Posts tagged Culture
Why the Modern Church Has Failed

I grew up in a traditional church that was more interested in hanging on to its formalities than it was in open-mindedly assessing why it was losing its youth. My own youth group was quite large but by the time we had reached 18 the vast majority of us had walked away from the church. As a result of these experiences I have, for a long time, been quite interested in the topic of youth and church.

Enter the modern church. Among many other things, the modern church was an attempt to create a church culture that was both attractive and retentive of its youth. However, after many years of going down that road we are still publishing books on how youth are leaving church in droves. It appears the modern church has failed.

But why? The answers are as complex as the problem, but allow me to present a paradigm that I believe contributes, perhaps more than any other reason, to the youth exodus that plagues churches everywhere.

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Before I do so, allow me to dissect the church into three chunks. The first chunk we will call the "heart beat" of the church. This is what gives the church its life, breath and relevance. In other words, the heart beat is the purpose of the church. The second chunk we will call the "muscle". This is what enables the church to live out its purpose. In an Adventist local church this would include- in part - the "business meeting" (most powerful meeting in the church which involves every church member), the "board meeting" (where appointed leaders of the church meet to implement the decisions of the church and to steer the church through representative decisions) and "ministry meetings" (where ministry leaders of diverse ministries get together to plan for the year). In other words, the muscle of the church is its system. The third chunk is the cosmetics of the church. This is the stuff everyone sees like the age of the building, its cleanliness and it's upkeep. But this also involves the church's style like its dress code, its musical niche, its interior design etc. In other words, the cosmetics of the church is its style.

Now that we have divided the church into these three chunks allow me to introduce what I believe is the major problem with the church today. Jesus gave the church a heart beat: the great commission. This task to make disciples of all nations is why the church exists. It is its purpose. The muscle of the church is thus fully employed in bringing this purpose about. And the cosmetics of the church adapt to the different cultures and generations that that particular local church is speaking into. However, at some point in history the church seems to have lost its heart beat. Once it lost its heart beat (making disciples of all nations) it became obsessed with itself. As a result the muscle of the church switched from an outward focused system set up to facilitate the accomplishment of the great commission to an inward focused system set up to keep the church members happy. The end result of this was churches that cared little of how they were perceived in their communities and instead focused on keeping one another happy. The cosmetics of the church thus evolved, not as a tool for speaking into culture, but as a celebration of nostalgia.

Then one day, a well meaning member realized that all the youth were totally not clicking with church. So this well meaning member spoke with another well meaning member and together they decided something had to be done. What can we do to attract and retain our youth? They asked. And the answer was always the same: We have to make church cool.

OK, maybe no one ever used those exact words. But that's what it all boils down to. Most of the modern church is ultimately concerned with being "cool" enough so that its youth feel comfortable and perceive the church as relevant. But it hasn't worked. We are still publishing books and funding research on the "youth exodus issue" and church leaders across the board know that youth are still leaving. In addition, the modern church's attempt has become the object of scorn both in the church and in the culture the church is supposedly reaching. Check out the video below, by Nick Thune, which communicates exactly how many secular post-moderns perceive the church of today.

This video is both hilarious and sad. Hilarious because the dude is funny! Sad because the modern church has become so predictable, shallow and "cool" that it can be so easily caricatured and ridiculed. And the worst part of it all is it hasn't worked.

But why? Well, here is my theory. Remember the whole heart-beat, muscle and cosmetic thing? When the church lost its heart beat its muscle became useless and its cosmetic gradually lost touch with its culture. When well meaning members decided to seek a solution, however, rather than go to the core of the issue and fix that (the church had no heart beat) they simply tweaked the cosmetics. But what do you get when you wash a tomb white? You get a white washed tomb. Its pretty on the outside, but inside its still full of dead men's bones. So what do you get when you take a church that has no heart beat with an atrophied muscular structure and simply change the cosmetics? You get a church that's pretty on the outside, but fundamentally it is still dead, irrelevant and useless. It only takes the youth (who might be initially attracted by your coffee bar and contemporary Christian worship band) so long before they figure out that your contemporary church is, apart from the cosmetics, no different to the traditional church that they ran away from. It's still boring. It's still irrelevant. It's still exists for nothing more than the appeasement of its own membership. It has no lasting, impacting or legitimate reason to exist. And without that heart beat you can change your cosmetics all you want and you will end up with nothing more than a shallow and cheesy version of Christianity that hardly resembles the world changing movement Jesus intended us to be.

Am I against the cosmetics? Of course not. There's nothing worse than walking into a church and it feels like you just stepped back 100 years. There is nothing worse than churches who clearly have no interest or knowledge of the culture and its language. But here's my point - the cosmetics should be the result of having a heart beat. They are not the thing that causes it. Change them all you want, but it wont revive your church, keep your youth or attract your neighbors. But a church with a heart that beats for the broken and lives to share the gospel to its community by acts of mercy, justice and service is a relevant church that will impact its sphere of influence for decades to come.

Lets be that kind of church.

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ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A DIFFERENT KIND OF CHURCH?

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).

Why is Church So... Blah?
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Have you ever felt like church just doesn't seem to matter? I mean, its cool and all. It's not like you are angry at the church or with anyone in particular. It just seems as though the only major thing that would change if you stopped going was how you spent your Sabbath morning which is quite often kind of, well, blah...

If you have ever felt that way, consider yourself totally non-weird. Many people, especially in today's generation, feel that way. In fact, many pastors feel that way and I am definitely one of them. I'm not a huge fan of "church" and there is so much about it that I simply don't connect with.

However, there is something weird about all this. Whenever I read about the church in the New Testament I get stoked. I especially love the book of Acts which chronicles the journey of the early church. But for some reason that sense of excitement hasn't always transferred into my local setting. It's almost as if there is a big difference between the church in Acts and the church in my city. One is pretty cool. The other is... blah?

But why do we feel this way? Is it because the Acts church was perfect? Not at all. They were messed up. In fact, the New Testament testifies to how messed up the early church was (one church even had a guy hooking up with his stepmother!). They were certainly far from perfect. Is it because the Acts church was trendier? No. There were no hipsters then. They didn't even have a Snapchat account.

And yet, when I read about the church in Acts one thing is clear. They lived and died for the kingdom of God. They impacted the world around them. They were a force to be reckoned with. If you left the church, it wasn't just your Sabbath morning that changed, it was your everyday life that changed. Church wasn't simply a tack on to the week - a religious ritual to adhere to. Church was a movement, a way of life, identity, purpose, and the force that was responsible for ushering in the kingdom of God. Perhaps few have said it as well as Francis Chan:

Church today has become predictable.... You go to a building, someone gives you a bulletin, you sit in a chair, you sing a few songs, a guy delivers maybe a polished message, maybe not, someone sings a solo, you go home.

Is that all God intended for us?
— Francis Chan

I think that closing question is one all of us can relate to. And yet, here is another question. Is there hope? Can the modern church go back to its roots? Can we restore what it means to be the church?

I believe the answer is Yes. However, it will never happen if we all sit around and wait for the leaders to do it. Leaders are amazing, but they also have a lot on their plate. The typical pastor is dealing with interpersonal tensions in the church, administration challenges, families going through crisis and theological controversies threatening the church's unity. If you think you can just tack on "church revival" to his or her list of things to do, then make sure you get a comfy chair. You are going to be waiting a while. 

My belief is this. Pastors need to commit to church revival yes. But it begins with the everyday church member. You are the one with the power. Most pastors will support any initiative for church revival and optimization if they know there is a core group in the church already working in that direction. But if they are the ones who have to initiate and run the entire thing, its often impossible.

So I want to challenge each of you to go against the current. I want to challenge you not just to be counter-cultural in this sinful world but to be counter-cultural in the church. Stand up and make a difference. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Don't be discouraged. Yes, the church is quite often comfy and doesn't want to do much but that should not surprise us. Jesus told us the tares will remain with the wheat until the final judgment and the book of Revelation also predicts the Laodecian phase of the church. It's to be expected so don't let it wear you out. Fight for change knowing that God is on your side. 
  2. Don't complain. Do something! Leaving the church because its dead, or gripping about what is wrong with it wont do a thing. Instead of criticizing the church lead the church. Critics may have good points but they are all yap. Leaders on the other hand zip their lips and get to work. 
  3. Find your passion in building the kingdom of God and milk it for all its worth. Get books on it. Watch videos or read stories of other people who are doing the same thing. Get stoked! And get to it. 
  4. Surround yourself with people who feel like you. Yes, they can be hard to find. I get that. But the beauty of the modern age is, if you cant find anyone locally you can still connect with people who share the same burden all over the world. Join a Facebook group! I currently host a group with over 300 members called "Adventist Evangelism & Church Optimization Group" where we share, inspire and challenge each other. Join us here!
  5. Start a ministry. Anyone can do this. You don't need permission. Start it and get people plugged in. Take advantage of the networks you built in step 4 to gain wisdom, insight, and encouragement. On the other hand, consider joining an existing ministry if you have the chance. 
  6. Remember your circle of influence. God hasn't called you to change the entire world. He has called you to be faithful to your particular circle of influence. So stick to that or else you will burn out. 
  7. And lastly, keep yourself entirely connected to Jesus. After all, its his kingdom we are building not our own. 

If each of us where to do this we can begin to restore a sense of relevance, purpose, and fire to our local church. It's certainly not easy but nothing of value in life ever is.

Note: This article was originally published at www.livingstonsda.church/livo-blog

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!

