29 Sep

COMMUNITY

By Becky De Oliveira — I have been involved in a number of Seventh-day Adventist congregations over the course of my life. Three stand out as particularly good—from my point of view. In trying to determine what I envision for the church of the future—the theme of this issue of Mountain Views—I’ve tried to consider what qualities those congregations had that made them good. I’m not naming names, but rather giving loose geographic locations and descriptions that might enable the careful observer to identify the congregation in question.

Kent, England

Nothing about this church initially recommended it. On my first visit, I considered it deeply weird. Located not far—but far enough—from London, in a ramshackle town, the building was junky. Many of the women wore hats. A few insisted on lace head coverings that looked like doilies when they prayed or stood up on the platform. The hymns were traditionally somber and accompanied by an anemic organ. But of the two churches and church plant my husband and I attended—he as an intern pastor partly responsible for their flourishing—this church was by far my favorite. Why? There was a great community of people who often spent time together. We’d gather at homes after church or during the week. One youngish couple often invited a homeless person to join us. We were a multicultural group made up of people native to Britain of all races, as well as those from various European nations and those originating in the West Indies or African. There was even the one American—me. One night a group of us were returning to one member’s home just as a burglar dashed off into the dark and we discovered the front panel to his door had been broken and things were missing from his house. We stood around while he phoned the police, comforting him, being there. When I hosted American Thanksgiving, the people from this church made up the bulk of the guest list.

Hertfordshire, England

This church had a reputation as a difficult place for a pastor, so naturally we ended up there just two months before our oldest son, now almost 22, was born. At first, predictably, I hated it. So many fights about flowers and carpet tiles and paint swatches and music style. But again—community. By the time we moved, we had two small children, and this church was a perfect environment. There were lots of young families, and, best of all, after church was over everyone gathered in a large multi-use hall for drinks and biscuits (cookies). All the kids ran around while the adults chatted. We took church trips to the beach, to a large nearby garden, to a forest. We were friends.

Michigan, USA

After sitting with friends one afternoon in Michigan and confessing that we had ceased to enjoy going to the huge local church in our area (too crowded to find a seat, few opportunities for interaction), we decided to start a new church service for all the people who were like us. Who knew how many there would be? It turned out to be hundreds, and our weekly service was soon packed—again, families with teenagers and kids—often families that had stopped attending anywhere else. We started serving an informal breakfast and the teenagers and young adults piled their plates high with whatever was on offer. At first, no one was even in charge of breakfast. People brought random offerings, as they might to a potluck, and the table was a delightful hodge-podge of homemade banana bread, boxes of chocolate covered Hostess donuts, string cheese, tiny orange juice bottles, granola bars—anything anyone wanted to contribute. We spilled outside onto the patio when the weather was good to talk after church was over. When it was cold, we made use of the large hallways, both upstairs and downstairs. When members were sick, the community banded around them, delivering meals, offering gifts, phone calls, taking up monetary collections.

Each of these congregations is an example of how church can be a family. That is what I would most like to see catch on to a greater extent in the future. I’m not sure it matters exactly how this is accomplished, and good congregations like these will likely look different in different areas. You will know them by the way they make you feel. Like you don’t ever want to leave. Like these are your people.

–Becky De Oliveira is a doctoral student at the University of Northern Colorado. Email her at [email protected]

29 Sep

IMAGINE TRANSFORMING

By Alexander Carpenter — The American artist Janine Antoni returns to her childhood home to create a work of performance art. Each day, to prepare, she practices walking on a tightrope. After about a week, she starts to get her balance. Actually, she says that it wasn’t that she was getting more balanced, but that she was getting more comfortable with being out of balance. She embraces the tension. Antoni says she wishes she could do that in her life. When she’s ready to perform her work, the artist strings a rope outside just a few inches above the horizon line that she grew up looking at where sky meets land. As she walks across, the rope dips, and for a second, she touches the horizon.

