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Reviewing the Review: Congregation edition

June 19, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 17

Two essays are MUST READS: Stephen Chavez’ editorial, Going Against the Flow, and Rick Labate’s, What Is a Church Congregation?
Still “People of the Book”? by Mark A. Kellner
In this important journalistic piece, Kellner quotes the broadcaster Woodrow Kroll: “the Bible is struggling to survive the neglect of its friends.” He goes on to quote Albert Mohler: “Fewer than half of all adults can name the four Gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. . . 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments.”
The Bible is replete with conflicting historical accounts of what actually happened. Consequently, it’s a good idea to follow Kellner’s advice and stay “engaged” with the biblical text if we wish to consider ourselves “People of the Book”. Unfortunately, in this issue, Frederick Russell writes (See Hunger for God.): “Had Moses seen the face of God, he would have been fully consumed by His glory.”
Many Adventist writers, like Russell, seem unaware of Exodus 24: 9-11. “Moses and Aaron, Nadab and a Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.”
Reconnecting by Mike Jones
Jones, who has been in and out and back in the Adventist Church, has the following suggestions for reconnecting with former Adventists. Leave the former member on your church mailing list. Watch for inactive members on Sabbath mornings when they visit. Pray for but don’t nag your family member who has dropped out. Consider anointing a former member who becomes ill. Apologize for the church when a former member feels wounded. Keep former members in your prayers. Remember to claim God’s promises on behalf of the inactive or former member. Listen, listen, listen. And finally, never give up.
Sometimes We Feel Lost in Total Darkness
Kenneyetta Fields-Williams’ devotional piece reminds us that without a spiritual roadmap, we can lose our way in the darkness of despair.
Measuring Greatness by Leonard Brand
Even though Leonard’s father would not be considered a great man “as modern society measures greatness”, he was a man who “was never satisfied with doing something just ‘good enough. He put out extra energy to do is very best”. He was also a marvelous Christian and adored by his family. No father could wish for a more loving tribute.
Pastor Chester Hitchcock’s letter was a cry for help, and he speaks for many other small church pastors across North America. My son and his family attend a tiny church in the Midwest. The pastor, a retired hospital chaplain, will be allowed to retire this summer. The church has no phone and on any Sabbath in which my son, daughter-in-law, and their children do not attend, the local congregation will be made up of five “mature” members.
My son is a medical doctor who pays a faithful tithe. Consequently, this tiny church has become a cash cow for the local conference. My son is first elder and his wife is the church treasurer. There are three small churches within thirty miles of each other, but the conference leadership seems unwilling to consolidate these churches and/or provide the ministerial leadership that would allow these churches to become viable again.
These small-town churches are the canaries in the “mines” of the Adventist Church. I have been told that Grace Connection, the Adventist fellowship I attend in Chico, has a larger membership than the median Adventist congregation in North America.
Tools of the Trade by Monte Sahlin
Sahlin is chair of a team that is developing a comprehensive discipleship curriculum. You can recommend resources to him at “” or (800) 272-4664. In this issue he recommends four books designed to “Tool” Adventists for ministry. How to Lead Your Church Department Successfully; Deacon & Deaconess; Wanted: Relationships Where Love is in Place are available from AdventSource. Hooked on Unhappiness is published by Pacific Press.
World News and Perspectives
Kenneth Wood, 90, Longtime Review Editor and Chairman of the White Estate Board, has died; Russell Standish, 74, was killed in an Australian car crash; Cindy Tutsch is the author of Ellen White on Leadership (I hope the disjointed language and syntax of Tutsch’s quotations are not an indication of what her readers can expect.); and finally a mission story from Nepal.
When Bhaju Ram Shrestha was seventeen, he was kicked out of his house for becoming a Protestant Christian in Nepal. In the last 40 years he has cofounded the Adventist Church in Nepal, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, translated several editions of the church’s Adult Bible Study Guide, and is the recognized leader of Nepal’s 5,400 church members.
Kingdom Business
In has essay, Hunger for God, Fredrick A. Russell writes some memorable words. “If you’re interested only in God’s blessings, then that’s what you’ll settle for. If you want only to know the ways of God, you’ll be content with that. But you’ll never have all He wants to give.”
W. Clarence Schilt recommends Sometimes I Don’t Feel Like Praying published by the Pacific Press. According to Schilt, it “should be a helpful book for those who want to take their spiritual experience to a higher level”.
What Is a Church Congregation? This short essay by Rick Labate is a MUST READ definition of what a Christian congregation should be.
Going Against the Flow by Stephen Chavez
This editorial is a MUST READ. Stephen Chavez is a brilliant essayist, and his words reflect the very finest aspirations of Christian Adventists everywhere. The following quotation is his final paragraph.
“Christ surely calls us to flee worldly influences such as pride, greed, gluttony, hatred, violence, and promiscuity. And when we do, we will certainly create a counterculture. But unfortunately, it takes more than a change of clothes or a behavior modification to influence our cynical society; it takes an encounter with Christ, ‘who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light’.” (1 Peter 2:9)
Take a Load Off and Rest by Wilona Karimabadi
Karimabadi makes the point that the Sabbath was made for human beings to “take the time to breathe”. It might even mean “taking a break from services”. I couldn’t agree more.
Andy Hanson is Professor of Education at California State University, Chico. He blogs at Adventist Perspective.

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