The beliefs and sentiments expressed by those whose letters appear here are not necessarily shared by the Adventist Review or its editorial staff. These letters have been edited for clarity and length. -- Editors
The message here seems suspiciously similar to the agenda the Vatican has been trying to push forward: “Let’s put aside our differences and work together on our strengths.” But we need to ask ourselves, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). The root of the trouble between the left and right factions is that worldliness has entered our church and we can’t fool ourselves into thinking that these two factions can coexist in peace. It cannot happen without compromising the truth.
In matters of taste compromise can often work to bring about harmony between two sides. However, when it comes to principle compromise is disastrous. We Seventh-day Adventists have a unique message to present to the world. If we mix the world into it, we have lost the effectiveness of the message. As a church, our object is to save sinners, not to entertain them and pander to their wishes.
I am saddened and alarmed to see how much worldliness exists within the church today, because to a large extent we aren’t grounding converts before we rush them to the baptismal font. The quantity of baptisms seems to be the overriding principle rather than the quality of pre-baptismal instruction. I have even heard of pastors who have been brought into the church and placed directly into ministerial positions before they have been thoroughly grounded. Is it any wonder that the church has become polluted with customs and practices from other churches, as well as from the world itself? Of course we need to feel an urgency to share the truth with the world, but we still need to do the groundwork to make sure these precious souls have a sure foundation to build on.
Then there is the fact that some of us, whether born into the church or brought into it, want to hold on to the world with one hand and the church with the other. Sorry, this can’t be done—no fence-sitting allowed. We must fully surrender to God or the world will finally pull us out of the church. . . .
I am confident that God is going to purify His church before He comes. He has promised, “For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel” (Ezek. 38:19). . . .
Only those willing to follow His standards and surrender their lives completely to God will remain in the church after the purification process. (Ironically, the people now in the world will come into the church to take the place of those who leave.) Instead of trying to make peace with those who are in danger of falling away, why are we not making every effort to establish them on the firm foundation of the pure gospel and principles of our Church? It’s time to clear out the rubbish that has accumulated in our church and return to the pure worship God requires of us. Then we will be in a position to evangelize the world.
Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada
In Memory of Mothers
Thank you for the article, “Another Side of Motherhood” (May 8, 2008). My mother died last June, and it’s still hard to think about it. I was fortunate that my sister is a hospice nurse with great connections with other loving, caring nurses. God used so many people to minister to us during that time; to comfort us and hold us up in prayer.
Interestingly, I have no children of my own. On Mother’s Day I often feel left-out or resentful because people go to extremes to include me in celebrations at church. In the past, the children I’ve babysat for have made me feel special on Mother’s Day. This year I’ll hold my head up a little higher because I too have been a mother--I shared that responsibility with my dad and sister when Mom was dying.
Shepherds and Sheep
As a pastor, I take my role as shepherd very seriously, and sometimes fear that I spend so little time in the “farmhouse” it may fall down and I wouldn’t even know it. Nevertheless, visitation is not at the top of my “to do” list. I do my best to visit as needs arise, but even then I probably don’t keep up with it to everyone’s satisfaction.
I have two churches, two very active Community Services Centers, and a school in my district. This often means attending at least four board meetings per month.
Juggling my time so that I can prepare weekly sermons, plan midweek services, organize outreach events, give Bible Studies to non-members, and provide marriage and pre-marriage counseling, etc., leaves little time for the “pastoral care” described in the editorial. . . .
I appreciate being challenged to spend more time in prayer, Bible study, “equipping the saints,” etc. However, I feel that this editorial feeds the sheep with more “wants” than spiritual nutrition, and challenges pastors to spend more time with the sheep in the pasture than with those who are lost.
If pastors could convince church members that they need to care more for one another, pastors would have more freedom to do ministry as Ellen White described it in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7. A neat quote I heard while in seminary is: “Sheep make sheep, shepherds don’t.” According to Ephesians 4, if the sheep sre equipped to care more for one another, the fold (church) would grow.
Part of being a shepherd includes leading my sheep to greener pastures. This means teaching and preaching the gospel in fresh new ways. I must also fight the wolves (those in sheep’s clothing, and those who are not). To do this I must limit my visitation of sheep in their homes to requests and needs, and stay on the cutting edge of the Shepherd’s handbook.
Finally, “shepherd” is only one of the hats a pastor wears. We are also called to be administrators, evangelists, outreach coordinators, and equipper of the Saints--to mention only a few. With a pastor/member ratio of an average of 1:120, it’s difficult to wear all these hats to the satisfaction of everyone.
I would find it very helpful if this editorial challenged members to be less dependant on “pastoral care” and more active in caring for one another, so that the pastor might have a little time in the “farmhouse,” and the church could grow the way God intended it--sheep making sheep.
To be Effective, It Must be Redemptive
The article, “Is Church Discipline Necessary?” (Apr. 17, 2008), is similar to ones I have seen in various church papers over the years. It was well-written and reminds us of the responsibility of ministers and churches to deal properly with sin. Twenty years ago in the April 7, 1988 Adventist Review Neal Wilson, then the General Conference president, wrote, “Redemptive discipline, or for that matter any type of church discipline, seems to be passé.”
The key to any type of effective discipline is that it be redemptive. A significant reason that many of our churches do not grow is the absence of proper discipline. Both the Bible and the counsel of Ellen White, as Dan Serns so ably pointed out, indicate the need for discipline. An army cannot survive without it, nor can a family. Why do we expect a church to?
In regards to hindrances to church growth Ellen White wrote, “The Lord does not now work to bring many souls into the truth, because of the church members who have never been converted and those who were once converted but who have backslidden” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 371). Proper church discipline would take care of these individuals so that the church could prosper.
Donald E. Casebolt
I read the article, “An Empty Glass Made Full” (Apr. 10, 2008), and was enjoying it until I came to John’s reply to the question about how he felt the first time he saw the baby. His reply was, “Thanks for blessing me even though I’m not worthy.”
I thought God loved us so much that He died for us. He thought so much of us--we were so worthy--that all of heaven was put up for collateral to redeem us. He doesn’t waste His time on worthless material.
We disappoint the Lord when we place a low estimate upon ourselves, when we think or believe we are unworthy. The Lord desires His chosen heritage to value itself according to the price He has placed upon it. God wanted them or else He would not have sent His Son on such an expensive and dangerous journey to redeem them.
Ellen White wrote: “He is well pleased when [his people] make the very highest demands upon Him, that they may glorify His name” (The Desire of Ages, p. 668).
Henry James Welch
Condor, Alberta, Canada
Strikes a Chord
I’m writing to express my appreciation for two recent articles in the Adventist Review. The cover story, “An Empty Glass Made Full” (Apr. 10, 2008), about a couple’s journey through infertility was long overdue and very well written. My husband and I experienced both primary and secondary infertility years ago, so appreciated what was said about how the church can be more supportive to couples going through this agonizing journey.
I also appreciated Ginny Allen’s touching article, “From Mourning to Morning,” about her firsthand experience with grief, when losing her son. Our family experienced the loss of a beloved nephew three years ago, and it was so painful to watch my brother, his wife, and their children dealing with the loss of their precious son and brother. Allen’s article was so helpful in explaining the grief process and in listing concrete ways we can be more understanding and supportive to those who grieve. Both articles were positive, uplifting, and filled with hope.
RuthAnn Moor Wyman
Battle Ground, Washington