ENDTIME ISSUES NEWSLETTER N. 163
“Adventist Outreach Through Worship”
Jon Paulien, Ph. D.,
Chairman of the New Testament Department
Andrews University Theological Seminary
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Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D.
Retired Professor of Theology and Church History,
This newsletter may take you by surprise because it is posted less than a week apart from the last one, “A Fresh Look at the Creation/Evoluttion Debate.” With all the holidays travelling, some of you may not have had the chance yet to read the last newsletter. No problem. Rest assured that I will allow a longer breathing space before the next newsletter. I do not want to repeat the mistake sometimes I made as a teacher when I piled up too many assignments on the students.
The major reason for posting this newsletter so soon, is because I forgot to announce in the last newsletter Prof. Jon Paulien’s two hours live interview on 3ABN this coming Thursday, January 4, 2007, from 8:00 to 10:00 p. m. Central Time. The interview is entitled “Simply Revelation,” which is the area of Paulien’s expertise. For the past twenty years he has studied, written books, taught Seminary Classes, and lectured in many parts of the world on the Book of Revelation. Since among the 35,000 readers of this newsletter, there are many who watch 3ABN, I wanted to be sure that you do not miss the chance to benefit from this informative interview.
Incidentally. Prof. Paulien has just started a website called The Battle of Armageddon, where he plans to post a weekly meditation on Revelation as well as Bible studies on current events. The address of his website is: www.thebattleofarmageddon.com. A number of significant studies will be posted during the coming months. I encourage you to visit his website as often as you are able.
To better acquaint you with Prof. Paulien, I decided to post in this newsletter a chapter taken from his book Present Truth in the Real World. The chapter is entitled “Outreach through Worship.” I read this chapter for my meditation the other morning, and I can truly say that it spoke to my spiritual needs. The book is included in the CD-ROM ALBUM offer given below and is available at your local ABC.
The theme of the essay is how to make Adventist worship services “user-friendly” to secular visitors. Paulien spells out six specific guidelines that can improve the effectiveness of our worship services in reaching secularly minded people. I was impressed especially by the last part of the essay which deals with the need for preachers to be genuine and authentic in their personal life in order for them to be able to touch the lives of others. Sooner or later members or visitors can tell if the preacher is “living a lie.” You should find the essay very timely.
At this time we are offering a CD-ROM ALBUM containing all of Prof. Paulien books and articles (about 3000 pages of research) for only $35.00 instead of the regular price of $50.00. The price includes the airmailing expenses to any overseas destination. To order the CD ALBUM with all of Prof. Paulien books and articles, simply click here: http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/PaulienAD/ If you have a problem in ordering online, contact us by phone (269) 471-2915 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
MUSIC IN CHURCH WORSHIP
In the first part of his essay, Prof. Paulien speaks of the controversy between traditional and contemporary music in Adventist worship. He addresses the issue in a very pastoral way. I would like to add a few comments specifically directed to the theology of music. It seems to me that the controversy over the kind of music used in church worship is fundamentally a theological problem, because music is like a glass prism through which God’s eternal verities shine. Music breaks this light into a spectrum of many beautiful truths. The hymns sang and the instruments played during the church service, express what a church believes about God, His nature and His revelation for our present life and ultimate destiny.
Music defines the nature of the worship experience by revealing the manner and object of worship. When music is oriented toward pleasing self, then worship reflects our culture elevation of people over God. The hedonistic bent of our culture can be seen in the increasing popularity of various forms of beat music used for church worship, because they provide easy self-gratification. Heavy beat music tends to stimulate people physically more than elevating them spiritually.
In chapter 2 of the symposium The Christian and Rock Music, I discuss the close connection that exists between music and theology. During Christian history the production of music has been largely influenced by the evolution of the understanding of God. The historical shift from the transcendental understanding of “God beyond us” during the medieval period, to the immanental conception of “God for us” during the sixteenth century reformation, and to “God within us” perception from the seventeenth-century to our times, is reflected in the gradual evolution of church music from the medieval chant, to the Lutheran chorale, to today’s religious rock.
The modern promotion of a strong immanental “God within us” conception, has caused people to seek an immediate emotional experience of God through the stimulus of rhythmic and loud pop music. Such music, sometimes used during the church service, reflects to a large extent the theological outlook of the congregation and, especially of the church pastor.
The choice of appropriate church music is crucial especially for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, because through our music we teach and proclaim the end-time truths entrusted to us. Regretfully, much of the praise music used in Adventist churches today, reflects the uncritical acceptance of the worship style of other churches. Most of the praise songs are what we may call a “generic brands,” because they tell very little about what we Adventist believe. They are mass produced by music companies for all the Christian churches. A visitor listening to these songs in an Adventist worship service, may conclude that we are no different than the Baptists or Pentecostals as far as our music is concerned.
I would seem that the Adventist musical vein dried up in 1962 when Wayne Hooper wrote “We have this Hope that Burns within our Hearts.” To my knowledge that was the last Adventist Hymn that was composed for our new hymnal. For me it is hard to believe that we no longer have gifted musicians capable of composing fresh, contemporary songs, that articulate the beauty of our Adventist message about the Sabbath, Second Advent, and Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary for us.
I wish that an annual “FESTIVAL OF ADVENTIST MUSIC” could be organized, where Adventist musicians from all over the world could present their new praise songs that embody the spirit of the Adventist message. The songs that are voted the best could eventually be published and used during the Praise Song service of Adventist churches. What do you think of this idea? Don’t you think that it would be nice if any person visiting an Adventist church could tell even from the Praise Songs Service that there is beauty in the Adventist message.