What Is It That Makes Christianity Different From Every Other Religion?

This past week I had the privilege of hanging out with Lachland Harders from The Worship Collective to film this simple video exploring the difference between the Christian faith and every other worldview and religion on the planet. Check it out below and make sure to follow The Worship Collective on Facebook! (More info below)

For those who have never heard of The Worship Collective, head over to their Facebook page and give them a like! The Worship Collective exists to create, share and inspire others to make Christian Content. Their goal is to stimulate growth in the Christian creative community and firmly believe in following in the footsteps of our creator-God across all artistic mediums.

We need more young leaders like this doing awesome stuff in our church! Show them your support!

How to NOT Reach Post-Moderns

Post-modernism is old. Surprising as it may sound, its true.

While I am not a post-modern historian I am aware that this worldview has existed and grown since around the period following World War II. That's over 60 years ago and yet the church is still trying to figure out how to reach those who embrace its worldview. Ask anyone involved in post-modern ministry and they will most likely tell you that no one knows how to reach them. They don't respond to logic, rational arguments, or dogmatic preaching. They could care less about your proof texts, apologetics, or evidences. Truth is not absolute for them, hence if Adventism is true for you then that's fine, but if Islam is true for someone else then it is equally true. Any disagreement is seen as intolerance and any claim to have absolute truth is seen as narcissism. In a future post I am going to present some challenges to post-modernism's worldview that I believe can give us an edge when it comes to reaching them for Christ, but for the time being I would like to share what will single handedly keep us from ever connecting with them.

While not specifically dealing with post-modernism, Ellen White nevertheless captured the importance and need for new ways to reach emerging generations. In Gospel Workers page 468 she said, "The methods and means by which we reach certain ends are not always the same. The missionary must use reason and judgment. Changes for the better must be made..." (GW 468.3). Again, in her book Evangelism Ellen White noted that "New methods must be introduced. God’s people must awake to the necessities of the time in which they are living. God has men whom He will call into His service,—men who will not carry forward the work in the lifeless way in which it has been carried forward in the past.... (Ev 70.1). Whatever may have been your former practice, it is not necessary to repeat it again and again in the same way. God would have new and untried methods followed. Break in upon the people—surprise them (Ev 125.4). Let every worker in the Master’s vineyard, study, plan, devise methods, to reach the people where they are. We must do something out of the common course of things. We must arrest the attention" (Ev 122.4).

The message is clear, we cannot expect to reach this generation with the same methods we used to connect with the previous generation. New methods (not schemes or gimmicks) need to be devised. The way we do church and evangelism needs to be redefined in a way that connects with this generation while simultaneously holding on to the biblical beliefs that make us who we are. In a recent Facebook post I commented that "I always hear Christians whining about how we are not reaching the culture but when I look around I see us doing the same thing we've been doing for 50 years. So is the culture really that hard to reach? Or are we just slacking?"

So there it is. How to NOT reach post-moderns: Keep doing the same thing we've been doing for the last 50 years and we are guaranteed to succeed (in other words: fail).

Note: This post is an excerpt from the eBook "Enigma: How to Reach Postmoderns". You can download the ebook below:

Pastor MarcosCultureComment
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

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.

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!


     ...

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
Top 5 Reasons Why Adventist Churches Don't Thrive


I've been an Adventist my whole life. 

I love this church. I love our energy. I love our history. I love our theology. But one thing that I really struggle with is our lack of cultural relevance at the local church level.

Today I want to share the top five reasons why Adventist churches don't thrive. While the list may differ from church to church, the points below are the most common trends I have seen.

1) Adventist churches do not thrive because they do not have a story. 

I have been a pastor for a few years now and I've discovered a common theme at each and every Adventist Church that I have worked at: none of them have a story.  I'm not speaking theologically of course, but practically. When I visit the members, including the leaders, and ask them "why does this particular church exist?" everyone has a different answer. One person might say "we exist because were here to reach this community" and another person on the same exact leadership team will say "we are here to glorify God" and then another person, once again in the same exact leadership team, will add something along the lines of "we are here to proclaim the three angels messages". So in the span of three conversations among one single leadership team and one local church I have three different stories. There is no single, unified story that that church is telling. 

As a preacher I have a simple rule: if I can't summarize my entire sermon into one sentence then I don't know what I'm saying and if I don't know what I'm saying nobody will know what I'm saying. I think it's the same with the church. If we can't summarize our story - our purpose for existing - into one simple mission statement that we are all unified on then we don't know why we exist. And if we don't know why we exist, then no one in that community is going to know why we exist either.

2) Adventist churches don't thrive because they lack strategies for reaching their community. 

I'm not one of these guys who enjoys using business principles and applying them to church because I don't believe the church is a business. However, there is some carryover that we can learn. McDonald's, if we want to keep this simple, has a very effective business and one of their goals is to get their burger inside of your mouth. McDonald's has a detailed plan on how they are going to get that  unhealthy slab of grease inside your mouth. That plan includes a 10-year marketing strategy. It may even include the color scheme inside of McDonald's or the way that the menu is laid out. Pricing and even drive-thru setups all are geared toward the same end.

Here is my question: if a company whose only purpose is to get a fatty burger inside your mouth can have a detailed plan and how to do it, how is it that the church that has been entrusted with the gospel often has no plans whatsoever? Most Adventist churches, pastors and members simply go with the flow. They have no plan. They have no strategy. They have no system. They just fly off the seat of their pants year by year and then wonder why they are barely making a difference. 

3) Adventist churches don't thrive because they don't have a discipleship process. 

Discipleship is the process by which someone can grow in their relationship with Christ. Seems very self explanatory and yet many of our churches simply don't do it. Let me tell you a quick story in case you're still confused. A few years ago I studied the bible with a young man who had a grown-up in a bike gang culture. His whole world was drugs and women and violence. He came to church after watching a David Asscherick DVD on prophecy that really really blew his mind. We did Bible studies together and he was baptized. He was excited, passionate and you could see that even though he had a long journey ahead of him that he was fully committed to his walk with God. Two years later I met up with him just to catch up and see how things were going and he had backslidden big time. He had started going back into drugs and the old lifestyle that he had left. When I asked him why he said that he was having a really hard time transitioning from bike culture to church culture. But as I dug deeper I found the real problem wasn't the transition. The real problem is that he was transitioning on his own. The church had no process to help him and he was lost.

This is why we keep hearing that more people walk out the back door of Adventist churches than the front door. We need discipleship in our churches, not just Sabbath morning clubs. We need a plan - a process - by which we can help seekers grow step-by-step in their walk with God.

4) Adventist churches don't thrive because they don't have authentic relationships. 

Years ago I did a survey at a church I was working at. One of the young ladies in the church dropped a bomb in her survey response that went something like this: "Relationships at this church end when you walk out the front door on Sabbath morning."

This is the reality of most Adventist churches. I don't really know why but it's really annoying. Our churches generally don't have any kind of real authentic relational social structure. It's like we show up to sing songs and hear sermons and then we're done. It isn't working.


5) Adventist churches don't thrive because the members are simply not equipped.

Pastors and conferences often complain about the fact that our churches are too pastor dependent. They want them to be less pastor dependent which is cool. But seldom do I see any intentional plan to train the members on how to effectively reach their community. What would it be like for pastors to invest in teaching their church members how to preach effective sermons, create an effective missional strategy or run a relevant Sabbath school? Elders are also not generally trained on how to create a vision for their church, how to create a mission, how to maintain a road map of success, and how to be effective servant leaders. What about training on social media, analytics and website management? Or teaching our members how to connect with the culture, how to build bridges with the neighbors or even their own youth? That would be amazing.

I suppose I could go on and on but I think I've made my point. The top five reasons why Adventist churches don't thrive, in my experience, are the ones I have laid out here. Have you seen any others? Please share in the comments below!

     ...

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
10 Things the Friendly Atheist Got Wrong about Adventists


In 2015 the Friendly Atheist published a video called "10 Things You Should Know about Seventh-day Adventists". I had no idea the video existed and honestly, I don't really care too much since there are like a million videos out there disparaging Adventism and I don't waste my time watching them. But I like the Friendly Atheist. He's friendly.

After seeing what he had to say my first reaction was, maybe he should focus on being accurate and not just friendly? Critiquing a worldview is something that needs to be done carefully and humbly. It's OK to challenge ideas but its not OK to misrepresent them. I personally don't mind being laughed at because of my faith. What I don't like is when I'm laughed at because of a caricature of my faith.

So here we go. 10 things our friendly neighbor got TOTALLY wrong about Adventists.

1. Jesus is coming back very soon. Like not in our lifetime soon... but like now soon. The word they use is "imminent." And only people who rest on Saturday will be saved.

Yeah. No. Like, wow. No.

Allow me to elaborate. Adventists believe that Jesus is coming and that he is coming soon. But we also believe that a number of things need to happen first. So while we believe his coming is "imminent" we don't believe he is coming "like now soon". Our emphasis on end-time events and prophecy makes it pretty clear that before Jesus returns a whole bunch of stuff will happen in the social, political and religious world. So he was way off on this one.

But that's not as bad as the thing about "only people who rest on Saturday will be saved." Seriously, which Adventist were you talking to bro? I have been an Adventist all my life, have a theology degree from an Adventist university and am an Adventist pastor. And this is like nowhere on the periphery of Adventist thought. Sure, there are a few fanatics who self-identify as Adventist's who may say that but they don't count because, well... they are fanatics. Adventists believe that salvation by is the free gift of God, not by keeping the law. In addition, many believe that heaven will be filled with people of diverse denominations and religions. We do believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven (as every Christian does) but we also reject the idea that God has consigned the millions of people who never heard of Jesus to automatic hellfire.

