way of works. Use a good brush, you get a good picture like the one that says we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Doctrine is also the brush we use to indirectly paint our characters. Use a bad brush you get a bad character. Use a good brush you get a good character; one that strives to love like Jesus no matter the cost.

In conclusion, the popular concept of "let's just love another and forget about doctrine" may sound good on the surface, but the reality is:

It is a self contradicting mindset.

Doctrine and love cannot be polarized for they are intimately related and for that, dear Pope, I cannot and will not compromise.

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Pope Francis' Message to the Pentecostal Conference:

Note: It needs to be made clear that Pope Francis did not call for either compromise nor uniformity and neither did he call for unity in doctrine but for unity in love. Nevertheless, for Catholics and Protestants to move past their divisions, which are rooted in severe doctrinal variances, some level of doctrinal minimization will be necessary. It is this unavoidable consequence that I protest.

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In honor of the 500th anniversary of the reformation, I would like to offer the following two eBooks free. They identify Adventism's place in the protest that Luther started and call us toward a deeper commitment to that protest which, in truth is not about us, but about God.

Why I Will Be Partying on Halloween

Should Christians celebrate Halloween?

That's a pretty hotly debated topic. And its so hotly debated that we overlook something we should be celebrating on that same day:

The Reformation.

Yep. That's right. On October 31st, 500 years ago this year, a revolution began that would forever change the way people thought of and related to God. After nearly a thousand years of papal oppression, a monk by the name of Martin Luther stuck it to the man. He protested the abuses of the church and the lies it told about God. He risked everything so that people everywhere could discover, for the first time in over 1200 years, that salvation was a gift of God.

So I want to invite you this year, as you debate the Halloween debacle, to pause and remember that October 31st is a day to celebrate, but for a slightly different reason. It marks the day that the Protestant Reformation began. The day that a priest went "rogue" on the powers of his day. Because of his courage, today the world is filled with a picture of God that did not exist in his day. One that celebrates his love, goodness and grace. And it makes all the difference.

In honor of this amazing historic event, I would like to offer the following two eBooks free. They identify Adventism's place in the protest that Luther started and call us toward a deeper commitment to that protest which, in truth is not about us, but about God.

So I will be partying on Halloween, but I wont be celebrating the day of the dead. Instead, I'll be celebrating the day that the world was reminded that God is love.

Join me!

5 Characteristics of Bad Church Leaders

We have all been in a church where the pastor, elder or perhaps even the entire leadership team was - for lack of a better word - horrible.

These are the kinds of leaders that negatively impact the vibe and culture of the church to the point that attendance begins to dwindle and the vibrancy of the community of faith withers and fades. When confronted with the results of their poor leadership I have heard some of them say things like "It's only the weak ones who have left. The ones still here are strong in faith and that's what we want" or "Some people just can't handle the truth!"

Yikes.

The worst part is rather than admit their faults, these terrible leaders baptize them in Christian cliche's in order to excuse them. So today, I want to "unbaptize" 5 common characteristics of a bad church leader with the hopes that we, as leaders, can grow.

1. The Boss

There is a gargantuan difference between being a leader and being a boss.

Bosses don't care about their people. They have a job to do and they will twist arms and pull teeth until they get the job done. Sadly, many churches have leadership teams full of bosses. They attempt to excuse their control with things like:

  • I gave control over to others once and they messed it up/ didn't come through so now I do it all myself.
  • I know whats best for the church.
  • If I let others take control they will not be as faithful as I am.

They may not say these things but that's what they think. These types of "leaders" often micromanage things, are extremely stubborn in their views, resistant to change of any sort, get angry when they are challenged and display various levels of arrogance. This makes it very difficult to approach them openly.

Don't be like this.

2. The Footless 

Leaders need to be able to think and act on their feet. But more so, they need to be able to think and act quickly in a way that will benefit the people.

Bad leaders are indecisive and its often for one simple reason: They have competing agendas in their own head. Should they benefit themselves? Should they benefit someone who they want to impress? Should they benefit the people? These multiple competing agendas in their head makes it hard for them to think on their feet. They lack clarity of thought, often have no vision to guide their decisions and when they finally do, it's generally for self-benefit of some sort.

People under these kinds of leaders quickly lose respect for them and once respect for the leader is gone, passion for the mission begins to wane as well.

3. The Visionless.

Directly related to the previous point is the leader who lacks vision.

When a leader lacks vision it shows. They are here, there and everywhere. They are not communicating a clear and compelling message. And they are not taking their people along on a journey toward a goal. These kinds of leaders often busy themselves with maintaining the status-quo and are incapable of motivating and equipping their church for mission.

4. The Voiceless

This is a big one. It doesn't really matter how cool you, your ideas and your skills are. If you don't communicate you don't lead.

Springing things on your church board, elders team or church members at large at the last minute is a fast way to irritate people. It makes them feel as though all that matters is your decision. By not keeping people in the loop and updating them continually, allowing them to be part of the conversation, you send the message that the only thing that matters is you. When you finally fill them in, they feel patronized.

5. The Blamer

I see this one all the time.

  • The church members are not supportive!
  • The church members are not committed!
  • The church members are not spiritual!
These points are usually raised in discussions over low Sabbath School, prayer meeting or Business meeting attendance, lack of church-wide support of missional projects or people showing up later and later to church. The problem is always the same. Its "them". And what can we do about it? Nothing. So we keep on dragging along or we hope that someday, somehow the church will just wake up.


Allow me to step on your toes today leaders: As a leader you do not have the luxury of ever, ever blaming anybody other than yourself. 

You don't like that idea? Then don't be a leader.

