By Jessyka Dooley … Humans have a love/hate relationship with change. When we look back on history, we see how far we’ve come. Beyond the advancements we have made in technology and efficiency, I believe that we are also welcoming in some of the most accepting and forward-thinking generations ever. Despite all the progress, it remains true that we have a love/hate relationship with change. We love to see how far we’ve come. We wait in mile-long lines to get the newest iPhone. We’re able to work on flights and post photos on our social media pages from an airplane flying across the globe. So much of what we consider “normal” would not exist if we were not constantly updating, pushing boundaries, and changing. At the same time, somewhere in our humanity, we also struggle against change.
This past year has shown this to be true on a deep level. We cherish the comfort of knowing—or at least holding on to the idea—that we can know what’s coming next. We thrive on structure and routine. We find ourselves comfortable in the knowledge that what life will look like tomorrow, next month, next year—is more or less what we got yesterday, last month, and last year. Fear of change, it seems, might make people intolerable.
Like humanity, the Adventist Church also has a love/hate relationship with change. We love to see new ministries springing up and we get excited over fresh leadership and rebranding, but at the end of the day, what we’re actually really comfortable with is just putting fresh paint on an old house. Because really, how has the church actually changed recently? The world has changed drastically in the past few decades, but has the church kept up?
I recently saw an opinion shared by a young woman on Tik Tok stating that churches should lose their non-profit status. At first, I was flabbergasted. How in the world would our churches continue to operate?! She continued to share why she thought this was the way forward, and by the end of the video, I understood her stance. She shared that, in the past, churches were open seven days a week. Churches fed the hungry, put shoes on the barefoot, sheltered the homeless. Churches were, in essence, the place anyone in their community could go to receive the care they needed. Unfortunately, most churches do not operate that way. Most of our churches are open one day, maybe two days, a week. And when they are open, they don’t look much like a non-profit organization. Let that sink in. It was hard for me not to get defensive watching this video, trying to find all of the ways that churches, my churches, really are non-profits that take care of their communities.
Churches have a love/hate relationship with change, yet somewhere along the way, we actually changed a lot. In my opinion, we’ve stopped operating whole-heartedly in the way of Jesus. The early church shared everything they had in order to take care of one another. This idea in the modern church is rather uncomfortable. Now, we operate like little businesses where the transaction is tithe dollars for an entertaining Saturday service and maybe a few ministries on the side. We moved from a church model that took care of those around us to a model of pushing our finances up to the top just for them to trickle down again. Hear me out, money is not the evil here, but the old phrase rings true to, “Put your money where your mouth is.” As followers of Jesus, where are our dollars going? If they are not being used to love our neighbors, we have a problem. We could fill in that phase with countless other currencies. “Put your time where your mouth is.” “Put your energy where your mouth is.” “Put your creativity where your mouth is.” You name it. As Christians, we want to it to be on earth as it is in heaven. That means the people around us should be loved so well and so fully that they see the character of God in each of us.
My question is, do the people in all of our communities see the character of God being lived out by Adventists right now? In the midst of charged politics, do the people in your community see Adventists loving their neighbors and standing up for the oppressed? During times of financial difficulty, do the people in your community see Adventists giving out of their own wallets? As we welcome in the next generations, do the people in our community see our leaders pouring themselves into kids and teenagers? If you’re having to search the corners of the room to present evidence, chances are we’re both thinking the same thing—something’s got to give.
We have a love/hate relationship with change. We saw the church in Jesus’ time struggle deeply with the “change” Jesus brought. Here’s the catch. Jesus came to restore what was supposed to be, but the church saw it as “change” because they had created so many of their own systems. Jesus did not come with an agenda to fix the church systems. He did not spend heaps of time at church “business meetings.” Jesus had no desire to come fix the systems that we had set up, His desire was to bring humanity back to its rightful place, to bring a hurting humanity the healing it deserved.
Maybe you’re one looking for change. Or you could be one who really values the way things are. Now, stick with me here, what if all of this . . . the system . . . what if it doesn’t matter so much? The way it is or our individual opinions of the way it ought to be. What if our church isn’t the thing that needs to change? What if it is actually you and I who need the inspired love of Jesus Christ in our hearts? Maybe the problem is that we have a love/hate relationship with change. We would love to see the church and all its systems change, but we’d hate to have to experience that change for ourselves on a deep, personal level. Maybe it’s time to stop looking at the speck in the eyes of Christianity or Adventism and begin looking at the log in our own eyes. Our communities and neighbors don’t need a non-profit to help them. They need the hands and feet of Jesus. They need your hands and your feet.
— Jessyka Dooley is RMC associate youth director. Email her at: [email protected]