Last night I watched an episode of Let's Talk, with pastor Jan Paulsen, which was taped at Pacific Union College. In case you don't know, Let's Talk is a television program where Jan Paulsen, President of the Adventist World Church, goes around to different cities, states and countries and talks to a small group of people from the local congregation. The format is such so that people ask random questions of him regarding our church.
Now, this must be a tough job even in the best of cases. To take that much heat for every perceived problem of every member must surely require a lot of grace, but this episode was especially saddening to me.
Overall, the sense I got from those students is that they are trying to make vital issues of no importance while at the same time trying to make huge dilemmas of what are essentially non-issues, or at least issues of far lesser significance.
One young man was asking "why should someone have to believe all the doctrines of Adventists in order to become part of the church? After all, shouldn't our church "community" be more important than our doctrines?"
My thought is this: We are God's Remnant church precisely because we hold these Biblical truths as our standard. In fact, it is our whole purpose as a church, according to Revelation 18, to lift up God's truths and call others out of Babylon (spiritual confusion, false doctrines, etc.). If we cease to define our church by the doctrines we believe and teach, then we also cease to be God's church. If community is most important, then we should choose a church based on which one has the best community. Yet we know that's not the answer. We choose a church, and stay in a church, based on its teachings, its doctrines.
A young lady, who said she's currently working with a group of homosexuals in San Francisco who go from church to church, said "The Adventist church is not on their list of "friendly" churches to visit, so we're failing to make homosexuals feel welcome."
My thought is this: Our church should receive and love everyone. We have all sinned, and simply because one person's sin seems more severe than an other's, we do not have the right to reject them, or withhold God's love. But, my feeling is that this young lady is asking for the church to accept that gay lifestyle. This is error. Our job as a church is to spread the truth. The church cannot accept or condone a life of sin, and the Bible is crystal clear that homosexuality is a sin. Having said that, we are to hate the sin, but love the sinner. So if she was asking that, as a church, we extend our invitation as "Come, we accept your choices."...it is simply impossible. But if she is simply saying we need to be more active in the gay community in saying "Come, we will show you God's truth, and God's love for you, and that He is calling you to follow Him."...she's right. I simply call it evangelism and it should be practiced with every group, not just homosexuals, or unbelievers, or those in Babylon. Since she feels so passionate about this particular group, I'd imagine God is calling her to minister to them by lifting up Christ and His teachings, and showing them the Way. "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." - Proverbs 14:12. Is it more important to make them feel accepted in their sin, or to save their souls from death?
One young man was asking Jan Paulsen "What are we doing about world poverty, and specifically about the situation in Darfur?" Well, Jan Paulsen pointed to ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) as working in Darfur as well as numerous other countries and disaster areas.
It seems like everyone wants their specific cause to be every one's #1 priority. This simply isn't possible. As a church we are doing everything we can with the resources we have. ADRA is a world organization that must help in many many places at the same time, it would be selfish and wrong to send all our funds and attention to one area, to the detriment of another. I can understand when someone is full of passion for a specific problem, but I believe that's the Spirit moving on your heart, and that that means you should personally get involved because God wants to use you to help that situation.
There were a couple other young men who asked rather pointed questions such as "Why is so much money going to administrators when pastors and teachers are so underpaid?" to which Jan Paulsen replied that, as far as he knows, the largest chunk of money from the churches are being given to education. Also, since our church is a global church, it is necessary to have administration to keep all our churches on the same wavelength, and that our administration is as streamlined as possible.
The other question was "How do you know that you're being led by the Holy Spirit when you are making decisions that effect the church?" Now, this in itself sounds reasonable, but it was the tone of voice and the facial expression of the young man that made this question border on rudeness. Jan Paulsen answered with grace and pointed to the fact that he is led by the Spirit the same as every Christian should be led by the Spirit, namely, by a firm belief in Christ as his Lord and Savior, by following Christ's teachings, by study of the Word of God and by earnest prayer.
Another person asked "Why the conferences in the south of the United States set up with black conferences and white conferences, and what is being done about it?" To this, Jan Paulsen responded that the conferences developed that way because of the situation in that area some 60 years ago. He stated that the conferences are functioning very well and are having no problems.
Basically, he was saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". My thoughts are that if there is no racism going on in these conferences, who cares if one is mostly black or one is mostly white or one is mostly hispanic, or whatever. What should we do? Force the mostly black conferences to give X number of positions to white people, or force the mostly white conferences to give X number of positions to black people? All to appease our own view, as an outsider, of the situation?
Another young woman asked "What progress is being made with regard the ordination of women as pastors and when can we expect that to be implemented?" To this, Jan Paulsen stated that it is an issue that comes up frequently, and that the church as met about and discussed this issue and decided that it is not the right direction to go, at least at this time. This young woman said that many women are using their skills in secular society because they can't use them in the church. That just seems like such a selfish thought, almost like a little child throwing a temper tantrum because they don't get their way. If there was some Biblical precedent, perhaps this would be a different issue, but there isn't. Women are used in a mighty way by God. But society today wants everyone to not only be equal (which is right), but wants everyone to be the same (which is wrong). Our Adventist youth (and adults?) are subscribing to these worldly views. God made men and women differently. He made us to serve different functions. We are equal, but not the same. To demand sameness is to say that your way is better than God's way.
In conclusion, it seems to me that our universities are becoming so dominated by worldly thinking and belief systems, that our young people are putting their own views and feelings ahead of God's truths. It seems that what is lacking is a humble spirit and a willingness to stand up and work for your own causes. Let us not look to others to solve our problems or fight our fights, but let us look to God, in prayer and study of scripture, and ask, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" - Acts 9:6. Let us look to heaven and say "Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth." - 1 Samuel 3:9
None of this is verbatim, as I only took a few brief notes but did not record the program. This is also not all of the questions and answers that came up, just the ones I took note of and remembered.
I'll be trying to remember all the students of our Adventist Universities in my prayers. I hope you'll do the same. Let's lift them up to God and ask Him to work on these campuses. Also, let's keep Pastor Paulsen in our prayers, as I'm sure his job is a difficult one. And hopefully you will keep me in your prayers as well, for God to correct beliefs I have that are incorrect, and to help me to follow the light He has revealed.
As always, God bless you and keep you.