Seriously, leadership is hard. It's painful. It's lonely. And it can keep you awake at times. Leaders don't have the luxury of passing blame. Is it true that church members are unsupportive, uncommitted and unspiritual? Maybe. But that's only a tiny part of the story. Instead of passing blame ask yourself,

  • How many of these members do I personally know and love?
  • How many of them have I had over to my house?
  • How many have I visited in their own home?
  • How many of them have I been there for in their hard times?
  • How many of them have I had open conversations with regarding the issues we face as a church?
  • How many of them have I sat down and listened to and then implemented their ideas?
  • How many of them have I invested myself in empowering and equipping for ministry? Or am I too busy running everything myself that I don't even notice the weaknesses in my own leadership?
  • Do the church members here believe I care about them deeply? If not, how can I change that?
  • How often do I seek to improve my own leadership skills through reading books, attending leadership training and asking my own church for honest feedback on my leadership?
I can go on and on, but by now I think you get the point. Church leaders often pass blame onto people and in my experience, they don't even know who those people are. We have a word for that. Its called "judgmental". Don't do it. It doesn't lead anywhere good. Instead, find how you can lead them from where they are to where you know God wants them to be. It will require you to grow as a leader because you can't lead someone unless you are capable of inspiring (not requiring), motivating, equipping and investing in people. It's a long and self-less journey, yes. But its awesome when you start to see the results.

So there you have it, 5 characteristics of bad church leaders. There are more, but I will stop there for now. How many of these do you see in yourself? What can you do to change and become a better leader? Comment below!


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Pastor Marcos is a millennial Adventist pastor with a passion for Jesus, the narrative of Adventism and the relevancy of the local Adventist church. He pastors in Western Australia where he lives with his wife and children. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. He also blogs weekly at pomopastor.com
The One 'Success-Packed' Truth Every Adventist Church Needs

Did you know that there is one secret to building the kingdom of God? This one secret is the only thing that Christian's need to know to build God's kingdom. What is this one secret? First I want to give you an illustration.

One of the military's best land weapons was the infamous tank. Everyone is afraid of the tank. The combination of powerful weapons and thick armor makes it impossible to stop with traditional weapons. So when a tank shows up on the battlefield you run. And you run really, really fast.

The only way that you can effectively stop a tank and make it semi-useless in combat is if you somehow destroy the tracks/road wheels underneath. If you destroy those the tank will still be functional up top, but it will be unable to move and that in many ways renders the tank useless.



Now let's get back to the one's secret to building the kingdom of God. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a really effective worldwide ministry. We have a General Conference that's made up of divisions all around the world. Divisions are made up of regional conferences which are in turn made up of local churches. This system has enabled Adventism to move into the world with a worldwide mission and narrative that many other denominations can't even dream of. So in a sense, its an amazing and powerful system designed to be a universal voice and it has worked really well. (see video below)



However, when you think about this system it's kind of like a tank. The conferences and divisions are like the big bulky weapons and armor at the top. This is where most of the administrations takes place. This is where most of the legal issues are resolved. This is where a large percentage of our resources are financed and developed. And this is where personnel, finances, real estate and ministry departments are managed. The big bulky conferences and divisions are extremely useful and have served the church well. However, (and here is the clincher) everything the divisions and the conferences do is missionally useless if the local church is not functioning properly.

In other words if Satan wants to put a stop to the Seventh-day Adventist tank the only thing he needs to do is destroy the tracks/road wheels (local churches). If he can get the local churches to stop functioning, if he can prevent them from being successful and from optimizing their ministry to their local setting he succeeds in making the entire tank practically useless in the battle between good and evil.

Sure we can still produce resources like Sabbath school lessons and media of all kinds. We can still hire pastors and administrators, have a very strong legal support system and fantastic human resources running the background business of the church, but if the tracks are not spinning - if the local church is not moving -  then the mission of the church comes to a stand still.

In Ephesians 1:9-12 Paul reveals this: From the beginning of time God has had a secret weapon he would use to defeat evil. That secret weapon is the church. Not the institution we call church (top heavy stuff), but the gathering of broken God-lovers. This secret weapon is made up of messed up people who have tasted the grace of God and are in a transformation journey of love. And it is through them that God seeks to build his kingdom. An institution could never replicate such a thing. The beauty of this secret weapon can only be experienced in the local church. This is why the local church is the most important part of any denomination, especially the Adventist Church. As a worldwide movement we have the temptation to underplay the importance of the local church. Some may depend on the conferences, unions, and divisions to do the work of evangelism. Others sit back and expect the conference evangelist or some other "bulky initiative" to do the work of Kingdom building. Many more depend entirely on the local pastor. And while local churches are certainly expected to take advantage of all of these resources at their disposal, if we are not optimizing our ministries and aiming to be successful then we become stagnant and irrelevant. And its not just our local church that suffers. Once Satan has succeeded in neutralizing the local church then the whole Adventist tank becomes less effective. And the research-data that is coming to us shows that Satan has so far done a very good job.
The one "success-packed" truth every Adventist church needs to know is this: Your church matters infinitely both in its local work and in our global work. It's time we lived like it. The main avenue to build his kingdom is not through the avenue of the top heavy stuff. When it comes to movement and growth it's all about the local church. And while there is some bad news, the good news is this: If we revive our local Adventist churches, it's not just us who will benefit. The entire, worldwide Adventist tank will become more effective at demolishing the empire of Satan and building the kingdom of God.

How cool is that?

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Quote: As quoted in: Zahid, Adrian. "Beyond the One project: The War Over the Local Church (5a)":https://thecompassmagazine.com/blog/beyond-the-one-project-the-war-over-the-local-church-5a
     ...