So yeah. Moving on.

2. Saturday is their holy day. Most Christians reserve Sunday as their holy day. But SDA's are insistent that it's Saturday. Screw those heretics who disagree! Remember how God created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh? Obviously that was on Saturday.

Yes we do believe that the 7th day Sabbath is the day God especially set apart to celebrate his creation and redemption. But the "screw those heretics" vibe is not one you will find in any emotionally healthy Adventist. It's not part of our theological worldview. Part of Adventisms narrative is a celebration of God's "time-fondness". In other words, the God of the Bible is constantly revealed in an intimate relationship with time and space.

While other Christian traditions interpret God primarily as a being outside of time and, in many instances completely disconnected from it, Adventism allows his "time-fondness" in scripture to lead our understanding of his nature and character. The Sabbath, being a recurring moment in time and space, takes on a relational/ romantic tone rather than a religious/ dogmatic one.

And finally, no one debates whether or not Saturday is the Sabbath. Christians all of traditions readily admit that the 7th day is the original Sabbath of creation. The disagreement is on whether its celebration is still relevant. Adventists (along with other Christian traditions like the Seventh Day Baptists) say yes, its still relevant while some others say it isn't. But the 7th day being the original day the Sabbath fell on is beyond dispute.

3. They don't believe that you're going to Heaven when you die. The only way anyone's going to Heaven is when Jesus returns for the Second Coming. What if you die before that happens? Then you just have to sit there unconscious in your grave until the day comes. Which I hear will be very soon.

Adventist don't believe humans have an immortal soul separate from the body. So when a person dies there is no floaty part that finds itself in heaven or hell. Rather, when a person dies they are unconscious until the resurrection. Due to the influence of Platonism and the immortal soul doctrine that came with it many Christian traditions tend to believe that a persons soul goes to heaven or hell after death and remain conscious. But with a rejection of Platonism, Adventists found the idea totally not in the Bible. So we chucked it in the bin.

It's inaccurate to say that a dead dude "just sit[s] there..." That implies the person is aware and really bored. Unconscious is the key. It's like when you go to sleep and next thing you know, its morning time and you're like "yikes, that went fast!"

4. Bad people don't go to Hell. No, it's much worse. They're just going to be permanently destroyed. Because God grants us eternal life... so if you don't accept God, you don't get the joy of burning in Hell forever. When Jesus comes back -- which is soon -- God's gonna commit the biggest act of genocide you've ever seen. Which also means they don't believe in Hell. Because no one could end up there.


Seriously? OK. I got to take this one one by one. Let me catch my breath first.

OK. Ready.

What could be worse than being tortured for all eternity with no end in sight? The traditional Christian teaching of eternal torment in hell has done more to make people hate God than any other teaching. So I'm not saying the Adventist view is like awesome and peachy. But dude, it's definitely not worse than the traditional view.

When people are tortured for long periods of time they get to the point where they just want to die in order for the suffering to end. Forget torture. You beg for death after a few hours of diarrhoea. Imagine being tortured by a psychopath who also has the capacity to keep you alive for the ceaseless ages of eternity? Nothing can be worse than that.

The Adventist teaching is basically this: God has given every human the opportunity to choose life or death. Those who choose life are granted life. Those who choose death are granted death. God respects their decision and grants them their desire. Were he to keep them alive in heaven his precense would be torture to them. So he gives them what they want.

5. God's going to determine your faith through a process called Investigative Judgment. Basically, until the time when Jesus comes back -- which is happening any moment now -- God's investigating your life to figure out your fate. It's not enough that you believe in him. You also have to live a life in accordance with his rules. He's always judging you...


I don't know whether to laugh or cry over this one. Has there been a heretical influence in the church that has taught this? Yes. But they are nut-jobs. The Investigative Judgement doctrine is actually the exact opposite. God is not investigating to figure anything out. He already knows everything. Rather, he is conducting his judgement transparently before all the universe. The IJ is about God defending our eternal destiny, not about him questioning it.

If anyone wants to get a better grasp of this teaching, check out my free ebook here.

6. They're health nuts. Which isn't exactly a bad thing. They abstain from alcohol and tobacco... and coffee and soda... and unclean meat like pork. Because those things defile your soul. Not bad ideas... but the reasoning is horrible.

The reasoning is horrible? Maybe if you are some ultra-conservative/ fundamentalist who doesn't know how to think. But the Adventist reasoning for health is actually really deep and robust. Here is a snippet.

Greek Philosophy introduced the idea that the soul and the body are separate from each other (which is where the floaty thing when you die comes from). The soul is important. The body not so much. Christians took this idea and applied it to their reading of the Bible. As a result, they emphasised the health of the soul and ignored the health of the body.

Once again, Adventism originated with a rejection of Greek Philosophy as a method of interpreting the Bible. With that came the rejection of the soul/body separation. From the Bible, we discovered that the soul and body are intertwined and that one is not more important than the other. Caring for one results in better health for the other. Ignoring one results in a breakdown in the other. Its a holistic approach rather than a split one.

While we can't take care of our bodies perfectly, if we are intentional about living healthy lives that glorify God it involves not only the spiritual but also the physical, emotional, sexual and social aspects of health. When we allow his grace to transform each of these we reflect his character of love more clearly than if we only focused on the spiritual. So it ultimately has nothing to do with rules or even with being strict. It has to do with relationship - upward, inward and outward.

7. Their prophet was a woman. Ellen G. White. So that's different. And kind of cool in a way. But that's the only way she's different. She saw visions in 1844 and the religion sprang from there. Those visions came after she suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child and was in a long coma which many people believe led to epileptic seizures. But I'm sure that had nothing to do with it.


If you think the only thing that made Ellen White different was her sex, then you have no clue who she was, what her contribution to Christian thought is or the legacy she left. Smithsonian Magazine named her one of the 100 most significant and influential Americans of all time. You don't have to like her to be objective about her. Just sayin.

Also, the idea that Adventism originated with Ellen White or that her visions had anything to do with her injury has been disproved so many times I seriously don't even want to respond to it. It's evidence our friendly friend did not do his research. Needless to say, not a single teaching of the SDA church depends on Ellen White as a source of authority. They all come from the Bible and can be defended as such without ever appealing to Ellen White. So even if all her visions were bogus, it wouldn't change any of our teachings.

However, research has been conducted regarding the supposed connection between her accident and her visions. You can read it here, here and here. The conclusion? No connection. It's an ad-hominem argument used by critics eager to throw her under the bus.

Check out ellenwhiteanswers.org if you want to do some legit digging.

8. They think the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon and the Pope is the Anti-Christ. They think less of the Catholic Church than most atheists do!

I'm not going to go into it here, but this is a total caricature of what we believe. By taking the most emotive language of the conversation and narrowing the whole thing down to one sentence it paints a totally off the wall picture of what we actually believe. So here is a quick summary for the sake of correction:

Our views on Catholicism have to do with narrative and systems, not with people or personalities. Adventists believe that Catholicism as a narrative and system of thought/ political power embodies lies about God and his story (in the Bible, whenever God's people went after political power and compromised their relationship with him and his truth God calls it "adultery" and "whoredom" so that's where the language comes from). Seriously, look up any Protestant reformer from Luther all the way to Wesley and Spurgeon and they all believed and taught the same thing.

To understand Adventisms apocalyptic narrative more, I recommend the books Prophecies of Daniel Made Simple and Prophecies of Revelation Made Simple by Seth J. Pierce.

9. They think masturbation is really horrible. Like, really horrible. Like John Harvey Kellogg was an Adventist who created Corn Flakes because he hoped eating them would prevent kids from touching themselves.
...

Meh?

Alright. After taking a deep breath I have finally regained my composure and can now type again.

First of all, this statement gives the impression that Adventists are like anti-masturbation crusaders. We are not. It's not a big thing really. In all my years as an Adventist, I have never known this to be a thing.

Second of all, Adventists are FAR from the only Christians who believe this.

Third of all, Kellog was a weirdo. So don't use him as a representation of healthy Adventist thought.

Fourth, if you want to critique a worldview my advice is you do it from within the internal logic of the worldview and not from outside of it. Of course, that requires you to actually spend the time trying to learn that internal logic which means suspending your biases and eating haystacks with us - which probably requires way more intentionality than you have time for. But failure to do this, at least to some degree, will result in more inaccurate videos like this floating around.

Anyways, back to the solo-sesh thing. Remember what I said about Adventists believing that human beings are holistic beings? That plays a role here. For Adventists, masturbation involves much more than a mere physical hand-on-genitals act. Generally speaking, when a person does the deed, they are doing it in isolation from real sexual intimacy. That's where the problem really begins. As such, it involves a self-centered/isolationist expression of sexuality as opposed to an other-centred/intimate one. In addition, it involves the objectification of the opposite sex (the fantasising that goes on during the act) which, 9.9 times out of 10, is not even a persons life-partner. So it involves lusting after another person who is not in covenant with you in your thoughts and imagination - an act which Jesus referred to as adultery. This kind of repeated objectification not only degrades ones perceived value of people but also degrades the person engaged in it by nurturing self-centred sexual habits. In addition, it develops patterns of instant gratification rather than self-control and, in some cases (depending on a persons inclinations), it can fuel unhealthy sexual obsession. Add the modern porno-plague to that and you've got issues.

