When I was a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church there are a lot of things that just didn’t click with me. Since coming out as bisexual and finding myself in a more progressive space, a lot has become clear.
I used to think that society had moved on from churches. I used to think the problem was one of relevance or messaging. I remember trying to figure out how to express Adventist doctrine in a way that would reveal its true depth and beauty. There are a lot of pastors trying to do just that, and a lot of books published on the topic. Those books help a certain segment of Adventism, but they don’t usually have any impact beyond that.
People aren’t looking for a church to make more sense or teach more compelling doctrines. People are looking for moral authority, and they don’t find it in church. Comedy Central has more moral authority than most churches (thank you Trevor Noah).
Churches have been trying so hard for so long to avoid controversy, or at least to avoid controversy that makes their conservative donors unhappy, that they’ve lost their moral edge. Churches are not addressing the injustice in society, because that’s too scary. Churches are the last to get on board with important social movements, because they don’t do so until it is demanded of them.
So when society looks for a moral leader to solve the real problems that are harming the vulnerable, no one thinks of asking a conservative church. That would only be a waste of breath.
I’m certain the old me would have been offended by this post. I’m sure I would have pointed to charity work or health ministries, but these are the easy way out. Churches love to do things for people so they can reach down and help. There is no controversy there. There is no risk.
I’ve realized that the church never holds a doctrine or a policy that does not support its own existence. One way or another every belief, every policy, ever “moral” issue is institutionally self-serving. There is no self-sacrifice, and no hunger and thirst for justice.
But the religion of Jesus should be the first to brave the storm, no matter what the cost personally or corporately. I think everyone knows that, from church people to those who never darken a sanctuary door. We all know what church should be, and that’s why many have no time and no respect for an organization that has become self-serving.