Every Adventist should be disturbed by the article in Christianity Today yesterday. They reported the results of a massive Adventist “ health message” survey conducted by Dr. Duane McBride and other sociologists from Andrews University. The research spanned 2 years, over 60 languages, and 63,756 responses world -wide.
The research found that the health message had a clearly positive impact on Adventist members. But they also found this. “ Over 47%, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, reported the belief that if they kept the health message completely, they would be assured of salvation, though this is at odds with formal doctrine.”
I’ll be doing a separate article about what this says about the Adventist understanding of salvation, but today it’s just another Covid lesson we’ll explore. We’ve listed 7 lessons. Let’s look at 7 more.
One: Come As You Are
Maybe it’s the impact of attending online services in your pajamas, but our church dress codes have been shredded. For many the idea of attending worship services in anything other than a dress, suit and tie was unthinkable. Well, you better start thinking. Because if this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that you can worship God where you are, as you are. Should there be boundaries? Yes. Should we “ give of our best to the Master?” Yes. But I’m thinking that “best” is going to look a lot different going forward.
Two: Think Small
We have been social distancing for a year. We have been avoiding large crowds for a year. It has saved the lives of thousands, maybe millions. Despite our yearning for fellowship, it’s not likely that most will be flocking to large worship gatherings anytime soon. Some will. Many won’t. Local churches could use this season to offer multiple worship times and opportunities. It should also continue to fuel a growing church planting movement among Adventists. Small churches can have a big impact.
Three: Read the Bible
When we woke up from our 4 year nightmare with Donald Trump and his evangelical army, we realized we were missing something? The truth. We were missing the truth. When Kellyane Conway coined the term “alternative facts” she signaled the fact that truth would not only be relative, but attacked. During this Covid season we have been besieged with rumors, lies, stretches, and spins. It is driving a desire to search for truth, absolute truth. It’s in the Bible.
Four: Leave the Building
Churches large and small have discovered that they can do meaningful ministry when they leave the building. Have we finally realized that the church is the people? Have we finally realized that effective evangelism means “ Go and Tell” not “Come and See?” Have we finally realized that if we are going to find friends for Jesus, we’ll need to make friends ourselves? We’ll see.
Many of our young pastors have been leading a new wave of church collaboration. They have been combining their virtual worship services, prayer meetings, revivals, and evangelistic campaigns. The results have been exciting. Churches in Florida have worshipped with churches in North Carolina. Large churches in Queens have conducted weeks of prayer with smaller churches in Staten Island. It combines resources and talents, creates a spirit of cooperation, and lets members know that they are a part of a movement.
Six: Rethink Evangelism
The Adventist church is the 5th largest Christian denomination in the world today, baptizing over a million people a year. But since 2013 our research has shown that we lose a third of those we baptize in one year. Many of our members have not connected to our online services during this Covid season. They have been missing for months. It’s time for us to study the difference between discipleship and membership. There IS a difference.
Seven: WE NEED THE GOSPEL!
Back to the Christianity Today article and the Andrews research project. When nearly half of your membership worldwide believes they are saved by what they eat, you have a problem. It’s at the source of our conspiracy theories, spiritual insecurity, and time of trouble trauma. Our church continues to ignore the elephant in the room. Our greatest weakness is our misunderstanding of the Gospel.
The most valuable lesson this Covid season has taught us is that we need to go back to the basics, and that begins with the gospel, the good news. Adventists need to make our primary study the gospel. Not last day events, but the gospel. Not the health message, but the gospel. And everything we study should be understood in relationship to the gospel.
We should understand that we can perfectly eat and obey for a lifetime but we’ll never be more saved than we are right now. Because in Christ we are complete! Colossians 2:10
Well, that’s 7 more. What do you think about these 7 or the last? What else should we add?