Is this the case for every single person? Probably not. But the church has the responsibility to be a voice toward the mass of society, not the odd ball here and there who has a different experience. Generally speaking, masturbation results in these and other negative patterns. We were created for reciprocal relationships. This "give and receive" design involves every part of us and when it is ignored the results are always a greater degree of self-focus and a lesser degree of self-sacrifice. So we don't promote it.

Has science found some sort of benefit from masturbation? Physically speaking, you can make that argument. But Adventists think about way more than the physical. We promote the optimal health of mind, body and soul. Engaging in any sexual act outside of sexuality's other-centred/ covenant design doesn't really promote health of any kind.

But again, it's one of those things that's there but no one really goes on about it. I almost get the feeling you ran out of stuff to say so you went fishing, caught the tiniest fish in the pond and photographed it with a macro-lens to make it look really big. Not friendly man. Totally not friendly.

10. Dr. Ben Carson, one of the Republicans running for President, is a Seventh Day Adventist. So he believes all this stuff. I have to say, though, given the other things I've heard him say so far, these are probably some of the more sensible beliefs he has.

I doubt Ben Carson believes any of this stuff because, um, no one does?

OK, that's a bit unfair. The fanatics do here and there. But again, they don't count.

Anyways, Trump won so now we have other more fun things to discuss.

Want to get a good snapshot of the Adventist mind? Check out my 4 part blog series here and the free ebook 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
My Take on Why Teens Leave Church

Young people are leaving the church in droves and despite our many attempts to keep them, they continue to fall away. Growing up, my church had more than a hundred kids and teens running through its corridors, but today few of them remain in the church. For some time, many concerned Christians have sought to understand the reasons why young people leave the church. I believe that the answer is simple. They leave because they find no relevance in Christianity and most importantly, they have not fallen in love with God.

Christianity lacks relevance for many young people.To them, being a Christian involves nothing more than following senseless rules and participating in church services that are disconnected from their reality. Ask any teen in church about how they perceive Christianity and nine out of ten will most likely describe to you three things: the church service, good behavior, and telling others about Jesus. While none of these things are wrong, in and of themselves they have no relevance. Teens today are faced with multiple obstacles such as drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, self-mutilation, rising divorce rates, promiscuity, homosexuality and abortion among many other things. So the question is, How does the church service empower them to deal with this? What exactly is good behavior? Is it what the Pastor says? Or is it what society accepts? And why tell others about Jesus when our post-modern culture embraces the philosophy that there is no such thing as truth? When Christianity fails to answer these questions and fails to provide direction and practicality to everyday life, teens begin to see it as unessential to life. This sets the stage for disregarding God altogether and embracing the godless culture of the day. “What’s wrong with godless?” They might subconsciously ask, “God was never that important anyways.”

A friend of mine recently told me a story that I believe illustrates this point very well. He had just returned from a mission trip to Malaysia. During the trip he and several other students had preached to the local people. Among the sermons where many interesting topics, but for one student, as interesting as they were, something was missing. In her attempt to express how she felt she asked the question, “What does this have to do with the price of rice?” This question, silly as it may be, underscores the foundational flaw in our Christianity – irrelevance. In order to keep our teens in church we must demonstrate to them that Christianity is applicable to everyday life and that is has the solution to the problems of our lives.

While many teens leave church because they think it is not important, the greatest reason for falling away is that many have simply never fallen in love with God. In the Bible, the apostle John writes, “We love Him because He first loved us.” The idea is simple, Gods love for us awakens in us a love for Him. That love motivates us to have a relationship with Him. However, in the church we often seem more concerned in teaching our young people how to be good church members instead of helping them fall in love with God. For many, upholding the standards of the church is more important than leading young people to experience the love of God. The end result of this model is catastrophic because it fosters a spirit of division between the old and young generations. The old generation assumes the role of “good behavior police” while the young are left to feel incapable of ever living up to the standards imposed on them.

I once knew a pastor who would never speak to the youth. He had no relationship with them whatsoever and the only time he would speak to them was when he was correcting them for dressing inappropriately in church, and in my experience, having hair that was too long. This is a perfect example of trying to force teens in church to look and act like good church members while avoiding relationships with them that help them to experience the love of God.

Without the two foundational principles of relevance and love, young people are set up to fail in the Christian life. As Christians, leading the youth into a love experience with God and demonstrating to them the relevance of Christianity in our world must be our top priorities.

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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
Church is Not for Saints



How can we create a sense of connectedness within a church and between a church and its community?

One of the main stumbling blocks for many believers is that we have come to see ourselves as insiders to a certain club and everyone else as outsiders. While it is true that there are lost and saved, the idea that there are the insiders and outsiders does not follow. The tragedy is that for many being an "insider" leads them to see church as a place that exists solely or primarily for those with the "insider" card. Any talk of making the church relevant for "outsiders" is interpreted as a threat to Biblical faithfulness and orthodoxy.

In this mindset the church is an institution or a club where only a certain class are fully welcome. This picture of church is exclusive. So long as you fit the role perhaps you will be embraced. But if you don't fit the role, then your chances are better off elsewhere. In the best of cases, if you don't fit the role then so long as you make all the necessary changes to fit the role you can be allowed into the club. Unbiblical as this concept may be it is an accurate picture of what church has become for many. Over the centuries Christians have transformed the church into a citadel for saints. As such, we have become defensive about anything that appears to threaten the sanctity of this most sacred of places.

The Bible leaves little room to argue about what the church is. The Greek word church (ecclessia) literally means "community" or "group of people". Not once in the NT do we get the impression that church is meant to be an exclusive club that exists for the benefit of those who fit a certain criteria. Instead, the church is commanded to grow and embrace people of every nation, tribe, tongue, and culture (Matt 28). As such, this community of people exists for more than nurturing itself. It exists to embrace the "other" with intentional passion.

Likewise, not once in the NT do we get the idea that the church is a building. The NT uses repeated metaphors of the church such as "body of Christ", "bride of Christ", "pillar and foundation of truth". Only once is it described as a building and guess what? The stones that make up the building are people not slabs of carbon carbonate and granite (Eph 2:19-20). So this is not a literal building but a metaphorical one. Thus the church is not a place, it is a phenomenon. It is a people. And take a moment to think about that phrase "body of Christ". Why is the church referred to as the body of Christ? Well, what is the body of Christ known for in the Bible? It is known as that which was beaten, bruised, tortured, scourged, crucified, and killed for the salvation of humanity (1Corinthians 11:24). So if the church is the "body of Christ" I wonder, Should we be seeking to simply nurture ourselves? Or should we be seeking to become bruised and wounded for the salvation of our communities?

So if the church is not a fortress for saints or a physical building, then what is it? Clearly it must be a community for people on a journey with God. And note this: When it comes to seeking God we are all outsiders. None of us is on the inside. That's because none of us seek God (Rom 3:11). We are believers only because God has sought us (John 6:44). If there really is an "inside" you are there by virtue of Jesus' perfect life, death, and resurrection - not by virtue of your own character. In other words, I - a pastor - am as much an outsider to the family of heaven as is the militant atheist or the heroin supplier. The only reason why I am on the "inside" is because of the grace of God. But if it were not for that grace, I would be further on the outside than anyone I know.

So back to our initial question: "How can we create a sense of connectedness within a church and between a church and its community?" I would begin by rejecting the notion that there are insiders and outsiders. Sure there are saints and sinners. Found and lost. Redeemed and rebels. But there are no insiders and outsiders in the sense in which we use those terms. In reality, we are all outsiders. And those of us who are saved are saved simply because we responded when God sought us and pulled us out of our mess. However, if it were not for his atoning sacrifice we would have nothing within ourselves which we could offer as a qualification for heaven. It is Jesus-only that qualifies us and in the words of Billy Graham, "Christ belongs to all people. He belongs to the whole world."

And this is what the mission of the ecclessia is all about. God calls his family - those of us who have been adopted by his grace - to become his hands and feet toward those whom he is still chasing. To be the community for those whom he is seeking. To be the church for those whom he is pursuing. So if we want to hold on to the "insider/ outsider" concept I would argue that the church exists for the outsider. In other words, the church should not function merely for the nurturing of Christians. Instead, it should seek out every possible means by which it can make the journey of a seeker as simple and encouraging as possible. Surrendering the heart to Jesus is hard enough. We should not make the journey harder by creating a culture that only speaks to mature Christians. Instead, church should be a community that exists to aid in the repentant journey of the sinner rather than over-complicate it by catering only to those with the access card. As Paul so eloquently put it, "[W]e should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God" (Acts 15:19).

Nevertheless, there are still people within this community at different stages in their faith journey. How do we help those who are further along without ignoring those who are just getting started?

First of, I would say that the greatest need of those who are further along is to be actively ministering to those who are lost. If you want to grow as a Christian go reach someone who is not a Christian. Sadly, many of us (myself included) have developed this cognitive approach to Christianity in which spiritual growth is related exclusively to theological knowledge. But such is not the case. You can be a knowledgeable Christian but that doesn't make you a growing Christian - it just makes you a smart one.* So if you are a believer and you want to grow in your faith then make your life's priority about reaching others.