Our challenge is to help our rock and roll generation to capture the vision of that glorious day that is coming when they will be able to experience the most exciting audiovisual extravaganza they have ever imagined–the glorious coming of the Rock of Ages. The band of angels that will accompany Him will produce the most thundering sounds this planet has ever heard. The splendor of His presence and the vibrations from the sound of His voice, will be so powerful to annihilate the unbelievers and to bring new life to believers.
Such a glorious event can fire up the imagination of Adventist musicians today to compose new hymns and praise songs that will appeal to many who are looking for meaning and hope in their lives. A song that comes to mind that used to be sang by the Heritage Singers, is “Welcome Home Children,” by Adrian King. The song helps to capture the delight and emotional excitement of the glorious day that is coming when “heaven’s gates will open wide and all who love the Lord will enter in.” The Lord Himself will greet His children, saying, “Welcome home children, this is a place I prepared for you. Welcome home children, now that your work on earth is through. Welcome home children, you who have followed so faithfully.”
New Adventist songs, like “Welcome Home Children,” which are theologically correct and musically inspiring, can enrich Adventist worship and appeal to those who are receptive to the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Tell me what you think of this proposal?
The Christian and Rock Music: A Study on the Biblical Principles of Music
If you are interested in the subject of “Worship Music,” I would highly recommend our symposium The Christian and Rock Music. The book is written in a popular style by seven scholars of six different nationalities. With the exception of myself, all the contributors are trained musicians with academic music degrees, and are passionately involved in enriching the worship experience of their congregations.
The aim of this symposium is not to dismiss all contemporary music as “rock,” because there are contemporary songs with music and words which are suitable for divine worship. Rather, the aim is to clarify how the music, words, and the manner of singing should conform to the Biblical principles of worship music.
You will be surprised to discover that the Bible differentiates between the secular music used for social entertainment and the sacred music worthy of the worship of God. At a time when this distinction is blurred, and many are promoting modified versions of secular rock music for church use, it is important to remember the biblical summon to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (1 Chron 16:20; cf. Ps 29:2; 96:9).
The Christian and Rock Music is a timely book that clearly delineates the issues and provide biblical answers to the problems which have caused so many Christians to stumble. For concerned Christians, this book may well be a musical survival kit in our compromising society.
You can order a copy of The Christian and Rock Music ($25.00, postage paid), simply by clicking here: http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=bookstore&Product_Code=BP-CRM&Category_Code=bookstore If you have a problem ordering the book online, call us at (269) 471-2915 or email us your order at email@example.com. We guarantee to process your order immediately.
The highlights of The Christian and Rock Music are summarized in a two hours MP3 audio lecture, which is found in the MP3 AUDIO ALBUM containing 22 audio lectures. You can listen to these lectures which I present in many parts of the world, while driving, if your car is equipped with a CD player. The regular price of the MP3 AUDIO ALBUM is $100.00, but for this time we offer it for only $50.00. You can order the MP3 AUDIO ALBUM online simply by clicking here: http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=bookstore&Product_Code=AV-MP3&Category_Code=audio_video If you have a problem in ordering the album online, call us at (269) 471-2915 or email us your order at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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“Adventist Outreach Through Worship”
Jon Paulien, Ph. D.,
Chairman of the New Testament Department
Andrews University Theological Seminary
One of the great “hot potatoes” in the Adventist Church today is the subject of worship. That must not prevent us, however, from noting the impact that Adventist worship styles makes or does not make in a secular world. When secular people begin to come to an Adventist Church, are there ways we can make them feel more at home?
While public evangelism often succeeds in increasing baptisms, it does not always result in sustained church growth. One reason for this is that the people didn’t join a Saturday morning church. They joined a church that meets five nights a week, uses lots of visual aids, and has exciting music by professionals or with taped accompaniment. They are then expected to settle for once a week, with few visual aids if any, and a piano or organ played with a minimum of enthusiasm. A little reflection indicates that the quality of Sabbath worship is crucial to sustaining church growth, not just among secular people, but in general.
The Drawing Power of Vibrant Church Worship
Many SDA churches, therefore, are now finding that a relevant and vibrant worship service has a powerful, word-of-mouth drawing power upon the unchurched. Those who have fallen away from church attendance because the worship service seemed boring, manipulative, and out of touch with their lives, are often open to giving the church another chance when the worship service is interesting and speaks powerfully to contemporary issues.
Part of this worship renewal includes a use of contemporary language and harmonic idioms. While this has appeared threatening to some, history teaches us that revivals of faith are usually accompanied by revivals of Christian song-writing. The need for fresh melodies, styles, and lyrics lies in the fact that faith must touch base with real life if it is to become the everyday experience that is needed to overcome secular drift. Contemporary secular songs, though often presenting messages that are contrary to the gospel, nevertheless express deeply the struggles of life in today’s world.
When Christian music demonstrates an awareness of those contemporary struggles it has a powerful influence in behalf the gospel’s solutions to those struggles. Thus, it is not surprising that many of the great hymns utilized contemporary lyrics and melodies to bring Christianity home in a relevant way to earlier eras. We must not be afraid to be as bold as the hymn-writers of the past.