Pastor Marcos is a millennial Adventist pastor with a passion for Jesus, the narrative of Adventism and the relevancy of the local Adventist church. He pastors in Western Australia where he lives with his wife and children. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. He also blogs weekly at pomopastor.com
Does the Adventist Church Matter?

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Note: This article is part 3 of a 4 part series that explores the weirdness of Adventism. If you would like to read the rest click here.
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Adventism is protestant.

And yet there is something about us that makes us weird. And unless we understand what that is, we will never understand why we, as a church, actually matter.

In the previous post we identified that hardly anything Adventism believes is uniquely Adventist. So it’s not our "doctrines" that make us weird. Even the ones that we have developed and call our own are built upon foundations that are entirely non-Adventist. We did not just drop out of the sky. We did not re-invent or develop a faith in isolation from all other faith traditions. Rather, we evolved and blossomed from the stories that came before us. When we peel back all the layers of arrogant pride, sectarian ideology and holier-than-thou attitudes we arrive at a faith that is remarkably indebted to historic Christian thought. And yet, there's something eccentric about us. We are Protestants yes. But we are also weird. And that weirdness makes our church really, really important.

In order to explain what I mean I need to step out of Adventism a bit and take a brief view at the Protestant movement. The first inclination of Protestantism is what some refer to as the proto-Protestants (Waldensians, Lollards, and Hussites).[1] These were the movements that protested the errors of the medieval church before the actual Protestant movement began. Then came Luther and the Protestant reformation was born.[2] From the Protestant reformation there emerged two primary camps: the Calvinists, who taught God had predetermined all things including the fall of man, who would be redeemed and, in some circles, who would be lost,[3] and the Arminians who taught God had granted humanity freedom to decide between being saved or lost without him having to "predetermine" their choices.[4] The Calvinist camp was primarily concerned with the "sovereignty" of God which led it to place great emphasis on his power. It gave birth to denominations like the Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Episcopalians. The Arminian camp was primarily concerned with the love of God and saw the "determinism" of Calvinists as antithetical to that love. It gave birth to denominations like the Methodists, Pentecostals and Wesleyans. Adventism, as seen in the previous post, emerged mostly from the Arminian camp.

So what is it that makes Adventism weird? The only answer I have ever encountered in my years as an Adventist is that our weirdness lies in our doctrine of the 1844 pre-advent judgment. However, the idea that "there would be no Seventh-day Adventist Church without the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment"[5] doesn't work. While this doctrine certainly plays a role in our uniqueness it ultimately has - as its foundation - an Arminian-Wesleyan worldview[6] which originated before Adventism was ever thought of. And the peculiar date 1844 doesn’t cut it either due to the fact that it does not function as a foundation of Adventist thought in any sense.[7] So if there is something that makes us weird, it's not our doctrine of the judgment.

Allow me to suggest that what makes Adventism unique is no particular doctrine. Rather, what makes us unique lies in the reason why we embrace the doctrines we do to begin with. Put simply, while all of our doctrines exist outside of our faith in one degree or another, they do so sporadically - here and there and everywhere. However, Adventism is the only denomination on the planet in which each of these beliefs come together under a singular narrative. In a sense, that is one of the phenomenons that makes us unique. But our weirdness goes deeper. Why is it that Adventist thought has attracted all of these beliefs, almost like a magnet, toward itself? Why are we the only denomination who embraces all of these beliefs at the same time?

How Theology Develops

In order to answer this question it is important to understand how theology develops. Contrary to popular belief, theology does not develop by simply reading the Bible. Rather, theology is the result of the following process:

Presupposition


Interpretation


Theology

Here is a simple illustration. Suppose I place a white paper on a table and asked you to look at it. What would you see? The answer is - a white paper. But what if you took a pair of red tinted glasses and put them on? What would you then see? A red tinted paper.

This is exactly how theological reflection works.[8] We all come to the Bible with glasses on and nine times out of ten we don't actually know it. Those glasses have a certain tint to them. That tint is developed by philosophy, culture and various experiences. This is what I refer to as our "presupposition". Over time we become committed to the tint we see (often unconsciously) and we define everything we see according to this tint. This is what I referred to above as "interpretation". So when we come to the Bible we already have these glasses on. When we open to a text that says "the paper is white" our glasses provide us with a tint to interpreting that text as saying "the paper is red". And the result of our presupposition and interpretation is that the "Church of the Red Paper theology" is born.

Here is how it works again:

Presupposition

(Red Glasses)


Interpretation

(Defining what I see by the Red Glasses)


Theology

(The Paper is Red, not White)


This is why saying "Adventism is unique because of 1844" is such an understatement. 1844 is part of our theology. It belongs at the bottom of the process. It is not a presupposition. It is not an interpretive framework. As a result, it and all our other beliefs come in at the end of the theological process, not at the beginning. So the question that will help us identify our weirdness is "what is our presupposition"? In other words, what glasses are we wearing when we come to the text that have led us to embrace the doctrines we hold? The answer to that question reveals what it is that truly makes us weird.

Calvinism, Arminianism and the Big Story

In order to fully answer that question, we have to continue our overview of history. Historically speaking, Christians have always viewed Scripture as a story. From beginning to end the Bible, we believe, is telling a grand story that we are invited to know, understand, and enter into. This grand story can be separated into two headings – the Big Story and the Little Story.

The Big Story is defined as the most transcendent part of Scripture’s story and deals almost exclusively with who God is and what He is like, apart from creation. The Little Story is related to our local planet. How does the God of the Big Story interact with us in space and time on our local planet? That's the Little Story.

