Let There be Flat
While I found the article, “Is the Church Flat?
” (Dec. 27, 2007), interesting from a technological perspective, and have personally benefited greatly from global technology, some additional concerns need to be addressed.
The basic premise of the article focused on global communication, a small part of the world church’s organization. Yes, it’s nice to see job postings from far-flung places where you might like to locate. My Australian wife is considering a posting to Hong Kong from here in Ohio. And our romance through a worldwide Christian dating service was helped by extremely low overseas telephone rates, making three-hour phone calls cheaper than dinner for two at McDonald’s. And yes, you can pipe sermons all over the world at a fraction of the cost it used to be. You can share knowledge, compare research, collaborate in many ways with very little effort and cost.
But you don’t change the culture at either end; many times you can’t even address cultural differences. A sermon given to long-time church members in North America may get a great response there, but fall flat in a third-world country because of a few wording choices, or the fact that a woman was involved in part of the service typically reserved for a man. We have cultures within our worldwide church that are literally a hundred years apart. While technology has connected us, spiritual understandings and practices are still decades away from that same connection.
Here in the United States we have congregations still worshipping as they did in 1951. They are busy arguing about women elders, open communion, and praying fervently for anyone who dares question any quote from Ellen White.
We have a wonderful message, an end-time message to be sure. But if we can’t even get our congregations in a single country on the same “page,” how does that go down across oceans?
OK, so how about using technology to reduce the need for the many layers we find in the church in North America? The grassroots church funds a large portion of those layers, and realizes few tangible benefits. Can we at least “flatten” the structure here, and allow local churches to have more resources for reaching their communities instead of funding many jobs, buildings, and other expenses brought about from a structure that has existed without significant change for almost 100 years?
The most unfortunate side to this possible change is that it requires some church leaders to voluntarily vote themselves out of a job, and that’s not likely to happen any time soon. More likely is that someone will suggest we study the current structure (as has happened several times already) and make recommendations for change. Those suggestions are rarely followed, and only when it doesn’t cost a voting employee his/her job.
So let’s not put our arms out of joint congratulating ourselves on how well we are adapting/adopting technology in our church. While we may have sped up communication, in some respects we have not been able to control our own supposed need for self-preservation. This contributes to the slowing of growth in many areas as members recognize poor or unnecessary business practices within the greater organization.
I read my Review online, and I like the technology. But the business practices of the church have not kept up with the communications of the church.
Great article by Richard Osborn; we must change our organizational relationships to the “flat” model if we hope to successfully move in partnership with current and future generations. The majority of youth and young adults see a “shut door” approach to leadership decisions, wherein a few experts make decisions for the masses, as a vestige of the past.
In a day when targeted mass communication is easy and cheap, it’s a shame that our church does not take the time to communicate to those who are critical to its mission.
Let the flattening begin.
Stanley E. Patterson
I enjoyed reading “Is the Church Flat?” and I hope church leadership read it as well. Richard Osborn’s article is clear evidence of the need to bring about radical changes in church structure. While many innovative leaders have embraced emerging technology, modern thinking is absent in several other areas of the church.
As a student in the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, I encounter what Thomas Friedman addressed as “more memories than dreams.” We are bombarded with images from the past, and the importance of clinging to traditional ways of doing things rather than equipping pastors-in-training in how to be effective in dealing with a flattening church.
Not every professor is this way. A few classes I’ve been in have instilled me with knowledge that will allow me to be effective in reaching the progressive world. However, the overall emphasis seems to be in holding onto the past and reinforcing the view that this church is run by, and should continue to practice, the traditions of “White, male, North Americans.” Our weekly worship services, more often than not, fail to reflect the globalization of our church. The music, themes, and participants usually reflect traditional, homogenous worship that has stifled the church for many years. If the church is going to move ahead in the United States, we have to embrace not only technology, but also different cultures and progressive methods for reaching the lost.
In my experience, churches and pastors that have tried to bring new “flavor” to the worship services have been frowned upon by leadership. There has been some progress in limited areas, but as a whole, the church is suffering due to its refusal to get with the times and use modern methods to convey an old message with contemporary ramifications.
We need to stop looking to old way of doing things and embrace methods that have been successfully employed by other denominations; or come up with creative ways from within. We have to start by changing our attitudes about change and our tendency to consider anything new and different as “evil.”
I pray that the leadership in the North American Division will prayerfully look into making radical changes in the structure and methods used by the church in this region. Our mission is not about keeping things the way they used to be, but to cooperate with how God is moving right now. The God I serve is contemporary, but sadly, our church is far from that in many areas.
I pray this changes soon, so that the people groups currently being ignored by the church will be reached and we can advance God’s kingdom and finally see Jesus burst through the clouds.
E. L. Jones, Jr.
Berrien Springs, Michigan
Avoiding a Herd Mentality
Regarding the answer about soymilk versus dairy (“Milk or Silk®?
,” Dec. 27, 2007), you may not be aware of The China Study
by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell, II, released last year. After reading this book I don’t believe the question on avoiding dairy is based on “shaky science.” It’s amazing how much anabolic (conducive to metabolic syndrome--diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipemic vascular disease) and oncogenic (cancer promoting) power is stored in casein, the main protein in milk, as demonstrated elegantly by bench research conducted in several countries. These findings have been supported by epidemiological research and daily experiences of clinicians.
On the matter of vitamin D and calcium, it is now clear that countries with the highest consumption of dairy products are the ones with the highest prevalence of osteoporosis. What a paradox!
We need to be renewed in our understanding of health, nutrition, and curative medicine that comes from our loving Father, and not feed the coffers of powerful interests colligated in maintaining the “status quo,” such as numerous industry boards, ill-advised statesmen, and pharmaceutical companies with their sponsored “bedrock science” research.
It’s time to teach by precept and example in the most optimistic and humble manner that we are just a few months away from the great crisis and the time has come to abandon dairy as a supplier of vitamin B12.
In addition, we should abandon failed human knowledge as the source of our information and live by faith in what our Lord has showed us. I’m hopeful that we will see fewer cases of cardiovascular disease, mental diseases, and cancer among Seventh-day Adventists, especially those who have obeyed the health reform presented in Ellen White’s books, even as we move into stressful times.
We should not get emotional about dairy, or any food items. We should be intent about our Father’s business.
Manuel E. Alva, M.D.
For those who never will see the truth, let them have milk. But for Adventists with knowledge of the Spirit’s counsel in the Testimonies that the time would come when milk would not be a safe choice, soy is a better way to go.
Having worked on a modern dairy farm, seen disease in the animals, the antibiotics pumped into them, plus all the chemicals added at the dairy processing plants, I could never drink milk again. It is totally unfit for human consumption.
The Adventist Connection
I’ve been a Redskins fan for nearly 30 years, and a Seventh-day Adventist all my life. My heart was broken at the news of Sean Taylor’s death. I found out that at his funeral service, Seventh-day Adventist choir members presented the music. I googled the rest and found out about his Adventist heritage.
The moment I found out Taylor died, I had a strange feeling that he loved the Lord.