Public Evangelism & The Selling Of Adventism

People profiting from religion operating under the guise of a non-profit organization. The whole idea bothers me. It’s insincere. Salvation is free. See the disconnect? Notice I didn’t say the idea of supporting a good cause bothers me. But serious reforms are needed before I’ll blindly support or even endorse the initiatives of the Adventist institution. And no, that doesn’t make me anti-Adventist. I’ve stated plainly that I am not.

I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion (having seen it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears) that, oftentimes, unbeknownst to members of the public and to members of the church, Adventist “evangelists” are selling Adventism. Not like selling the idea of Adventism. Like literally selling Adventism. For money.

Which disgusts me. And I know for a fact that it turns people off from organized religion—people have told me as much. Why? Ephesians 2:8.

As if it wasn’t hard enough to see through all the smoke.

So here I am again, sounding the alarm, asking the tough questions and weeding out excuses. Because the truth will never mind.

Here’s what one Adventist had to say about public evangelism meetings they were involved with:

“But when the meetings are over I want us to begin to bring them into the ministry so that they get news of the ministry and eventually we begin to ask for money. Absolutely.”

I’m not comfortable with that. Are you?

If they had said, “But when the meetings are over I will be happy to know that they have been introduced to Jesus,” that would be one thing. But that’s *not" what they said.

Now here’s a quote from Micah 3 (verses 9-12, but definitely explore the whole passage):

Hear this, you leaders of Jacob,

you rulers of Israel,

who despise justice

and distort all that is right;

who build Zion with bloodshed,

and Jerusalem with wickedness.

Her leaders judge for a bribe,

her priests teach for a price,

and her prophets tell fortunes for money.

Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say,

“Is not the Lord among us?

No disaster will come upon us.”

Therefore because of you,

Zion will be plowed like a field,

Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,

the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.

Remember what Jesus did in Matthew 21:12 when he found people making money off of worshippers? He flipped over the tables of the money changers. He didn’t pretend that what was happening was okay just because it was happening at the temple or because it had happened before. He didn’t ignore.

The same person I quoted above went on to say this:

“So the event comes to an end, people are excited. They’ve gotten to know about 666 and the Pope and everything else. That’s the time when we really harness them in and begin to really establish a relationship. Now we don’t ask for money immediately because that’s negative.

Oh. It’s negative to ask for money immediately, but not later on. I see. Immediately, it is better to direct people to the merchandise tables while they are still excited. Right?

I mean, that’s exactly what this person did and does.

Of course if you’ve been to a major Adventist evangelistic seminar you’ve seen the tables full of merchandise. The DVDs and CDs and books aren’t free. Attendees (half of which are Adventists) must pay in order to access the information they contain. Like when Paul used to sell scrolls after he gave presentations in major city centers like Ephesus, Philippi, Caeserea or Jerusalem. Oh, wait…

And this in the age of the Internet, where information wants to be free:

On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.

I can’t think of any information that is more life changing than the Gospel. I also can’t think of any information that should be more free than the Gospel.
Saving souls is not a business.

A commercial business that is trying to capture market value and turn a profit will try to sell it’s information. But a denomination isn’t a commercial business (is it?), despite the phrase “administrators” love to throw around: “We’re in the business of saving souls.” Well, perhaps that is how they think of it.

The big problem with the denomination’s current financial model is that it couldn’t stay in business without “more souls.” More people = more tithe. Salaries are added with more tithe and cut with less. Money can become the motivation for evangelism, rather than telling people about the Messiah.

There’s no other way to say it: the Adventist denomination views people as ATMs. It will tell you it doesn’t, and it will even say it like it means it, but actions speak louder than words. When you see the fruit, you know the tree.

And the church isn’t just trying to cash in on new converts, either.

When a conference was recently teetering on the financial brink, it’s “administrators” hatched a plan to squeeze constituents for more money—like when you twist a towel trying to get every last drop of water out. The plan was to remind church members that it was their duty to be faithful in tithing. Bulletin inserts were created. Emails were sent. I would know: I witnessed meetings where this was planned.

What it really was was a backhanded accusation that members weren’t being faithful to God with their money. Well, “administrators,” maybe it’s you who isn’t being faithful with God’s money—and the members don’t want to see anymore of it go to waste? Maybe they aren’t as dumb as you think? Maybe they are sending you a message?

But, sadly, “administrators” never ever stop to consider that people may be losing faith in their leadership abilities, motives and plans. When “tithe is down,” it is assumed that church members are losing their faith in God—when that isn’t the case. Although surely that is the case sometimes when people can’t reconcile God and mediocrity or God and corruption.

“Administrators” don’t realize that losing faith in the denomination isn’t the same as losing faith in God. “Administrators” will probably realize too late that the membership can fire them. That they aren’t invincible.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only type of money-related problem facing the church.

Institutionalized Adventism ins’t a lean and mean modern denominational framework. No, it’s a bloated behemoth that sucks up resources like a black hole.

Frustrated Adventists have told me that they are tired of being salesmen and feeling like the denomination doesn’t sell itself. It burns them out.

It’s time for reformation. If not for our own sakes, then for the sake of God—and for the sakes of the poor people who the denomination is trying to reach.

Oh, but public meetings are expensive. Oh, but I need a roof over my head. Oh, God isn’t capable of sending ravens.

Adventist evangelists: would you do it if didn’t receive a denominational paycheck? I’m sure you’ll answer yes. You’d look bad if you didn’t. I know there are some volunteer evangelists out there, but to those who draw a salary I say: prove it.

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The Adventist institution has crossed the line (in so many ways). And it’s not okay. Update: While this post is very useful and adds some great ideas to the pot, I have further refined my thinking on the subject of reform: 3 Important... Continue →