But what about growth in theological knowledge? While my next two paragraphs would require an entire article all on their own, allow me to say it anyways: I grow increasingly skeptical of the idea that theology is meant to be split between newbies and old timers. The only reason why we do this is because us old timers often assume that newbie theology is all about Jesus while oldie theology is all about "other stuff" like prophecy or end time events. Sorry to start on something I wont be finishing here - but I just don't buy it. There is never a time where we ought to graduate from Jesus. Jesus should always be the center of everything we do and say. As such, I'm not convinced that Daniel and Revelation was written exclusively to help Jesus-veterans grow. In fact, God says he predicts the future to prove he is the one true God (Isa 41; 45:21). Sounds like something a newbie needs!

So what am I saying? That the theological bifurcation we often promote (Jesus for the newbies, Prophecy for the oldies) is lame. If Jesus is the center of everything we do then theology reclaims its role as the story of God - a story which puts broken lives together again. And everyone, both newbies and old timers should be constantly basking in the light of that story. Newbies don't need neutered theology and oldies don't need Christ-less discourse. All of us need the whole story as seen in Jesus-only.

So here is my summary. The church is not an institution. It is not a club. It is not a coterie, clique, inner circle, gang, band, clan, league, or alliance. There should be no in-crowd. There must be no access card. The church is not a place. It is not a location. It is not a site, spot, scene, setting, point, area, or region. The church should not be a building. It must not be a thing. Let it be a community for those seeking God. Let it be the body of Christ which was sacrificed on behalf of sinners by sacrificing itself constantly for the salvation of our fellow "outsiders" where we would all rightly be were it not for the cross. In short, let's stop adding our own agendas to what church is. Instead, let us simply allow it to be that which God intended it should be.

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*Thanks to Andy Stanley for this insightful concept in his book Deep & Wide.

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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
How to Get Rid of Worldliness in the Church




When I was a kid my father made my brother and I wear church clothes to go to public school. In our public school system there were no uniforms. Everyone just wore whatever they had which usually meant really cool clothes. I would see all of my classmates wearing Fila's (they were pretty cool back then) and trendy Tommy Hilfiger shirts and jeans (yes, I'm obviously a 90's kid) and then there was me. Wearing dress pants and church shoes with a button up shirt from K-Mart. As you can imagine this made my brother and I stand out. We were immediately branded as nerds and losers. And we got picked on.

Life wasn't horrible. We did have friends. Mostly all the other nerds and losers in the school (love you guys--snif, snif). But it was pretty hard. As we got older it got even harder. Until one day, my rebellious mom got into an argument with my dad over it, and then went out - completely against his wishes, and got my brother and I some trendy clothes. Which led to another argument because my dad was really upset (thanks ma', for sticking it to the man).

Why did my dad do this? He had one simple reason. He didn't want my brother and I to be like the "world". He wanted us to be different. So he made us wear church clothes to public school.


This experience led me to wrestle with questions such as, "What does it really mean to be like the world?" And since my dad derived his ideas from the Bible, I figured I might as well go there and find out what all this "worldly" stuff was about.

Which brings me to my text today. James 3:1:
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?
In my home church there was an elder once who I wont name. He was a really nice guy. I liked him a lot. He preached better than the pastor too which was cool. And he was deeply spiritual. And, like many of us, he had a concern for what he referred to as the "world creeping into the church" which is a fair concern. But something happened during one of the board meetings. A certain annoying gentleman came into the board meeting to do a presentation. Now this gentleman was a very divisive and problematic kind of guy. And our dear elder had had it up to his neck with this guy. Now here is what you don't know. Back when he was younger, this elder was a Kung-Fu student. His wife met him kicking palm trees. This guy was hardcore. And at some point during the meeting this annoying gentleman began pushing his buttons, and next thing you know the head elder gets up ready to drop a bolo on this other guy. It was so bad that another one of the elders had to grab him so he wouldn't punch this guy. That night, my dear friend discovered something profound. He was worried about the world creeping into the church but it had been there all along hiding inside his own heart.

Notice what James says here,
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?
Now the interesting thing is that James is paralleling something Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:3:
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?
James and Paul are saying the same thing here. That the quarrels, jealousy and fights among the church members come from a single place - worldliness in the heart.

This blew my mind. Up to this point I was convinced that worldliness was purely external. I have since discovered that the church talks too much about the worldliness of fashion, and too little about worldliness of the heart.

But not James. James is calling out worldliness in the church. And here is what I discovered about worldliness in the Bible. Whenever the Bible speaks about it, it never has anything to do with culture, fashion or styles. My dads definition of worldliness was small. For him worldliness was about what haircut you had and what clothes you wore. For my elder it was about what songs we sang in church. And I am not discrediting any of those concerns. I do believe that those are relevant things for us to discuss. But what I am saying is that if your definition of worldliness stops there you have a very small picture of what worldliness is.

James adds,
Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.
Notice how James repeats himself. This is a method of emphasis among the Bible writers. Rather than using caps, or underline or bold (no Microsoft Word back then) they repeated points they wanted to emphasize. And twice he says, if you want to be a friend of the world you make yourself an enemy of God. A Christian who seeks friendship with the world is an adulterer. But notice how he defines this friendship. He doesn't say anything about culture or fashion. He speaks exclusively about character.

When church members rile up and point fingers at each other and fight and bicker and defame one another and drag one another through the mud - James is saying that these people, noble as they may think they are, are committing spiritual adultery. Rather than operating under the fruit of the Spirit, the are operating under the law of the flesh.

Here is what I discovered guys. Worldliness in the Bible isn’t “the youth are wearing Roman skirts instead of Jewish ones.” Worldliness isn't "the music sounds a little too Greek or Persian". Worldliness in the Bible is Christians who gossip like the world. Christians who hate like the world. Christians who argue like the world. Back stab one another like the world, criticize each other like the world. Christians who are lazy, uncompassionate, merciless, unloving, indifferent and judgmental. That’s biblical worldliness. Not wearing trendy clothes - as my dad believed - but talking about the elder behind his back, mistreating your youth, inciting division, and gossiping about your fellow believers. That’s worldliness.

I discovered something scary after studying what worldliness is in the Bible. I discovered that it’s perfectly possible to be a good conservative, orthodox, traditional Adventist who does everything by the book and still be worldly. Worldliness is not just culture guys, its character.

But why does this matter? Why preach on it? I watched a video last night called "What People Really think about Jesus VS Christians" (below). These guys walked around the street asking random people what they thought about Jesus and their responses were mostly positive. They spoke of his kindness and love. Of the way in which he cared for people. And when asked to define Christians, their tones changed completely. They spoke of rigid people who were over bearing on others, unkind and judgmental. And that's the reason why this matters. Because so long as we continue to allow worldly attitudes to govern our lives we will continue to damage our witness in the world.



So the question that screams at me is this - what is the solution to this? How do we overcome our natural inclinations to be vicious, divisive and arrogant? How do we overcome those worldly tendencies buried deep within that entice us to gossip about one another, to show favoritism and to act in antisocial ways? And most of all, where will we find the wisdom to differentiate between true holiness which leads to love, and false holiness which leads to bickering and demonizing one another in the name of "faithfulness?"

I am thankful that James gives us the answer in four simple words:
...he gives grace generously (6).
Grace. That is the answer. Grace is always the answer. God gives grace. And grace in the Bible has two primary functions. Grace cleanses us from all our sin. Grace gives us a new beginning. Grace wipes the slate clean. And grace also transforms our lives. It sets us free.

I had a friend one who was so divisive and critical (in the name of holiness of course) that he even started to divide his own family. I distanced myself from him for a while to get away from the toxicity, but about a year later I ran into him. He had a huge smile on his face. He walked up to me, shook my hand, and said, "I'm a brand new man Marcos". And then, without me ever having said a word to him he began to talk about his judgmentalism, his critical spirit and his pride. He spoke of how he would always write people off when they didn't live up to what he considered holy. In other, words, he spoke of his worldliness disguised as holiness.

But now he stood there. With a big smile on his face. And he said to me, "I have encountered Jesus. I have encountered grace." And he was never the same again. We became good friends after that and I saw the work of grace in him. Jesus oozed out of his smile, his calm spirit and his sermons. He was a new creature. Grace had saved him. Because grace saves the wayward soul whether it be in the alley way or in the pew.

I want to encourage the church today, let's not be like the world. If there is any fighting, scheming, or jealousy among us let's humble ourselves before God. Lets come to him for grace to pardon and grace to set us free. Lets come to him and humbly pray, with Paul, "it is no longer I who live! Let Christ live in me. I can't do this. I can't be like Jesus. Lord, let him take full control. Let his love flow through me to others. Set me free of the worldliness inside my own heart. May my life be a reflection of your love."
The Power of Being Broken




When I was in university I developed a pet peeve for phony people. In particular, there were certain students there who would never say hello and would walk by me like they didn't even know me. I had been in class with them. We had done assignments together. But all of a sudden it was like they never saw me. And I would walk past them in school all the time. Even look at them with the intention of saying hello. Only to be met with a cold and indifferent gaze. That is, until I ran into them at the mall on the weekend. All of a sudden, its like we were best friends! "Hey Marcos, whats up man? Good to see you! How you been?" I would, of course, reply politely. But in my head I would be thinking, "What the heck bro?" And then, the following week back at school walking down the hall I would run into them again. And boom, all of a sudden they didn't know me again.

I don't know if that has ever happened to you. It is irritating. And few things are as irritating as a phony and hypocritical person who acts one way in one setting and differently in another. Which leads me to a verse I'd like to explore today:
My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? - James 2:1
One of my professors shared an experience from his days of pastoring. He was preaching in a church somewhere in the US. The church was predominantly Anglo. And one day, in the middle of his sermon, an African-American family walked into the church and sat down. No sooner had they sat down than a large group of the Anglos sitting in that same section got up and moved to the other side of the church. Our poor professor was stunned. How can you? He asked. How can you claim to be Christians, to have faith in Jesus, if you favor one race or people group above another?