Now that we have ironed that out, let’s spend a little while on the Big Story. The most popular understandings of the Big Story within Protestant Christianity are the two groups I mentioned above: Calvinism and Arminianism. Both of these Big Stories tell different stories of who God is and what he is like.

How exactly does this play out? Let's begin with Calvinism. The Calvinist worldview holds to a particular presupposition. That presupposition is the timelessness of God. Now of course, all Christians believe God exists outside of time. There is no dispute there. But the Calvinist defines timelessness by using a certain philosophical reasoning. This reasoning goes something like this:
God is Timeless→Timeless means he cannot experience before and after (because before and after implies time)→If he cannot experience before and after then he cannot know the future by learning it as that implies before and after→Therefore, God knows the future because he has predetermined it→All of angelic and human history has been predetermined by God’s sovereign will including who goes to heaven.
Grant it, this is oversimplified but nevertheless, accurate. And logical as the flow of thought may be, "Arminians [argue] that the Calvinist view owes more to Greek philosophy... than to the Bible’s portrait of God."[9] The Bible never defines timelessness so using this speculative definition - which is derived from Parmenides and Plato - as the key to interpreting the Bible is allowing human reasoning to color the text.[10]

So here is how the Calvinist system breaks down:

Presupposition

(God's Timeless Nature)


Interpretation

(God is Sovereign and has determined all things)


Theology

(Salvation is only for the few God has chosen)[11]

The Arminians on the other hand disagree with this worldview. These "concepts", they argue, force a dictatorial and disturbing picture of a God who is anything but love. Thus, Arminianism responds to Calvinism by focusing on the love of God and consequently introduces free-will. This is done in order to preserve the loving nature of God.

Presupposition

(God's Loving Nature)


Interpretation

(Love demands freedom of will)


Theology

(Salvation is for all mankind)

When John Wesley entered the picture, he took Arminianism to the next level. He was concerned with the character of God and began to extrapolate this battle between good and evil in the Bible in order to better understand who God is in light of his love. Wesley, like most other Arminians, found Calvinism disturbing and "felt that the idea of absolute unconditional predestination by divine decree was inconsistent with God’s justice, as well as his love and goodness."[12] For Arminians, therefore, the reformation is about returning to the God of love of scripture which Calvinism failed to do.

The Little Story

Now that we have introduced the Big Stories of the Protestant faith let’s turn our focus over to the Little Story. In the Little Story the question of how this God from the Big Story relates to, interacts with, and operates with His creation is answered. While the Big Story focuses on who God is and what he is like, the Little Story focuses on planet earth. In theology this encompasses creation, the fall, the flood, the nation of Israel, the church, end time events and the covenants God makes with man. For Calvinists this Little Story is understood through the "glasses" of God's sovereignty. For Arminians, its best understood through the "glasses" of his love. Calvinism developed systematic ways of approaching the Big and Little story known as Covenantalism.[13] This systematic is best understood as a "whole story" approach to the Bible in that it seeks to make sense of all of scriptures themes - from Genesis to Revelation - through the Calvinist glasses.

However, before we discuss Arminianism's "whole Bible" approach, we need to highlight another contribution it brings to the table. While we have thus far explored the Big Story and the Little Story, Arminianism introduced another element to help make sense of the Bibles narrative and the oddness of Adventism. I call it the "Middle Story".

The Middle Story

Put simply, the Middle Story is the story that lies between the Big and Little Story. This "Middle Story" was developed and expounded upon by reformers such as Hugo Grotius, Albert Barnes and, most effectively, John Wesley in what he referred to as scriptures "aesthetic theme".[14, 15] According to Wesley, God was not responsible for evil. Using his love-of-God glasses, Wesley revisited scripture to discover what the origin of evil entailed and there he discovered a war between good and evil that originated with Satan who used his free will to rebel against God and consequently lead humanity into rebellion. So while the Big Story reveals who God is and what he is like, the Middle Story explains how sin originated in light of God's "goodness".

But why exactly is this important? The answer is simple. Calvinists don’t need a Middle Story that explains the presence of sin and evil because their "glasses" are deterministic (everything that happens in creation has been predetermined by God). So at the end of the day, there is no need to explain the battle between good and evil. A Calvinist either accepts it as a mystery or presents that battle as part of God’s predetermined will for creation in order to bring about the glorification of His Son.

For Arminians, on the other hand, the most important attribute of God is the attribute of love. Everything is an outflow of God’s love, including His sovereignty. Therefore, all of God’s creation was designed to operate under the law of love – a law which harmonizes only with freedom, because love cannot be coerced, manipulated, or determined. This other-centered paradigm was to be the basis for temporal reality and eternity. However, the concept of God as love is challenged by the presence of evil. How could a loving God allow such things? Such questions lead men to doubt the Big Story and demand an explanation. That explanation is found in the Middle Story.

The Failure of the Arminian Movement

However, as concerned as Arminianism was with the love, justice and character of God and his government the movement failed in one key area: Unlike the Calvinists who managed to interpret the entire Bible through the Calvinist lens and develop a cohesive "whole-Bible" story based on their worldview (Covenantalism), the Arminians never did. As Joseph Dongell pointed out,
[T]here really is no such thing as Arminian theology, if by that we mean an entire system of thought. Arminian theology, more properly and narrowly defined, pertains only to how one interprets the Bible’s teaching about predestination.[16]
While there do exist Arminian approaches that are "whole-Bible" stories based on the Arminian worldview, they are here there and everywhere.[17] In fact, in 2015, Society of Evangelical Arminians contributor Brian Abasciano noted that "there are not a lot of good options for a contemporary comprehensive Arminian systematic theology text."[18, emphasis mine] In other words, there is not one central system of thought that brought Arminians together to proclaim their theology of God’s love to the world. Instead, Arminianism became more of an approach to understanding God as it relates to individual salvation. Some Arminian groups highlight justification and assurance of salvation (Arminian Baptists, Methodists) while others emphasize holiness and the Holy Spirit (the Pentecostal, Nazarene and Wesleyan holiness/ charismatic movements).[19]

