Summary: The speaker laid out a four part process to effective outreach programs. The first step in the process was to develop an identity. This got me thinking about the identity of the Adventist church and more specifically this church. Identity is much more t
I met with the pastor this week to discuss the mission and purpose of the church. We discussed many things to help the church grow and to make known to the world that Jesus is coming soon. We mulled over outreach ideas, mission statements, etc. One of the things that stood out in my mind was a flyer he had for an outreach seminar. The speaker laid out a four part process to effective outreach programs. The first step in the process was to develop an identity. This got me thinking about the identity of the Adventist church and more specifically this church.
Identity is much more than a name. This week the world mourned the passing of Ronald Reagan. I watched and listened to the reports and testimonies of those who knew him personally and those who knew him only in name. All were touched in one way or another by his life and career. He was not only Ronald Reagan actor, governor, and president. He was the “Gipper,” the “Great Communicator.” The man who helped bring to an end the cold war, to tear down the Berlin wall, and as many people said helped restore their faith in America. Those who knew him personally said he was a man rooted deep in his faith and who cared genuinely for the welfare of all mankind. He has been heralded as one of the greatest presidents ever to take office. I noted that the scandals that marred the final years of his presidency were mentioned only briefly because the accomplishments far outweighed the mistakes.
During this time I thought of another president who died a few years ago and how the world marked his death. Richard Nixon died about a decade ago and while there was the normal press coverage, it did not attract the attention of the entire world. Nixon was and still is, seen by many as a disgrace and a crook. I won’t go into all the ways I could counter those remarks only that most of the accomplishments of later presidents were started by Nixon as well as many of the agencies and policies many rely on today. How differently people view these two men. One is ranked in the company of FDR and Lincoln, the other seen as a blemish on the presidency.
Identity is much more than a name and goes deeper than who we are to our friends and neighbors. Our identity is not only defined by what we do when others are watching, but also by what we do in secret. You may remember the Ohio highway sniper. He still lived at home with his mother, who had no idea he was capable of such heinous actions.
Who are we the Adventist church more specifically the Leitchfield SDA? When people here the name Adventist what do they think of, or do they know the name at all? Are the prophets of doom or heralds of hope? Are doing the job we have been commissioned to do or are we sitting on the sidelines waiting anxiously for someone else to do it? Are we a living, growing church or are we like so many churches today dying off and falling by the wayside?
We live in strange times. The economy, we are told, is on the rebound, yet many cannot find jobs. The crime rate is the lowest it has ever been, yet we can’t have enough deadbolts on our doors or mace in our pockets. They say we are living in an age of reason in a civilized world, yet men and women are dying every day for an ambiguous cause in the Middle East; genocide is a way of life in many parts of Africa; and we live with the fear the color coded terror system will jump. We live in a time when science and technology are opening new and better ways of life for millions, but the main complaint is that life is too hard. We have more spare time now than ever before in history, but families are drifting apart. Every town has agencies set up to help those controlled by drugs or alcohol, yet addiction is one of the primary problems in the United State. Why? Because we have forgotten who we are. We have for one reason or another discarded our identity completely, or we have masked it over so only a few know who we are, or we have given in to the misconceptions of the world or the stereotypes others have established. Because it is easier to give in than to maintain and proclaim who we are.
Many have said the church is full of hypocrites. We, by our actions, acknowledge this and prove them right. When we hear that claim, we do not go to prove them wrong, or to find why they believe this way. We ruffle our feathers, turn up our noses and say we didn’t want “that” kind of person here anyway. If we do not show them that not everyone is like the ones who hurt them in the past, they will have no alternative to their belief that the only people we care about are ourselves and the rest of the “perfect” members of the church.