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
Ministry Just the Same
I appreciated the article, “Celebrating Uniqueness” by Rex Edwards (Oct. 19, 2006). He spoke to an issue with which I’ve been struggling.
On one hand it has seemed to me that pastoral ministers tend to encourage members to do the same kind of ministry they are most familiar with--direct witnessing, giving Bible studies, or taking responsibilities in the church. While on the other hand members are everyday going out and interacting with people in the community and “ministering” in words and deeds. Little recognition or encouragement is given for these activities and people get the impression over time that this is not ministry.
Thank you for calling attention to the many gifts and talents that people are given, that when used with love in the service of their neighborhoods, communities, and the world they can truly fulfill the call to discipleship. If we would strengthen and encourage these various channels of discipleship, the body of the church would become whole and more effective. We have long disabled the church by ignoring the vast range of talents and callings of our members while pushing them into the areas more familiar to our pastoral leaders (I say this with compassion because if I were in their position I would probably have biases towards my areas of ministry). This is true, not only at the micro level of our individual congregations, but also at the macro level of the church organization.
The organization needs to be careful not to channel the majority of its recognition and resources into the pastoral/evangelistic ministries while neglecting other areas of the body of Christ. It is only as we practice “whole person care” with the body of Christ that we will have a church that can stand through the difficult times that lie ahead and fulfill our call to end-time ministry.
Loma Linda, California
I just read the excellent article, “Celebrating Uniqueness,” which answers many questions I, along with others of our church elders, have had regarding how to work together as a team with our pastor. At the end of the article readers were informed that a new book authored by Edwards is available from the General Conference Ministerial Association Resource Center. However, it didn’t say how we can order it.
Good question. We went to the General Conference Ministerial Association’s website (www.ministerialassociation.com) and we couldn’t find anything. We went to the website for Adventist Book Centers (www.adventistbookcenter.com) and again came up empty. Try dropping a line to the General Conference Ministerial Association, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, Maryland, 20904-6600; or call 301-680-6501.
All Things to All People
I have yet to hear of a pastor, speaker, church leader, or other person in a position of leadership or influence that is universally appreciated. Even the apostle Paul, who said, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some (1 Cor. 9:22), had his detractors (see 1 Cor. 9:1-6).
I enjoy reading Clifford Goldstein, not because I always understand him (because there are times I do not). There are times when a dictionary, thesaurus, and every other reference book do not immediately answer all the questions I have about what I’m reading. But this is precisely why I enjoy reading Goldstein: He makes me think.
To minister effectively to the many subscribers of this publication is daunting at best. No two readers have all the same opinions, preferences, or viewpoints, even though the majority (I assume) are Seventh-day Adventists with shared fundamental beliefs. This is why there are several different regular contributors, each with a different style.
I am thankful for the diversity of the Adventist Review. I’m even more thankful that Clifford Goldstein is part of that diversity. Don’t like his style? No problem! Skip to the writers you enjoy. I hope you are just as blessed as I am when I read Goldstein--even if I have to keep the dictionary within arm’s reach.
I am weary of hearing Clifford Goldstein criticized for using big words. His meaning is always clear even if a word here or there isn’t easily understood. When I get a Review featuring an article by Goldstein, I always read it first. After I have read the rest of the issue, I read his column again. I love his reasoning and his unusual but sound viewpoint. I am reading his book, The Mules That Angels Ride, for the second time. Outside of the Bible and Ellen G. White, he is my favorite author. Please, could we hear from him more than once a month?
Carol E. Hearn
Palm Bay, Florida
Reading Off the Same Page?
I was amazed to read C. S. Lewis’ opinion on “hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music.” I don’t know why a man of Lewis’ talents would say such a thing, and even if he did, I don’t understand why Nathan Brown would bother to quote him (“Disappointed With ‘Miracle Churches,’” Oct. 12, 2006).
For some years, when singing the great hymns in church, I have tried to think carefully of the words. I often feel tears come to my eyes as I thrill to the majestic hymns of Isaac Watts, the Wesleys, and so many others. It is evident to me that the same Holy Spirit who spoke to David and Asaph was the One who spoke to our hymn writers. Fifth-rate words? You might as well accuse the psalmist of using fifth-rate words.
Where is the fifth-rate language? My favorite hymn, “O my soul, bless thou Jehovah, all within me bless his name . . .” is taken from Psalm 103 and paraphrased slightly to fit the stirring melody from a Donizetti opera and thrilling from first to last scripturally and harmonically. The psalms of David and many of the great old hymns meld together as we read and sing them.
Where, I insist, is the fifth-rate language? Is it “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come”? Is it “Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!”? Is it “Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee”?
