By Ed Barnett — As I am writing this editorial on the last day of my work in the Rocky Mountain Conference, I gave myself into a moment of wondering what our church would be like a generation on, say in 2040. It is a random choice of a year, but a worthwhile moment of imagining the future.
Now believe me, I hope we are in heaven long before 2040! But if that is not the case, what will the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America look like? I am not a prophet, but after 42 years in ministry I have seen some trends that I believe will continue and I imagine they will have a profound effect on our church as we know it today. Let me illustrate.
First, the small congregations which have, in many ways, been the backbone for the church, will continue to dry up and eventually cease to exist. Many of the towns that they are in are already on the verge of collapse as well. The little rural towns throughout Wyoming and the eastern plains of Colorado today are not the thriving communities that they once were. The same goes for farming. The small farms will be gone. Some of my friends are farmers and they have 3,500 acres of land and these can keep up with the farm equipment available today, but the little prairie farms are simply going away.
Another trend that I am seeing is that the big churches in Denver, for instance, are struggling because as more and more people are priced out of the cities, they move out further and further away from the city centers. Some of our major churches that have, over the years, subsidized the small ones are shrinking as people are commuting to the churches out in the suburbs instead.
So, what will happen to our church? What should we expect?
First, thank goodness God oversees His Church. He will continue to guide it through the turbulent times we are living in. Ellen White, the church’s founding pioneer, says the church will look like it is going to fall apart, but it will go forward till the end. All is not bleak.
You must admit that here in the United States, we have had it pretty cushy when it comes to our church. A lot of times, the pastors just spend time taking care of the saints. They really haven’t spent a lot of time out in the world winning souls for God’s Kingdom. Many of our members feel it is the pastor’s job to do both the congregational work and the soul winning. And if he or she is not able to do it, then they recommend hiring an associate pastor or a Bible worker to do it. Someday, some way, we need to realize that every one of us is called by God to do the work of ministry. Every one of us needs to be involved in the soul winning mission.
It wouldn’t surprise me if, in many areas, we may have to hold more home churches where the faithful laity will oversee services on Sabbath morning and during the week. We may not have the fanciest music, like in some churches, but we can certainly have meaningful and heartfelt worship and fellowship which is critical to our wellbeing.
The Bible warns us that near the end of time on this earth the church will be “lukewarm.” I believe we are already there. We all need to get back to the basics, spend more time with Jesus in His Word and on our knees, get back to the strong relationship we need in Jesus.
Yes, the church, as well as how we do church, is changing all the time, but the church won’t save us; it is only Jesus Christ who can do that. My fellow believers, we have to stop playing church for a couple of hours a week and start spending time with Jesus daily to see our way through the exciting, yet difficult days that lie ahead.
May we always remember that God is in control, and that we can’t go wrong if we stay close to the captain of the ship. Jesus is coming soon, turbulent times are all around us, and church may look different in the days ahead, but keep your eyes on the prize, as heaven is not far away! The day is coming when God’s church will be triumphant, and I want to always be faithful to Him to be a part of that faithful group of people who will be in heaven soon!
–Ed Barnett, RMC president, retired on August 31. Email him at: [email protected]
ED BARNETT, THANK YOU!
This is the last edition of Mountain Views under the editorial leadership of Ed Barnett. He retired as of the end of August. He provided editorial direction and guidelines to foster conversation in the church about issues that we usually talk about and dissect at the dinner table and in the church lobby. He often said, “There will be those who will disagree with what we publish. We need to be honest with ourselves, learn beyond what we know, stick to what the Scripture says, and be free to disagree with each other.” His guidance was appreciated over the last six years, and his interest in helping the church have a deeper understanding of what we believe and who we are was crucial to this publication.
There is no doubt that he will continue to be a faithful reader and creative critic. The Editorial Team will miss Ed’s frequent reminder that Jesus is coming soon. Mountain Views will continue under the editorial leadership of Mic Thurber, new RMC president
Rajmund Dabrowski, Editor