Greetings dearly beloved Ministry Partners. It is amazing how many times in the scriptures the “if-then” promises and judgments of God appear. We who are followers of Jesus Christ are called to be salt and light in each age, the culture and time wherein we live. The “if-then” of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is essentially, “if one is in Christ, then one is salt and light”. The “if-then” is further explained in the gospel of John, chapter 15. “If you remain in me (Christ) and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
The amazing thing about salt and light is how little it takes to make an impacting difference. The more absent it is from the medium into which it is introduced the more impacting is its presence. There is a void in our age, both in time and in culture. Generally, people have stopped attending religious services, especially among those identified as Christians. No, not us, of course. I am speaking of the general population of this country. I am concerned that I am hearing the Church ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Or, maybe the Church is saying, “I would be interested in them if they were my brother. But they are obviously not my brother because they no longer come for fellowship.” But there is a commandment that says to “love our neighbor as ourselves”. And who is our neighbor? Surely that includes persons found outside the fellowship of Christian Churches. The Churches continue to carry the message, but the saltiness of its message has lost its savor, or ability to make a difference in society.
Now a social injustice such as racism, a despicable thing to be sure and absolutely against the Word of God, is likely to draw more emphasis in society than the gospel itself. Please do not misunderstand me. I am pleased for those among us who work to bring attention to the needed changes in this country, especially racism. While black is receiving the attention right now, and rightly it should, please know any person of color in the USA is NOT EQUAL under the law or in the eyes of society with the white population. That is an accurate assessment of our society in this country. To pretend otherwise is as bitter to me as putting strong quinine in my mouth and not being allowed to swallow or spit. I hope it is that detestable to you, also.
Let me give you a true anecdotal illustration. Several years ago, a man was found dead just outside of the little town of Tahlequah, Oklahoma where I live. The news spread throughout the community and it went something like this, “A man was found dead on the southside of town; but as you would expect, it was an Indian.” The meaning was it should be expected those things happen to Indians. They get into situations where they die or get killed. It is the understood norm, so we can only expect that of their class. And to clarify the shame of this incident, this happened in the center of a major red-man population, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. The prejudice is so prevalent even the Native American community had bought into it and devalued themselves. People have a way of living up to or down to society’s expectation of them.
As bad as the prejudice against color is for red, brown, and yellow people, it is many times worse for the black people. Please understand, I am not saying those who champion this cause have taken a wrong stance against injustice. I am saying in today’s world, that cause is likely going to receive higher billing and attention than the gospel. Making it an especially egregious sin against this society, including its Church, is, the gospel is the source and cure for the disease. Sadly, even the cause of overcoming racial injustice appears to be facing an almost impossible challenge to be changed. Again, I am not speaking against those who carry the torch for righteousness in society. God knows, the Church itself has gone down the wrong path on social issues far too often. I confess before God, “LORD, we have sinned against you and your will for equality of the humanity you have created. O God forgive us our sins and restore us into a right relationship with you. Put your heart into our heart that we may represent you among those we serve.”
For the few that don’t know, I have worked for well over 20 years addressing social injustices on race, color, gender, and age fighting for their equal rights under the law with lawmakers and the political powers of this country, sometimes receiving respect but usually experiencing harm and encountering costs for my efforts. But I count it a blessing of joy to be counted worthy to receive tribulation with the down-trodden of this world rather than to enjoy the norms of the elite in this corrupted society. I am appalled that the citizens of America would champion politicians who are so immoral and prejudiced as to be against people based on their color, race, gender, age, religious preference, or any other of the norms we take for granted under the protection of the Constitution and laws of this country. I pray for them because God has so commanded. But that is another topic. I apologize for feeling the need to clarify that point.
Right now, I am speaking of a topic so vital for the Church and humanity I must lay aside the soapbox I have so often occupied, so I can address this greater issue.
