In the Present Tense

April 27, 2009

Leisure Suits and Worship.

Filed under: Uncategorized — edoutlook @ 9:29 pm

For at least the last twenty years or so, Adventists in North America have been in a quiet uproar about “worship styles.”

The very fact that we speak of “styles” of worship tells me we’re not talking about worship at all! How dare I say that? Simple. In the 1970’s, a lot of stylish people wore bell-bottom trousers and leisure suits.leisure-suit That was the style, and, quaint as it appears today, it was not all that remarkable at the time, because many people wore them.  Now, the first person to wear a leisure suit may have been expressing himself– may have been presenting the real him to the world. But the next twenty million or so  were just trying to be stylish. They took a look at the wearers of leisure suits, and thought, “That’s what it looks like to be up-to-date.” Of course, a few years later, leisure suits were tres passe— or in today’s language, “so yesterday.” Styles are like that. They come and they go, often very quickly. And they are how we want the world to see us.

But worship, true worship, is authentic, is real, and is personal. It is not how we want the world to see us— in church, we call that hypocrisy. It should not be how we want God to see us— because He sees us as we are, whether we want him to or not. Worship should be the response of who I am to who God is and what He does. This will vary from person to person, from time to time, and from place to place.

In my first post, I brought up a word many Adventists dislike intensely– relevant. I’m about to bring up another– culture. Because culture affects who we are, and therefore how we worship.

But here’s the thing, if worship is the authentic response of who I am to who God is and what He does, then what makes us think we can tell someone else how to worship? Do you think you know who they are better than they do? Even God doesn’t tell people that without their permission. And the minute anyone begins to think “will they, the other people around me, think that I’m worshiping,” we’ve made the first step toward hypocrisy, not worshiping God, but playing to the crowd. Concern with worship styles becomes concern with acting styles.

While it may be true that we are all hypocrites, and that the place for hypocrites is the church–hypocrites surely need to be saved–the church should not be a place that encourages hypocrisy. But all too often it is, because we are too concerned with worship styles.

Next time, would Ellen Harmon and James White be welcome in your congregation?

April 6, 2009

Can Adventism Be Relevant?

Filed under: Present Truth — Tags: , , — edoutlook @ 5:40 am

One question I continually ask myself is “If I were 25 years old today, why would I want to be a Seventh-Day Adventist?” I ask that question because my children are and recently have been that age, and I want to have answers for them. And when I look around at the Adventist church in North America, the 18-30 year-olds have left en masse. This movement, which began (in 1844) with a 17-year-old Ellen Harmon and a 22-year-old James White, has, in North America, increasingly become an institution filled with people over 50. In our early years, we were a young people’s movement.

Now, it’s easy to place the blame for this on today’s young adults. After all, they’re the ones who are leaving. But it strikes me as at least a little odd that a movement which attracted young people in the beginning, and which does so in other parts of the world, is effetively repelling them in North America today.

As I look at the early days of our church, and at what’s happening elsewhere, it appears to me that one great difference is the sense of being on the cutting edge vs. being old and stale. In our early days, young people in the Millerite and Advent movments felt they were involved in something important and earth-shaking. And it strikes me that much the same can be said of many places where the church is growing.

But here in North America, there’s a sense that everything is settled, that little new can be learned. “New light” is looked on with suspicion, and  we often say “we have the truth.” We tend to see “the TRUTH”– for that’s how we think of it– as something solid and clearly defined.

There’s a characteristically Adventist term, “Present truth.”  In fact, the periodical we call the Adventist Review began under the titel “Present Truth.”  And that term “present truth,” is the antithesis of “old and stale.” Indeed, “present truth” was and is “new light,” or at the very least “light newly understood,” or, even more accurate, “light newly relevant!” Now, for a lot of older Adventists, “relevant” has become a dirty word. And many would view the question “Can Adventism be relevant?” with dark imaginings. But when I look at our history, the real question is, “Can real Adventism– with our heritage of ‘present truth’– be anything else?”

And that’s the main answer to the question I began this with: “If I were 25-years-0ld today, why would I want to be an Adventist?” Because I find, again and again, it’s relevant to my every day life. I want to be where the action is. I want to be on the cutting edge. I want to be where the power of God confronts the world I live in. That’s present truth, and that’s a big part of what it means to be an Adventist– in 1844, or in 2009.

More on this later.

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