S. Lawrence Maxwell
Adventists Affirm is upbeat on the Seventh-day Adventist church. It is not that we dont see the problems. We know the issues over music, worship, divorce, homosexuality, womens ordination, evolution, sanctification, and more. But even when we point out trends that we think lead in a wrong direction and caution against popularizing errors, this springs from a confidence in Gods calling and destiny for His church. So we come to you with happy bells heralding a brighter day for the church.
To change the metaphor, this is definitely not the time to jump ship. In our opening article, Doug Batchelor of Amazing Facts makes this abundantly clear and gives good reasons for staying in the church.
We welcome author Heinz Hopf, former president of the Baden-Württemberg Conference in South Germany, to the pages of Adventists Affirm. If we ever think of leaving the church, Hopf encourages us to ask as Peter did, "To whom shall we go?" The words of eternal life are preached in the Adventist church!
These articles encourage us to remain with our church whatever her shortcomings may be.
We have split Elder Hopfs article into two parts and used them like an embrace around a cluster of articles by and about Adventist youth. We invited five young people to write testimonies of why they have stayed in the church. Their views and experiences may differ in some respects from ours, which is only to be expected. They took the assignment seriously, writing thought-provoking, encouraging essays.
Latvian-born Estere Galeniece reminds us that external conditions are not the deciding factor for spiritual life. She tells us what is, and how the church figures into the picture.
Then Michael Younker describes our church as todays youth see it. Anyone with a morbid approach to Adventist youth will be happily surprised by Michaels assessment.
Albert Kim represents many Adventist students on secular campuses. He tells us of his own pilgrimage and the factors that have kept him firmly anchored in the church.
Shawn Brace returns this fall to his studies at Andrews University after a year in Scotland. He is very open about his relationship with the church, despite the problems he sees. He stays by the church because of the unfailing love of Jesus.
Rounding out our testimonies is Scott Bennetts steadfast, encouraging outlook. He has no plans to leave the church. Hes staying by, and he tells us why.
Janet Evert is not a college student, but she shows that we should stay with the church because of the good things that are happening, especially among our youth. Confessing that she always used to be suspicious of teenagers, she tells us what she has discovered since she started editing Young Disciple. To her amazement and joy, she has found that there are in our church today hundreds of teenagers who love to study the Bible and share with others what they find.
Finally, we share a challenging and heartening selection from Ellen G. White on the churchs calling and its future.
My personal excitement over the future of our church is based not only on these upbeat articles, but also on my own recent experience with Adventist young people. For five of the past six years I have enjoyed the delightful job of teaching college freshmen and sophomores at a little school variously called George King Institute or (after we moved to a new location) the Center for Personal Evangelism. Those young people are the most consecrated group I think Ive ever met. For one thing, they couldnt join the school unless they spent a summer canvassing, something that demonstrates unusual commitment. Many got up at 4:30 for their personal devotions, usually reading the Bible or Spirit of Prophecy. They canvassed through the dreadfully cold winter months, two weeks, sometimes three weeks at a stretch while taking a full load of college subjects.
They searched for Bible study interests, they gave Bible studies, they assisted evangelistic meetings, some did the preaching night after night. One of our students was invited to a large church to give Bible studies, she thought. When she got there, the leaders put her to work training church members to give studies. She goes out knocking on doors, then takes her students to interested people and gets them started. She told me the church members suddenly realize they are doing evangelism and are thrilled.
Many of our students have advanced to the point where they are teaching and encouraging younger youth. This summer (2002), two of them helped lead 15 students as they sold $91,000 worth of Adventist books in ten weeks. Others helped lead a slightly larger group that sold $115,000. A group of 30, led and trained in part by our students, sold $154,000 worth in those same ten weeks. Rocky Davis, literature ministry director for the Southern Union, told me on the phone that during this years summer "vacation," some 200 Adventist young people placed $750,000 worth of books in non-Adventist homes. At about $10 a book, thats a wonderful lot of books silently witnessing to a tremendous number of families.
And who is doing all this evangelism? Adventist young people. As Ellen White said, "With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the world" (Education, p. 271).
In case you havent noticed, that army is already forming, going out to Affirm to the world the wonderful truths Adventists believe. Thats why I say the future of our church looks bright.