By Rajmund Dabrowski … As I watched David Bowie in a commercial advertising Audi in the Spring of 2004, what struck me as important was its simple tagline. The ad issued a call to Never Follow.
Honestly, what it communicated to me was the opposite of what I learned from Jesus’ call to His followers: Follow me.
The marketing campaign tried to position the European car-maker as a product that many were to follow. Some did, more so in Europe than in America. Three years later, the company ditched the slogan. “You have to be bold to be noticed in America—certainly bolder and more aggressive than we’ve been,” they said. Well …
On the surface, this slogan does not connect with Matthew, Zacchaeus, and many others from Jesus’ entourage, if I may be so irreverent, except that all of them had to fail first, forsake their ego, and fly into the hands of … wonder.
David Bowie’s involvement in the Audi ad made sense to me. Never follow the crowd! His words, spoken in a video he shot: “There is no progress without failure. And each failure is a lesson learned. Unnecessary failures are the ones where an artist tries to second guess an audience’s taste, and little comes out of that situation except a kind of inward humiliation.”
That’s a lesson from our contemporary culture. For me, there was another lesson, one all of us had to learn and many continue to learn throughout their lives.
In the mid-1980s, a straw vote was requested by the General Conference on allowing the ordination of women. An upcoming world church session was potentially including it on its agenda. I recall voting at the Polish Union Executive Committee. I know how I voted.
We know the history of the ordination of women drama experienced by the church. Years later, I visited my dad, then a church leader in Poland, and I asked him if he remembered the outcome of this straw vote. He remembered the vote and that there was one Yes vote. After a short silence on my part, he looked at me and said, “You have always been a maverick.”
What an affirmation. I responded with a smile!
Nonconformity and free expression were and continue to be a part of my daily breakfast, so to speak. Apart from my own thought processes, as an Adventist Christian, I learned from the best: the pioneers of the Advent movement.
One of them stands out for me—Michael Belina Czechowski, a compatriot and pioneer missionary leader in Adventism. Before embracing Adventism in 1857, this Franciscan reformer-father was heavily engaged in social and political activities which swept Europe in the 1840s. He wanted his then church to change but became disenchanted with Catholicism.
After arriving in America in 1851, he engaged in sharing what he learned about the Second Coming of Jesus among the immigrants mainly in New England. At first, he was supported by other Adventist pioneers, as well as by the sales of his fascinating autobiography, Thrilling and Instructive Developments: An Experience of fifteen years as Roman Catholic Clergyman and Priest but there was an itch to return to Europe and preach there.
His church was not ready to support a foreign mission, but funding was offered to him by the first-day Evangelical Adventists from Boston. He was an example of climbing through the window if a door was closed. In several countries of Europe, Czechowski preached the message of the Sabbath and the Second Coming of Jesus and established numerous congregations in Switzerland, Italy, France, Hungary, and Romania.
In 1871 the church confirmed the missionary accomplishments of Maverick Czechowski. “We deem it duty to acknowledge the hand of God in planting the truth in Switzerland,” the record states.
It often takes a maverick to foster change and ignite progress. Mavericks of Adventism. What a privilege to join them. We have a job to do!
–Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of Mountain Views and RMC communication director. Email him at: [email protected]