Tuesday, May 29, 2012

From Best Practices for Adventist Ministry

by Loren Seibold, Editor


A few weeks ago I received a letter from a church family asking us to drop their membership because, they said, the Adventist church has reached such a point of apostasy that they could no longer be members. They specifically mentioned spiritual formation and contemplative prayer, and said we were the spiritual equivalent of the Witch of Endor.

When I visited them (they'd moved to a remote place in the country) I told them we would of course respect their wishes, but pointed out that in our congregation we hadn't ever brought up spiritual formation or contemplative prayer. That we were an ordinary small congregation, believing, teaching, and practicing our faith in pretty middle-of-the-road Adventist ways - and in most ways an unusually accepting and gracious congregation. People in the church, and pastors before me, had ministered to them and their family. They were leaving us for offenses that hadn't happened among us.

They would have none of it, though. They were attached to their fears. They held us responsible for everything they believed existed somewhere in the denomination. In a world with real spiritual dangers, their enemy was the church. When I asked where they got their information, they cited a particular preacher connected with 3ABN, and several other independent ministries. These were their pastors, they told me, and they were sending their tithe and offerings to them.

I wish they hadn't left. Their lives appeared chaotic, and they could have found stability and balance worshiping with a group of kind and dedicated church members, rather than in their own home through a television set.

(They also accused me of practicing neolinguistic programming - which made me laugh to myself, because although I'd heard the term, I wasn't sure what it was until I looked it up later and learned it was regarded as a technique for mind control. I will only say in my defense that if I was using it on them, it didn't work!)

How do we minister to those who consult their fears rather than the facts? Sadly, the people who encourage them in these ideas are still considered legitimate voices by some church leaders - still invited to camp meetings, the ministries still operating with ordained Adventist pastors on their boards. Meanwhile, dear people like those I visited are becoming increasingly disconnected from the real world.

How do we minister to people who are listening to the wrong voices?


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