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New Review? or, What’s Wrong with Church Hopping?

The Adventist Review has been trumpeting its newness, but frankly, beyond the cosmetic, I’m still curious to see these changes. Bill Knott offers,

“late-breaking stories and compelling cover features matched to the issues Adventists are talking about today. Look for enriched coverage on the AR Web site of the stories and topics that catch—and keep—your interest. Seventy thousand believers visit AR Online every month: you should too.”

(How does Knott know everyone who visits AR online is a “believer?” That’s some amazing site analytics. Speaking of. . .Spectrum averages about 30,000 folks visiting a month. Not bad for a little half time labor.

While we’re promised “compelling cover features matched to the issues Adventists are talking about today,” instead we have good ol’ Cliff Goldstein on Daniel II as the cover story. And he tells the “burning his novel” story again. I like the story, but seriously, how many Adventists talked about “the Maccabean Hypothesis” last week?

Speaking of “late-breaking stories” and “issues Adventists are talking about today,” how about a story about the almost two thousand Adventists (about a tenth of the paid Review subscribership) who have publicly expressed their views on both sides of Prop 8? And when is the AR going to introduce a blog with unmoderated comments?

The real reason I write is because while doing my believer duty and visiting AR online I read the following: an online exclusive, in which Benjamin J. Baker attacks the idea of church-hopping. You know, that time-honored “Sabbath movement” that Adventists who live in multi-church areas do.

Sure, most pastors don’t like it for good reasons, and it does limit community-building and personal accountability. But on the other hand, the cross pollination freshens up the sometimes insularity and monotony at the local level. Having grown up in rural churches as well as the Loma Linda area, I can see good and bad reasons to be a peripatetic parishioner. For awhile, when I was a kid, we’d drive an hour past at least a dozen churches just to catch Morris Venden at Azure Hills, all while listening to the University Church service. Two for one – what’s wrong with that?

That said, among the article’s interesting points, this one falls apart.

5. Jesus did not hop: Jerusalem probably provided the opportunity to hop, but Jesus probably did not do it. Jesus likely was at the service shortly before it started, bringing others with him, and ready to help out anyway He could. He knew others in the congregation and worshipped with them each Sabbath. After church they ate together, Jesus conversing with whoever wanted to talk.

In fact, Jesus did hop.

Note that Jesus spent most of his time outside of Jerusalem, around Galilee, in Samaria, in Jericho, back in his hometown of Nazareth. The rest of that paragraph, about how He was in church is pure, didactic speculation without basis in scripture. It reminds me of a children’s story with its heavy editorial gloss to influence behavior.

Beyond the “probably” and the “likely,” perhaps it might be interesting to note a parallel to that of print media today. Just as small and large newspapers stretch from the local to the global as they vie for market share in locales, a way that churches – particularly those without a large budget or “Amazing” media star – can create loyalty lies in speaking to contemporary issues, from big to hyper local.

All of this gets me back to that point about the new Review. A cover story that says little fresh about the most used image story in evangelistic series it not exactly Zeitgeist stuff. I care about Adventist messages – in church and in magazines. As both confront challenges in our medium-diverse environment, I pray that God helps us all to press/hop on to the present truth.

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