Name: Tad Jagitsch
City, State: Champaign, Illinois
I do NOT advocate change simply for the sake of change. Our society is obsessed with "new". Simply because something is new does not automatically make it better. Our church should not be caught up in the same foolishness as our culture. But at the same time, we MUST be willing to change if reasonable change is required. The old models of church operation are becoming outdated in some ways, but the Gospel is NOT. We must be willing to change our human portions of the institution if they loose their value.
Once upon a time, I worked at our state's boarding academy. Our state conference viewed the school as an enormous drain on its finances. Most of the staff, myself included, advocated marketing the school to the surrounding community (which was both affluent and interested), both as outreach and as a way to make the school self-supporting and profitable. The blunt response from our state conference administration was "Adventist Schools for Adventists". Period. Their rationale was that by introducing too many non-Adventists to the school, it would morally undermine the spiritual atmosphere of the school and the spiritual development of the Adventist students. The enrollment continued to drop, finances became more strained, and the school was forced to close. The conference intended to sell the property and reinvest the money back into the education system, which I must say were deeply discouraging and damaging by these same actions. In the name of keeping the school "pure" the school was forced to close. Is the state's education system better off? No, possibly even weaker than before.
Now, I fully understand that demographics have changed radically since the introduction of the boarding school model, and that many families are uncomfortable in sending their children away from home for weeks at a time. These things have had major impact on our educational system model. The end of the baby boom has made operating large physical plants difficult. Overhead has increased greatly and these schools have become very expensive to operate. There is no denying these facts. But where is our faith? Do we really believe that our Heavenly Father "Who owns the cattle on a thousand hills" has the ability to help us and grow His educational system or not? And yet when many people pray for guidance, brainstorm and come up with alternatives to facilitate the operation or expansion of our schools; our leaders can only see the obstacles, or worse, become obstacles.
This forum is an excellent idea. The above situation reflects strongly ALL of the issues the open forum is trying to address: evangelism and mission, leadership, and education. They are all three deeply intertwined. If we only see the obstacles and decide they are too great and give up, are we not denying the very faith we claim to believe? If we are afraid to mix with others not of our denomination or faith for fear of being compromised or contaminated, are we no better than the Pharisees that Jesus criticized? Shouldn't our leadership be willing to try new things and step out if faith and actively solicit new ideas, even if those new ideas upset their status quo?
We, in the North American Division, are VERY top-heavy administratively. Our overhead is HUGE. We don't have the funds to revitalize our schools. We worry about becoming irrelevant to our culture, yet when a genuine opportunity to evangelize occurs, we shrink back in fear and claim we can't afford to do it. God gives chances to grow and receive His blessings, but only if we will step out in faith and accept the challenges. If we are too afraid to act, He withdraws His favor for a time until we repent and ask for forgiveness. If we do not repent, we insult him with our pride and even further alienate ourselves from Him.
If we are so weak in our own faith that we must remain secluded to prevent contamination and overwhelming temptations, then we need to get on our faces before God and seek His forgiveness for not living up to the light that we have been given. If we are too spiritually weak to stand firm on Biblically based doctrine and can be swayed by contact with unbelievers, then we are no better than unbelievers ourselves and have denied the faith.
If we really believe the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, then we must accept that the great controversy is nearing a conclusion. We must do whatever is required, make whatever sacrifices are necessary, change whatever is not working, in order to make the last great effort to preach the everlasting gospel to a dying world. Our buildings, our retirement funds, our reputations and legacies are utterly worthless if we neglect the instructions of Jesus to go and tell but end up hearing instead, "Depart from Me. I never knew you."