Tuesday, June 2 2020 - 5:49 AM

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Pacific Southwest

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Experiencing Truth

I’m one of the many. I grew up in the church, went to Adventist schools, and Uncle Dan and Aunt Sue were real people to me as a child. I always described my baptism as a time when I got to show the world that I had met Jesus, and fallen in love with Him.

But once I got into the real world of work and education, and took a few hard knocks to my faith, I found the weekly services at my church boring at best, patronizing and offensive at worst. I felt like few people at church understood the way I thought about and experienced spirituality.

My attendance began to dwindle. So did that of my friends. With few friends to visit with at church, I felt I had no connection, and no reason to keep attending.

What I didn’t know was that I wasn’t alone. Six out of ten young people leave our church today. They don’t necessarily go to other churches. In fact, most of my friends who grew up in the church with me say that if they were to go to a church, it would have to be the Adventist Church. But they don’t feel connected when they’re at church. They feel like it’s just “going through the motions,” and they’d rather have something that promotes a deep soul experience.

My unchurched friends express the same desire. It seems that my whole generation wants to know that we belong to an understanding, constructive community, where we are free to express our doubts, fears and joys openly. We can’t believe something just “because it’s the truth.” We need that truth to be made into personal insight.

Without ever venturing into a church, I’ve had many conversations with these friends about spirituality, but the atmosphere was one of openness and acceptance of the other’s beliefs. Atheist, Christian, Buddhist and indifferent, we all equally shared our experiences and adventures in spirituality. However, we knew that the point of the conversation was to share our stories, not to convert the other.

Then one day my friend Sarah, assistant director of the Centre for Secular & Postmodern Studies—CSPS,  asked me to give her my opinion about youSAY, some videos her video production team had posted on YouTube. They were simple clips, interviews with people in the church, but their honesty captivated me. I kept watching for two hours!

There were clips of people talking openly about how they thought Adventism should change. There were clips on what they loved about Adventism. And there were clips of people talking about their experience with LIFEdevelopment café churches. I was fascinated with the concept, and found myself wishing there was a café church like that in my community.

I wanted to be part of a community where I could not only be accepted, but where I could participate in the celebration of the mystery of God. I wanted to be able to worship with others of like mind, without the stiffly scripted feeling of the traditional service of prayer, offering, sermon, closing song, “Happy Sabbath!” And the bleak promise to do it all again in a week’s time.

As Sarah introduced me to more of the LIFEdevelopment concepts, I began to realize that my mindset had a name: postmodern. My values are based on a desire for community more than a desire to be “right.” My friendships are based on time investments in people dear to me: time spent eating together, sharing our stories and empathizing with each other, and supporting each other through meeting each others’ needs.

I also began to see that it wasn’t the message of Adventism that had become irrelevant to me. It was the methods used to convey that message that were no longer effective. The methods used long ago were effective at that time, but just don’t have the same impact on people coming from today’s postmodern mindset.

Then I met Miroslav Pujic, director of CSPS, and he explained to me the LIFEdevelopment—LD discipleship pathway. How it was based on Jesus’ method of establishing friendships with people, and introducing truths through short stories of personal experience. I felt like I had finally met Jesus again.

I began to see a way that Adventism could again fit into my identity. Not only could it fit, but I wanted it to be part of my life. For the first time, I wanted to bring my unchurched friends to a place where we could learn and experience faith and worship of our creator together.

As an evangelism method, LD may not project the same baptismal predictions as a traditional evangelistic series. It calls for more member participation than simply knocking on doors and handing out tracts. It calls for a real investment of time, energy, and love for your neighbour. It requires an authenticity of lifestyle that transcends the 2 hours of church on Sabbath morning. But it also offers the rewards of friendship and the joy of watching God’s Spirit work in the lives of those you love.

And, as one who thought I’d lost that foundation from my childhood, this joy of knowing that my church understands me and is working to meaningfully show Jesus to my generation is priceless.

Would I recommend LIFEdevelopment? Do I think your life will be altered? No doubt.

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About Holly Messenger

Holly Messenger

writes from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

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