A Youth Church Worship Service Experiment
Before I continue, let me explain that I too once feared that contemporary music might lead us in a dangerous direction. I have now changed my mind. Let me explain how it happened. Some time ago our home church face a lengthy period of time without a pastor. As part of its worship plan the church invited the youth (ages 14-22) to present a “youth worship service” on a monthly basis. This included contemporary praise songs (no drums, very low key), a dramatic sketch illustrating the theme of the sermon, and a sermon that spoke directly to contemporary issues.
A number of exciting things happened almost overnight. The youth group for the first time felt that it was a valued and accepted part of the church. Young people got excited about the chance to contribute. Not only did the youth group grow rapidly, but they brought parents and friends, and soon attendance in our church more than doubled (no parking available after 9:20 AM!).
What impressed me most, however, was what happened to my own children. Up until then they had expressed the usual disinterest in everything that happened in the church service with the exception of the children’s story. But during the youth services their eyes and ears were entirely up front. I knew this not only from the looks on their faces and the unused Magna-Doodles lying on the pew, but from what happened the rest of the week. All week long I could hear them singing the songs that they had heard and seen on the screen during the worship service. But even more impressive is the fact that I often heard the three-year-old and the four-year-old exchanging one-liners from the sermon in the course of the week!
Somehow the use of contemporary songs, and the visual medium of the skit communicated to children too small to dissimulate that the sermon was also relevant to them. Somehow, in a subtle way I do not understand, my children perceived that worship was worth their time and energy. Please keep in mind that we do not even have a television set in our house so our children are not “jaded” by hours of bleary-eyed saturation in the secular world.
That was when I realized that none of us are fully insulated from contemporary life. Though we may shun the television and radio, we are influenced nevertheless. When you call a bank, a store, or the credit-card company they put you on hold and guess what comes over the phone! When you go to the grocery store or the shopping mall to obtain items necessary for life what kind of music comes over the PA system? It is impossible to live totally in a world other than our own. When worship fails to speak to the world we live in, it is easy to live a double life. One is the life that we live when we are in church or associate with fellow Christians. The other is the life we live as we work and play. Such a compartmentalized life will neither save us from secular drift, nor attract secular people to our faith.
A Contradictory Example
Some time after the “youth experience” in our church I visited a major city in a third world country. In that city were two pastors, one who pastored a “celebration” church, and the other who pastored an “anti-celebration” church. It was hoped that a joint worship service of the churches might help to build relationships and understanding. I stayed at the home of the “anti-celebration” pastor. An interesting thing happened at sundown on Friday. The television and the VCR were turned on and throughout the Sabbath hours contemporary Christian music videos from Adventist groups played in endless cycle. Much of the music was of a “racier” variety than that used at the “celebration” church in town. I was stunned.
I said to the conference official who had brought me to that city, “This man opposes using this kind of music at the eleven o’clock hour, but enjoys it the rest of the week. Do you realize what this does? It means that worship is the one hour of the week that is totally cut off from the rest of his experience. The Sabbath morning worship service is almost guaranteed not to speak to what matters most in his day to day life.” I say this not to be critical of a very godly pastor, but to illustrate how easily worship becomes isolated from our everyday experience, an obligation to be performed, instead of being the driving force behind our outreach for God.
I have learned one more thing from my church’s short-lived experiment with contemporary Christianity. The youth services are now a thing of the past in our little church. The attendance has dropped back to previous levels. The youth have settled back into their isolation. My children no longer pay attention to the worship service. Things are back to normal! I have learned that, as a group, change is a very wrenching experience for church people, even when the results are dramatic.
The Danger of Forcing Drastic Changes
We must not forget that many people do appreciate a more traditional worship style. Many of the great hymns of the church still speak powerfully. There is nothing inherently wrong with the traditional service. If it is working well where you are, don’t throw it out! Not only do many people prefer the traditional style, but maintaining it is has become a matter of conscience for them. It is a terrible thing to force a people to go against their conscience.
I have, therefore, concluded from my own experience, and those of others I have worked with, that it is usually unwise to attempt to make large changes in the worship style of a local church, even though change may be a positive thing for many. Too many souls are troubled, too many hearts are broken. This world has enough tears already! And it hardly seems fair to take a church that has functioned in one place for decades and “tear it away” from those who have given their lives to it. I plead that those who have a passion for reaching the secular mind have compassion on those who do not. Coercion and force are tools of Satan, even when exerted in a “good cause.” It is a terrible thing to be forced to go against one’s conscience.
It is Better to Start a New Congregation
If worship style is to be a central component of outreach to a secular world, it may be better to start a fresh congregation dedicated to outreach on a contemporary basis. Those who prefer a more traditional style can continue to go where that style remains in force. Just as individuals have unique gifts that can be applied to God’s work, so churches may also be gifted to carry out tasks that other churches could not accomplish. I must, therefore, plead with those who prefer the traditional idiom, not to burden the lives of those who bravely strive to raise up new churches with bitter and endless criticism.
I realize that such “praise churches” will gain some of the best and brightest from other Adventist churches and thus cannot go unnoticed. But this will be a wondrous opportunity to speak the most difficult, yet greatest words ever spoken by a sinner, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” (John 3:30) There is room in our church for more than one model of worship, just as there is room for more than one model of ministry.
“User-Friendly” Service for Secular People
In many geographical areas of this country, however, there are hardly enough Adventists in a community to keep one church afloat, much less two. In such circumstances it makes little sense to orient an entire church, kicking and screaming, into targeting exclusively the classes of people that are most difficult to reach, especially when such targeting involves spiritual risk. The best that one could hope for from the worship service in such a setting is that the service would at least not be hostile to a secular seeker. The goal would be to design a church service that can, on the one hand, meet the needs of traditional Adventists, while, at the same time, providing a more “user-friendly” environment for secular people.