And the “sixth-rate music”? Some of the hymns in our hymnbook are set to music from Beethoven, Bach, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Palestrina, Handel, Bortnianski, Sullivan, and Gottschalk. Is there a better list somewhere?
To give C. S. Lewis the benefit of the doubt, perhaps the hymns in his book were old and stodgy, nothing like the beautiful selection in our Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal. If so, I’m sorry. If not, I suggest we keep a grain of salt handy when we read Lewis (and Nathan Brown).
Richard H. Utt
Words and Their Meanings
For many years I have enjoyed reading the Adventist Review. But the September 22 issue was disappointing and rather poor in its content (except for the editorial by Roy Adams).
One of the editorials, “Ralk On” by Wilona Karimabadi, seems out of place. The author mentioned using Isaiah 40:31 as a mantra. Either she is ignorant of the meaning of the expression “mantra” or she used it on purpose, which seems to be the case. Either of these two possibilities is unacceptable. When such terms are used and tolerated in our church periodicals one can only ask: Quo vadis, Adventist Review?
Critics, or Just Critical?
Regarding “The Thing About Fortresses” and “An Open Letter to David James Duncan” (Sept. 14, 2006): In the reading of many Reviews, I have yet desired to write to authors or editors for any other reason except to encourage and support. However, both the articles by Sari Fordham and Nathan Brown have called from my heart a need to respond.
Granted God’s end time movement and its people struggle toward growth in Christ; the emphasis of words said or written should be in the direction of the need-to-know-Jesus relationship, rather than sharing with the world an article that accuses its members. I couldn’t help but groan with the church members who attend services with Fordham and who are now known as unloving and self-centered.
Instead of unfavorable judgments, we are to pray with a Daniel 9 heart, including ourselves in the body of the church; or take to heart John 17, to become one with each other. It is an “us” movement, a body that includes all of us, not an “I versus them” attitude. If a church is so unloving that she sees a good day as an “exception to the rule,” it sounds as though God may have needed her to testify of His love to her church body.
Fordham’s statement that she “feared someone would insult her [friend’s] faith and sour her on Adventism,” led me to the first chapter of the book, The Acts of the Apostles, from which I quote: “The church is God’s fortress, His city of refuge” (p. 11). We must trust God in bringing a friend to the church, to Christ’s body, in spite of weaknesses of the people. There are in the church those converted and the unconverted, the wheat and tares.
We are living in times where all will belong to one of two bodies. One needs only to do a Bible search on the word “separate” in order to understand the need of becoming insular. The church will be that word personified when Christ comes. Fordham’s opinion that “we have a troubling habit of criticizing other religions” leads me to say in all the love you can imagine Christ has for us: other religions are wrong. Look at the context of the entire Bible. The Seventh-day Adventist Church that came out of the 1844 awakening is either the remaining fold that God has raised up for such a time as this, or it is not.
Regarding denouncing the system of Catholicism, go to Scripture and compare the true worship of our Father with the Catholic standards and belief systems. It has been a joyful and peaceful experience for my husband and me to have discovered the true church by way of the Scriptures, after having been duped by the Roman Catholic system of worship. We are grateful to have come out of darkness into the light. It was from a hopeless condition that we came into a hope-filled love relationship with God.
Nathan Brown’s letter to David Duncan echoes a similar intonation of negative condemnation, though to a lesser degree. The voice we need “to prod us toward becoming a better church,” as he states, is not the one that criticizes, unwilling to become a part of the body. It is the voice of God we need.
It seemed as though both articles, especially Fordham’s, had a message: “I am ashamed of the members of the church; and I don’t trust that God is in control of His church.” We must hold confidence in God with His church, recognizing that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to do the convicting, the guiding, the finishing of the work in individuals, even those who struggle within this movement. The church is God’s agency to bring others to a saving knowledge in the plan of salvation. Again, the Seventh-day Adventist movement is either the fold or it is not; it will be shaken clean soon enough. As Christ is lifted up as the Shepherd of His people, the people will behold and be transformed.
God is in charge of saving others. Our work is to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him, pressing together with one accord for the salvation of souls. Let us be about our Father’s business, not declaring or judging the church as unfit. Christians struggle; that, in itself, is a sign of life.
All About Light
Thank you, Sarah Asaftei, for sharing heartwarming memories of the childhood menorah that still blesses your family (“Menorah Memories,” Oct. 12, 2006).
My son also enjoyed the candlelight from the menorah that sat on our dining room table as we read the stories of Christ’s birth and life this past tabernacles season. Although our menorah, like most today, is candle-powered, we find that the oil of the Holy Spirit can still shine in our hearts and point us to Christ, the Light of the world.
Walla Walla, Washington