07 Mar


I suppose it could be argued that there really is no such thing as a clearly defined, commonly held worldview that is embraced by an overwhelming majority of our members. Maybe in the strictest sense that is true, but I find that, generally, we do have a common worldview. Likely, other articles in this issue are going to address that more directly, but there are truths that we hold dear which inevitably inform our worldview enough to bring consensus on many issues.

For example, we believe there is both good (embodied in the persons of the Godhead) and evil (embodied in Satan and his fallen angels), and that this world is the battleground between them. I can’t imagine a Seventh-day Adventist who would disagree with that statement. That universally accepted concept shapes your worldview in a way that is common among not only other Adventists, but also those outside our faith community. Our worldview is similarly shaped by our belief in creationism, our rejection of eternal torment, our knowledge that loved ones who are deceased are not watching us, being active in our lives, or aware of our movements.

Often our common worldview is such that we have nearly identical reactions to situations. Most of us, if confronted with an evolutionary concept while watching a nature documentary, immediately recoil from the assertion, if only internally. Our concern over losing salvation is not due to a fear of burning forever. We would never entertain the idea of attending a séance. The worldviews that spring from the truth we know result in nearly all Adventists having nearly identical reactions to certain situations.

But …

… it’s not entirely universal. In fact, in some cases, we can have very different reactions that spring from a common viewpoint. I’m not just talking about the fact that some manage to live up to their desired reaction more than others. Our worldview calls on us to be good stewards of our personal finances, but people with equal incomes who support the church equally and have similar expenses don’t always have similar levels of savings. That’s not a matter of different reactions to the world view, that’s a matter of different levels of commitment to our shared value of saving. No, I’m talking about totally opposite behaviors as a reaction to a commonly held worldview.

Let me illustrate: as Adventists, we all believe that the earth was God’s gift to us, and that we have a responsibility to manage it wisely. This is based on the instructions God gave to the first couple when He placed them in dominion over earth. They were to take care of it, and it was to supply for their physical needs (see Genesis 2). We also believe that very soon, at the Second Coming of Christ, the earth will be destroyed (see Revelation 6). Those two truths lead to a worldview that says we are stewards of the earth, and the earth will be destroyed anyway.

I have witnessed very different reactions among my fellow Adventists to that worldview. On the one hand, some are very conscientious environmentalists. They donate to the cause, recycle, reduce their carbon footprint, and support measures to clean up our planet and deter further damage. The opposite reaction is found among those fatalistic folks who feel that such efforts can’t stop or even delay the inevitable. They are profoundly disinterested in what goes into landfills, they don’t adopt sections of roads, install solar panels, or save energy except as a personal economic benefit.

Most folks are not at either extreme end of the spectrum, but the majority of us pretty clearly lean one way or the other. And maybe you haven’t thought of it in terms of a reaction to your worldview of the earth as our current responsibility that faces inevitable destruction, but that is our worldview, and those reactions are both definitely found among our believers. The next time you dispose of a cardboard box in your usual fashion you probably, because I brought it to your attention, will be aware of how your choice is a reflection of your worldview.

The truth is, for all the nearly universal reactions we have to our common worldview, there is still a lot of room for people of good will to have very different reactions in certain circumstances, all still proceeding from that common worldview.

And it’s not always polar opposite choices we make. There are variations and layers and influencing factors. Since we agree that there is both good and evil, we develop a worldview that everyone is on one side or the other (fortunately our worldview there is free will, which means anyone can change sides). An extension of that worldview is the default assumption that politicians, no matter their stripe, land mostly on the same side of the line between good and evil, and I don’t need to tell you which side we assume. How does that worldview inform your choice when it comes to voting?

You might choose not to vote, and for a variety of reasons. You don’t want to be responsible for the inevitable evil that the eventual winner will perpetrate is certainly one I have heard many times. A lesser form would be that you don’t believe it makes any difference in the long run, but that too is a reaction to an Adventist worldview that the end times will unfold as God has foretold.

Or, with the same worldview, you can say that you have a responsibility to resist evil by voting for the person less likely to act in harmony with evil. My professor in graduate school referred to this as choosing the evil of two lessors and voting for his opponent. That may be the opposite of refusing to vote, but now a new layer gets added: which party? Again, Adventists of good will have different answers, and it’s not always one of the big two. Another layer is, do I vote for the party I mostly agree with, or pick the person I think will best lead us? Again, different Adventists will have different reactions, even though their very different choices all sprang from a common worldview: that there is evil in the world, and I am eligible to vote.

All of this is to say that while we can define a common worldview for ourselves, it doesn’t mean we are all going to do the same thing in every situation. And that is getting down to a core value that I pray we can all have as a common Adventist world view.


There are people who share my worldview in this church whom I would trust with my life. I like to hang out with them, I like to discuss deep issues with them, I like to wash their feet on communion Sabbath. And yet, they don’t vote like me, treat the environment like me, or other things that are more than just matters of preference. The key to being friends with people like that is for both sides to follow the standard Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount, namely, to judge not.

We need to get our heads around the idea that not every deeply held belief that I have, though it is informed by scripture and in harmony with my very Adventist world view, is a salvation issue that is going to condemn my fellow Adventists who conclude differently. I have to walk my path, keeping my eyes on Jesus, and letting Him be the judge.