In the following I offer six suggestions that could be introduced into any Seventh-day Adventist Church without a board action. None of these suggestions compromise the basics that are vital to the spiritual health of more traditional people in Adventist congregations, yet, if followed, these suggestions would make the worship service more inviting and attractive to secular people.
Avoid Adventist Jargon
First of all, it helps a great deal to utilize everyday language, the kind of language that is understood on the street, in all parts of the worship service rather than the in-house lingo of Adventism. The use of common, everyday language is important for at least two reasons. One reason is that God has always gone out of His way to communicate with human beings in their contemporary culture and idiom. While everyday language may at times seem a limited tool for expressing the realities of the spiritual realm, it makes up for any limitations in the power with which it can unify the spiritual realm with everyday life.
A second reason to use common language is that it expresses caring. When we go out of our way to communicate with people in a way that meets them where they are, it communicates that we care enough to understand where they are coming from. They matter to us. When people know that they matter to other humans it makes it easier for them to believe that they matter also to God.
To avoid Adventist jargon will not kill anybody. No one will leave the church if we stop using words like “investment” and “light” in our unique way. This is not a major sacrifice for someone who is accustomed to more traditional style of worship. It lets people from a variety of backgrounds know that they are welcome. They don’t need to learn a new language as an initiation. Where hymns, Scripture readings, or other worship aids are in the obscure language of the past, a short, well-prepared introduction can help people relate to the original setting of the language and, thus, meaningfully engage with the sentiments expressed. The bottom line here is to do all we can to make sure that everything we do in the worship service is readily understandable to the secular person who may wander in or be invited by a member.
Worship Must Have a High “Take Home Value”
A second change that will make a major difference in how “user-friendly” a church is to secular people is to make sure that whatever happens on Sabbath morning has high “take-home value,” in other words, is usable on Monday morning. How many Seventh-day Adventist sermons are worth a dime on the street? How often do our sermons have any impact on the way we really live? Are we just spending excess time? I tremble to think that if a thousand people attend a church service and nothing significant happens for an hour, you’ve wasted half a work-year of life. Preaching needs to have high take-home value. People need to be hearing something that they can apply on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings. And you can do that without compromising the faith one iota.
“Ministers should not preach sermon after sermon on doctrinal subjects alone. Practical godliness should find a place in every discourse. (Ellen White, RH, April 23, 1908).
“In laboring in a new field, do not think it your duty to say at once to the people, We are Seventh-day Adventists; we believe that the seventh day is the Sabbath; we believe in the non-immortality of the soul. This would often erect a formidable barrier between you and those you wish to reach. Speak to them, as you have opportunity, upon points of doctrine on which you can agree. Dwell on the necessity of practical godliness. Give them evidence that you are a Christian, desiring peace, and that you love their souls. Let them see that you are conscientious. Thus you will gain their confidence; and there will be time enough for doctrines. Let the heart be won, the soil prepared, and then sow the seed, presenting in love the truth as it is in Jesus.” (Ellen White, GW 119,120).
While Ellen White probably had geography in mind when she wrote this counsel, the secular environment certainly qualifies as a “new field” for us at this time. Few people have heard of us, few know what we believe. For such individuals, a demonstration of practical, living Christianity will be an attractive force that will invite them to inquire further into godliness.
I have found that when I teach people how to live I offend no one but develop all kinds of interest in the study of the Scriptures and the overcoming of sin in the life. This counsel should be so obvious that one wonders why practical godliness does not ring from every Adventist pulpit every Sabbath. The answer may lie in a chilling statement that lays open the grounds why my own preaching has often been ineffective: “It is a sad fact that the reason why many dwell so much on theory and so little on practical godliness is that Christ is not abiding in their hearts. They do not have a living connection with God. (Ellen White, 4T 395,396).
A Concern for Quality Worship Service
A third area that makes a big difference with secular people is a concern for excellence, for quality in everything that we do as a church. Too often Adventist churches look shabby in the extreme. The choice of participants and the content of the worship service is clearly an afterthought. The sermon and special music seem thrown together at the last minute. Some Adventists may tolerate shabbiness, but secular people consider shabbiness to be an insult both to their intelligence and to their sense of stewardship of time.
I think we can learn a great deal on this point from the Disney Corporation. A major reason that the Disney Corporation is successful is because it insists on excellence in every detail of its parks. You will never see a garbage dumpster around the corner of a building in a Disney park. They do not want a single thing to detract from the visitor’s experience. There is excellence in the music, excellence in the decor, excellence in every detail.
The same is generally true of television. While the content may be contrary to the gospel, it is usually served up with supreme care. Hours of work go into every minute. This is particularly true in the case of commercials. Multiplied hours and huge amounts of dollars are spent to make a single minute as productive as possible in its impact on the viewer.
Although we demand quality in the products we buy, the motels we stay in or the programming we may enjoy, we somehow expect a secular person to enjoy a half-hearted sermon and a thoroughly butchered song. But instead of enjoyment that person will report to his or her friends on Monday morning, “You should have seen the sorry excuse for a church service I saw this weekend. There was a singer there who must have had her throat removed in an operation, it was so bad. And the pastor had no idea what he was talking about, he was unbelievable.” “Oh, what church was that?”