Today, I am writing to warn us, the Church, we are at a time in history when we are being called into question whether we still have the salt and light of the Lord Jesus Christ in our midst and whether we are making a difference for those to whom our King has sent us. Before you revolt against me with sticks and stones, I am not accusing the modern Church of not proclaiming the message altogether. I am accusing the Church of not proclaiming the message in such a way that it is being received. I am saying the gospel, effectively delivered, has the power to save the lost.
Romans 1:16, NIV
- For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
- For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed–a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
I am talking about the gap between the mouth of the Church and the ear of humanity, between the messenger and the world to which the messenger was sent. If we were net fisherman, it could be explained this way. If we don’t put the nets where the fish are, none will be caught. We do not clean the fish before bringing them all into the boat. The good and the bad, the ones too large, too small, and those exactly right must all come into the boat before they are saved or rejected. If we are worried about soiling the boat with the dirty fish, we are not going to be successful. The boat is washable and so is the Church. In fact, it has been washed, is being washed and will be washed by the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ that bought it. It is a feature of this wonderful vessel called the Church, built in by the Designer.
Matthew 5:13-16, NIV
- “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
- “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.
- Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
- In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
In Ezekiel 22:30 the Lord says, “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” The word picture painted in this verse is that of a wall with a hole or a gap in it. A wall was the best means of protection in ancient times. A breach in the wall would let the enemy through. If there was a breach in the wall, defenders would have to swarm to that location and hold the breach. The gap would need to be repaired as soon as possible. If a breach was left unattended or unrepaired, the city would fall.
The Apostle Paul made this proclamation which I am encouraging us to join him in making.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23, NIV
- Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
- To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
- To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
- To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.
- I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Barry Whitlow posted the following indictment against the Church, that means us as well as those other believing in Christ but in various ways not quite like us. He first cited the following statistic which I accept on the face as reasonable for the part of the country wherein I live.
“One reality in the church world is that 70% of the people living in most American communities now CHOOSE not to get up and go to a church service on Sunday (and may I add Sabbath?).”
Barry Whitlow alleges and declares, “There is an ever-growing CHURCH COMMUNICATION GAP. [Because] The 70% can no longer relate to how most churches in America communicate their message on Sunday (and Sabbath).”
Then he cites the following illustrations.
- “THEY watch videos (3 billion a day).
- WE talk to them.
- THEY love variety.
- WE do pretty much the exact same thing every Sunday (greet/music/message/music/dismiss/repeat-repeat-repeat-repeat).
- THEY live to be entertained.
- WE package the most important message on Earth in a mostly verbal communication in a one-person sermon.
- THEY learn from multimedia through the week.
- WE teach them with lectures and a quick splash of multimedia.
- THEY want choices.
- WE remain the same.
- THEY want God to be relevant to THEIR world.
- WE want them to be relevant to ours.
So, what is it going to take to reach the 70%?
Change-change-change, and the RIGHT message communicated in the RIGHT way.”
Yes, we know the object of our work is to make them relevant to God’s world, not estranged, as we serve as Ministers of Reconciliation, Ambassadors of Christ. But that only comes through transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit. First, the sinner must be brought to the cross of Jesus Christ.
Do not be confused with what I am saying. This is not the same as becoming a welcoming church or a seeker sensitive church. Yes, of course, the Church must be a welcoming Church. But frankly, most churches I’ve seen, Sabbath and Sunday alike because you might find me behind either set of those doors, are very welcoming, so long as you look and act like them. If you are different, maybe you will not feel so welcome. Being “seeker sensitive” is a dangerous step to compromising the truth that distinguishes the Church from the world and risks losing the effectiveness of being salt and light and making a difference. I will say, however, “seeker sensitive” at least acknowledges the need to communicate a message that has a hope of being received. I think most of those Local Churches labeling themselves as “seeker sensitive” are really using that term to mean they are seeking the lost by whatever means possible.