Therefore, apart from a few key thinkers here and there, Arminianism never applied its biblical "love-of-God" presupposition to the entirety of scripture. As a result, they never developed cohesive views that enabled them to approach every theme of scripture - including the law of God, the nation of Israel, the covenants, the church, prophecy, end time events and final judgment etc. from this love-of-God worldview. Thus, in his article "Why I am Not an Arminian" Tim Challies - former Arminian turned Calvinist - wrote,
Reformed theology (Calvinism) depends not only on key verses but on the warp and woof of the entire Bible. It offers a far more compelling explanation of Scripture than Arminianism, both in its broad outlines and in its fine details.[20]
This absence of a "whole Bible" approach meant that the same movement that began by passionately seeking to redeem the character of God from what they felt was the foul picture of the Calvinist worldview never developed a system of thought that could interpret the entire Bible from that view. As a result, this God-is-love movement never advanced cohesive answers to questions related to the covenants, the law of God, the prophetic timeline, end time events, the Israel/ church relationship, the judgment of the wicked, etc. Consequently, the movement splintered with some tending to either adopt already accepted views in those areas, others refusing to answer certain questions and many more caught in endless nuances in-between. For example, while Arminians rejected the deterministic Calvinist conclusions (God determines everything that happens) they never rejected the timeless view of God which led to that conclusion. This resulted in a system of thought that was internally incoherent. In addition, while Arminians rejected some of the philosophical speculations that Calvinism embraced, they never identified the philosophical speculations they themselves continued to adhere to such as Platonic dualism which gave entry to the doctrine of the immortal soul in Christianity.[21] As a result, to this day Arminianism continues to embrace the self-contradictory view that God is love and has granted freedom of will to his creatures yet torments sinners in hell for all eternity simply because they rejected Christ by exercising the free will he so lovingly gave them. Likewise, how God performs his judgment over humanity was left as a blank area with no real answer - an odd posture for a movement that claimed to defend the justice of God’s moral government and his dealings with men.

Enter Adventism

Like the Arminian-Wesleyan world, it was this concern and passion for a renewed understanding of the heart of God and His government that gave birth, though the study of scripture, to the “Great Controversy” theme – Adventism’s Middle Story. This theme not only answers questions related to the origin of sin and suffering in the universe but also vindicates God’s character from the charges made against him by Satan. And it is in this theme – which emphasizes the loving character of God over and against the presence of evil and suffering – that Adventist theology finds its heart beat. Adventism took these "love-of-God" glasses and embarked on a journey of rediscovering the love and character of God in every single theme of scripture.[22]

But how? How did Adventism do that which the rest of the Arminian world had not successfully done? While tracing the history of this is out of the scope of this article, the key that made the difference was the sanctuary. In the sanctuary the early Adventists discovered the key to applying the love-of-God theme to the entirety of scripture, not just the parts associated with individual justification or holiness. In addition, the sanctuary was foundational in moving Adventist thought from the "timeless God" concept present in both Calvinism and Arminianism to a "God-in-time" view that radically impacted the way in which Adventists think of and relate to God and his relationship with man.[23] As a result Adventism began to revolve around one central theme in scripture: God's desire to be with people - which is the essence of the sanctuary.

Seventh-day Adventist co-founder Ellen White wrote,
The sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ's work in behalf of men. It concerns every soul living upon the earth. It opens to view the plan of redemption, bringing us down to the very close of time, and revealing the triumphant issue of the contest between righteousness and sin.[24]
This statement alone reveals the depth of Adventist thought in relation to the sanctuary. God's love and desire to be with people was their presupposition. Through the sanctuary they discovered the "plan of redemption" from before the foundation of the world to the "very close of time". The focus of this story, however, was not mans salvation but the glory of God. The sanctuary unveiled the battle between good an evil (Middle story) and God's eventual triumph over sin - not though coercion or sheer power, but through the "revelation of his character of love."[25] Thus Ellen White could also write,
The subject of the sanctuary... opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonious...[26, emphasis mine]
For Adventism, the sanctuary reveals the love of God in a way that transcends our own local world and forms a part, in some mysterious way, of the heavenly realm. A sanctuary, which can be best defined as "God’s meeting place with man" because he wants to "dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8) in heaven meant that before the foundation of the world the plan of redemption (which is revealed in the sanctuary) was made and through it God has communicated his eternal desire to dwell with us. For Adventists, this means that his love and grace did not just appear in our space-time realm at the cross. They have been with us all along and continue with us even now. And it is only through this eternal ever-present love that scripture can be properly understood.[27]

In other words, the sanctuary became to Adventists the key by which the Arminian worldview could finally be harmonized into one "whole story" approach to scripture that connected all of its parts in a page by page revelation of the matchless love of God. And it is this single phenomenon that makes Adventism weird. Not only did it embark on the journey to develop a "whole Bible" story centered on the love of God, it did it in a way that maintained harmony with the five solas of the Protestant reformation: the Bible alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, to his glory alone - all remained.