All it takes is one report like that and you have destroyed the church’s credibility with not only one, but five or six, maybe ten. Is excellence that difficult? Is the worship service so unimportant that it doesn’t matter? Isn’t worshiping God worth the very best that we can offer, whether we’re preaching, singing, or praying? We have come to a place in earth’s history where we need to be the best that we can be for God. Less than the best isn’t good enough anymore. In saying this I must confess that as a pastor I had much too flippant an attitude toward the parts of the worship service that I didn’t “star” in personally. The music, the Scripture, prayer, and even the announcements are worthy of careful planning and skilled execution.
Having said this, I would like to qualify it just a bit so as not to discourage the many small churches that may seem devoid of world-class talent. On the subject of excellence, it may be helpful to make some distinction between mistakes of enthusiasm and mistakes of carelessness. What I am talking here about are mistakes of carelessness and neglect. Just as secular people are forgiving about social mistakes if one is genuine and open, they can also tell the difference between sincere effort and carelessness, or between enthusiasm and phoniness.
Use Visual, Attention-Grabbing Devices
A fourth area that can make a difference is directly related to the reality of the media. Worship needs to be more visual and attention-grabbing than before. What do people do with those little radar guns that turn all the channels on the TV? It drives me nuts. They sit there--click, watch for five seconds; click, on to the next channel; click, on to the next channel, ranging through. What are they doing? Looking for something worth spending time on. How long do they take to decide? Five or ten seconds per channel at the most.
Preacher, if you have never thought about this before, fasten your seat-belt. The kind of people we are talking about here, many of whom sit in your pews, have decided after ten seconds whether the sermon is worth listening to because they have been trained to make those kind of decisions. Thus, the very first sentence becomes “do or die.” Speakers these days must grab people right at the start and then keep them listening throughout. People’s attention cannot be taken for granted anymore. To grab attention is in harmony with the example of Christ who had a fascinating way of asking those little rhetorical questions like, “Which of these two sons really obeyed his father?” In that society, a story and a question like that turned the temple court into an E. F. Hutton seminar. Today, we may only have five or ten seconds to make a case for people to listen to the sermon.
Music, if it is done well, can enhance the attention quotient of a worship service. Equally effective is the use of visual aids to communication, such as drama. While the word “drama” may frighten some Adventists, we make powerful use of drama in nearly every Adventist church on Sabbath morning. We call it the children’s story. And guess who gets the most out of the children’s story? The two-year-olds usually ignore it. The children’s story is there for the adults! They would be upset if you didn’t have one.
You can’t fool me. I start dramatizing a Bible story for the kids, and then peek out of the corner of my eye. All the adults are leaning forward with their eyes as big as saucers, they don’t want to miss anything. So I really lay it on thick; I lay down, I snore, stand on my head (well almost!), all kinds of things. But if the kids love it, the adults love it even more. Some of these same adults would be upset if we had a “drama” or showed a video. Then I get into the pulpit and watch the same adults settling down for their snooze! Case closed. Drama brings spiritual lessons home with contemporary power the way few things can.
Worship Must Have a Strong Spiritual Tone
The fifth matter that is critical to worship renewal is strong spiritual tone. Truth is not enough to keep people in church today. Most backsliders still believe the truth. My wife’s mother, for example, spent twenty-five years out of the church. But she could argue any Baptist under the table over the Sabbath! Truth is not enough to keep people anymore, it must be combined with spiritual life. People need to experience a living God. When secular people decide to come to church it is because they sense that the living God is present there. Secular people are drawn to churches where the people know God and know how to teach others to know God.
There is nothing un-Adventist about spirituality; there is nothing heretical about prayer and Bible study. Right now in our church of about a hundred members there are three prayer groups meeting every week. There is increasing interest in our denomination in family devotions, prayer, and spiritual life in the church. The concepts discussed in Part Two of this book are one way to approach the issue of spirituality in the church.
When secular people start seeking faith, they are looking for evidence that God is real and that other people experience Him. A church made up of people who know God and who know how to teach others how to know Him, will draw secular people in as with a magnet. Everything that is done, whether it is the sermon, the special music, or the prayer needs to be driven by the spiritual vitality of those who participate. Secular people are not easily fooled. If the spiritual life of the church is phony, it will fool no one, certainly not its own youth.
Worship Must be Genuine and Authentic
This brings us to the sixth area of potential improvement in Adventist worship, and probably the most important one. People today are crying out for examples of genuine, authentic Christianity; or to use street terms, being real. Not long ago I was sitting at dinner with a number of leading thinkers in the Adventist Church. At one point in the conversation, they turned to me and said, “Jon, what do you think is the greatest need of the Adventist Church right now?” Almost without thinking I responded, “To stop living a lie!”
Well that stopped the discussion right in its tracks, but the more I thought about my casual reply, the more compelling it became. So often in Adventist churches, people are just going through the motions, playing church. Why do you go to church? Do you go to church because your mother did? Or because you want your children to get a religious education? Or do you go because . . . just because you go? Is church-going just a game we play? “Well, that’s out of the way, now we can have fun the rest of the week.” Secular people seem to have a sixth sense about who is genuine and who is not. They can smell phony Christians a mile away.
What does it mean to be genuine and authentic? Authenticity is when the inside is in harmony with the outside. Living a lie is where the inside and the outside are two different things. It was reported to me that at a meeting of Christian leaders the discussion became so hot that they began shouting back and forth and some swear words were used. A couple of ministers even threatened each other physically. Suddenly at seven-thirty that evening a knock came on the door and someone entered and said, “Don’t you know what time it is? The people are here for the prayer meeting.”