And that is what James is asking here. Evidently, the church he was writing to favored rich people over poor people. They treated the rich well and the poor not so much. And James writes to them and here in this verse he points out a contradiction. How can you say A and do B?

In order to understand James though, we have to take a step back in time. We need to leave his letter and travel all the way back to his home in Galilee. We know that James was one of Jesus' half brothers meaning he grew up with Jesus. Can you imagine what it would be like to grow up with Jesus as your brother? Jesus who never does anything wrong. Jesus who never gets in trouble. Jesus who never goes to time out or gets grounded in his room. It's annoying enough having a little brother who always gets away with everything. Its a whole other thing to have a brother who literally never does anything wrong.

I can picture James complaining to Mary, "How come Jesus disappears for 3 days in a temple and doesn't get in trouble and we get grounded for other stuff!" And while we don't know the details two things are clear in the gospels. Jesus' brothers did not like him and they did not believe that he was the messiah. In fact, no one in their town believed it. Matthew tells us that they "took offence at him" and they did not honor him or believe in him (Matthew 15:53-58). Perhaps, James would get into conversations with his neighbors. "James, what do you think of Jesus?" And they would talk about him behind his back and laugh at him. In fact, John tells us that they would mock and question him. "Why don't you go do your miracles somewhere else Jesus? Somewhere were there's lots of people instead of here?" And while this might seem like good advice on the surface, John reminds us that the brothers did not believe him (John 7:3-5). So they were either 1) sarcastically asking him to leave their town and stop embarrassing them or 2) suggesting that his miracles were fake and would not actually work if he was in a bigger crowd. Either way, the brothers of Jesus - James included - did not like him and did not think highly of him. They may even have held reservations against him for leaving Mary at home. I can almost hear them saying, "The rest of us stayed to help mom after father died, but Jesus didn't. He's only interested in himself and his self-aggrandizing ideas."

Their feelings for him didn't change when he became popular in Israel. It seemed that the more people followed and believed him the more irritated his brothers became. Mark tells us that during a gathering at one of his disciples homes someone complained to his family and they showed up "to take charge of him for they said, 'he is out of his mind.'"(Mark 3:21). In other words, they showed up to scold him and "slap some sense into him". They thought he was going crazy. As they journeyed to him the religious leaders accused Jesus of being demon possessed which is another way of saying "out of his mind". His own family, James himself, believed this. He probably even came to the point of disowning Jesus so that he could stay in the 'good books' of the religious leaders since they were known to ban Jesus-followers from the synagogues (John 9).

Jesus, Mark tells us, found their lack of faith astonishing (Mark 6:6). He was troubled by the way they felt about him. Mary would have defended him as best she could for she believed who he was. But the brothers did not. They probably argued with her. "If Jesus really is the messiah why are we so poor? If he can do miracles why didn't he prevent Joseph from dying or raise him from the dead? He's an impostor and he's only interested in himself."

In fact, it seems that Jesus' brothers disliked him so much that none of them were there at his crucifixion. Mary, his mother, was his only family member there. And instead of entrusting her to his brothers, Jesus entrusted her to John his disciple. Where were his brothers? We don't know. But we can assume that they felt justified. "He wasn't the messiah after all", they would have said after his death. "All he ever did was bring grief to our mother and dishonor to our family."

The story of James is thus a story of relational instability with Jesus. A story of rejection and insults against his half-brother. James spent his entire life rejecting Jesus. He thought Jesus was nuts. He showed Jesus no honor. And while we have no idea what words of offense he truly spoke and what ill feelings he harbored toward Jesus we can put ourselves in his shoes and figure it out pretty quickly. James did not like Jesus. And he sure did not believe that Jesus was messiah.

But then something strange happens. When the book of Acts begins it begins with the believers gathered to pray for the Holy Spirit and among them is James, the brother of Jesus (Acts 1:12-14). But it wasn't only James who was there. Mary was there with all the other brothers too! What happened? What caused this change? The Bible only offers us a hint in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 where Paul says,
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time... Then he was seen by James...
Sometime after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to James. James the half brother. The one who had, along with all his other brothers, given him such a hard time. James saw him. And when he laid eyes on Jesus he realized for the first time that Jesus was no ordinary man. Jesus was the messiah. He had been telling the truth all along. And James was never the same again. The resurrection of Jesus rocked him to the core. Jesus was alive. And a living Jesus changes everyone who encounters him. James placed his faith in Jesus, and he was never the same again. And thirty years after his conversion, James writes this letter we have been reading the last few months. And he begins like this,

James the servant of Jesus...

Not brother, no. I was a lousy brother to him. I denied him. I rejected him. I insulted him. I doubted him. I blasphemed him. And like the prodigal son who did not want to be called a son but a servant when he returned home, I do not want to be called a brother. I am content to be known simply as his servant.

And this brings us back to where we began in chapter two.
My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?
James is pointing out a contradiction. He is asking, How can you say A and do B? And in his question you can hear the pain of his own story - of a man who lives with the realization of his own failures and of his own sin. How can I favor some above others? I who denied and rejected and insulted Jesus? I who spent my life blaspheming him? I never defended him. I never offered him the love and support of a brother. And nevertheless, he died for me and because he lives I have a hope that I don't deserve. The hope of having my sins forgiven and an eternal inheritance with him.

And what James is saying is that you are no different to him. All we like sheep have gone astray. There is none that does good, no not one! There is none who seeks after God. And yet in his love and mercy God made him who knew no sin to become sin for us that we might be reconciled to him. And in order for me to play favorites, in order for me to discriminate it requires me to first assume that there is something about me that puts me above that other person. But how can I? How can I think I'm better than anyone? After all I have done to God.

You see, James' point is this: We are all broken. All of us.


No matter how you dress, you are broken. No matter what car you drive, you are broken. No matter what suburb you live in, or how big your house, or what degree/ title you have, you are broken. No matter what your race is, or your culture, or your political party, or your family tree - you are broken. At the foot of the cross all of our external pretenses are stripped away and we are all equal. So how can we show favoritism? If you have faith in Jesus then this means you believe that he is your savior because you need one. And if you need a savior and I need a savior then we both need a savior because we are both broken. How can you turn around, in light of that reality, and show favoritism as if you were somehow less broken or less sinful than the other person? James is confused. He's pointing out a contradiction. Favoritism in the Christian life is an oxymoron. It simply makes no sense.

Favoritism shows up in class warfare, it shows up in racism, it shows up in sexism, it shows up in mysoginy and misandry, it shows up in cultural exclusiveness, it shows up in generational elitism, it shows up in theological division and it shows up in lifestyle discrimination. And the end result of this discrimination is a perpetual cycle of division, disunity, and discord. And James is weirded out. How can you claim to have faith in Jesus and show favoritism? How can you claim to have faith in Jesus and fester a culture of segregation and estrangement?

I have discovered that the answer is simple. There are those who claim to be followers of Jesus and yet have never come to the place where they realize how broken they are. But I have also discovered that the solution to this problem is just as simple: to come to the place where you realize how broken you really are. Because when you realize how broken you are favoritism, racism, sexism and all the rest of it no longer makes any sense. Instead humility, love and friendship takes their place. That's the power of being broken.

I'm too broken to think I or anyone else is better than you. Whether you are rich or poor, from a first world country or a third world country, male or female, gay or straight, we are all broken. I deserve nothing. You deserve nothing. And yet God, in his grace, provides eternal life. And he offers it to us. And in his offering of salvation and restoration there lies an inherent truth: that we are equal regardless of what society might say. For in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female - all are one in Christ Jesus. All are broken. All are loved. So my invitation to the church today is this: Come to grips with how broken you are, how loved you are despite that brokenness, and never forget either.
How "Hyper-Humility" Hurts our Witness



“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." - 1 Cor. 11:1

I have often felt as though, in our attempts at humility, we try and minimize the role we play in the lives of others. Preachers can often be heard asking Jesus to "hide" them "beneath the shadow of the cross" or saying “it wasn't me, it was Christ.” I have no problem with this outlook. It certainly is commendable in that it seeks to glorify God and not man. However, I think we often run the danger of being “hyper-humble” by pretending that we have absolutely no role whatsoever in the work of the gospel. 

The reality is that no matter how much we ask God to hide us beneath the shadow of the cross we will still be visible and no matter how much we give the credit to God people will remember our faces. Paul did not seem to shy away from that. He did not say, “don’t look at me, it’s all about Jesus” instead he said, “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Paul recognized that it was not about him, and yet he was there. He could not ignore the fact that others saw him and that he mattered in the work of the gospel. Had Paul been hyper-humble as some are today, rather than honor God, he would have damaged his witness. 

Likewise, I believe Christians should not be afraid to be seen, heard, and recognized. It is through our personalities, characters, and stories that Jesus is lifted up. Jesus is not glorified in spite of us as though we were just an unfortunate tool he had to use. He is glorified because of us and he finds great joy in partnering with us and using our individuality for his glory. 

