3 Important Church Reforms Adventist Millennials Should Immediately Push For

This blog post will show young Adventists how to quickly bring about the changes they want to see within the Adventist church.

My fellow disappointed, shattered and possibly embittered Adventist youth: is it possible to move the Seventh-day Adventist church forward? To not merely long for better conditions (as we are all too familiar with doing)—but to really, truly, decisively move things forward?

Yes, meaningful change is a real possibility. Depending on your convictions, and those of your fellow young people, it’s even a probability. And it could happen within a matter of a few short months. It’s up to you.

A brighter Christian experience can be had. An experience that will make you feel alive again. An experience that doesn’t dampen your conscience or mute your joy. An experience that isn’t mundane or boring. An experience that isn’t embarrassing or disappointing. An experience that matters to the world around you and in the grand scheme of things. An experience that brings you to the front lines without sending you over seas.

It starts with discussion. But it doesn’t end there.

The million dollar question is (or should I say billion dollar question… CEOs of Adventist hospitals know what I’m talking about): can the ship be righted without casting the crew overboard?

Put simply, the answer is yes, we can work with the crew of the ship we’ve already booked passage on. A better question is, will the crew want to work with us? It is a simple matter of negotiation, as you will see below. We have something of value to barter with—ourselves. But it’s time to find out whether Adventist leadership is willing to sail with us under more fair and favorable conditions. Will they continue the policy of relegating us to the cargo compartment like pieces of luggage that have been brought along for the ride but which aren’t actually involved in the journey? Will they decide to toss us overboard along with the church’s future they thought they had packed within us? Will they choose to work toward a happier alternative?

How can we, as young Adventists holding no elected church office, ensure reforms actually become reality within the denomination? This article contains some concrete ideas.

Adventists who feel the need for denominational change must make 3 demands of current church leaders. Only God knows the full extent to which we, the Adventist youth, have been asked to compromise our entire lives.

If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to ask yourself these 20 important questions. They do a good job of setting the stage for understanding why we need a modern Sabbatarian framework. If you have more time (or just crave more fresh air), you might also look into the following articles before continuing on. Otherwise, if you just want to get to the meat of this post scroll on down to the big type that says The Minimum Viable Reformation.

 The Minimum Viable Reformation

(1) The very first order of business is to set term term limits for elected officials and leadership roles. Presidents, Vice Presidents, Directors, board members, managers and leaders of any kind should be kept on their toes. By imposing term limits, people will feel pressure to accomplish what they can and should before they run out of time. They won’t feel like they have all the time in the world because they literally won’t have all the time in the world.

More importantly, term limits will help to contain and mitigate any damage an unworthy leader might inflict upon the organization and it’s mission. Along the same lines, term limits would mean members would no longer have to wait for a person, or group of people, to retire before seeds of change could grow roots. As it is, young people like me are left wondering whether anything will ever change in a significant way within the span of a lifetime.

Another welcome side effect? Term limits will help to weed out candidates whose heart is in the wrong place (those who want to have servants rather than those who want to be servants). After a term limit runs out, those who wish to continue serving should do so on a volunteer basis. If a person wants to serve the church in a volunteer position after they are no longer paid—well that’s conviction and dedication.

I adamantly believe there should be no such thing as an Adventist careerist. I expect the current batch of Adventist careerists will fight this notion tooth and nail. If (more like when—you don’t have to be a prophet to see this future unfold) they do, that will signal a statement of weighty significance—they are in it for themselves, to be served rather than the serve God or the membership.

(2) Next, every single church member should be given a voice and a way to express their opinions and ideas. The simple ability to register a yes or no would be an excellent start. This means that lay church members should, if nothing else, have the power of veto. There needs to be a better way to express concern over church operations than not attending church and/or not paying tithe.

Beyond being able to say no to church leaders, members need to be able to initiate conversations and put forth ideas for other members to say yes or no to. If church members are to be expected to care about their church (notice I didn’t say their faith, because that is a separate issue), then church members should expect to have a stake; a real chance to influence corporate governance and decisions.

(3) Third, in order for church members to effectively be able to express their opinions they must be given all pertinent data and information. That means that transparency must become as fundamental to Adventism as the 28 core beliefs.

I believe that these three simple changes would result in astonishingly positive change for the church (the body as well as he institution). I believe they represent the Minimum Viable Reformation (MVR).