The fellow who had been right at the center of the fight walked out in front of the assembly and said, “Isn’t it good when brethren to dwell together in unity? Isn’t it good to be together with the people of God tonight?” If I had been there it would have made me ill. Why did he do it? Was it to protect his image as a Christian leader? The reality is that the phony is usually the last person to know that everyone knows he or she is a phony.
What would be true Christian genuineness in that situation? To act as if nothing had happened would be to live a lie. Should the leader have come out swearing instead? No, that would not be Christian. I would hope that between the office and the pulpit he might have gotten the realization that something was dreadfully wrong. It would be genuine to come up before the people and say, “You know, we’ve just had a meeting backstage. And frankly, some of us didn’t behave much like Christ. I’m really not worthy to stand up here and run this meeting. But I know that in Christ there is a way to be forgiven and a way to change. First of all, I need to apologize to these brethren over here. And second of all, we need to kneel down so that YOU can pray for US because we need it desperately.” That would be genuine. And secular people would find that kind of religion much more attractive than one that is always sickly, sweetly smiling when it’s not really for real.
I remember a student who enjoyed expressing his irritation at “them,” the administrators of the Adventist Church. Right and wrong seem so much easier to determine when you are not at the center of decision-making processes. Since he was a fun-loving, unorthodox type of guy, he certainly did not fit the typical “mold” of Adventist administration. Nevertheless, because of his considerable administrative and people skills, I warned him that he was in real danger of becoming one of “them” some day. So it was with some amusement and no little excitement that I greeted the news sometime later that he had indeed become one of “them.” Would he maintain the carefree and independent spirit so natural to his personality, or would he try to fit into the mold?
Some years later we were assigned to the same church committee. At break time I moved across the room to greet him with a high five and a, “Hey, man, how’s it going?” He stood up regally in his three-piece suit, put out his hand formally and said in a measured voice, “Hello, Jon, so nice to see you again.” He had become one of “them!” He was now playing the role of his new position, a role so unlike his previous demeanor. I found myself quite disheartened by the encounter. Christianity must be more than just an image that we project. (To tell the other half of the story, I am glad to report that he has since relaxed into his new duties and become much more human again!)
When I started out in ministry I used to get a splitting headache every Sabbath. It was very frustrating because on the very day that I needed to be at my best for God, I was feeling my worst. A couple of years later it finally dawned on me (some people are slow learners) that the reason for the Sabbath headaches was that I was trying to be someone I was not in front of the people. I was playing a role. I was being what I thought people wanted me to be rather than what I truly ought to be in Christ. God helped me finally to understand that He wanted me to be myself for him, not Billy Graham, or H. M. S. Richards, or Roland Hegstad. Just be Jon Paulien for Christ. What a relief! What a blessing! I know from sharing this with Adventists around the world that the reality of “Sabbath headaches” is more widespread than I would like to think.
Be Honest in Your Devotional Encounter with God
The most effective path to true authenticity is to cultivate genuineness each day in a devotional encounter with God. Christ can help you to see yourself as others see you. In Christ it is possible to learn how to be yourself. Certainly you cannot be transparent with people if you are not transparent with God. Have you ever lied to God in prayer? “Dear Lord, I love You so much”; when really, in the back of your mind you are thinking, “Boy, I’d like to punch You right in the Nose.” Yet God prefers that we tell it like it is in prayer. Jesus certainly did. “Why have you forsaken me?” If Jesus could be honest with God, it cannot be a sin for us! The Lord wants to hear our deepest needs, our deepest feelings, yes--even our anger. Anything but trying to fool him with sweet-talking words that mean nothing.
Do you know why confession and repentance are essential to salvation? Because confession and repentance are simply acknowledging the truth about oneself. Not to confess and not to repent is to live a lie before the world. It is to be more concerned with one’s image than with reality. Do you remember that Jesus said something about dirty cups with a shiny exterior? We are all dirty cups. But there is one thing uglier than a dirty cup and that is a dirty cup that goes around telling everyone how clean it is. In the light of the cross the only authentic existence is to live in continual and transparent repentance.
Willingness to Live the Truth
I have learned as a biblical scholar how easy it is to make the Bible say whatever you want it to say. One’s interpretation often arises out of the need to protect one’s personal failings and shortcomings from coming to the light of Scripture and the Spirit’s gentle persuasion. Our interpretation of Scripture can be made to serve as a wall of denial to protect us from having to acknowledge our sins and weaknesses to God and to others. I have learned that when I sit down to “exegete” Scripture, it must be with the prayer, “Lord, I want the truth, no matter what the cost.”
We are often willing to learn the truth as long as it doesn’t cost us anything. But knowing and living the truth can cost you your job, your friends, your family, everything that matters most to you. It can mean carrying a cross for the rest of your days. So don’t pray such a prayer if you don’t mean it. I guarantee you, however, that God delights to answer the prayer, “I want the truth, no matter what the cost.” He delights to give you the truth. But along with the truth there is a price to pay.
Willingness to Acknowledge One’s Failures
Truth-telling has not been an easy experience for me. I find myself sabotaged at times at the most inward levels of my being. Natural defense mechanisms threaten my very best intentions. Recently, for example, I tried to analyze why a particular preacher had such a powerful effect on me. It dawned on me after a while that nearly every illustration in his sermons came from personal experience, and that almost all of those illustrations were of his failures and not of his successes. I then compared with my own preaching. I realized that I featured only my successes and not my failures. I was smitten to the core of my being. Another’s confession was my road to confession. The truly authentic Christian will be slow to boast and quick to forgive, because such a person will see their own depravity clearly.