I should be able to talk about those things with the people who disagree with me and still be friends, not lose my temper, and not condemn. I may not be able to see how their idea is in harmony with God’s ideal, but I need to be humble enough to believe that I don’t see it from God’s perspective. Maybe I’m right and that person is lost, and maybe I do have a responsibility to speak up for what I believe to be right. But there is a big difference between “I don’t agree with you, the Bible seems very clear on this” and “You are going to miss heaven if you don’t do as I do.”

And by the way, tolerance is not just for those who share my worldview but not all my practices. An Arab tradition (remember, Abraham was their father also) talks about a traveler whom the patriarch invited into his tent for a meal. When he did not give thanks to God for his meal, Abraham remonstrated with him about it. When the man indicated he was a worshiper of the sun, Abraham drove him away hungry.

That night God spoke to him in a dream and asked why he treated the man so poorly. “You heard him, Lord; how can I put up with such a man in my tent?”

The Lord replied, “I know all about him. I have put up with him in My world for forty years. Could you not tolerate him for one night?”

As I said, it’s a tradition, not a Bible story, so it’s not likely true. But there is truth in it, namely, that God is very tolerant of a lot of truly evil people. He is longsuffering, hoping that they will exercise their free will and come to His side. Driving away those who don’t practice things like we think they should is no way to bring them to repentance.

My Adventist worldview is something I cherish. It influences the choices I make, just as that same worldview influences you. If we can be tolerant of those within our worldview that make different choices, it’s good practice for reaching out to those who have different worldviews. May God grant us all tolerance of each other.

Douglas Inglish is the RMC vice president for administration. Email him at: [email protected]

21 Dec


Sometimes people do important things for reasons other than the obvious. I started wearing glasses in the third grade because my eyesight required it, but I have met people with 20/20 vision who wear them for reasons of fashion. That doesn’t work for me, or perhaps not you either, but let’s not judge.

So, is it possible to be a Seventh-day Adventist for reasons other than what would seem obvious? Sure. Some reasons I have heard are keeping the family together (relationships); I like the worship service/pastor/potluck (culture); I don’t know enough about any other religion (inertia).

None of those are particularly bad reasons, but I have to say that none of them would do the trick for me. Leaving would be a hard thing because it would disrupt my family and, yes, I would miss the potlucks. In my case it is also an employment matter, which, in some ways, is bigger than family or cultural concerns. But none of those factors have ever mattered enough to me to keep me in the faith. I think it is good sometimes to reflect on my honest and true reasons for being a Seventh-day Adventist, and I appreciate being asked to write this article, which takes me down that path once again.

This issue is all about things that strike at the heart of why I chose, and continue to choose, being a part of this denomination. It focuses on whether it matters on a practical level, apart from (but not necessarily unrelated to) whether I buy into our belief system. But that is where it begins: the simple fact that I believe our message, all 28 fundamental points of it, and neither my study of the Bible nor my study of other beliefs has shaken me on any of those points.

For me, and I hope for you as well, it is important that my justification for being a member goes beyond my acceptance of it as true, so that it has meaning in the here and now. Karl Marx famously referred to religion as the “opiate of the masses,” and by that he meant all religions, Christian or otherwise. He proposed that the promise of paradise induced people to tolerate suffering now, and, since he didn’t believe in any type of afterlife, he saw religion as nothing more than a way for one class to exploit another. What he observed was that for the vast majority, believing in something good tomorrow didn’t translate into better lives today.

Let me be clear that I am not a Marxist, beginning with my conviction that there is a God and there is a very real heaven. But he had a point that the promise of heaven, while it matters a great deal to me personally, doesn’t get me out of the toil and trouble during my threescore and ten and perhaps more (see Psalm 90:10). What does my faith, both as a Christian in the broad sense and as a practicing Seventh-day Adventist in the narrow sense, do for me now?

My answer is, Plenty. On one level, I have the culture: worship services I enjoy, a pastor I like, and potlucks. On a higher level, I have improved family relations and a career that has been meaningful to me. I have my cultural concepts challenged regularly had have been forced to adjust, and family relationships are always evolving, but my beliefs have provided structure and comfort even during those times of change.

On a still higher level, don’t discount the very real benefits that come from belief itself. Knowing truth brings peace because it gives me a lens for viewing world events, a promise of something better (Marx couldn’t understand it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real), and a sense of purpose.

Those things don’t come cheap. Adventism may be my heritage, but for it to really be mine, at some point I had to consciously choose it. That point came while I was in an Adventist college, fully believing that I was already an Adventist and would remain so. Then I got blindsided with a challenge that changed everything.

There is always some wind of doctrine blowing through the church that strikes at our fundamental beliefs on one or more points. In the early 1980s, it was Desmond Ford challenging our interpretation of Daniel, which spilled over into our Christology, understanding of salvation, and other key points of doctrine. Someone I thought of as a committed Christian invited me to join in that challenge to our prophetic understanding and presented material containing the arguments.

I am happy to say that, from the outset, the arguments looked weak and easily answered, and, subsequently, I have seen that our church answered those questions long before Dr. Ford was even born. From that experience forward, Adventism was not just what I had been taught. It was what I believed, down to my very core, in a way that approaches what Jesus defined when he said that to be worthy of him, we have to place our love for him, our faith in him, our belief in him, higher than family, work, or life itself (see Matthew 10:37-38).

