Report from NAD Ministries Convention, Myrtle Beach, SC
It was great to see some old friends, and get a feel for what our church in North America is thinking when it come to how we do ministry in today’s world. Honestly, I came away impressed, and encouraged by what I experienced. Here’s why:
#1 The conversations: It seemed to me that we were talking about the right things! So often we just aren’t having relevant conversations, but this was different. From casual conversations with pastors in the hallways of the hotels, to the breakout sessions it seemed to me that we were talking about things that mattered. For example here are some of the titles of the breakout sessions: Conformers and Transformers: Finding, Understanding, and Answers in Youth Culture, Winning Worship: Using Your Worship Experience to Win Souls, Awakening the Hearts of Teens, Where Theology and Technology Meet, Coaching for Leadership. Probably one of the most significant conversations came during the Best Practices “Night Owl Cafe” where we talked about the emergent/emerging movement and if there is anything Adventism might take from them as we attempt to minister to a post-modern culture. I heard some great, and encouraging comments, thoughts, and ideas from some pastors who wouldn’t be considered exactly “young” any more.
#2 The Music: There was an actual worship band! Yes, at an NAD sponsored event we had drums, a bass, guitars, and a worship leader who new what he was doing. Now please understand I’m not suggesting that this is the ONLY way to do it, but what it does tell me is that as a church we are opening up to OTHER ways of doing worship & music. It essentially gave churches permission to try a different style of music in their churches. I’ve attended this particular event probably 5-6 times (it’s held every 2 years) but this is the first time I’ve come away hopeful about the mission of our church, but more importantly our willingness to attempt new things in order to fulfill that mission. The music wasn’t embraced by everyone, there were some who left the building, and some who just showed up late so they missed it. That’s fine. We don’t have to agree on how we do things, but we do have to agree that there are different ways of approaching ministry and we need to let our churches do what is appropriate for their context in order to be effective at reaching people.
#3 The young leaders: As I walked around I noticed that we have some young pastors, and church leaders coming along through the ranks. That was encouraging. I saw a young lady (20 something) who was a member of my youth group when I served in Arlington, and she was so excited to be serving at Andrew’s University as a chaplain. I saw a number of young guys and ladies who I attended college with or who I went to seminary with who are serving at various levels of leadership. This speaks well of our future!
#4 The diversity: Studies show that by 2042 our country will no longer be majority Caucasian. That has already occurred within the SDA church. There is no longer a majority racial group within our church as of the end of 2007. As many of us gathered to watch the inauguration of our first black president together I couldn’t help but notice the diversity of the pastors and leaders taking it all in together. People were even bold enough to talk about the need to end racially segregated conferences!
Another highlight for me was hearing George Barna speak on how to reach post-moderns. His presentation was extremely informative and insightful. I’ve been a longtime fan of Barna because of his humble spirit when he speaks. He often gets a bad wrap for being the bearer of bad news for the church, but I appreciate his candor, and his willingness to share with us the realities of the world in which we live. I think his research has important implications for the SDA church especially today. Here are some of the highlights from his talk: He identified these “catalysts” to a shifting culture:
Post-modernism: reigning worldview and the way people experience life, no belief in absolute truth, if there is truth it cannot be imposed, relationships & experiences are most important, tolerance is the hallmark of the worldview.
Breakdown of the traditional family.
Expectation to participate in everything that goes on. In other words they don’t want to be the spectators they want to be involved instead of simply observe.
Personal communications technology.
Impact of mass media
New heroes, mainly celebrities
Education without shared values
Culture of criticism
He also identified these “shifts” that currently shape popular culture:
Community > Individuality
Respect > Incivility
Discernment > Tolerance
Trust > Skepticism
Loyalty > Immediate Fulfilment
Absolute Morality > Situational Ethics
Appreciation > Criticism
Responsibilities > Rights
Intellectualism > Celebrity
Stability > Expectation of Change
He talked about what “visitors” to our churches are looking for and what they aren’t looking for based on his research:
Visitors want to:
want to keeping their children with them during the worship service
want one style of music
want to be greeted after the service
want it casual
want no special recognition as visitors just treat them normal
want a thank you note from the pastor
want church info from the ushers (greeters)
Visitors don’t want:
don’t want Home visit
don’t want a small gift
don’t want to wear a name tag
don’t want to be identified as a visitor during the service
Visitors are really after these things:
Respect: don’t call them “lost”
God’s presence: a unique experience
Acceptance: genuine not programmed
Honesty: transparency from the church, convey: “we don’t have it all together”
Hope: a reason for making the effort to come, belief
Perhaps some of what I shared will spark some conversations for us. Hope you’ll leave a comment or two letting me know your thoughts. Thanks!