Thus creation takes on a whole new meaning. It is an act of space-time love. Even the very creation of time itself is an act of love, an idea foreign to the classical theism that under-girds Calvinist thought and continued to impact Arminian thought. Time, to Adventists, was created by God in a specific way - to facilitate both our development and relationship with him. Under this view, the Sabbath becomes more than a mere moral command. It is the day where God’s love and our temporal realm collide in a special way. The law of God, in this view, is a reflection of his character of love. It is not arbitrary, but the love-parameters upon which life was designed in order for love to flourish. It cannot be abolished as though it was somehow problematic. Rather, he writes it in our hearts under the New Covenant as part of the process of restoring us to the image of love in which he created us. The covenants, the history of Israel and the church, the gospel, the gifts of the spirit including the gift of prophecy, the health message, the 1260/ 2300 days of Daniel, the pre-advent judgment, the three angels messages, the mark of the beast, the call to come out of Babylon, the remnant church, the second coming, the millennium, the great white throne judgment, the New Jerusalem, the annihilation of the wicked - all of it forms part of this "whole-Bible" story that reveals the unutterable love of God. Thus, the gospel for Adventists doesn't begin in Bethlehem. It begins in Eden and it flows through history into the final consummation of all things. While many appeal to the cross as the central place where the love of God is revealed, Adventists appeal to all of scripture. All of it is "God with us". It affirms his eternal love in every theme - including Daniel and Revelation. And of course, the Adventist view of non-eternal hell and complete eradication of sin is yet another outflow of this sanctuary God-is-love narrative.

The Investigative Judgement, which has been the subject of much criticism and debate, is all about one thing: God’s transparency. God doesn't judge based on his own "all-knowing-ness" as the Calvinist would assert. Rather, he judges out of love. His judgment is crystal clear. All can observe his decisions. All can see that God is fair and just and loving. This doctrine, in turn, answers questions about God's judgment and the fairness of his government that other Arminian movements failed to answer.[28] And unlike those who have abandoned Historicism (the historical Protestant method of interpreting prophecy), Adventists have hung on. Because God longs to dwell with us and is always intimately involved with humanity in time, Preterism and Futurism are out. There is just no way that God would leave his people in the dark for that long. Historicism embraces a view of God as present and active in the entirety of human history. Preterism and Futurism unwittingly deny that by positing most of the prophetic timeline to either the distant past or the distant future.[29]

Time and space do not permit a continued analysis of this (for more see "The Hole in Adventism: Identifying our Place in the Continuum of Protestant Covenantal Thought"). However, for Adventists one thing is clear: God is love - not only in Calvary but in every part of scripture. Thus, Adventism did what the Arminian world never did. It defined the entirety of scripture from the love of God into one cohesive system of thought and then took that story to the world with missions, schools, hospitals, medical and literature ministries, churches, humanitarian aid, publishing houses and more. This is the reason why Adventism has a worldwide ecclesiological system. A congregational system means we can only tell our story sporadically without harmony of thought. A worldwide system means we can tell our story, in a harmonious way, to the entire globe. This is also the reason why the concept of "remnant church" is so central to Adventist thought. It encapsulates the uniqueness of Adventisms narrative in the Christian world.[30] And finally, this is the primary reason why the Adventist church really, really matters.

Of course, none if this means that Adventist theology is perfect. We have not discovered everything the Bible has to say on the love of God. We still have questions we can't answer and concepts we find difficult to explain. We continue to grow and learn not only from scripture but from our brothers and sisters in different Protestant traditions. And our picture of God's love and the Great Controversy continues to expand and evolve.[31] But this is OK for Adventists. Our sanctuary view of God sets the foundation for the Adventist concept of "present truth" which means that God is always revealing more truth as time goes by. Thus Ellen White could say,
Much has been lost because our ministers and people have concluded that we have had all the truth essential for us as a people; but such a conclusion is erroneous and in harmony with the deceptions of Satan, for truth will be constantly unfolding.[32]
For this reason, Adventists have refused to embrace "creeds". Philosophically speaking, a creed is only compatible with a timeless God who is not progressively revealing more truth as human time advances. But a God who willingly enters into time in order to have relationship with us will continue to reveal himself until the end of time. Thus, everything that makes Adventism weird can be traced back to this sanctuary picture of an intimate and loving God who reveals himself to us always within the framework of his love. And while other Protestant traditions may embrace and proclaim the love of God with great passion, Adventism has more than just proclamations about the love of God: it has a robust story that reveals his love in every theme of scripture - Big, Middle and Little Story.

As a result, Adventism has, almost like a magnet, attracted all doctrines to itself that celebrate the love of God and in turn built on them and discovered truths for this day that had not been discovered before. This sanctuary God who dwells among us, interacts with us and condescends to us in every step of the story is the God we find, not only in the cross, but all throughout scripture. In every theme, teaching and mystery - including the law, judgment, prophecy and the war between good and evil - there Adventism sees a beautiful being, with a character of love unlike anything man could ever imagine.

So yes, Adventism does have an eccentric theological narrative. But that alone does not make it unique. Rather its presuppositions derived from Sola Scriptura set the foundation that enables the denomination to embrace the narrative it has. Here is our system using the above process.

Presupposition

(The Sanctuary - God is love/in time)[33]


Interpretation

(God’s love is the interpretive lens for all of scripture)


Theology

(Gods law, gospel, prophecies etc. all reveal his love)

Perhaps no one has summarized the purpose and mission of Adventism as well as Ellen White did when she wrote,
It is the darkness of misapprehension of God that is enshrouding the world. Men are losing their knowledge of His character. It has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. At this time a message from God is to be proclaimed, a message illuminating in its influence and saving in its power. His character is to be made known. Into the darkness of the world is to be shed the light of His glory, the light of His goodness, mercy, and truth. The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love.[34]

Conclusion

The similarities explored in the previous post demonstrate Adventism’s strong reformation roots. The differences explored in this post demonstrate its departure from classic Protestant thought. It is, in my estimation, Protestant in every way but holding to alternate foundations that enable it to evolve in alternate directions without sacrificing the five solas of the Protestant reformation and in some ways celebrating them even more. This historic connection, coupled with our alternate direction, is what makes Adventism weird. We are not entirely Protestant in the historic sense of the word (though we are entirely Protestant in the ideological sense). We are not anti/counter-Protestants or sectarians such as the Catholic, Jehovah's Witness or Mormon churches. This leaves us with a faith that both celebrates the five solas of the reformation and continues to hold much in common with the Protestant world while embracing an alternate presupposition that leads us to a weird and beautiful "whole Bible" narrative of the love of God.