All good and well to truly believe, and some might even say that would be enough. But there’s more! The most meaningful part of being a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, in the here and now of all this toil and trouble, is that it has been and continues to be a medium through which I know my Savior better and better. You may well achieve that in other belief systems, but not only does this one square with the scripture in ways that others do not, I have found that it presents Jesus clearer, more accurately, and more deeply than anything offered anywhere else.

That even includes my own personal study of the Bible. Passages that might have given me struggles are clearer due to the understanding brought to me by my denomination. For example, I would never have comprehended the prophecies of Daniel on my own. Scholars, not all of them from our faith tradition, have interpreted the various parts of it in a way that makes sense. And while there remains even within our church some debate over certain points of prophecy, the accepted parts fit together perfectly. I may have been confused on my own, but I see it clearly as explained by our church. By contrast, my study of how those parts are interpreted by other religions has left me unconvinced.

That goes for many passages beyond the prophetic parts of the Bible. Believe me, I have taken skeptical approaches to our beliefs, trying to see if I could knock any of them down. Not from a desire to turn my back on my religion, but rather like a plumber who checks for leaks after a repair. He doesn’t want to find any, but he has to be sure they aren’t there. I’ve checked for leaks in our beliefs, and I can’t find any. Through them I have a closer walk with Jesus, and that walk changes me.

Even when I am not aware of it. As a graduate student in a public university, I was not shy about who I was and what I believed. I can’t say I was actively proselytizing, but people knew, and questions were asked and answered. One day shortly before I was to graduate, some question arose about whether I had done all the requirements. It turns out I had, but, since the outcome was uncertain, the department chairman said he would look into it, then left the room.

As soon as he was out of earshot the administrative assistant went into a rant about how unfair this was to me, that I only followed the directions of my advisor, and they were responsible to get me through on time, and on like that. She ended by saying, “And you just take it all calmly, and I know why. Your faith works for you. I don’t get it, but it works for you.”

I didn’t know it was obvious. You may not know it’s obvious in your life. But this walk that we have with Jesus, enhanced as it is by knowing the Bible truths that we share, changes us.

Is it worth it? I can only answer for myself, and hope that it gives you something to think about, but, yes, absolutely, it is worth it. Here and now, during my threescore and ten, and hopefully more, amidst the toil and trouble. The truth that I know, the church that I serve, and the people I fellowship with give me a culture I love, belief that brings peace, and assurance of paradise. It helps me know Jesus better, and that makes me a better person than I can be on my own. All of it improves my life, and none of it comes from within me.

Karl Marx should have been so blessed.

Doug Inglish is RMC vice president for administration. Email him  at: [email protected]  

21 Oct


I was picking up folding chairs with the head elder of a small church after a service. A very small church. I was a sponsor on a mission trip within the United States, and our group quadrupled the size of the congregation at services that morning. They also reduced the average age to about 70, all of whom treated the students like royalty and fed them a wonderful meal. The elder was now enthusiastically telling me about his church and the new pastor they would be welcoming soon.

“He’s young, which is a good thing because we are all getting older, and he believes we can do some successful evangelism here. I’m excited about it because we want to grow.”

Then he paused, and with a concerned look on his face, continued in a lower tone. “Well, the truth is, we do want to grow, but I want to make certain it’s the right kind of growth.”

I nodded in understanding. “In other words, you want to have more people, but you don’t want to change.”

His demeanor brightened. “Yes, that’s it exactly. We want to stay the same.”

“Well, you know, growth is change. The people who join a church are blessed with gifts of the Spirit, and God expects them to use those gifts. I imagine that many of them will have gifts that you may not have among your members right now, and they will allow you to do new ministries that a small group of retirees might not have the skills or energy to do. Things that can bless not only the church but the community. You can’t grow and expect to not change.”

His response almost floored me: “Then I don’t want to grow.”

To him, the great gospel commission was far less precious than the view from inside his cocoon. Dying off was preferable to passing the light on to another generation. To preserve his way of worship, he would deny others the truth that he claimed to treasure. But it was not his attitude that shocked me, only his transparency about it. I had encountered many people who felt the same way but were too cagey to admit it. At least he was honest.

Before I make a statement that should be obvious to everyone, let me lay down some markers: truth is eternal, the Bible is the only reliable source of spiritual truth, and I believe in the interpretation of the Scriptures as found in the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Now for the obvious statement: we don’t live in the same world as James and Ellen White. While the truth has not changed, the world has, and we must adapt to new realities that affect how Adventism is practiced in the changing world.

When I was a boy growing up in a small Indiana town in the 1960s, I loved going Ingathering. At first I rode in the car with my father, a reel-to-reel tape recorder on the seat beside him blaring the King’s Herald’s Christmas album through the giant loudspeaker strapped to the top of the Studebaker. When I got a little older, I would go door to door with my uncle, who eventually began to coach me on what to say and let me try it. Before I was off to academy, I was going to the doors alone trying to reach my goal without my parents chipping in.

They quit making Studebakers after 1966. You must go to a museum to see a reel-to-reel recorder. The King’s Herald’s musical style has changed. And in the few communities that have not legislated against door-to-door collections, it is not safe after dark to go to doors or open them to strangers, with or without a live choir in tow.

