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
Rethinking Our Structure
Fredrick Russell’s column, “Is There a Better Way” (Nov. 19, 2009), about rethinking the structure of our organization, more specifically, can we afford to have pastors who don’t pastor, is spot on. As head elder of a church placed in a newly formed district, I find the work extremely challenging and fulfilling. But I am more aware than ever of the tremendous need for pastors in all of the churches, pastors who have been trained to pastor.
Now comes the hard part: According to studies by Russell Burrill and his associates, when we grew rapidly in North America, our denomination had no pastors at any of the churches--just traveling, church planting pastors and local elders who sustained the work after the planting was done--a model that reflects the New Testament experiences of Paul, Timothy, Titus, Apollos, and others.
It’s not just structure, but also purpose that needs to be addressed. It’s not just having a church or a pastor, but why do we have a church or a pastor? We are not alone in this rethinking process, as other Christian authors have already attested. God is planning ahead of us, waving us forward, encouraging us to catch up.
Is it time to rethink our structure, our mission, our methods? Is it time to imagine again what we were like when we were growing in North America? I think so.
St Petersburg, Florida
Thanks for the column by Fredrick A. Russell regarding our need “to take a healthy, comprehensive look at our entire structure. Is having a permanent executive class of leaders the most effective structure for ministry?”
I have pondered this question for many years as I watch trained, talented, ministers leave the pulpit and be promoted to become church executives, facing business management for which they possibly have no expertise. I have no opinion on the subject, but I read Russell’s piece with interest.
Barney E. McLarty
Great column by Fredrick Russell! I support the view for a re-think of the way we do business. As a minister in our university classroom, I continue to see myself in ministry there as well as in the local congregation. One suggestion is for our executives to remain connected professionally with a local congregation.
Clinton A. Valley
La Sierra University
Let’s Talk, Then Act
I did not realize there was a possibility of negotiating the distribution of tithe money to support outreach at the local level so that more money could stay at the local church. It has always been my belief that tithe was to be used to pay the ministers’ salaries, according to biblical instruction.
Ellen White wrote: “But a great mistake is made when the tithe is drawn from the object for which it is to be used--the support of the ministers” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 249). Read the section: “A Solemn Obligation:” “The tithe is sacred, reserved by God for Himself . . . .”
When funds are needed for other purposes we are to be liberal with our offerings.
I wish some Bible verses would have been quoted to direct the minds of the young professionals to God’s commands for His money.
I’m writing to thank to Jan Paulsen for continuing his “Let’s Talk” series with young professionals. As a young adult myself, it is encouraging to know that the leadership of the Adventist church is interested in hearing what we have to say.
At the same time, it is frustrating to have continued conversations with seemingly little action. Paulsen’s challenge for young adults to “assert themselves and not passively wait on church leaders to suggest roles for them” is appreciated, yet, having done so, I have repeatedly found limited room for innovation and creativity.
One of the issues the article mentioned was that of “seemingly race-based conferences.” Paulsen’s request for young adults to offer solutions to this out-dated and, in my opinion, unbiblical system seems to miss the heart of the issue. We can make suggestions all day long, but where are the conference administrators willing to step down from their positions or share part-time positions in order to create unity among us multi-culturally? Until those who actually hold these positions are willing to actively do something that will bring about change, asking young adults for their input comes across as patronizing. As the article said, church leadership talked about this issue 10 years ago and nothing has changed despite promised follow-up.
If we want young adults to take positions of leadership in this institution, please allow for new methods and approaches. I am a huge proponent of conversations and communication. At some point, however, action must accompany the talk, and certain actions must be initiated by those in long-standing leadership positions.
Birds of a Feather
I strongly disagree with Kameron DeVasher’s article, “Where Have All the Grown-ups Gone?” (Oct. 15, 2009). I believe the number one reason people gravitate to “collegiate” classes is that they enjoy social interaction with those of their approximate age.
The second reason is that young people in our schools are being taught to have a relationship with God. What a wonderful idea! I’m not young anymore and I can tell you that idea was never approached when I was young. It wasn’t until as an adult that I learned why I learned all those facts and stories from the Bible. . . .
I didn’t grow up in a backwater church. I was born at Union College, I grew up at Emmanuel Missionary College (now Andrews University), I was a teen at Southern Missionary College (now Southern Adventist University) and I met God at the College of Medical Evangelists (now Loma Linda University).
Our young people want to be in classes where we study the Bible to learn how to have a relationship with God, how to love other people, how to be like Jesus. They want to avoid the pitfalls of the 40s, 50s, 60s and later when the church was split into many factions because of the splitting of hairs over words and theological minutiae.
Jesus said we should become as children spiritually. Maybe we have something to learn from the young people. Ephesians 5:1, 2 is what it’s all about.
Arden, North Carolina
Issues in Education
However, I don’t believe poor marketing or poor parenting are as significant as he presents them. He lists six primary factors behind the decline in Seventh-day Adventist education. Although he mentions finances in the article, he doesn’t list that as a major factor. I can’t speak for others, but it certainly was a major factor in our decision to home-school our kids. I must live in a different world because I don’t know any Adventists in my area (although there may be some) who own “jet skis, SUVs, and big-screen TVs.” Most of them drive used cars and live in old houses.
I did some research and found that the cost of a Seventh-day Adventist education is about 16 times as much as it was 40 years ago. By contrast the general rate of inflation should have put it at about eight times as much. Wages, unfortunately, have not increased by that amount.
I’m also convinced that at least some of our schools need to move away from a liberal arts format to a more practical format. Someone wanting to go into engineering or biochemistry could go and focus on that field of study and be done sooner, and possibly not be in debt for decades.
At the risk of being stoned, I also suggest that we cut back on our sports programs. It’s one thing to go out and play a game of ball, it’s quite another to purchase uniforms and transport students around to play other schools. With the cost of education skyrocketing, this is a waste of time and resources at best, and seems to be out of harmony with the focus of Adventist education as outlined by Ellen White.
Another factor Anderson didn’t mention is the perception among members that our schools have for some time been sliding down a slippery slope toward liberalism and worldliness. The recent controversy over the teaching of creation and evolution is only the latest chapter to add to that perception. Maybe our schools need to readjust their focus (in the context of preparing students for eternity as well as for this life), and ask parents what it would take to get their kids enrolled, instead of trying to copy what the secular colleges are doing.