The Information Is Getting Out!

I have been blogging from January 2006 to now, a little over 5 years. when I began there was a small but vibrant group of bloggers. Some of them still blog. Some of them have been swallowed up by the big sites Spectrum and Atoday, and some of them have just stopped blogging.

Independent Sites Providing News

while some have gone, others have come into the place. as noted above the fiercely independent Spectrum and Adventist Today both speak from a place that is not beholden to the church.

Interestingly enough there are other websites like Educate Truth. Educate Truth brought a story out and would not let it go away. In the past the story might have died, but the internet kept it around.

And then there is Facebook and Twitter. We find out things almost immediately now.

Official Channels Monopoly On News

You see when I was growing up, there was little information except through the official channels. Well, those days are long over. Some may not like it, but whether you like it or not, those days are over.

You are right now reading someone that you probably would not have been able to hear 20 years ago without. the Advent makes my work possible both here and in my other internet work. (Like SoulPreaching.Com)

You probably go on Facebook and read individual’s thoughts on every subject from President Obama to President Ted Wilson. You listen to sermons from various locations, not just your pastor and/or the media preachers. The Sabbath afternoon discussion is now on a global scale as you interact with people from Africa, Australia, Europe, and all over North America.

Local Conference Work Affected

Now the workings of Conferences are even being commented on. I saw another website seeking to be a place where laypeople and concerned workers can come to discuss church work and business The Forgotten Shepherdess. We discuss politics. We discuss sports. We even discuss other churches, well now it is time to discuss this church…

I just found the site not too long ago and what hit me about the site is that it appears to be exposing to the general public that which was usually and often only for privileged ears. The site has caused a stir at the Southwest Region Conference for they are now about to “formulate a policy regarding the proper behavior of an employee relative to Internet conduct via soical media sites and other online activities such as blogs…” You can find that here.

I guess they should have a policy, but if they think that restricting information will continue to work, I think there is a problem.

The answer is not to keep information from the people. That answer will not work. With Social Media sites like Facebook and Twitter turning everyone into publishers and free websites like and providing free websites to anyone, the day of the conference controlling the people by controlling information has come to an end.

And I say with Edwin Hawkins “Oh Happy Day.”

Should We Be Celebrating?

Photo by mattbuck.
A little while ago the Religious News Service put out an article about Seventh-day Adventism being the fastest growing church in North America. On Facebook it appeared that a huge percentage of Adventists were sending links to this article all over the place.

Here is a link to that article.

Well it turns out that while Adventism is growing…it was not as much as originally thought. In addition, it appears that it might be based in immigrants. Here is the Christian Century’s article. It appears as though the 4.3% growth rate has been fixed in the original articles to 2.5%.

Growing But Not As Fast

At any rate, Adventists are still growing…aren’t they? Well they are growing, but like everyone else, we are trying to figure out where our converts are. In addition, like everyone else, we are trying to keep our youth.

Whenever we talked about retention the fingers start coming out. The evangelists point to the pastors for not watering the growth. The pastors point to the elders for not doing their job. Finally, the elders point to the other members for not being loving.

Pointing Fingers Or Fixing The Problem?

I know we have a book come out every so often. we have a discussion every so often about retaining members. But when you have a system where you barely tell people what they are getting into when you dunk them…and then leave them to fend for themselves….What do we expect?

What do we expect when church growth is measured in terms of membership transfer and tithe increase (based largely in membership transfer)? Certainly growth is happening, don’t get me wrong, but much of our growth (not all…but much of it) is simply based in where a particular members will consume her or his religious entertainment. The mega churches are growing because they got the best show in town.

Good News?

But more than that, what is very interesting to me is how quickly we want to jump on “good news.” I mean we were giddy about this. One Facebook friend said “this is surely a sign of the end” as he forwarded this article. We know what it looks like in our particular congregation. We know how the growth looks. We know that 15 of the 20 baptisms in the last evangelistic meeting were gone before they could warm the pew. And yet we jumped at this. “we are important…we are significant…God is using us.”

Growth is fine…but for many of us, We don’t keep our converts. they leave.

I realize this is anecdotal. I hope I am wrong. But, I see baptismal numbers all the time. I see growth numbers all the time. But at the end of the day. where are all these people because they sure ain’t at church? Now some of you will give the exception to the rule. Some of you will condemn me for saying it. That’s fine. I hear you. But maybe we need to stop yelling amen about how well we are doing and come to terms with the facts that our growth is going out the same door they came in on. Spectrum Magazine Blog has a discussion of this topic at this link.