How can we re-imagine Adventism so that it stays relevant while remaining faithful to truth? If the problem is Ingathering, we can simply recognize that its time is over and move on. After all, not pounding on doors to ask for cash isn’t in violation of any of the 28. But it is more challenging to come up with answers to other changes in the world.

  • The response to public evangelism is growing weaker
  • Systematic, disinterested giving is becoming rare
  • Fewer members see the value of Adventist education
  • It is easier to watch worship from home than participate at church
  • The overhead of our schools, churches, and institutions are being driven higher by inflation, regulatory burdens, medical costs, and legal fees
  • Our colleges and universities are finding fewer and fewer students willing to take education or theology, resulting in critical shortages of essential workers to replace retiring baby boomers

We have no choice but to re-imagine Adventism. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I am aware that new models must be explored for how we staff our schools and churches, how we spend our dollars, how we communicate our message, and how to appropriately praise God in a service that draws people in. If we don’t shake off our Laodicean tendency to cling to the familiar, then God will not be alone in spewing us out.

Already there are generations raised in the church who have decided that lukewarm is not good enough. They can’t relate to hymns about keeping the lower lights burning. They have, through no fault of their own, attention spans that are short enough to begin with, and shorter still when they must sit in motionless rows while someone talks. They can’t see a good reason why they are shut out of the decision-making process. And if they are frustrated enough to not hang around, why would we expect great success in attracting others from their generation who did not have the advantages of growing up in the church?

Change can be made without sacrificing truth. In fact, change is imperative. Without it, there is no growth. Which takes me back to my story of the elder who admitted what many others believe, but most will deny. Once I had recovered from his stunning declaration, a response popped into my mind.

“Well, you have that choice. You don’t have to change, and you don’t have to grow. But there are some words you need to remember, because you are going to need them someday. ‘I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back’, “(Matthew 25:25, NLT)

Douglas Inglish is RMC vice president for administration. Email him at [email protected]

23 Mar


By Doug Inglish … For some of you, this might be new, but I’ve seen this before.

When I was a young driver, not really needing my own car, yet but finding it necessary to borrow one of the family cars from time to time, I had enough sense of responsibility to put some gas in the tank now and then. No big deal. So, by the time I did buy my first car, the habit of paying for my own fuel was well established.

Then everything changed. Or, I should say everything began changing on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times in a day. Every time I passed a gas station, a new and higher price was posted. One evening, I came in from the construction job I had that summer and told my dad, “I don’t know how I can afford to drive to work if gas hits fifty cents a gallon.”

Always a man of calm perspective, he replied, “There will come a day, and soon when you will wish it would hit fifty cents a gallon again.”

As usual, he was right. That day was very soon after, and every day since then for that matter.

Things eventually settled down, and for several decades inflation was at a more reasonable, manageable pace. In fact, a lot of items actually went down in price while going up in quality, such as electronics. Gas itself has been a more volatile ride, with the global market being affected by wars, labor issues, technological advances, and political disputes. When it went past a dollar, I never thought it would go back under, but it did for a time. Same thing at two dollars.

But now everything seems to be going up, and fast. You can read about it in the news or go see for yourself at any store. Inflation is soaring again like it was around the time I was filling the tank on my battered Chevy Impala. Not only at the gas pump. We are all paying more for food, energy, insurance, clothing, tires, and household goods. Inflation is even affecting me at work, where my ability to invite a gifted pastor to fill a position in one of our churches is frequently stymied by the cost of housing.

With this kind of instability, it’s hard to plan. Can the water heater last another couple of years, or should I get one before the price jumps? Can we afford a vacation? Is the price of used cars going to come back to earth before this one falls apart? Will a college degree be out of reach?

I am not an economist, and happily so, because I consider the field to be one of the black arts, like voodoo, witchcraft, and automatic transmission repair. But as I said in the beginning of this article, I have seen this before, and watching our country (and indeed, the world) go through it again, I think I can safely declare a very real economic principle: Stability is an illusion. It seems to be around for a while, but then everything goes haywire, and you get left wishing gas would hit fifty cents again. Or two dollars, or whatever. Soon enough, we may find ourselves longing for the good old days of five-dollar-a-gallon gas prices.

But we long for stability in life. We like to know where our next meal is coming from, for everyone to stop at red lights, and to not get hit with a pop quiz in our 7:30 class. The stress of watching prices rocket toward the stratosphere is just one more reminder that stability is not just an economic illusion; it’s a fleeting vapor that we chase in our jobs, our relationships, our health, and our golf game, if that’s your thing.

But God is stable. He’s the Rock upon which the church is built (Matthew 16:18), our shelter (Psalm 61:3), our fortress (Psalm 91:2), and the One Who hears when we cry out to Him (Psalm 55:17). When things go bad, God is good. He is dependable. Unchanging. Stable.

One bit of evidence of His stability is found, oddly enough, in economics. Inflation has had a profound effect over the last 4000 years, but I am returning the same tithe that Abraham did that long ago.

If you don’t think that’s a remarkable fact, consider sales tax rates. When I was a boy growing up in Indiana, the state sales tax was 2%. Today, it is 7%–more than a threefold increase. If God were only as stable as the legislature of that rather conservative state, our tithe rates would now be 35%, and yes, that’s before offerings. But the One Who is from everlasting to everlasting remains steady, never adjusting His rates because circumstances change.

