Name: Mark-Shane Scale
City, State: London, ON
Based on my experiences, I feel that the church has to be transformed for mission work in 21st century North American mission field. Currently, we operate as a community for fellowship around rituals that have been entrenched in centuries of Christian ceremonies. However, this has led us to be inward looking and to operate as a club of members rather than have caused us to see ourselves as missionaries who exist to win others to our faith and mission.
I recommend some radical transformation of the church from how it operates now to a model that I call the cultural center model, where our existence is to provide a forum and opportunities for meaningful discussions around spirituality, ethics and the meaning of life. The cultural center model, instead of a church service that is focused on liturgy, operates as a welcoming space where people of all faiths are invited and welcomed to come and have dialogue and conversation about what it means to be human and to live out our humanity in an ethical way. Through facilitating such discussions and conversation, the Adventist church can expose other Christians and non-Christians to Adventist culture and answers to these questions in a non-judgemental way.
From my experiences, North American people are afraid to enter a church building. Even the term "church" can create an uncomfortable feeling for persons. However, if we repurposed these institutions as cultural/community centers, we might be able to break down some walls and to get outsiders to feel less fearful or defensive about attending meetings at a "cultural/community center".
Also, as part of the change in name comes a change in dress code. Whereas we have to formally dress for a church worship service, with a cultural or community center, we would be able to have a more casual dress code. This would allow persons to come to meetings in jeans and t-shirts or other simple dress rather than jackets and ties. This would make it more welcoming and less intimidating for persons to just stop by.
Meetings would be less bound around rituals and more open to question and answer forums where non-Adventist can learn about Adventist answers to the questions of spirituality, ethics, and human life. These new centers can also have bookstores, museums and free Adventist literature library for persons to learn Adventist heritage.
Centers would then provide meetings where individuals can learn lessons about how Adventist culture and theology can help them become more ethical human beings and help them spiritually in their walk with God. Centers will also be places focused on outreach rather than providing services to members. Success would be measured by the number of non-Adventist visitors.
Meetings can be in a more relaxed and informal Sabbath Service with sofas, hymnals, beverage, and snacks. Persons can walk away with tracks or books, and have questions answered. Instead of sermons, we could have seminars that deal with topics such as:
- how to deal with death and dying family members?
- how to love and honor an aging parent?
- how to deal with physical abuse?
- how to overcome addictions?
These how-to seminars would have panels discussion or special presenters that draw on Bible principles, lived experiences and counsels from Adventist pioneers and history.