Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sabbath School/Sunday School: Should it continue?

The 2012 2nd Quarter Sabbath School Lesson 
Do you attend Sabbath school? Sunday School? If you don't attend or perhaps attend sparingly, why?
The reasons will vary and they may be legitimate or not but one thing is certain, it's not shocking nor new news. Sabbath school attendance has been steadily decreasing. Last year Barna published a series called The State of the Church  which stated, "Only one out of eight men (13%) attends such a meeting (sunday school) in a typical week." Women's involvement with Sunday school has decreased since 1991 to 17%.

I have attended Adventist churches from coast to coast, pastored for nearly 10 years now and grown up going to church and for that matter attending Sabbath school since I can remember. After saying all that, for the most part, once again I have personally noticed attendance has continued to plummet.

On any given Sabbath morning you can attend church during Sabbath school (usually at 9:30 or 10a.m.) and see a handful or two of people depending on the size of the church. Then when the worship service is shortly to begin you see many more begin to show up and even more once the worship service has begun.

So the question should be asked. Is Sabbath school viable? Is it serving its intended purpose? Do we even realize/know what the purpose of Sabbath school is?

Brief history/links of Sunday School & Sabbath School

Some may recall Sunday school was originally started to help young people who at the time (late 18th century early 19th) were working, as the educational system was not in place like it is today. These Sunday schools provided the education for these youths and also to adults.

If you have time read the wikipedia page regarding Sunday school.

Part of the history for Sabbath school can be found here. You can find the official Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath school/personal ministries site here.

Sabbath school seems to have been started as a place where a deeper study of the bible could be done. It eventually also became focused on helping a certain area of a mission field. (read the links above).

Sabbath school objectives:

Sabbath school originally had and still ideally has four main objectives.
1. Bible Study
2. Fellowship
3. Outreach
4. Missions

Thoughts and discussions points:
In taking a brief look at the history and objectives of Sabbath school every church needs to aks itself if Sabbath school is still succeeding with its intended objectives. In todays world many churches are implementing small groups with the same objectives but instead of meeting on Sabbath they meet during the week.

Obviously my church/denomination has invested a lot of time, money, and effort into developing Sabbath school resources, curriculum, and many other tools relegated to this ministry. One of the best things (in my opinion) they have done is create mobile apps and an ipad app for our quarterly lessons for free.

Sabbath school can be and has been a great place where children of all ages can learn about Jesus. Where great discussions have been had in the adult classes in regards to various bible truths. Yet the question still lingers why has attendance been decreasing?

Here's some of the reasons I've heard and or I've come to conclude why people don't attend Sabbath school.
1. They find it boring. (SS teachers aren't that good, can't control the discussions that either become to theological or very little in depth bible study.)
2. They may attend another bible study during the week, so why attend another on Saturday morning.
3. They can study the lesson on their own. They see the SS lesson as a devotional study. No need to discuss it with others.
4. They simply want to sleep in on their day off and come to church for the 'worship service' to 'hear the sermon.'
5. Lazy (not trying to be mean, but don't you think there's some truth to it?)
6. Spiritual apathy
7. Any combination of the above?

Conclusion & a few suggestions:
Though I'm not calling for Sabbath school to be done away with we must realize that the objectives for Sabbath school stated above, taken from the official website can be accomplished in different ways as a church other than Sabbath school. Again though this is NOT a call to do away with Sabbath school, we are to be good stewards of God's money and how we organize as a church. Since for most Adventist churches Sabbath school is still a very viable ministry, although attendance is showing that it may be on a life line in many places, we must re-evaluate this ministry (as we should all ministries) and its effectiveness.

A few suggestions:
1. Evaluate our Sabbath school teachers, how well they prepare and manage class room discussion.
2. Evaluate the children's division.
3. Have teachers get the email/phone numbers of the class to follow up when they don't come
4. Is your Sabbath school meeting the objectives (see above)
5. Perhaps seek to do a local mission project with your Sabbath school

So tell me what do you think about Sabbath school? Do you attend? Why or why not? How can it improve?


Sunday, April 8, 2012

He's Alive: Hallelujah!

"...And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Chirst, and He shall reign forever and ever!...We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because you have taken your great power and reigned." Revelation 11:15-17

Jesus is Alive and He shall reign forever and ever! Go tell everyone...