I know that is a function of the fact that it’s not about revenue for Him (Micah 6:6-8), or about His needs (Psalm 50:12); it’s about recognizing His sovereignty (Psalm 24:1). Nevertheless, the fact that tithe has remained at a steady rate throughout its history is an indication, from the dark field of economics, that our God is stable. The kind of stable that lets me know, even when inflation is eating away at our security and foiling our attempts to plan ahead, that I can count on Him to keep me afloat.

I’ve seen this before. Tithe is my anchor in this storm because it is the assurance of God’s stability.

–Doug Inglish is RMC vice president for administration and stewardship director; photo by Rajmund Dabrowski

13 Jan


By Doug Inglish — I went to a public university for my graduate degree, which is not to say that I was surrounded by a crowd of atheistic, evolution-spewing hedonists whose every thought, word, and action was bent toward evil. That may describe a subsection of both students and professors I knew there, but far from all of them. Many were active in their churches, and overwhelmingly, they respected my beliefs. I am happy that I went to an Adventist college during a more formative period of my life, and I recognize that my deep involvement in the local church while in graduate school kept me grounded, but spending time with people of other faiths, as well as people of no faith, was a learning opportunity.

We who were serious about our faith recognized that same quality in others around us. We shared mutual academic interests with partyers, so we got along well with them, but we didn’t spend much extracurricular time with them.

Of course, one thing we all shared was relative poverty. Some had full-time jobs and only took a class or two at a time, but most of us were full-time students, mostly on graduate fellowships. The fellowship had minimal work requirements, so it was a great way to pay for your education. It just wasn’t a great way to pay the rent, which meant many grad students had side jobs.

One of the students I got along with best was a fellow Christian who worked as a waiter to help make ends meet. We were talking over an assignment one day and fell into a common topic; namely, how can you live on the $400 a month without either a working spouse, extra job, or trust fund? He told me how much he typically brought in waiting tables for an evening, then, almost as an afterthought, added, “Of course, that’s before tithe and taxes.”

Now, with my upbringing, tithing was normal. It’s not just what my family did; it’s what most active members did, what we heard in sermons and read about in church publication (yes, like this one), and learned about in Bible class at church school. I knew all about tithe, including the fact that Seventh-day Adventists are a minority among churches not just because we understand what it means, but because we even use the word at all. Most churches, despite the fact they depend on giving from their members for the overwhelming majority of their financial support, don’t talk about, let alone practice, true tithing. So, when my friend used the word, it caught my attention.

“Tithe? I didn’t know that Catholics tithed.” I realize now that there was very little tact in my observation, but in my defense, he had caught me completely off guard.

He smiled and declared, “We don’t. But I do.”

It was one of those moments when you know that someone else gets you. Really, really gets you. Both of us were struggling, but that didn’t keep either of us from tithing.

But digging deeper into the three sentences that I have here reported from the larger conversation, there is something else that strikes me about his faithfulness. He mentioned two things that took a bite out of his income. One of them, taxes, was something over which he had no control. The other, tithe, was entirely within his power to ignore. But he spoke of those reductions in income as if they were beyond question. In his mind, obviously, they were.

But why was tithe beyond question for him? I had a lifetime of exposure to cheerful givers who taught by word and deed that tithing is an expression of trust that brings peace and security. I had seen the blessings in my family growing up and had experienced them firsthand since establishing my own household. But his church, which has never been shy to impress upon its members their sacred duties, did not require tithing. How did he end up with the same attitude I had, in which robbing God was as unthinkable as living on Saturn?

I’m just going to have to live with not knowing the answer to how tithing became a way of life for him. I didn’t ask because it was enough for me at the time to enjoy the fact that here, in this secular environment, was somebody who got me on a really personal level. It was one more thing we had in common, and when you are as outnumbered as we were, that’s a pretty special thing to discover.

I don’t regret that Adventists teach stewardship. To do otherwise is, as Ellen White pointed out, to ignore “. . . a matter which involves a blessing or a curse…”  (Counsels on Stewardship, p. 106). But I also know that there is a danger that our faithful stewardship might be less about enjoying the blessings and more about avoiding the curses.

My Catholic friend from graduate school, whose education on the matter was almost certainly not as thorough as mine, didn’t grow up with his church teaching him anything about tithing, but somewhere along the way, he picked up an understanding of the blessings. And it was clear from the way he spoke those simple words, “But I do,” that the fear of a curse had nothing to do with his choice.

My prayer is that somewhere along the way, you, too, learn of the blessings and that your choice isn’t motivated by the fear of a curse. We, of all people, should know these things.

–Doug Inglish is RMC stewardship director; photo by iStock

07 Dec


By Doug Inglish … I know it’s after Thanksgiving, but I’m grateful that I have a job and that I love it, but it would have been nice to have had the time to do this article when it was requested. Instead, I got to hop around to several cities on the first stops of our Town Hall meetings, then to my brother’s house to spend time with my siblings, kids, and dad.

During that time, I had many opportunities to reflect on what made me thankful. Of course, you can guess what a lot of them are, and maybe those things are so common as to be cliché, but that doesn’t mean we should take them for granted.

I get along with my brothers, and my dad is still sharp at age 91, and my kids are active in church, and I’m closing in on 40 years of a continuing honeymoon, and I live indoors, eat plenty, and have good health. I think I can check all the boxes and say I am grateful for all of them.