Sadly, many Adventists today assume we are simply another faith-community among the many. They have forgotten why our churches matter. When asked what makes us different, the answers are usually not very compelling. Some promote a legalistic theology that is unhealthy and obsess over themes like end-time events. Others react to the obsession by rejecting most of our prophetic doctrines. The sad truth is that both camps have drifted from the narrative. We have forgotten what makes us weird, radical and counter-cultural. We have lost our story.

It's time we found it again.

So, here's to being weird.

_____

This article was originally published at www.pomopastor.com and was adapted for theHaystack. It has been adapted once more for republication here.

Note: Certain portions of this post are edited excerpts of the series: "The Hole in Adventism: Identifying our Place in the Continuum of Protestant Covenantal Thought". The original source of these excerpts has not been cited in order to maximize reader experience. You can access that source here.

[1] http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com.au/p/who-were-proto-protestants.html
[2] Bishop, Paul A., "Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation": https://www.hccfl.edu/media/173616/ee2luther.pdf
[3] https://www.calvinistcorner.com/tulip.htm
[4] http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-five-points-of-arminianism-calvinism/
[5] Appel, Dan. "7 Important Questions About 1844": https://atoday.org/7-important-questions-about-1844/
[6] Manea, Mike C. & Marcos D Torres, "Why the Critics of the Investigative Judgment Have Failed": http://www.pomopastor.com/2016/01/why-critics-of-investigative-judgment.html
[7] In other words, no doctrine of the church would have failed to develop if we did not have this date. Our judgment narrative would simply have different chronology. But the narrative itself would remain intact.
[8] Castro, Diane. "Presuppositions and Interpretations: How Our Assumptions Affect Our Understanding of the Bible, Part 1 of 3,": http://blogs.christianpost.com/ambassador-of-reconciliation/presuppositions-and-interpretations-how-our-assumptions-affect-our-understanding-of-the-bible-part-1-of-2-7212/
[9] Dongell, Joseph. "10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Arminianism": https://www.onfaith.co/discussion/10-things-i-wish-everyone-knew-about-arminianism
[10] Canale, Fernando. "Toward a Criticism of Theological Reason : Time and Timelessness as Primordial Presuppositions" (1983). Dissertations. 22.: http://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/dissertations/22 
See also, Roger E Olson. "An Example of Unwarranted Theological Speculation: Divine Timelessness,": http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/02/an-example-of-unwarranted-theological-speculation-divine-timelessness/
[11] Not all Calvinists agree that God decreed who goes to hell. Arminians, on the other hand, argue that predestination is unjust and unloving in all of its forms. For more information on the different views in the Calvinist camp see: https://www.gotquestions.org/lapsarianism.html
[12] Pedlar, James. "John Wesley on Predestination": https://jamespedlar.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/john-wesley-on-predestination/
[13] This does not mean that all Calvinists agree on all things. Covenantalism is divided into differing camps such as the Westminster Confession, the Asbury Declaration, and 1689 Federalism. However, the disagreements in these views are often minor. They all present a very unified approach to understanding the whole Bible through the Calvinist lens.
[14] For more on the history of the Middle Story see Miller, Nicholas. "God’s Moral Government of Love: The Theology that Helped Shape the Movement for Abolition and Civil Rights,": https://law.pepperdine.edu/nootbaar-institute/annual-conference/loveandlaw/presentations/miller-paper.pdf
[15] For more on Wesley's "Aesthetic Theme" see: Bryant, Barry E. "John Wesley On the Origins of Evil,":http://evangelicalarminians.org/john-wesley-on-the-origins-of-evil/
[16] Dongell, Joseph. "10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Arminianism": https://www.onfaith.co/discussion/10-things-i-wish-everyone-knew-about-arminianism
[17] see for example: http://evangelicalarminians.org/a-short-partially-annotated-list-of-arminian-systematic-theologies/
[18] ibid
[19] See for example: Markey, Dell. "Wesleyan Church vs. Methodist Church,": http://classroom.synonym.com/wesleyan-church-vs-methodist-church-7572.html
[20] Challies, Tim. "Why I Am Not an Arminian,": https://www.challies.com/articles/why-i-am-not-arminian
[21] See Fudge, Edward. "Immortality is Conditional,": http://edwardfudge.com/2012/03/immortality-is-conditional/
[22] This does not mean that Adventism succeeded in this approach without much struggle. The history of Adventism shows that developing this "whole Bible" view of Gods love took decades and, in fact, continues to this day. Throughout the years the church has had to confront numerous issues from false doctrines and teachers to administrative and ecclesiological challenges. All of this has slowed the process of the stories development and, at times, distorted it requiring the church to backtrack, after the dust has settled, and continue its task. Therefore, this statement needs to be understood, not as a literal rendition of the development of Adventist thought, but as a summation of it historical trajectory and future potential. For more on the historical development of Adventist thought see: Knight, George R. "A Search for Identity: The Development of Seventh-Day Adventist Beliefs" and Miller, Nicholas. "The Reformation and the Remnant: The Reformers Speak to Today's Church"
