I came across a recent column by Loren Seibold that caught my attention. It did so mostly because he touches upon a topic that I have burdened by for a while but never took the time to write about. Either that, or I didn’t have the courage to address it. But since he has opened the discussion (or at least furthered it), I guess it is time for my two cents.
The name of his article is “Can We Adventists Learn from Others?” In my mind, the answer is quite obviously “yes,” (though you may be interested in reading my further views here) but his particular reason for raising the question is what piqued my interest. Specifically, he asked the question in response to the Ohio Conference’s now-annual Innovation Conferences. Now in its fifth year, the Innovation Conference is a “three day gathering for hope-filled, faith-inspired individuals with an almost cellular drive for transformation, creative change, and purposeful living. The sharp, daring, and provocative explorations will expand your thinking, stretch your faith, and compel you to live out your values in a bold and revolutionary way.”
In essence, the conference tries to “foster innovation” and the presenters are trying to be as innovative and edgy as possible. As Seibold notes, “One sometimes suspects” that the presenters are “experimenting with ideas” that “they themselves may not, after all, subscribe to.”
And herein lies my problem. To me, the desire to be more innovative, more edgy, more “cutting edge,” more insert-your-adjective-here, is a sign of a weak message. Don’t get me wrong, we should try to package our message in an attractive way. But when the methods start overshadowing the message, you have to start wondering about the message itself.
It’s really simple, folks. There is nothing complicated about it. Over 120 years ago Ellen White declared that “the loud cry of the third angel [had] already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth” (1888, p. 1073). She was saying this in reference to the message of justification by faith that E.J. Waggoner and A.T. Jones had introduced. She described their message as the “third angel’s message in verity” (Review & Herald, April 1, 1890), saying that if all those who “had received the third angel’s message and proclaimed it in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts. A flood of light would have been shed upon the world. Years ago the inhabitants of the earth would have been warned, the closing work completed, and Christ would have come for the redemption of His people” (The Great Controversy, p. 457).
Again, I want to say: it’s very simple. The only reason we need to get more and more innovative and more and more edgy is because we have not “received” the “third angel’s message.” Obviously, if we had already, the earth would have already been illuminated with God’s glory. At least that’s what our own prophet has told us.
In the meantime, we try to get more creative, packaging a lifeless message in “attractive” wrapping. We get edgier and edgier with our “worship” styles, hoping to keep our young people in the church. But, it’s nothing but a valley of dry bones – all symptomatic of a much deeper ailment. Until we receive the message of Christ’s righteousness into our heads, hearts, and hands, we will continue to try to “push the envelope” in being innovative – all the while simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Sound too critical? Maybe. But, as I have said above – and I will continue to say – it’s really simple. Just accept the message, and then watch it spread like “fire in the stubble” (Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 118).