Reform 1 is simply a matter of current leadership being willing to limit their power while empowering the constituency. Reforms 2 and 3 can be accomplished easily, and for a reasonable price, with a bit of simple coding.

Update: to clarify, I am not pushing for individualism. Rather, I’m hoping for a type of adjacent individualism; individuals in community where there is a real dialectic between group purpose and individual initiative. Church, by definition, implies plurality (community). I want a pure democracy in terms of expressing convictions/opinions so that leaders—appointed by the people—who were term-limited experts (to keep them fresh… like ice packs you can’t leave them out too long)—could make decisions informed by membership. This must be coupled with extreme transparency: what people are getting paid, how money is being spent). The one caveat would be how much people are giving (that should be protected sort of like HIPAA laws). A hard and fast rule: if it doesn’t support the local church—the local body—it doesn’t deserve to exist.

 The Alternative

If Adventist leadership refuses to implement these changes, or, as is a more likely course of action, they elect to kick the can down the road by proposing a committee that can study the issues and make a future recommendation, what then?

Will we young people fall for these tricks and shenanigans? Or will we say enough is enough: we’ll only be young once (Ecc. 12:1).

If Adventist leadership proposes any unacceptable solution (i.e. won’t meet the 3 demands listed above or tries to gut them or dumb them down), the lay membership—especially the youth—should take matters into their own hands by creating a new framework founded upon their unchangeable core beliefs. The cornerstone for this new framework should be the 3 reforms proposed above.

Tithe should flow into and through this new, more democratic, framework and away from the failing Adventist framework. It’s quite possible that when, and only when, a lack of money begins drying the old framework out that it’s leadership will become open to change (like Pharaoh getting hit with a plague).

If it does come down to needing to create a new framework, it is fair to say that the Adventist framework (and it’s leadership) has ultimately failed to represent the needs of constituents by empowering them to live their Christian life to the utmost in these last days. It will be clear whose voices will have been heard and whose voices will have been stifled. A deliberate choice will have been made by Adventist leadership and the membership will need to react accordingly.

Under these circumstances, it would appear that the church—the institution—would be about to fall. That the church itself could potentially be it’s own undoing is saddening. Under these circumstances it would also appear that the church—the body of believers—would be on the verge of busting loose upon the world enlivened, empowered, unrestricted and unashamed.

While I sincerely hope denominational leaders would choose to empower members over themselves, I deem the outcome highly improbable.

It falls to the willing, the able and the convicted to grasp the idea of change—to hold on and not let go. It’s not a task for weaklings. We, as members, can present a proposal and impose a deadline. But that is all we can do under the current system. Indeed, we cannot choose for ourselves to see these reforms done (or not). That power currently lies solely with Adventist leadership.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I call upon the lay members of the Adventist church—the young people in particular—to push for these 3 reforms. Discuss them amongst yourselves, improve them, change them, mold them—make them your own. Share ideas and support on social media. Setup a Slack group. Fire up Google Hangouts. Share this post and blog with every young Adventist you know. Create and sign a Change.org petition. Then, in order to bring about the change you want—because clearly no one else is going to do it for you—present your ideas to church leadership and set a timetable.

Now, more than ever before, it is time to stop acting like helpless or dependent victims and stand up for what is right. If the 3 P’s (our Divisional, Union and Conference Presidents, our pastors and our parents) fail to empower us as end-time Christians and Sabbatarians to live our faith to the fullest… what will we do?

If you are like me, we are out of grins. As long as we are bearing a burden, let it be a meaningful one—one which serves a higher purpose—rather than one of wasting away our best days in the name of uniformity and tradition.

We must rise to meet the challenges of our times—even if we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of being challenged by those who should be our greatest patrons.

1 Timothy 4:12 | Jeremiah 1:4-8 | Ephesians 4:29

Get out your copy of The Great Controversy and read about Martin Luther. He wasn’t working for secular reform. He was working for reform within his denominational framework. No, denominational leaders weren’t happy with him. There were people who were upset with him for speaking up and for breaking with uniformity and tradition. But he didn’t need anyone’s permission to live his convictions. Neither do you need anyone’s permission, save your own, to live out your convictions. Come on, what is your faith made of?

We are the body—we are the church. It’s time to unbound the hands and feet of Jesus so work can get done. We can live the life we were meant to live if we want to.

This is no small matter. God’s mission—our mission—is in danger of stagnation; will you let the flames go out? You are a spark. Ignite. It’s time to get this done.

It’s time for reform or it’s time for revolution.

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