That’s imagination. The visual artist creates a fresh perspective by altering our usual patterns of seeing and thereby offers viewers a new understanding. That line between sky and land, we are reminded, is an illusion. Not a border—it’s boundless space.

I have a confession to make. I have never believed in balance. Growing up in Sabbath School and church, I didn’t like how a debate over something like faith and works would usually end with someone saying, “Well, you just need to be balanced.” I never understood what that meant as a practical matter. It seemed more like a platitude than a helpful step in the Christian life. Being balanced appears to be too perfect a picture of someone on Facebook or Instagram. It’s beautiful, but it’s just a half-second frozen moment on the teeter-totter of life. Hidden are the mundane minutes and days of drudgery. I have really never felt balanced. I careen through my self-care. I see no balance in our world. Now as I sit down to write about imagination, our current reality—smoke in the skies, storms on the land, illness everywhere—makes imagining a better future feel like a Sisyphean errand. Our world is out of balance. Tensions rise—just like the global temperature. Where’s the progress for today’s pilgrim?

Is there hope beyond the horizon? Tension exists in all the cares of this world. Churches, schools, jobs, family, governments—these institutions frame our existence, giving meaning to our lives, but also creating a lot of anxiety. Institutions represent profound connection and oppressive power. Our churches, schools, jobs, family and government are the machines that make our world work, but too often they are less than heavenly. Sometimes they seem to offer nothing beyond the borders of this world.

The artist invites us to re-imagine our realities in fresh ways, to find a new perspective. So does the Apostle Paul. He writes in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Sometimes people condemn culture as worldly, but the concept of the world is actually much more profound than that. The world is any structure of meaning that we humans inhabit. Without a miracle, our bodies cannot escape the world and institutions will always define us in some way, but when we imagine, our minds float free. As Paul writes, we avoid conforming to the world by mind renewal, by gaining a new perspective, thinking beyond the usual boundaries. To renew a mind, to adjust a viewpoint, requires imagination. One cannot see beyond the superficial by just reflecting common sense or conforming to a worldly institution. Our minds connect us to God and any institution that tries to shut down its power, must be transformed. I am part of many institutions that create more tension than balance. I am an Adventist and I have made a commitment that I will always be defined, in part, by its borders.

I imagine a future Adventism focused less on conforming and more on transforming. Not just converting, but changing ways of thinking, living, and making a living, learning, defining families, and reforming the way we use institutional power itself. The faithful exist in institutions but have higher values than mere institutional preservation. This is not a matter of balance; it’s intentional community building.

So was my Adventist identity. It’s rooted in Colorado, in part defined by a story my dear grandma, born in 1927, tells about her own grandma and mother.

“My mother, Irene, was born in 1898. Around 1901, when she was a baby in Aspen, Colorado, grandma attended an Adventist tent evangelistic meeting and accepted the teachings. Around this time, Mama contracted polio and the doctors in Aspen told Grandma that Irene would never walk again. But Grandma never gave up hope that her baby would be able to walk once again. She believed firmly in the power of prayer and so began earnestly praying and giving Mama hot and cold treatments and massaging her leg for hours each day. Later that summer, a camp meeting was being held in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, so Grandma took Irene and the ministers anointed Irene and prayed for her. They returned to Aspen and a few days later, Irene was able to get up and walk. The doctor in Aspen was astonished and had no explanation other than that a miracle had occurred. Mama’s right leg was always about an inch and a half shorter than the left leg and the right foot was deformed so she needed a shoe a size and a half smaller for that foot. She walked with a limp all her life but led an active farm life and was able to get around very well. This experience greatly strengthened Grandma and Mama’s faith, and both remained devout Adventists all their lives. These two women were the major religious figures in my life. We always had Bible study at home on Sabbath afternoon. In fact, I really learned to read from the Bible and developed a love for reading early. Mama always subscribed to the Little Friend and then in my teen years to the Youth’s Instructor. I did not make a personal commitment to the church until I was in nurse’s training when I attended a series of meetings and filled out a card indicating my desire to be baptized. But the card apparently fell through the cracks and no one contacted me, and I was too shy to call anyone. Mama encouraged me to be baptized and about a year after I got married, while I was teaching school in Proctor, Colorado, I was baptized at the nearby Sterling Seventh-day Adventist Church.”