The Separated Black And Non Black Conferences In Adventism – Will We Ever Just Talk?

It doesn’t take much to get a discussion going regarding “regional conferences” and “non regional conferences.” I was on Facebook and pointed to this article where a Black and a White church decided to come together to have a worship service. It was an interesting story in and of itself. But in the comments section the discussion quickly turned to a discussion of the Black and White church and Black conferences. This was particularly interesting to me in that the original story was not about Adventists. In addition is wasn’t about dismantling anything. It was only about worshiping together.

Black Churches and Regional Conferences Are Separate Issues

Upon reflection a few points came to mind. the first thing this told me was that we cloud the issue of Regional Conferences[1. Regional Conferences was the name given to the conferences made up of predominantly Black churches. They were called regional because they had jurisdiction over “regions” rather than “states” as the old conference structure of the Adventist church in North America.] and Black Churches.

We had Black churches before regional conferences and we will have them after. Whatever we do about regional conferences will not remove the black church. Arguments that we should worship together are only tangentially related to the “regional conference question.” I think it is interesting that there are black churches in the non regional conferences. So don’t get into a long discussion of how we should worship together and then jump to Black conferences…it is two different issues.

The existence of Black Conferences do not constitute forced segregation. To use the language of “segregation” is to imply that people cannot worship where they please. Are there any black people in the predominately white church in town? Are there any white people in your predominately Black church? Most likely the answer is yes to both of these questions. What is really interesting is that there are Black employees of non regional conferences now and even non black employees of the regional conferences. We all may agree that it is not best that we had to create these conferences, but to compare them to “segregation” is really not a correct comparison.

Our Ability To Work Together Is Questioned

Now I do agree, as noted above, that having these conferences working the same field is not our ultimate goal. The existence of regional and non regional conferences says something about our inability to work things out. Yes all sides had a role to play in this, but be not confused, the split between non regional and regional conferences happened because we allowed white racism to go unchecked. We must look at that history before we can move on.

More than that, it says something that the Black work was being undeserved before the creation of regional conferences in the south. We have seen the African American work blossom as money and resources were now going straight into the inner cities much more than before.

The Split Kept Us Together

But we also must recognize that the creation of regional conferences probably saved a split in the denomination. Look at other denominations in the United States. The Methodists split over the race issue. Baptists split. Presbyterians split. Most have different denominations. Just about everybody split. But we found a way to hold together. I agree that the existence of regional and non regional conferences in the same areas is not best, but it is better than the total split that we see in other denominational bodies.

Can We Understand Each Other?

Some Black folks support the continuance of the regional conferences because they do not trust that their issues will be treated fairly as in the past. Now some folks deny that we should fear that. Some folks get mad that some fear unfair treatment. Some folks will say that “Black folks need to get over it!” But let us for the sake of argument say that some Black folks fears are unfounded. If you don’t understand the fear and apprehension that that group would have then I question if you have done much study at all into the race question in this country.

Some white folks attach the existence of regional conferences to racism and thus accuse any Black person who supports their continuance of promoting racism or playing the race card to the detriment of the church where, according to them, race should not matter.

These white sisters and brothers want to point to a “Post Racial Church” where race does not matter and even appeal to President Barak Obama’s election as a sign that we have reached a post racial place in America. And they think the best resolution of our problem is to ignore race. Many of our Black sisters and brothers believe that racism still exists and that the call to ignore race is at best naive.

Where Do We Go Now?

So here we are. Many of our Black sisters and brothers fear that they will not be treated correctly. They have history that informs that fear. Many of our non black and international sisters and brothers think that they treat all equally and that the call of racism is something that we have largely overcome in the past.

What can we do? It is past time that we come together. It is past time that we have real conversations with one another. It is past time for our African American sisters and brothers to have space to talk about the alienation that they feel. It is past time for our sisters and brothers of other elasticities to give their perspective on the issue. Yes it is past time for us to come together and be real about why the church started these conferences. It is past time that we talk about when is the right time to remove this structural separation.

The answer is not in a top down “You will get rid of these conferences.” Neither is it in the attempt of the previous GC president in telling the young African Americans to tell their presidents that they don’t want these conferences (as if the whole reason for their existence is a “black problem.” The answer is for us to have space for dialog. Before we do anything, let us first talk. Can we stop pointing the finger…and recognize that no side can claim complete innocence…and even more than that recognize that providence has placed us together, because we need each other…