Monday, December 31, 2018

Adult Sabbath School lesson (December 29 - January 4): the Gospel from Patmos

In a parking-lot full of muscle cars, nobody would have noticed that Plymouth Valiant. No, it looked like the kind of car your grandmother would drive, right down to its faded-yellow paint. 

Likewise, nobody back in John's day would have looked twice at God's people.
  • They were few in number -- maybe 0.1% of the population.
  • They were low in status -- many of them were slaves, remember, and most of them were women.
  • And their proclamation that "Jesus is Lord" was ridiculous -- I mean, everybody knew the only "lord" that mattered back then was Caesar.
Like that Valiant, in other words, God's people didn't look like much on the outside . . . 
And that's why God "popped the hood" to show them what's inside.
That's what "revelation" means, after all -- it comes from the ancient Greek work APOKALUPTO, which means "to pop the hood so you can see what it's got inside."*
"Pop the hood" on that Valiant, for instance, and you'd get a "revelation"of everything you need made to make a car go fast (including a nitrous-oxide system).
In much the same way, the Book of Revelation "pops the hood" on God's people to show you:
  • They may look small -- but in reality, they are "a great crowd that no one can number."
  • They may seem insignificant -- but God has made them "a kingdom and priests."
  •  And while the caesars of this world may call themselves "lord," the Book of Revelation shows us just who really is "the lord of lords" and "king of kings."
Just like that Valiant, in other words, God's people may not look like much on the outside.
But God knows what's inside.
And it's what's inside that really counts.


*This is from the Revised Brothers Version of scripture -- your mileage may vary.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Adult Sabbath School Lesson (December 22-28): Final Restoration of Unity

You want to make a complaint about . . . Heaven?

Yeah, I'm just not comfortable worshiping with "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language."

You were hoping for a smaller group?

That's part of it -- I mean, you can't blame me for thinking Heaven would be a little more "selective" about who got in . . . 

God's love is a net that pulls in all kinds of fish.

And don't get me wrong -- I'm glad that all kinds of people made it here.

But?

But I'm used to worshipping with people like me -- people with the same background, the same education, the same income, the same taste in music . . . 

The same voting record?

That too -- so you can see why all this came as a shock!

You thought Heaven was just for people like you?

No, no, no, no -- in fact, some of my best friends are . . . 

Don't say it!

Ha! Who knew that Heaven would be politically correct!

Coming back to your complaint -- what do you want?

Nothing much -- just a chance to hang out with my kind of people.

And everyone else would hang it with their kind of people?

Most of the time, yes -- that's pretty much what I expected.

What made you think Heaven would be that way?

That's the way we worshipped back on Earth, after all. Why should Heaven be any different?

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide (December 15-21): Church Organization and Unity

Think again: church organization

There are a lot of good reasons to rethink the way we've organized our church -- but there are some bad reasons too. Here are a few:

"Our church's denominational structure goes back to horse-and-buggy days."
NOT REALLY. 
It would be more accurate to say it goes back to the days of trains and trolley cars -- and outside of rural areas, pastors would have found it just about as easy to get around back then as they do today.

"Modern technology allows us to eliminate local conferences."
YES AND NO. 
We've seen a revolution in finance and communications -- and certainly this ought to make us rethink how we handle tasks such as running payroll or training church officers. But no one has found a way for leaders to develop relationships with more than 120 people or so . . . and that means we'll always need something about the size of a conference to place, evaluate, and mentor both pastors and teachers.

"Union Conferences duplicate the work of local conferences."
SOME OF IT -- BUT NOT ALL. 
A quick look at the NPUC directory indicates roughly a third of its employees work in finance -- and a large share of those are auditors. Another third is made up of evangelists, or specialists in fields such as Information Technology, communications, religious liberty, or ministry to various ethnic groups that would be difficult to handle at the Conference level.

"We need to cut the fat and put more money into front-line workers."
DEFINE "FAT." 
The three largest departments in the Oregon Conference are Education, Treasury, and Trust Services; together, they employ roughly the same number of administrative staff as all the other departments put together. Cutting jobs in Education, Treasury and Trust Services is possible, I suppose, but not easy at the present time. As for the rest . . . let's be honest: most deal with ministries that get little attention (not least because their local leadership is often provided by women) . Just because we don't know what 
someone is doing, in other words, doesn't necessarily mean their work is un-necessary.

"Our church's organizational structure hasn't changed in a hundred years."
WRONG. 
As Jeff Crocombe and others have pointed out, the Adventist church did not really have much in the way of local church pastors until the late-1940s. Evangelists, yes. Pastors, no. The creation of an Adventist pastorate, in other words, has been one of the biggest changes and one of the biggest forces for change in our church's structure -- and this despite the lack of notice it has received.
"Top-down leadership is a major threat to our church."
IT DEPENDS. 
There's a clear chain-of-command for our schools -- and as such, they are certainly vulnerable to pressure from leadership. Our denomination began hiring pastors, however, without ever really deciding just who is in charge of them. That's one reason why there's so little oversight of what they do; that's also why it's difficult to make pastors do anything they don't want to do. (You can always move or fire them, of course -- but when the Conference does this, it's usually responding to someone in the local church who is not happy.)
-- adapted from 01/04/2009

Monday, December 10, 2018

Adult Bible Study Guide (December 8-14): Unity in Worship

EXTRACTS FROM
"NOAH'S GUIDE TO WORSHIP"

BEAVER
Busy, hardworking, a strong believer in "practical godliness."
Favorite part of church: workbees
Worst thing they can say about a church: "They just talk -- they never do anything."

GOLDEN RETRIEVER
Sociable, gregarious, desire nothing more than to love and be loved 
Favorite part of church: potlucks
Worst thing they can say about a church: "Those people are so cold and unfriendly!"

HUMMINGBIRD
Innovative, creative, always looking for new ways to serve God and His people 
Favorite part of church: Praise Teams, Dialogue SermonsPuppets, Improv Comedy . . . let me get back to you on that.
Worst thing they can say about a church: "It's always the same, old thing."

OWL
Thoughtful, studious, wants to be informed and "spiritually fed."
Favorite part of church: the Sabbath School lesson, and the sermon. (Owls often refers to the rest of the worship service as "the preliminaries.")
Worst thing they can say about a church: "I didn't get anything out of it."

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Adult Bible Study Guide (December 1-7): Unity and Broken Relationships

I'm so glad I found this church -- the people here are so friendly . . . 

Not like the last church I attended. No, the people in that church were nothing but a bunch of stuck-up snobs; they were only there for the music . . . 

And yes, the music was nice -- much better than the junk they played at my old church. I mean, you wouldn't believe the fights we used to have in choir . . . 

Yes, I was in the choir of that church -- none of the others. But things got so bad, like I said, that . . . 

Other churches? Well, there's this one, of course, and the other two I've mentioned. 

Then there was the one with the pastor whose sermons went too long . . . 

And the one that didn't have anything for serious Bible students; no, it was nothing but a social group . . . 

And the one that talked about nothing but money -- I guess they had some kind of building-campaign going on . . . 

And the church where one family ran everything . . . 

But I'm glad all that's behind me!

Yes, I'm so glad I've finally found the perfect church!