When we attempt to hide our individual worth and value under the guise of humility, we are not really honoring God. Instead, we are allowing our insecurities to prevent Gods work in and through us from shining forth. I once heard of a church that had a huge cross in front of the pulpit so that when the preacher spoke all that was seen was the cross and not the speaker.  As noble as this may sound it missed the real beauty of the gospel. The beauty of the gospel is not simply in the cross but in what the cross has done and continues to do, and that can only be seen in people. It is through our stories, testimonies, and personalities that the power of the cross and of the savior is fully recognized. So let’s be humble and always be careful to lift Jesus up and give him all the praise. But let’s also be careful to not go to extremes by acting as though we don’t matter. God didn’t commission angels to preach the gospel, neither does he do it alone. He commissioned women and men to do so because he recognized that it was through their lives, personalities, characters, stories and smiles that he would reach the world.
Are We Getting in the Way of God's Salvation-Story?


Have you ever been so angry that you did something dumb? I got so angry once that I punched the steering wheel on my car and broke the horn. From that day on the horn would honk on its own whenever it wanted to. It didn't matter if I was at a stop light, in a parking lot, or driving down the university campus on a clam Sunday morning. The car would honk and honk and honk until I got so fed up I pulled the fuse and was left utterly hornless. The car died soon after, so no, I never got it fixed.

As I think about this moment of ridiculous anger I am reminded of Jesus in Matthews biography, chapter 21. Here Matthew recounts the time that Jesus went into the Jewish temple and the following took place:
Jesus came to the temple. He drove out all those who were buying and selling. He upended the money-changers’ tables and the dove-sellers’ benches (12).
We don't often think of Jesus as an angry guy and with good reason. It's hard to imagine him with a whip, flipping tables and chasing people around. And yet here he is. Jesus is angry. To be more precise he is furious. Some may even say Jesus has lost his cool. There is a fire in his stomach, a rage that boiled over and is now spilling out onto the onlookers. Gone is that gentle, pensive face. A frown adorns his brow, his breath is heavy, his heart is thumping, his thoughts are racing. Instinct takes over and Jesus, our gentle Jesus, appears to have lost control.

But he hasn't lost control. Had Jesus lost control he would have destroyed that entire temple and everyone in it. In his fury and power he could have split open the ground to swallow the entire place. No, he hasn't lost control. He knows what he is doing. He is perfectly in control.

And yet, he is beyond furious. Why? How is it that the one whom the OT describes as "slow to anger" now suddenly appears very quick to it? How is it that the one whom the prophecies have described as the "prince of peace" is now waging war with the salesmen in the temple courtyard? How is it that the Jesus who would someday patiently endure abuse, mockery, and torture at the hands of Roman and Jewish leaders is on this day seemingly impatient? How is it that the one of who it is said, "as a lamb he was led to the slaughter... and he opened not his mouth" now shouts at the top of his lungs "get out!" You can try to wiggle out of this one all you want but here is the truth. Jesus got angry. And there is no interpretive gymnastics that can get us out of that conclusion.

In other words, Jesus is not the teddy bear many of us have made him out to be. There is a side to Jesus that is shocking. There is a side to Jesus that doesn't come with a smile, a gentle word, or a cool and collected vibe. Instead, Matthew introduces us to a side to Jesus many of us would rather pretend is not there - an angry side.

What are we to make of this? Is Jesus bipolar? Is he perhaps mildly schizophrenic? Did his biographers get confused and introduce a contradiction into the story? Or was Jesus a really good actor - able to put on a facade of gentleness and self control, only to show his true colors on this random day? Or maybe, just maybe, there is nothing wrong with Jesus mental health, his biographers were not inconsistent, and Jesus himself lived authentically. If this is the case then the problem shifts to me. Maybe I am the one who has misunderstood Jesus. And by misunderstanding him I have presented a cheesy and unrealistic picture of a complex and emotional being. Maybe the problem is I have only accepted the parts of the Jesus-story that I am comfortable with and conveniently left the other parts out. But whatever the case, I can't get away from the conclusion. Jesus got angry.

Now that I have come to terms with that reality, I am left with another question. Why was he so angry? Was Jesus short-tempered like me? Was his ego so offended that he reacted in a fit of anger that puts my broken car horn episode to shame? I have already concluded that he did not lose control as I did. So the answer must lie elsewhere. If Jesus anger was not fueled by his ego, then what was it fueled by?

The answer is found in the narrative of the temple. In his book "It's Not What You Think: Why Christianity is about More than Going to Heaven when you Die" Jefferson Bethke points out that in the Old Testament the temple was considered the place where heaven and earth met. In other words, Bethke explains, it was the place where the human dimension and the heavenly dimension collided. If we could imagine two circles with one representing the human realm and another the heavenly, and then we overlapped those circles (below) the point of overlap, says Bethke, is the temple.


But what was the point of this overlap? What was the point of this collision? God himself answers that question when he said, "Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them" (Exodus 25:8). The temple in Israel was not just a place of worship, it was a theater of sorts. All of its services and rituals were like scenes in a movie. It told a story. That story was simple: God wants to live with people. He wants to be close to us.

So when people came to the temple, they didn't come for mindless rituals. They came to connect with a God who wanted to be with them. They came to speak to a God who wanted to be close to them, to bless them, and to heal them. They came to discover and rediscover his beauty and his love.

And then Jesus, the eternal God in human flesh, shows up. He who spoke the words, "Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them" is now there, in person. And when he walks into the temple, when he enters the place where heaven and earth collided and where his story, and his glory, and his love where meant to be experienced and celebrated this is what he found:
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money (John 2:13-14).
So Matthew tells us that Jesus "drove out all those who were buying and selling. He upended the money-changers’ tables and the dove-sellers’ benches." But then something amazing happens. Something that single handedly makes sense of all of this. Matthew adds,
The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them (14).
So Jesus cleanses the temple, but no sooner had he done so than blind people, and paralyzed people show up at the same temple. But here is the question Matthew dangles before us. Why weren't these people already there? The answer is obvious. They were being excluded and kept away by the money makers. In other words, God was trying to tell the world about himself, his love, his plan, his grace. And his own people were getting in the way.

The Jewish temple no longer exists. But Jefferson Bethke brings an interesting conclusion out of all this. He says that according to the New Testament we are now the temple of the Holy Spirit. Us. Believers. Individually and collectively, we are now the temple. In other words, we are the place where heaven and earth collide. You are a walking temple. You are a living and breathing temple and in you and in me the human realm and the heavenly realm meet. And in the same way that God wanted to communicate his love to the world through a physical building in the OT, he continues to do so now through us, individually and collectively, via the indwelling of his Holy Spirit. We are the place where people can see the beauty of God.

And yet the story of Jesus cleansing the temple brings to mind a sobering question: If we are the temple, if we are as believers the place where heaven and earth meet and the lives through which people can come into contact with Gods story of love then we must ask ourselves, What things are there in our lives and in our church that keep people from seeing the love of God? In what ways are you, and I, like the money makers, getting in God's way?

I can't pretend to have the answer. There are many answers in fact. Sometimes our traditions get in the way. Sometimes our self-confidence gets in the way. Sometimes our attitudes get in the way. Sometimes our structures, agendas, and hypocrisy get in the way. And Matthews story is clear. When we get in the way you had best believe that God gets angry. This is not light matter. The one time Jesus demonstrated his wrath as a human being was when his own people got in the way of his salvation story. Are we getting in the way? If we are, I think perhaps its time we repented.

Today I would like to invite you to consider Jesus moment of rage as a call to introspection: How are you getting in the way? I want to invite you to think about the ways in which you are contributing, whether largely or microscopically, to getting in the way of others seeing the story of the love of God that they should see in you, in me, and in us. But here is the beautiful thing. Once you discover it you don't have to be afraid. Because according to Matthew Jesus is not only a cleanser he is also a healer. Let him cleanse you of the stuff that gets in the way, and let him heal you. Come to him poor, blind, and naked. Come to him paralyzed with guilt and shame. Come to him as you are with all your broken mess. With your pride. With your selfishness. With your divisiveness. Come to him with your lack of faith and with your hidden sins and struggles. Let him cleanse you, let him heal you, and then let him fill you so that others may find in you a place where heaven and earth collide.
How the Church Failed Mo


Mo is a pretty cool dude. I don't say super cool because, after all, he is my brother and so pretty cool will have to do. (I'm sure such a "theorem" would be reciprocated by a hearty "my sentiments exactly" on his part.) Anyhow, the point is he's pretty cool.

Now Candice, my special lady, is awesome. This awesome lady of mine was clever enough to plot a secret reunion between my pretty cool brother and my pretty cool self. She said it was a surprise to celebrate my recent liberation from the tyranny of biblical languages (I just recently finished my last ancient Greek class), but I'm sure having my mother in town for a visit had more to do with it. 

Now onto my main point. Mo and I were raised Seventh-day Adventists all of our life. At the age of 17 I decided to follow Jesus. Mo went a different direction and has stuck to it ever since. For many years I have wondered why he walked away from the faith of his youth. Being highly intelligent, scientific, and analytical would have been a challenge for him especially when my father rejected his scientific explanation of where the wind came from and instead insisted, very dogmatically of course, that God had a room in heaven with wind trapped inside. Whenever he wanted the wind to blow he would open the door. Whenever he wanted it to not blow he would shut it. Though I have no proof of this, I wonder if Mo's brilliant mind wrestled with such an irrational concept thus planting the seed for a growing discontent with Christianity. 

Regardless of what reason (or perhaps reasons) led Mo out of the church one thing is certain: his experience was, to be quite generous, bitter. You see, Mo and I share a craving for authenticity that we acquired from our culture. We want answers, not cliches. We want truth, not opinion. We want a faith that is logical and rational - free from fanaticism, phobias, and unreasonable superstitions. We want Bible not dogma and traditions. We want relationship not religion. And most of all, we want honest and open dialogue not absurd, irrelevant, and simpleminded solutions. Authenticity. That is what we crave. And that is what the church failed to give.