Friday, April 6, 2012

Free Francis Chan eBooks!

I know several that read this blog don't necessarily follow me on Twitter so I wanted to make you aware of this great deal (as I did on Twitter:) that I learned from my friend and colleague Pastor Rodlie Ortiz.

Francis Chan is a well know Christian speaker and author and today you can get his books FREE!
So click HERE and go get them!

I've only read one of them 'Forgotten God' and recommend you read it, I will eventually be reading the others.


NOTE: Though I recommend you get the books, this does not necessarily state that I agree with everything Francis Chan says. Yet I've heard Chan speak several times (live, online, podcast) read the book mentioned above and have been blessed by much of what he has preached as well as the book I have read.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Seventh-day Adventist Church: Fastest Growing?

Last year an article by USA Today reported that the Seventh-day Adventist church is the "...fastest growing U.S. church" as the headline read. This was heralded as one can imagine by many within Adventism. It was indeed good news at the very least it was a positive article in a well known newspaper.
The Loma Linda University Seventh-day Adventist church is the largest  Adventist church in the U.S. with approximately 6,500 members. 

Yet even within the article Dr. Clouzet who is the director of the North American Division Evangelism Institue at Andrews University (where the Adventist Seminary is located) is quoted saying,
"We don't feel that we're growing very much, and that is a source of concern, especially for North America"
The article goes on to quote Clouzet saying the ones really growing and essentially driving up Adventist membership are Adventist Hispanics. He says,
"the one group that is growing very well...If we didn't have that group, we would look even more dismal."
 When I was in college and in seminary (Dr. Clouzet was one of my professors in both places by the way) in more than one occasion I often heard how are church wasn't growing. So when this article came out I was glad in one sense but really wanted to find out more. Are Seventh-day Adventist the fastest growing church in America?

Now I'm no statistician! Along those same lines I'm just reporting some of what I've come across online so this is not an in-depth statistical study. Plus sometimes depending on the source and what time they're reported, things can shift. With that said let me explain why Adventist may not really be the fastest growing church in America and then give some observations.

First lets go directly to the Adventist statistics website. and allow me to give you some of the numbers that I garnered from the website. The Adventist church in America is known as the North American Division, it includes Canada but for the purposes of this post which deals with the U.S only I have not included Canada's number. No offense Canada we love you:-)

2010 Adventist numbers:
Beginning membership: 1,047,333
New membership (baptism/profession of faith): 38,109
Churches in U.S.-4,926
If we take the above numbers the average church in the U.S will bring in nearly 8 people per year.

Yet the Adventist church as best it can keeps a lot of numbers. So it includes those that have dropped membership are missing and deceased.  That total was: 20,621 in 2010.

So if we take all that into consideration the U.S. Adventist church membership in 2010 started with 1,047,333 and ened with 1,064,256 for a net growth of 16,923. This would actually give the U.S. Adventist church an average growth per church of 3.43.

Next report:
The National council of churches every year does do an in-depth, and my understanding well respected research on church membership. It's called, "Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches 2012" In the report (I have not bought the book but just read what they stated online, you can read it HERE) if I'm understanding it correctly it clearly shows that there several other denominations that have had stronger growth in the U.S. than Seventh-day Adventist, which it states being up 1.61% but here are several other denominations that are reported being up...well...higher.

Jehovah's Witness-up 1.85%
Pentecostal Assemblies of God-up 20%
Assemblies of God-up 3.99%
National Baptist Convention, U.S.A-up 3.95%
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints-up 1.62%

Now interestingly enough Adventist along with the above mentioned were the only churches of the top 25 that reported growth according to the report. Again though it doesn't show us as the fastest growing.

The Adventist Review also reported on this report you can read its summary HERE.

Now again if I've misunderstood something, read reports incorrectly please let me know!
But what does all this tell us? Here are a few observations, thoughts, that honestly aren't new.