As she shares this story, my grandma, now an active 94, is quick to also note that there is no proof for this miracle. And yet, it’s clear this generational narrative of spiritual meaning, like a faithful green cord, runs forward and back through the fabric of her faith. There is a powerful thread in this family story for her, of barely post-pioneer women who took care of each other—grandmother, mother, daughter (my grandmother) who have sewn together a familiar meaning beyond their time in this world.

I’ve heard miracle stories all my life, always verified by nameless physicians who cannot believe their eyes. But I see the reality of this narrative, not just because I love my grandmother. It’s a tightrope I walk leading past my home and family and every other institution that provides meaning for my life, including Adventism. The artist, and the apostle Paul, and this story of the faithful women in my family spark my imagination. Can we see beyond what we usually call reality? What comes when we embrace being out of balance?

Will there exist a future Adventism defined more by transforming than conforming? I do know that when I take a tension-filled step along that narrative cord of faith offered by my grandmother, I touch the horizon for a moment.

Emily Dickenson writes:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

Beyond the illusive borders that separate us, our imaginations give us hope—fletched and eternal—intentionally renewing our realities: personal, institutional, and always spiritual.

–Alexander Carpenter is the executive director/executive editor elect of SPECTRUM. Email him at [email protected]

29 Sep

2026

By Kiefer Dooley — You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. —Matthew 5:14

The church that I want to belong to in 2026 will not only be a warm, welcoming, and inclusive body of believers, but will also focus on the broader context of local community. The church that I want to belong to is a fresh expression of the Seventh-day Adventist movement that puts more emphasis on Jesus and less emphasis on being “SDA.” This church worries equally about creating holistic outreach opportunities through community partnerships as it does about creating Sabbath School lessons that will inform participants about the “straight and narrow.” Did I say equally? My church forms partnerships, meets needs, shows love, and offers truth. My church knows that the gateway to the straight and narrow is love.

This church might have all the normal, liturgic forms to which we are accustomed–music, a community prayer time, a sermon, a benediction, and a closing song. But it also might introduce snacks at the beginning of the service. Those snacks might grow to be a whole breakfast bar. That I wouldn’t mind.

Yes, the church of the future should definitely have a complete breakfast bar.

This church might also have all the “hip” church lingo, sleek marketing, fun church band, and a pastor who wears skinny jeans (or whatever the trend is in 2026).

Does all this matter—the breakfast bar and the marketing and the skinny jeans? Maybe yes; maybe no.

What really matters is that the church I will belong to will be comprised of a community of members who care deeply about three things:

  1. Their individual relationships with Jesus,
  2. The church community to which they belong,
  3. Sharing their excitement about items 1 and 2 with everyone else.

At my church in 2026, the people do not come to church on Saturdays to consume a service; they arrive to create a service.

There is a passion and excitement centered around the hard work of engaging community that fuels the creation of music sets and sermon series, outreach programs, Saturday morning jam sessions, Saturday afternoon Bible studies, and every-day ministry in the workplaces, classrooms, and non- profit community organizations all across town.

New arrivals in town hear about this church because, after all, it cannot be hidden. When church wraps up on Saturday afternoons, it’s not the end of the service but the beginning of it. From there, my church spreads throughout the entire community into schools, workplaces, gyms, auto shops and grocery stores. Where the people go, so does my church.

Saturday’s sermons usually prompt hearty conversation and sometimes spirited debate. Discussion takes place not to prove “right” or “wrong” but to seek understanding and continues through the lunch hour and often at the dinner table.

Members don’t ask my church to serve them better, to cater more fully to their desires, to put out a better breakfast bar or to wear skinnier jeans. My church understands that a community that only looks inward, seeking after its own selfish desires, and feasting on its own strife, loses its flavor and appeal. After all, “. . . if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matthew 5:13).