But it wasn’t just my vacation time when I was able to reflect on blessings. In the days leading up to my time off, I was in many hotels and on a lot of airplanes, away from my wife and not getting good rest. Eating on the road usually means a lot of poor choices with limited options, which was undoubtedly a factor. Meetings ran long after sunset, and I had to get up early to get through security for a flight. Through it all, I was aware of some special blessings that are mine.

I work for the Rocky Mountain Conference, so those days on the road, I saw a lot of beautiful landscapes. I went to meetings with people who care enough about the church’s mission to show up and talk with us about it. We had lots of good stuff to share with them, like a strong financial picture, a newly organized church, some baptisms, and some ordinations.

And I spent those days with Mic Thurber and Darin Gottfried, men of sound judgment and exemplary character who love the Lord and are dedicated to making good decisions and doing the Lord’s will, and who are, by the way, delightful to be around. Already it is becoming evident that we consider it a privilege to share the journey with each other, and we look forward to seeing how the Lord is using our pastors, teachers, and lay leaders to spread the gospel. We may tremble at the thought of leading those terrific people, but we know that we are not alone. We have a healthy constituency, we have solid leadership on all our committees, we have each other, and we have the Lord as our guide. More than that, we cannot ask.

I hope that when you think about your place in God’s work, that you too are grateful for what He has given you to fulfill your role. I pray that you can say that your fellow elders, or Sabbath School teachers, or school board members are godly, dedicated people with whom you delight to work. I pray that you have a budget to accomplish what must be done. I pray that you see growth.

Yes, I was grateful during the holiday. Very, very grateful. But even the tiring trip before my vacation was full of opportunities to be aware of my blessings, which made my return to the office also a happy moment.

May each act of service that you do for the church’s mission likewise be a blessed experience.

–Doug Inglish is RMC vice president of administration and stewardship director; photo by Unsplash

29 Sep


By Chelsea and Doug Inglish — Doug: Well, this could be interesting. It’s not the first time you and I have talked about issues in the church, but it has pretty much always been about the present or the near future. The question of what we imagine Adventism will be further down the road is a lot more speculative, and it is based on very little evidence.

Chelsea: True. It is impossible to predict the future, but I think a lot of people are wondering what the future of Adventism is, as we near the Second Coming.

D: Which brings up what ultimately every Adventist knows is our ultimate future–the Second Coming. But pretty much every generation thought it was so soon that speculation on our future was a waste of time. Naturally, I hope that today’s conversation will be made pointless by Jesus’ immediate return, but so far, we are still here.

C: I know you’ve been an Adventist your whole life. What kind of changes have you seen in the denomination over the years?

D: Fortunately, I don’t think those changes have primarily been doctrinal or theological, as in most denominations. There are exceptions, of course, such as our initial reluctance to accept the existence of the Holy Spirit and fringe elements still fight over that. Some would also argue that seismic shifts have occurred at one point or another, and the points of some matters may not necessarily be fully settled. There have also been attacks from time to time on settled points of doctrine, but things have been mostly stable in my view, although saying so will likely generate some letters with contrary opinions.

Instead, most of the changes within the church are cultural. When I was in boarding academy, wearing jeans to class was just not done. When I started pastoring, I could drop in on members unannounced. Now we laugh at the strictness of some of the dress codes but are much more careful about calling ahead.

Another big change is administrative styles. Churches and pastors have more input on pastoral changes. That’s just one example, but there is a far less authoritarian model at work in most places.

What about you? Notice any differences from the time you left college?

C: I’d say the fact that I am a woman in ministry is a big change, maybe not since college, but since my childhood. I never thought of women as pastors when I was a kid, because I didn’t see them, and yet here I am today with an entirely different outlook and deeper insight into issues of equality in the church because of my personal experience. I know this isn’t a doctrinal issue, but the division of opinion over it can make it seem so, at times.

D: I agree. There were women involved decades ago, but I appreciate that it is now common enough that it generates very little comment. In some ways, that has followed cultural trends of more women working outside the home since the end of WWII. When I was a kid, few women were doctors, and now that doesn’t seem even mildly curious. I believe ministry is becoming that way, and I appreciate the perspective that it brings to congregations and to the pastoral work force.

So, what are we saying? That most of the changes to Adventism in the future, like women in ministry and fewer neckties in church, are mostly cultural?

C: I think that the changes we see are mostly cultural, but as people of the Word, it is important for us to remain open to the Holy Spirit, should He guide us into further truth, as we continue to root ourselves in the Word.

D: I don’t see a coming change in beliefs, but I am aware that the Holy Spirit may lead us to further understanding our beliefs. “New Truth” is always being peddled, but I haven’t seen any in my lifetime that stood up to the scrutiny of the Bible or got a wide and sustained following. Nevertheless, we can’t close our minds to God presenting things that are as of yet hidden.

C: As far as cultural changes go, I think it is important for us to be able to distinguish culture from doctrine, so that we continue to be people in the world, adapting to changes that do not actually defy doctrine. I think we often struggle with this, holding onto the past culture as if it is doctrine, when it is simply tradition.

D: These are very good points. Of course, you are also getting into uncomfortable territory for a lot of people. There have always been, and still are, significant battles over whether a particular practice is doctrinal or merely cultural. I remember my elementary school teacher saying that when she was a little girl, the church was split over feathers in women’s hats! For some, that was a doctrinal matter. On the other hand, we can’t blithely say that everything is cultural, either.

