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Columbia Union Members Talk Back About August Issue

Compiled by Visitor Staff
Published 8/28/13

We at the Visitor magazine received a lot of feedback on our August cover story in which we discussed the growing number of people who don’t belong to any religion. We encourage you to reread our article and add your opinion to the conversation below. Below are snippets of some of our reader responses:

The following message is part of an email sent by Joel Stoia on August 5:

“Our church as we know it today is ending. Our membership is aging and completely inflexible with their traditional ways. Our pastors are aging and retiring. VERY few young people are enrolling in seminary or have any intention of leading out in our churches.

Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Either we as a church will change our way of doing business or we will continue going down the path we are currently going. But the way we will try to fix this problem is that a bunch of [gray] haired pastors (yes I too have graying hair!) will sit in a room and decide what is the best way to meet the youth. And our church will continue to die out. INSTEAD what we should do is fill a room full of youth and youth leaders, people who are in the trenches fighting the fight and ask them what we should do. Just my thoughts.”

Hans Killius emailed the following to the Visitor:
Our daughter (29), whom I baptized, is in the "Nones" zone. She has completed SDA elementary, academy, and college education. Our daughter has a very close and open trust relationship with us. She freely shares her concerns with us.

Here are points from my reflection:

1. Be adult (parents and church) and let go
2. Open door, open embrace
3. Honor their responsibility
4. Know non-negotiable bottom line (in a nonjudgmental, non-combative way)
5. No sectarian navel-gazing and sectarian arrogance (it nauseates me, and I am soon 67)
6. No Ellen White as an infallible Adventist pope, no additional authority beside the Bible: sola Scriptura
7. No Adventist canon within the biblical canon: summa Scripturae
8. No denominational narcissism
9. Biblical  and theological literacy (Before knowing the How we must know the What and the Why.)
10. Only one identity: Christian (the unadulterated Christ of the New Testament)
11. Cultural literacy
12. Generational literacy

Peggi J. Trusty sent an article on church growth and retention in response to our “Nones” article.  Here is part of what she wrote:
“Some congregations have tried church small groups successfully and reaped an incredible harvest. Others found that the change didn’t fit their congregation, and the church remains unscarred. Is there an unwritten rule concerning the time church should begin or why Sabbath School should go prior to the divine hour? What programs have we not tried in assisting our communities? What community groups could we partner with, assist, or support? Is there a subculture or group that we traditionally ostracize? Can we build a ministry around serving them? We certainly open ourselves up to failure when taking risks, but we must learn to step out on water to achieve the impossible.”

Colleen Jousma is a young adult who said she left the church for theological reasons. Here is her response to the article:
“I do think that what I found greatly missing in the Adventist Churches I participated in was a lack of concern for the community. It was always about getting more baptisms. If pastors and churches stopped focusing on the number of members they had and started focus on the difference the church could make in the world today, then I think more people would stay and some may even come back. I think most people who are religious think that people need to have a visible relationship with God (i.e. going to church, paying tithe, daily Bible studies, daily prayer, etc.). When in all actuality what matters most is how you live your life outside of all of that.
There's a saying I heard a few years ago that has made a big impact on my life. It says, ‘How you do one thing, is how you do everything.’ If you aren’t making an impact in your community, in your work, in your family in ways that aren’t just spiritual, then I think you're not doing the spiritual right, either. I had a professor at Andrews [University in Michigan] say that our duty wasn't to help the poor and those in need. That’s what other organizations are for. I found that disturbing. This was from one of my theology professors, too. I think it’s when people are so focused on Bible studies and being right in God's eyes that they forget that they’re still on this planet and get to make a difference in people’s lives here and now. Live life as if there were no tomorrow, no heaven to go to. Make an impact in the world so that people will be inspired to live their [lives] the same way.”
Other Facebook comments:
Christopher C. Thompson: “I think the first step is to be determined to build deep authentic friendships with at least 3 people who are not members/attendees of our churches.”

Breaking Badventist: “I think Part 2 kind of hits it. [Young adults] don’t feel the church wants them, which leads to “nones” thoughts and feelings. Like the author says, safe space, honest conversation, & real connections (not the weekly church greeting) are a great place to start.”

RoseMarie Davis: “We are studying reformation and revival this quarter. Part of that process must be forming a connection with young adults. That connection has to be real which would require a level of transparency and vulnerability on the part of the church leadership that we've never seen.”
Twitter comments:
@aallanmartin: “[Gr8] cover story! Truth is beyond the ‘nones,’ we too are disinterested in religion. We're looking for #GODencounters”

@BreakBadventist: “I hope you are successful because it’s these convos the church desperately needs to have [plus] health classes and employment workshops. Things that truly matter to people. If people see that you care about their life here on this planet, then they'll be way more open to hearing what you have to say about the after life.”
Read the full articles here:
Part 1: Why are Adventists Joining the Ranks of the “Nones?”

Part 2: Adventists Discuss Bringing Back the “Nones”

COMMENTS POLICY: The Columbia Union Conference Visitor encourages quality conversation and welcomes your thoughtful comments. All comments are subject to approval but will not be edited. Please limit your comments to 500 words or less. Only one comment per person will be published.

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