[23] As mentioned earlier in the article, the timeless God foundation resulted in an incoherent system of thought for Arminians and is, quite possibly, the underlying reason why the movement never developed a cohesive "whole Bible" view. For more see: Blanco, Marcos. "Adventist Theology and the New Anthropology: Challenges and Opportunities":https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2015/05/adventist-theology-and-the-new-anthropology and, Canale, Fernando. "Toward a Criticism of Theological Reason : Time and Timelessness as Primordial Presuppositions" (1983). Dissertations. 22
[24] White, Ellen G. "Great Controversy,” p. 488.
[25] White, Ellen G. "Christ Object Lessons," p. 415.
[26] White, Ellen G. “Evangelism,” p. 22.
[27] Adrian Zahid summarized it well when he quoted various Adventist thinkers on the matter,
Canale suggests that, “The sanctuary doctrine is the most comprehensive doctrine or motif in Scripture and therefore plays a decisive role in guiding biblical interpretation and the construction of Adventist theology.” James White saw that “the present truth is harmonious in all its parts; its links are all connected; the bearings of all its portions upon each other are like clockwork,” LeRoy Froom wrote of early Adventist theology as the “base of a coordinated system of truth.” George Knight, writes that “Sabbatarian Adventists produced an integrated theology rather than a list of discrete doctrines, and Alberto Timm states that these beliefs were an integrated system related to the attributes of God.” (Zahid, Adrian. "The One Project: The ‘Jesus. All.’ Paradox (Part 3)": https://thecompassmagazine.com/blog/the-one-project-the-jesus-all-paradox)
[28] For more in the Investigative Judgment as it relates to the Middle story and Gods moral government of love see: Torres, Marcos D. "The Pre-Advent Judgment": http://www.pomopastor.com/p/books.html
[29] For more on Historicism as understood through the love of God see Lightbearers series: "Covenant Kingdom" by David Asscherick, Fred Bischoff, James Rafferty, Jeffrey Rosario and Ty Gibson: http://www.lightbearers.org/resource/covenant-kingdom-01-the-covenant-lens/ For more on the necessity of Historicism over against other systems see, Manea, Mike. "Bible Prophecy for Atheists," (part 1-3): https://thecompassmagazine.com/author/mikemanea
[30] For more on Adventism and the doctrine of "remnant church" see: Torres, Marcos D. "The Remnant Church: Denominational Arrogance or Conviction?": http://www.pomopastor.com/2014/02/the-remnant-church-denominational.html
[31] In addition, the statement does not imply that the Seventh-day Adventist church is perfect from an administrative perspective. The church is still under the administration of erring mortals and as such, problems remain that slow - and at times - reverse the progress of building God's kingdom. This is to be expected in any organization.
[32] White, Ellen G. "Candid Investigation Necessary to an Understanding of the Truth,": https://m.egwwritings.org/en/book/820.10079
[33] At this juncture it is important for the reader to understand 3 points:
1) Adventisms "Sanctuary/ God-in-time" motif does not imply that God is somehow bound by time - a view held in Panentheistic and Pandeistic thought and which also forms a part of Open Theism/ Process theology. Adventism accepts the clear Biblical teaching that God is not bound by time and is completely separate from his creation (2 Pet. 3:8, Psa. 90:4, Isa. 57:15, John 4:24, Heb. 11:3). Rather, because the Bible never defines timelessness (what it looks like) Adventism refuses to use philosophical speculations about timelessness as a presupposition by which to interpret the Bible. Therefore, Adventism seeks to interpret scripture solely on what scripture reveals and this is a God who, while certainly separate from his creation (including time) voluntarily condescends into time and space in order to interact with his creation in intimacy. The sanctuary in scripture, which God commanded the Israelites to build so that he could "dwell among them" is also a revelation of the entire plan of salvation and was patterned after the sanctuary in heaven (Exodus 25:8-9; Hebrews 8:1-2, 5). This sanctuary in heaven thus reveals God's desire to "dwell among us" despite his transcendence and forms a Biblical interpretive framework for understanding the love and immanence of God in all of scripture. This love and immanence are revealed in the plan of salvation, the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Jesus who is Emanuel - God with us), the high priestly ministry, the law, the judgment, etc.
2) Adventism is not alone in the "God-in-time" motif. Other Christian theologians and philosophers such as Roger E. Olson (Arminian), Richard Watson (Methodist), I. A. Dorner (Lutheran-Reformed), Karl Barth (Reformed), John Polkinghorne (Anglican), and William L. Craig (Molinist) have also popularized and argued for this view (for more see: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/02/an-example-of-unwarranted-theological-speculation-divine-timelessness/). Thus, even the God-in-time motif is not original to Adventism. What is original is that Adventism has pressed this view through the love of God and developed a way to understand scriptures themes through it - not via philosophy, but via scriptures internal "God-with-us" (sanctuary) hermeneutic.
3) It is also important for the reader to recognize that the sanctuary view in no way replaces the centrality of Jesus. Jesus is the center of the sanctuary narrative. The sanctuary, rather than replacing the Jesus-only paradigm, reveals how the centrality of Jesus impacts every facet of the Big, Middle and Little story which in turn gives birth to a cohesive "whole-Bible" story of the love of God.
[34] White, Ellen G. "Christ Object Lessons," p. 415.
     ...

Pastor Marcos is a millennial Adventist pastor with a passion for Jesus, the narrative of Adventism and the relevancy of the local Adventist church. He pastors in Western Australia where he lives with his wife and children. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. He also blogs weekly at pomopastor.com