But even in solid doctrinal matters, we must adapt to a changing environment. Fifty years ago, a public meeting in which truth was presented by a gifted evangelist standing in front of a crowd yielded results. Now there are diminishing returns with that approach. But in its place are new methods of outreach, mostly driven by technology, but not entirely. The way that people respond to any kind of information is changing, and I am glad to see the church exploring different options. I am convinced that those methodologies will continue to adapt to cultural changes while the truth we teach remains stable, but honestly, I can’t predict how.

C: I agree. Culture is like a language. We can translate the Bible into any and all languages in the world, but the message remains the same. I think it is important to be able to spread the message in the cultural language of today, and I believe we can do that without diluting the message. It may take some work, but it is well worth it, and it is what we are called to do.

D: Absolutely. I don’t believe for a second that the future of Adventism involves a change in beliefs or in mission. It does involve remaining sensitive to changing cultures and methods, but that has always been true. The leaders of the church in the past resisted pastors owning cars, doing radio evangelism, and producing their own television programs. Now we take all those things for granted, while other methods have had to be abandoned. Ingathering didn’t die, as some would argue, because members got lazy. It died because strangers knocking on your door became offensive to the culture. Staying in touch with a changing world is key to our future.

C: None of us can know exactly what the future of Adventism will look like any more than we can predict how our day will turn out when we wake up in the morning. But I do have hopes for the future of Adventism. I hope the future of Adventism involves a willingness to listen and learn in love. I hope it involves the courage to admit when we’ve been wrong and to grow when necessary. I hope it involves a strong commitment to loving people as Christ does, both within our culture and, in some cases, despite the culture around us. I see that happening right now, and I hope it will continue!

D: I see that as well, and having conversations with your generation, and with the generation that follows yours, solidifies that conviction. For all that we have in common, being related as we are, you and I are not only of different generations, but we are also different genders and involved in different parts of church work. But I have enough interactions on topics like this with teachers, young pastors, lay leaders, students, and others to know that the viewpoints we just shared are widely accepted.

C: Yes, we do have differences, but we also have some strong similarities of experience, such as growing up in the church and being employed by the church as pastors. It’s interesting to discuss topics like this, coming from our own points of view. I know it is easy for us to discuss because we are in the same family, but I hope that others in the church are also able to discuss topics like this, despite differences in perspectives. Open and loving communication, even of sensitive topics, is critical to a successful future for our denomination.

— Chelsea Inglish is youth pastor of Madison Campus Church, Madison, Tennessee, and daughter of Doug Inglish, RMC vice president of administration, Denver, Colorado. Email Chelsea at pastorchelsea@ madisoncampus.org; email him at [email protected]

21 Sep

COMMENTARY: Don’t Save the Best for Last

By Doug Inglish — You’ve all heard the phrase “save the best for last.” I suspect it has its roots in describing a meal, in which desert typically comes at the end, but whatever situation brought it into usage, it has since acquired other applications.

A competing phrase, also in general use, encourages us to “put your best foot forward.” I have no idea where that may have originated, but the idea is also widely understood.

Used car dealers put their best models out front, with the high mileage cars on the back row. Realtors post pictures of the recently remodeled kitchen and hope buyers don’t notice the proximity to the railroad tracks. There is even a biblical example of this when the ruler of the feast where Jesus turned water into wine noted how most people serve the best at the beginning and save the cheap stuff for later (see John 2).

Isaiah has an interesting illustration about a man who uses the wood from a tree that he chops down:

Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
over it, he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat, and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
“Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
From the rest, he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
“Save me! You are my god!”
— Isaiah 44:16-17, NIV

The purpose of the illustration is to show the absurdity of idolatry. How can half of the tree be fuel and the other half a deity? Point taken, but that’s not the point I want to make here. Instead, I wish to draw your attention to the order in which the wood is used: the first part is for himself, and the last part is for his god.

I would like to suggest that this order for the use of resources is pagan. If I make sure that I get my needs met before I consider how much I can spare from the leftovers for my God, I’m not rising too far above the idolater in the illustration, even if I am not bowing down to chunks of wood. Maybe I’m not actively engaged in the worship of a false god, but I can’t make the argument that taking a Me First attitude about my resources is illustrative of true worship.

True worship doesn’t save the best (God) for last. God asks for the first fruits (Proverbs 3:9-10), not the leftovers. The only way to honor that request is to put our best foot forward, giving Him what He claims from the beginnings of our resources and doing so with a heart full of gratitude and respect.

If we put things in that order, what’s left for us will be no problem (see Leviticus 26).

–Doug Inglish, RMC vice president of administration and stewardship director; photo by iStock

23 Jun


By Doug Inglish … Okay, I’m human. We all have things in common, and competition is certainly a big one. It doesn’t have to be in sports or games, either. It could be school, business, even yardwork (“Did you see the new landscaping across the street? We better put up that pergola we’ve been talking about before everyone starts talking!”) can become a competition.