No, there is no inward focus in my church. Its members there are too focused on diligently creating a safe and healthy space for others that they lose track of their own preferences. A rotating group of community members share the responsibility for leading and directing the church from crafting sermon series to running sound or setting up the breakfast bar. At my church, genuine passion, generosity, and excitement about how Jesus meets our needs drives our desire to wholeheartedly meet the needs of others. We seek those needs and selflessly work to fill them.

My church in 2026 feels like it holds the center of gravity for its community, actively drawing in those around it, meeting needs, sharing the Gospel, inspiring action, and granting responsibility. Everyone knows and everyone cannot help but be, all in.

A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

— Kiefer Dooley is RMC corporate treasurer for asset management. Until recently he was RMC youth ministry director. Email him at [email protected]

29 Sep

IN CONVERSATION: WE KNOW OUR ULTIMATE FUTURE

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 [email protected] madisoncampus.org; email him at [email protected]

29 Sep

GOD GAVE YOU BRAINS. USE THEM

By Rajmund Dabrowski — Imagine Mona Lisa. Have you looked at her half-smile and imagined what she was thinking and what it was all about? Perhaps no extravagant imagination is needed when hearing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” And what were Joan Osborne’s One Of Us lyrics saying to you?

I will tell you that her song turned my imagination into an endless spin. If God was one of us, as she sang, and visited church on Sabbath, would He be surprised to discover how different we are on Sunday–Friday, or even just a day later? Yes, the Sabbath is the Sabbath. Christianity is not a one-day affair, He would remind us.

But there is more.

Imagine what your neighbors know about you. There was and there continues to be an issue with seeing God as someone who looks at us in a limiting way. And we think He thinks like we do. Right? Wrong.

Oh, how often I think like Nicodemus did. He could not grasp what it means to be born again. Many of us are grappling with a limited approach to what it means to be a child of God, trusting Him in . . . everything.

I was chatting with a fellow believer about letting Jesus lead us as if we were blindfolded. I said, “Pray that He takes you where He wants, even if that messes up your plans.” He responded, “What if He takes you where you do not want to be, or if your religious practice would make you uncomfortable?” I said, “So be it. He either leads or I lead. He told His disciples, ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am’” (Matt. 16:24 MSG).

Imagine the consequences. There was a moment in my past when I needed a push, but then, I could not imagine where I would land after being pushed. After a midterm test, our theology professor called each of the students to review the results. Mine offered me a simple but poignant comment: “Ray, try harder,” he said. I did know what I needed to improve at that moment to stay on course. But I did not know that this simple admonition would lead me to life-changing results.

Many things have happened over the decades of going beyond many frontiers. One such moment arrived soon after I “tried harder.” It was a concert in London where I would not be squeezed on the floor with hundreds of fans. Being in a crowd made me feel insecure. I went to one of the boxes overlooking the stage and asked if I could hang out in a corner. I ended up being among the concert organizers “backstage” but without a VIP pass and . . . looking from above. I met a dozen people with “names.” This led me to practicing the art of communication beyond textbooks. A realm of imagination is required to express what one discovers, learns, and practices when the new and worthwhile lessons come from such an encounter.

I tried harder. I used my brains.

The same goes for spiritual life, a changed life, when you don’t take everything for granted, when you stop taking shortcuts or cutting the corners, when there are no excuses masquerading as forgiveness, when you are not telling the Lord to follow you rather than trusting his leadership in your life. All you are and how you are starts with changes and is fulfilled by Jesus.

The same goes for my faith community. God told us what to do and promised that He would equip us with skills and talents. He gave us brains. My professor was right. He did not make me guilty for not using my gift of learning (or studying diligently). He just told me to make use of it.

When our religious life becomes a routine of “doing” things, He patiently waits for us to make a change. That’s my dream for my church. As He says: “I am after love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know God, not go to more prayer meetings” (Hosea 6:6 MSG).

–Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director and editor of “Mountain Views.”. Email him at: [email protected]