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?
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.
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.
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!