I am sure you have heard the philosophical question, and other similar questions to it, that could drive you crazy if you let it. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” ― George Berkeley
No and yes, of course. It is all in the understanding of our use of the word “sound”. Perhaps it is easier to use another human sensory receptor to explain it. Let us use feeling this time. As one of the five human senses, since no amount of feeling would exist as you looked at the point of a needle, regardless of how sharp the needle was, it would not “feel” sharp until touched. Likewise, sound does not exist without our hearing of it, sound does not exist if we do not hear it. However, because a falling tree disturbs the medium wherein it falls, air, vibrations are indeed created which would be interpreted as sound if there was anyone there to hear it. You can read more (*) below if you are interested.
But that is not the point. The value of this question for us is the perception of a matter versus the reality of the same matter. In the Church, we think, that is we perceive, we are fulfilling the Great Commission in the proclamation of the gospel and doctrines of the Lord. But are we? Are we really doing that if those who need the message are not hearing it? Or, are we placating ourselves by affirming to each other we are doing what we are called to do because we are experiencing it? If there is no impact, has the hammer hit the nail and the parts become securely joined?
Another perception for you that comes to mind is color vision. Now about 8% of all males and about 0.5% of all females have some form of colorblindness. What does that mean? It means what one person sees as truth is not the same thing as what another person sees as truth. However, truth is constant. It is truth and does not change. Rather than perceptions of color the wavelengths must be measured to determine the true colors being reflected by the light source that is striking the visible object. Since I personally have red/green complete colorblindness, I can tell you those who perceive color do not perceive the same colors I see. But experience teaches us to trust what we see to be exactly true. While experiential learning is vitally important to personal development, it is only when the experiential measures true to the law that governs whatever is under consideration that one can truly proclaim, “I know the truth.” In other words, in the Great Commission and the Church, we are only fulfilling the Great Commission when fruits are being born by the power of the One in whom we dwell, Jesus Christ. Relying only on experiential confirmation of reality becomes situational, circumstantial, or relative truth and not truth at all.
This urgent request of you is not to change your Local Church service to some more acceptable format. That is too little too late and maybe should never have been. The large group, the one Barry Whitlow is describing as the 70% who do not attend church by their own choice, is not going to hear our messages in Church whatever our format, agenda, or paradigm that happens within the walls of any physical structure. We need the structures, so do not destroy them immediately. The Lord will likely do that upon his return, for what of our construction is suitable for his Kingdom. When Solomon was wise, he prayed a prayer of which the following is a portion.
2 Chronicals 6:17-21, NIV
- And now, LORD, the God of Israel, let your word that you promised your servant David come true.
- “But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!
- Yet, LORD my God, give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence.
- May your eyes be open toward this temple day and night, this place of which you said you would put your Name there. May you hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place.
- Hear the supplications of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place; and when you hear, forgive.
As glorious as Solomon’s Temple was, it was destroyed, as was the one after it and the one after it. But the one after that, The Church made up all true believers is still standing and will stand for the bridegrooms soon return.
Where is the challenge for us? Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” Is that what we are doing in the modern Church, Sabbaths and Sundays? Have we developed a pool which is so blessed, comfortable, and healthy for us we cannot envision anyone staying away from its healthy benefits? Yet, truly, more than half of the people within the borders of this country make exactly that choice week after week.
We can make all the accusatory and excusatory (defensive, apologetic, justificative, justificatory, self-deprecating) statements we want to make. But will they stand on the day of judgment when we are asked, “Where are those whom I gave to you? Where are the citizens of my country you were to bring with you?” Our feeble excuse must then become, “Well, Lord, they never showed up, or I would have brought them.” I never ever want to make that statement. And, I do not think you want to make that statement either.
So, what can we do? We can use every means at our disposal, we can become every type of witness necessary, whereby some might be saved.
Here is a short list of things we can use to begin, and it will grow as we grow and diversify into what God is calling us to do.