As we reach out to the secular people in our communities, we will discover that one of the best ways to find the point of contact in another person is through our own confession of need. People are reluctant to make themselves vulnerable to others. But if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with them (at the appropriate time and in an appropriate way) they may feel comfortable to share their deepest needs and concerns with us.
I have learned, therefore, that I must take my prayer for truth to a deeper level yet. I need more than just biblical truth in order to be effective for God, I need the truth about myself. I need to discover when my subconscious defense mechanisms are defeating my very best intentions. The perilous prayer that opens the depths goes something like this, “Lord, I open myself to your inspection (see Heb 4:12,13). See me as I truly am. Teach me the truth about myself, no matter what the cost. Help me to see myself as You see me.”
This prayer is a frightening but marvelous opening to the journaling experience. When we open ourselves to God’s inspection, He will gently and kindly lead us to things we could never discover any other way. And He will not open to us more than we can handle (see John 16:12) at the time we pray.
“The closer you come to Jesus, the more faulty you will appear in your own eyes; for your vision will be clearer, and your imperfections will be seen in broad and distinct contrast to his perfect nature. This is evidence that Satan’s delusions have lost their power; that the vivifying influence of the Spirit of God is arousing you. No deep-seated love for Jesus can dwell in the heart that does not realize its own sinfulness. The soul that is transformed by the grace of Christ will admire his divine character; but if we do not see our own moral deformity, it is unmistakable evidence that we have not had a view of the beauty and excellence of Christ.” (Ellen White, SC 64-65).
Please allow a momentary digression. I do fear in regard to authenticity, that some Adventists may take it as a license to dump on others whatever gossip and negative suspicions they may collect in the course of church life. Some personality types love to “tell it like it is” in the most brutal ways. To all such, I commend the gentleness of Jesus who said, “I have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12) Jesus cares enough about our feelings to wait for the right moment before sharing something that may be hard to bear. And the next verse (John 16:13) makes clear that the Spirit can often communicate what human beings cannot. Authenticity does not require us to tell the whole truth in any or every circumstance. It does require us not to live a lie.
In conclusion, as I come in contact with ex-SDAs, the number one excuse for not returning to church is, “They all claim to be so holy, yet they do this and this and that.” Now such excuses may at times be exaggerated, but if there is one thing above all others that will draw secular people into a church it is the sense that people who are living real lives with real struggles and real failures are, in Christ, growing in grace and in love for one another as failing but forgiven people. Nothing gives me more courage in faith than to realize that my fellow brothers and sisters struggle with the same things I do and that I can face my problems together with others who care about me. The greatest need of Adventism in the 90s is to make an end of living a lie.
UPCOMING WEEKEND SEMINARS
As a service to our subscribers, I am listing the date and the location of the upcoming seminars for the months of January and February 2007. I wish to extend my personal, warm invitation to all who are able to attend one of the followings rallies.
JANUARY 5-6: ROCHESTER SDA CHURCH
Location: 1100 37th Street NW, Rochester, Minnesota 55901.
For information call Pastor Stanley Wilkinson at (507) 289-6550 or (507) 261-5140.
JANUARY 12-13: KITCHENER-WATERLOO SDA CHURCH
Location: 235 Williamsburg, Kitchener, ON N2E 1K8, Canada.
For information call Pastor Jiwan Moon at 519-893-6818
JANUARY 19-20: ST. LOUIS: NORTHSIDE SDA CHURCH
Location: 9001 Lucas-Hunt Drive, St. Louis, MO 63136
For information call Pastor Eddie Polite at (314) 868-0707 or (314) 226-3186
FEBRUARY 2-3: COLUMBIA FIRST SDA CHURCH
Location: 243 Riverchase Way, Lexington, South Carolina 29072
For information call Pastor Dean Carlisle at (803) 356-6769 or (803) 791-1135
FEBRUARY 9-10;: DENVER: ARVADA SDA CHURCH
Location: 7090 West 64th Avenue, Arvada, Colorado 80003
For information call Pastor Gordon Anic at (303) 437-6636.
FEBRUARY 16-17: ENGLAND: EDMONTON SDA CHURCH
Location: The Friday evening service will be held at the Edmonton SDA Church located at 11 Cuckoo Hall Lane, Edmonton, London N9 8SD. On Saturday the services will be held at St. Peter’s Church Hall, Bounces Road, Edmonton, London N98LE.
FEBRUARY 23-24: LONDON: PLUMSTEAD SDA CHURCH
Location: 11-15 Plumstead High Street, London SE18 1SA
For information call Pastor Simeon Esson at 020 8857 4603 or 07985 408 669.
ANNOUNCEMENTS OF SERVICES AND PRODUCTS
SPECIAL NEW YEAR OFFER ON THE 6 ALBUMS CONTAINING ALL OF BACCHIOCCHI’S PUBLICATIONS & RECORDINGS: ONLY $100.00, INSTEAD OF $700.00 UNTIL JANUARY 15, 2007
Until January 15, 2007, you can order the complete package of all my DVD and CD recordings, consisting of 6 Albums, for only $100.00, instead of the regular price of $700.00. You can see the picture of all the SIX ALBUMS and read a detailed description of them, just by clicking at this URL address: http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/holidayoffer.htm
You can order the complete package of 6 DVD and CD Albums for only $100.00, instead of the regular price of $700.00, in four different ways:
(1) Online: By clicking here:
(2) Phone: By calling us at (269) 471-2915 to give us your credit card number and postal address.