1. With the numbers from the Adventist website alone and Clouzet's comments we should be concerned  Seventh-day Adventist as a whole. Certainly there are thriving, growing Adventist churches. Yet according to the numbers there is a lot more work that needs to be done.
2. We must be creative, innovative, but of course biblical as we try to reach those around us with the gospel.
3. Adventist must be intentional in getting involved with the community which they are in and at the same time remain faithful through God's grace to the gospel.
4. Public evangelistic meetings are great, we shouldn't stop doing them, but we must understand this is just one form of evangelism. It has been known in our circles as one of the best methods and it's still a great one. Every church has to evaluate what will work and not work when it comes to public evangelism.
5. Churches need to have areas where people can plug in and become active. For example small groups, outreach ministries such as helping people in the community that are in need.
6. One of the first things that people will see is our worship services. Regardless of 'worship style' it is important, that as best as each church can. Each church must plan, pray, and prepare its worship service(s) so they will be the best they can as we worship a God who deserves the best!
7. It's great to see the spanish work growing as it is. Although perhaps it would be interesting to see (not sure how) how many hispanics have migrated to the U.S and for whatever reason not been able to transfer their membership from the church of their home country so they are accepted by profession of faith.
8. As followers of Jesus, Seventh-day Adventist must live intentional, missional lives. Living out the gospel in their lives where ever they work and play.
9. Though I've put it down here last, this is of first importance. We've been talking numbers. Nothing wrong with that, yet we must remember that behind every number is a soul that needs Jesus.

I could say more, but would love to hear what you have to say. Do you believe the Seventh-day Adventist church is growing the way it should? Tell me why? I know there are people who read this blog of other faiths. Would love to hear what you have to say. Respond here, hit me up on twitter, or email me!


Monday, April 2, 2012

Why I'm a Seventh-day Adventist Christian

Why are you Baptist? Catholic? Methodist? Presbyterian? Let me tell you why I'm a Seventh-day Adventist.

The reason I am a Seventh-day Adventist is because after studying for myself the bible I have found that what Seventh-day Adventist have come to develop as their doctrines, belief system is the closest to the bible of any denomination/religion that I have seen, heard, and read about. It is the denomination that I believe follows the teachings of Jesus the closest. 

Now I know...many will read this and find it boisterous, prideful, arrogant, and perhaps even stop reading at this point. Certainly you can, but, I hope you stick with me...

Now let me ask you this. As a bible believing Christian (if you are one) shouldn't you be able to say this about your church/denomination? You may say will I go to a non-denominational church. Ok, fine, then shouldn't you be able to say this about your non-denominational church? 

Biblically, aren't we suppose to find a church that most closely follows the teachings of Jesus? Right? 

Now with that said let me clarify. 
The fact that I believe the Seventh-day Adventist church most closely follows the teachings of Jesus is not:
1. Because I was raised Adventist.
2. I'm a paid pastor in the Adventist church.

Surely you can say, 'well your bias' and well I wouldn't disagree with you. Yet many years ago I essentially left the church but through God's grace and mercy as I started to respond to God's call in my heart I came back. I came back to the studying the Bible! I honestly wanted and still want to know and understand as best as I can this issue we often hear in Christian circles of 'following Jesus'. I'm still on that journey, it's not like I've reached some static point where I've mastered everything. Through God's grace and mercy I strive through to be more like HIM. 

Now let me clarify a few more things. Just because I believe that Seventh-day Adventist follow the teachings of Jesus most closely to the bible it doesn't mean:
1. That every person who says they're Adventist necessarily follows everything Adventist believe (I use to say I was Adventist mainly because I was raised Adventist)
2. That Adventist Christians don't make mistakes (I certainly have)
3. We can't question our beliefs and doctrines (we should study all things for ourselves)
4. That every Adventist church exemplifies the love of Jesus (could write many posts' on this)
5. That we shouldn't continue to study and dig deep into the things of God
6. We believe that we are the only people with truth
7. There aren't sincere bible believing (to what they have studied) Christians in other denominations/churches
8. Only Seventh-day Adventist will be saved

Now you may ask, 'what are some of the truths/beliefs that helped you come to this conclusion?' Good question, here are some:

1. The essence of the plan of redemption
2. The Seventh-day Sabbath
3. What happens after we die
4. How Jesus will return

Again the above are just some. 

Lastly, remember if someone who is a Seventh-day Adventist is meaner than the devil that doesn't take away the truth of what we believe any more than an unloving Baptist for example, makes all Baptist' unloving.

So why are you a ____________________?


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