In fact, it’s almost hard not to get competitive. Back in ancient times when we did door-to-door Ingathering (ask someone who’s been in the church for fifty years; they remember), we always knew at the end of the evening who brought in how much. If we had just emptied our collection cans into a big pile and counted up a single total, not one less dime would have gone to disaster relief work, but I’ll bet none of you can think of a church that did it that way. No, everybody counted up their own collections, and it got recorded by your name, and then we added them all together. So yes, competition is practically built into even noble endeavors.

Competition can bring out our worst characteristics if we don’t keep an eye on ourselves. A win-at-all-costs attitude can lead you to cheat, lose perspective on what matters, or do other things that you later regret.

So, here’s an idea for how to avoid being competitive in situations that should not be a contest: Rejoice when someone else is doing well, no matter how you are doing. If your neighbor’s flower garden is doing well, be happy for them, and fix up your yard for your own reasons rather than trying to keep up with them.

I make a lot of calls to leaders in other conferences, and one topic of frequent comment among us is how tithe is doing. Well, as you are no doubt aware, it’s going well in RMC. Five months in and we have double digit increases. That’s reason to rejoice! When I am on the phone with another conference and tithe comes up, I’m happy to share, because it’s good news.

You know what else is good news? Brace yourselves: When it comes to tithe increases in 2021, comparatively the Rocky Mountain Conference is about in the middle of the pack. And very often I find myself rejoicing over the gains in another conference, as they rejoice with me over our good news.

In fact, if the increase that we have right now was dead last in the division, that would still be cause for rejoicing. It would mean that we wouldn’t have any less because of the gains elsewhere, and that people in other places were also being faithful. I would be happier still if we had double or triple our current increase and still came in behind every other conference.

I love the fact that, at present, a 14% gain is not the best in the North American Division–I’ve seen times when no conference had as much as a 5% increase–because I know the Lord doesn’t have a money problem, but numbers like we see right now indicate that our people don’t have a selfishness problem. And why would it make me happy if other places were struggling? That response would only make sense if tithe increase was a competition among the conferences.

But it isn’t. Thank the Lord for that. And thank Him that we have faithful people, as there are in other places.

–Doug Inglish is RMC vice president for administration and stewardship director.

19 May


By Douglas Inglish … By the time I turned 16, I had developed an odd, but occasionally useful, ability. In my bare feet I could touch an eight-foot ceiling with the fingertips of one hand. Normally that would be just beyond reach for a person of my height, but my arms are absurdly long. (For reference, my predecessor Eric Nelson and I have the same sleeve length, even though he is several inches taller.)

When we moved into our new house in Colorado, there was a push pin in the ceiling of one of the bedrooms. Because the head stuck out from the surface, I knew I could just get a grasp on it and pull it out, and reached up to do so. But I couldn’t get it. I had to go downstairs and get a step stool so I could pull it out.

I was dumbfounded. As any contractor can tell you, both 2 x 4 studs and drywall come in eight-foot sections specifically to make it easy to put up walls that give you a standard eight-foot ceiling. But this room had a ceiling height of eight feet and one inch. In fact, a little investigation showed that all the ceilings in my house were eight feet one inch high. Why in the world would anyone do that? It was more work and it sure wasn’t enough difference to notice.

My move to Colorado required not only a new place to live, but a whole new set of professionals (mechanic, dentist, etc.). When I showed up for my first appointment with my new doctor, the mystery of the too-tall ceilings in my new house was solved. The physician’s assistant stood me up against the wall and declared, “Six feet even.”

“No,” I corrected him, “Six foot one.”

He stood his ground. “No, six feet even.”

I was ready to pull out my new driver’s license and prove him wrong when the light dawned: It’s begun; I’m shrinking! Theoretically, I knew that people lose height as they age, but it had not occurred to me that I should be expecting it quite yet.

Close on the heels of that epiphany came another: My ceilings are not eight feet, one inch high. That doesn’t even make sense. I’m the problem, not the contractor.

Well, I always like a good laugh, and if it’s on me then it’s still a good laugh. But getting older isn’t what I find funny about this. What makes me laugh about it is my very human reaction when I first got evidence that I was getting shorter. Instead of thinking that I was the problem, I reached an entirely improbable conclusion and blamed the person who built my house. It never even occurred to me that the ceiling was perfectly normal, it was I who needed a redefinition of normal.

That’s the way we all are, going back to the biblical Adam’s refusal to own his behavior when confronted about the fruit he ate. When a problem rears its head, it is amazing what ridiculous conclusions we will reach in order to avoid admitting that, yes, this is on me.

I hope this change in subject doesn’t give you whiplash, but how is your local church budget doing? Having a hard time spending it all? Or, and this seems more likely, could you easily find good uses for it if you had more? Even worse, is the board discussing where to cut expenses in order to cover the bills?

Like everything else, the natural reaction to a shortfall in the church budget is to think that the problem is with other people, not me. People with higher income, or who bought their house when prices were reasonable, or whose children are finished with school and out of the house. If those people did their part, the budget would be fine!

Okay, I’m not going to beat this into the ground, because you already get the point. Instead of always thinking that the problem must lie outside of ourselves, we need to own our piece of the problem. Even more importantly, no matter who is to blame for a problem, solutions nearly always start with me stepping up and doing my part.

It’s like when I couldn’t reach the push pin in the ceiling. Even when I was misidentifying what the problem was, I knew the solution was a step stool.

I also knew who had to go get it. And no, it was not going to be the contractor.

–Douglas Inglish is RMC vice president and stewardship director.