(3) Email: By emailing your order to
<firstname.lastname@example.org>. Be sure to provide your postal address, credit card number, and expiration date.
(4) Regular Mail: By mailing a check for $150.00 to BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVES, 4990 Appian Way, Berrien Springs, Michigan 4990, USA. We guarantee to process your order immediately.
CD-ROM WITH PROF. JON PAULIEN BOOKS & ARTICLES
Prof. Jon Paulien is one of the most respected Adventist scholars. Besides serving as the chairman of the New Testament at Andrews University Theological Seminary, he writes and lectures extensively in many parts of the world.
Until now Prof. Paulien books and articles were available only in a printed form, often unavailable at local ABC stores. In view of my indebtedness to Prof. Paulien’s scholarship, I have offered to help him to place all of his books and articles on a CD disk. This makes it possible with the ACROBAT global search, to locate immediately what he has written on biblical texts or current topics.
The newly released CD-ROM contains more than a dozen of books and scores of articles written by Prof. Paulien during the past 20 years of research. You will find in this collection a priceless resource to enrich your understanding and experience of biblical truths. Prof. Paulien examines fundamental biblical beliefs in a profound and yet popular way. He is a recognized expert on the book of Revelation. Several of his books will help you to unlock the secrets of Revelation.
The special introductory offer of the newly released CD-ROM ALBUM with all of Prof. Paulien books and articles is only $35.00 instead of the regular price of $50.00. The price includes the airmailing expenses to any overseas destination.
To order the newly released CD ALBUM with all of Prof. Paulien books and articles, simply click here:
If you have a problem ordering online, email us your order at <email@example.com>, giving us your address, credit card number, and expiration date. You can also order by phone, calling us at (269) 471-2915. We will take your order by phone.
BED & BREAKFAST FACILITIES IN LONDON, ENGLAND
If your travel plans call for a stop in London, you will be pleased to learn about a most gracious Adventist couple that offer the best accommodation and breakfast I have ever enjoyed. It has become my home away from home when in London. See details at: http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/Promotions/BED&BREAKFAST.htm
TAGNET SPECIAL NEW WEB HOSTING OFFER for Adventist churches and members. TAGnet provides an incredible number of webhosting services to our churches and members. This newsletter comes to you through their gracious and efficient service. For detail information, visit their website at http://www.netadventist.org or http://home.tagnet.org/ You may also call their office 800 - 9TAGNET. They are ready and eager to help you.
INCREDIBLE NEW OFFERS ON HITACHI PROJECTORS
Lately HITACHI has given an additional discount on their projectors to help especially our churches and schools in developing countries. This is the special offer on the following three models:
CP-X260 HIGH RESOLUTION 2500 LUMENS - Only $1095.00
Previous SDA price for the 2500 lumens was $2595.00.
CP-X444 HIGH RESOLUTION 3200 LUMENS - Only $1795.00
Previous SDA price for the 3200 lumens was $3295.00.
CP-X1250 HIGH RESOLUTION 4500 LUMENS - Only $3795.00
Previous SDA price for the 4500 lumens was $4900.00.
WARRANTY: The above prices include a 3 years 24/7 replacement warranty that costs about $285.00.
You can order the HITACHI projectors by calling us at (269) 471-2915. We will be able to quote you the latest offer from HITACHI and take your order by phone.
NEW TOSHIBA LAPTOP TECRA A8-EZ8312
This is the latest TOSHIBA laptop desgned for professionals who want speed and reliability. These are the specifications: Duo processor 1.66Hz, Memory size 512MB, Monitor size 15.4”, Resolution 1280x800, Hard drive 60GB, Optical drive CD-RW/DVD-Rom, Wireless, 3-USB ports. The special price is $895.00, plus shipping expenses.
You can order the TECRA A8-EZ8312 in four ways:
(1) Online: By clicking here:
(2) Phone: By calling us at (269) 471-2915 to give us your credit card number and postal address.
(3) Email: By emailing your order to
(4) Regular Mail: By mailing a check to BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVES, 4990 Appian Way, Berrien Springs, Michigan 4990, USA. We guarantee to process your order immediately.
THE MOST POWERFUL REMOTE PRESENTER
If you are looking for an outstanding REMOTE for your PowerPoint presentations, you will be pleased to know HONEYWELL has just come out with the smallest and most powerful remote in the market.
The size of the transmitter is smaller than a credit card. You can stick it inside the palm of your hand and nobody can see it. I tested the remote in an open environment, and the radio signal can go up to 400 feet of distance. IT IS INCREDIBLE! The transmitter has three button: forward, backward, and laser.
You can order online the new POWERPOINT PRESENTER simply by clicking here:
If you have a problem ordering online, simply call us at (269) 471-2915. We will take your order by phone.
You can also email us your order at <firstname.lastname@example.org>, giving us your address, credit card number, and expiration date.
DOES YOUR CHURCH OR SCHOOL NEED A SCREEN?
If your church/school is looking for a screen, the DA-LITE SCREEN COMPANY, the largest manufacture of screens in the world, has agreed to offer their line of screens to our Adventist churches and schools at a about 30% discount.
The procedure is very simple. Visit the DA-LITE SCREEN COMPANY website at http://www.da-lite.com. You will see hundreds of models of screens with their respective prices. Once you find the screen that you need, give us the model number by phone (269) 471-2915 or email your request <email@example.com> We will forward your order immediately to DA-LITE that will ship the screen directly to your address. You will receive the screen at about 30% discount.