You see, Mo grew up in a church culture that told him it was bad to go to the movie theater even though we could go to the elders house and watch mindless killing and gore. It was OK, was the message, so long as it is in a house. But don't go to the theater! Your angel wont follow you in there and if you die there you will go to hell. Irrational anyone? Mo grew up in a church that told his lady friends it was bad to wear pants to church, or anything too revealing for that matter, even though every Saturday night half of the members were glued to the infamous Sabado Gigante game-show with half naked women parading their curves on the TV screen for all the choir singers, elders, and deacons to enjoy. Hypocritical anyone? Mo grew up in a church where the leaders were only concerned with whether or not you were a good church member. Do you cry yourself to sleep at night because you are lonely and depressed? We don't care. Just make sure you don't let your hair grow too long and you have a tie on when you show up on Sabbath. Absurd anyone? Yes, Mo grew up in a church where the leaders spoke to you when you were in trouble and ignored you the rest of the time. A church that wanted to erase him from membership because he joined the Army even though not a single one of those involved in this proposition had ever sent him a letter of encouragement or called him to offer a prayer. A church where lack of biblical knowledge prompted an "Ellen White said" that was supposed to settle the issue once and for all. A church steeped in simple-mindedness, irrationality, and flat out extremism at times. For a mind craving authenticity, I conclude that the phonyness was simply too much to bear and the highways and by ways of the world, complete with their own set of phonyness, somehow seemed more fulfilling than the dictatorial corridors of his childhood faith.

This, I believe, is how the church failed Mo. This, I believe, is how it fails so many of its youth. It is not because it lacks entertainment. It is because it lacks authenticity. It is not because it lacks programs. It is because it lacks relationships. It is not because it lacks answers. It is because it lacks questions and somehow marginalizes those who seem to have many of them. Yet over the years I have come to shed many of the absurd and nonsensical standards of my upbringing and have come to discover a simpler yet infinitely more complex relationship with God. With all of the cultural baggage that my traditional Hispanic culture brought to Christianity gone I can now see Jesus and his love much clearer than ever before. I no longer believe that a true Christian is only the one who fits into my brand of Christianity. I have met wonderful Christians who are covered in tattoos, who enjoy the bouncy feel of dread locks, and who go to church without a tie on. I have experienced Hawaiians who worship God in Hula shirts and flip-flops. I have experienced theologians who enjoy sporting a fro-hawk. I have experienced Jesus among the real, the genuine, and the broken. I have experienced doubts and wrestled with them. I have come to realize that God, the multiplex deity of the cosmos, is paradoxically simple. He invites me to have a relationship with him and to let my life be an outflow of that relationship. As Jesus once said,
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." - Matthew 22: 37-39.
And as my friend Amir Davis once said, "Do the Ten. Love God. Love Men. Take care of your body. And live your life. That's all God requires of you." It really is that simple.

I wonder where Mo would be today if the church had focused on Jesus' words more than they focused on their own traditional discomforts? What if they had loved the culture instead of demonized it? What if they had shown us a God who cannot be caged, the wild lion of the heavens who cannot be controlled, and taught us to live on the edge with him? What if they had embraced questions? What if they had let go of the pretensions and gone on the journey of doubt, struggle, and pain? What if they stopped misusing Ellen White? What if they had forgotten the opinions of men and taught us to live by the Bible only? What if they had looked past the long haired guys, the braids, the jeans, and the baggy t-shirts and shown us the love of Jesus? And I don't mean shown it to us in a Bible study. I mean shown it to us with a life. I pray I wont have to keep wondering. I pray the era of the Mo's will come to an end. I pray we learn our lesson.

But that is not the only point of this article. I also want to take the opportunity to appeal to the Mo's of today. While the church has failed you, it is still within your reach to recognize that Christianity is extraterrestrial and as such it cannot be defined, contained, or limited by human culture. We may have messed it up, but you can look past our faults in the same way we should have looked past yours. While we may look at the church and find much to criticize we can find neither spot nor wrinkle in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, I leave you with a challenge from Christian apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias and it is this: "Look at Jesus and ask yourself the question, Can I find anything wrong with him?" The answer may just revolutionize your life.
Top 3 Reasons Why I Don't Drink


I don't drink. Like, at all. Zero. Zip. Nada.

In fact, I have never drunk a drop of alcohol in my life. Before you feel sorry for me, do know that yes, I am doing OK.

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It wasn't much of a big deal growing up because I grew up in a religious context where no one really drank. It was a bit weirder when I joined the Army because, well, everyone drank. A lot. For many years, my main reason for not drinking was simply the result of my conservative religious upbringing. But in recent years I have sought to define my life and choices on relationships and personalized faith as opposed to what others taught me. One of the questions to emerge was, Why don't I drink? And after some time contemplating this oh-so-weird reality of mine I have arrived at some pretty exciting answers (for me that is. Hopefully, you'll like them too). Oddly enough, none of them are all that religious.

1. Centeredness. The first is centeredness. Now what do I mean by this? Rather than define it myself I'll just quote from the article "Sober is the new drunk: why millennials are ditching bar crawls for juice crawls" (mostly because Angelina Chapin [the author person], captured it way better than me).
Most attendees [of this booze-free event called Shine] are millennials with new-agey reasons for socializing sober. Ask and they’ll say they “love real, authentic relationships”, and want to “open up to others on the same journey” and be “centered and calm to appreciate the day”. 
In plain-speak, they think booze makes interactions less meaningful and that hangovers get in the way of their goals.[1]
Now, I am not a new-agey person but I have to say, I resonate with them there. For me, centeredness is not some religious thing. Instead, its about being in each moment, appreciating the narrative unfolding all around me and remaining alert to capture whatever it wants to give me be it relationships, memories or the chance to speak life into another messed up person like me. Alcohol robs people of that. Maybe not 100% of the time. But often enough. So no thanks.

2. Humanity. According to professor Matthew Rushworth (of Oxford University's Department of Experimental Psychology) there is "an area of the brain that appears to be uniquely human"[2]. Pretty cool huh? We're so unique.

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Wow. That's a horrible meme. Sorry.

Moving on now. The area of the brain that makes us so "unique" (and useful I might add) is known as the frontal lobe. Suffice to say, this area of our brain is what makes it possible for us to reason. Now why is reasoning so cool? Because reasoning is what enables us to ask questions. And not even Kanzi (the worlds smartest ape) can ask questions. And I love asking questions. It's what makes me human.

Unfortunately, alcohol affects the brain by causing a "[l]oss of reason", in addition to a loss of: "caution, inhibitions, sociability, talkativeness and intelligence."[3] In other words, alcohol turns off the very thing that makes us human. And I don't know about you, but I quite like being human. It's definitely a thing. And I want to celebrate it always. Not turn it off.

3. Social Justice. Now I have to be really careful here because people start to feel all guilty when you start to talk social justice. I am NOT saying that if you drink you are an evil person. Everyone is entitled to make their own decisions, so please don't take this the wrong way. I am just sharing why I, personally, don't drink. And this one is one of my biggies.

The top two reasons are the reasons why I don't drink alcohol at all. The final reason is why I don't support alcohol one bit, not even with a sip. Truth is, the alcohol industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that thrives on broken families, societies and individual lives (there, I said it). If I were to buy alcohol ever (and I won't because see above) it would be from a local guy with a vineyard, not from the big companies. Just watch the video below to see what I mean.


Now some people simply respond to this by saying something like, "its not the alcohol industry's fault. People are responsible for their own actions." And that's true! But what most people don't realize (here we go again) is that marketers know, understand and exploit one simple truth about the human condition: the vast majority of people can't actually control themselves.

So the industry doesn't get to pass the buck here. They don't escape judgment by saying "they should drink responsibly". The industry knows that "[m]any consumer choices and decisions involve the need to exert self-control, and often consumers fail to exert such control"[4]. In other words, people should have self control but people don't. The alcohol industry exploits that reality for profit and then tries to justify itself with the "drink responsibly" commercial. Sorry dudes. Absolution denied.

So for me, not drinking and passing that value onto my kids is one way that I stick it to the man, the alcohol-industry man that is.

So that's it guys! Top 3 reasons why I don't drink. And no, none of them are religious. But I do thank my faith-tradition for at least giving me the foundation that has enabled me to be counter-cultural in this and other areas of my life. At the end of the day, my abstinence from alcohol is really a story about my love for "real, authentic relationships”, my desire to "open up to others on the same journey” and be “centered and calm to appreciate the day”. It's also a celebration of what makes me uniquely human which alcohol damages. And ultimately its a rebellion and a protest against an industry that destroys more than can be measured. Do I judge others who drink? Never. If you want to come to my house to watch a footy game and enjoy a few beers I won't tell you to leave the bottles outside. I also recognize that many awesomely cool people will disagree with all 3 of my point's above and offer some counter-views of their own. That's cool too. This is simply what works for me. Hopefully, it can work for you too.

Now if you'll excuse me. I think I'll go make a smoothie.

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[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/21/millennials-booze-free-events-juice-crawl-new-york
[2] http://www.science20.com/news_articles/what_makes_us_human_lateral_frontal_pole_prefrontal_cortex-128592
[3] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-are-the-effects-of-a/
[4] Consumer Emotion-Regulation and Self-Control: A Strategic View. Duke University [click here for access]