- Watch and follow the work and instruction of your leaders as they develop and share how small groups can make a difference in taking the Church beyond the physical walls of its existence, beginning with family groups and extending into community small groups associated with a Local Church
- Join the Southwest District, SWD, wide Zoom Conference for leaders when they happen about every three months and your SWD Area Zoom Conferences for your specific area, if you aren’t receiving those notices please contact me or Elder Daniel Flores
- Use Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media such as YouTube to make videos of a) less than a minute, b) less than three minutes, c) less than sixteen minutes, and d) an hour or longer that are offered through the common channel of SWD Media’s YouTube Channel and the GC COG7, creating hundreds and then thousands of approachable resources that carry the message the Church is commissioned to deliver, everything from a weekly or monthly vlog of individuals or groups of individuals, thoughts for the day-type positive remarks that will impact someone’s life, a message that simply says, “I care about you.”, something that serves the sake of the gospel, edifies the believers, and glorifies God
- Include links in applicable videos that offer virtual connection opportunities with experienced believers to coach and mentor those coming to Christ through these efforts, those links would be modifications of existing resources for online services or additional resources being created where an interested person can go to the General Conference Church of God (Seventh Day), GC COG7, or SWD Media websites and find places for association, markers could indicate if a group is full already or accepting new members via Zoom or Cisco Webex, etc.
- Each Local Church can collectively manage those groups within its geographic service area or groups where there is no existing congregation until one can be formed for that area, you know I proposed a goal of 400 Churches (Groups of all kinds) by 2026, if done effectively through the power of Jesus Christ that number is limitless and boundless and I would be ashamed to limit it to only 400
- Develop small groups of mini churches that report to your Local Church with tithe and offerings being given online to the hosting Local Church
- Host real events in a variety of places when social distancing and health considerations seem feasible for the virtual community of believers to attend fellowship in reality
We will stop at seven, because that is who we are. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ and waiting on someone else to do it, that person has just walked into your bedroom or bathroom. Go look in the mirror and see exactly who God is calling to serve in this ministry. If you are waiting on someone to produce a “how to” video on doing it, you will be behind the frontier of missions work. Perhaps you are to produce just such a “how to” video or look online for how others are doing it.
Will you join me in such an endeavor?
God bless you as you truly grow into a Vibrant 21st Century Church that is Transforming the Vision into Reality, a Church, a real Church, that knows how to “FOCUS ON JESUS AND FOLLOW HIS PLAN.”
* For centuries philosophers have been teasing our intellects with such questions. Of course, the answer depends on how we choose to interpret the use of the word ‘sound’. If by sound we mean compressions and rarefactions in the air which result from the physical disturbances caused by the falling tree and which propagate through the air with audio frequencies, then we might not hesitate to answer in the affirmative.
Here the word ‘sound’ is used to describe a physical phenomenon – the wave disturbance. But sound is also a human experience, the result of physical signals delivered by human sense organs which are synthesized in the mind as a form of perception.
Now, to a large extent, we can interpret the actions of human sense organs in much the same way we interpret mechanical measuring devices. The human auditory apparatus simply translates one set of physical phenomena into another, leading eventually to stimulation of those parts of the brain cortex responsible for the perception of sound. It is here that the distinction comes. Everything to this point is explicable in terms of physics and chemistry, but the process by which we turn electrical signals in the brain into human perception and experience in the mind remains, at present, unfathomable.
Philosophers have long argued that sound, colour, taste, smell and touch are all secondary qualities which exist only in our minds. We have no basis for our common-sense assumption that these secondary qualities reflect or represent reality as it really is. So, if we interpret the word ‘sound’ to mean a human experience rather than a physical phenomenon, then when there is nobody around there is a sense in which the falling tree makes no sound at all.
If you enjoy elementary quantum theory or philosophy coupled with physics, you might enjoy this site: https://blog.oup.com/2011/02/quantum/