2 August 2021 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
Recently in my church six sermons were dedicated to informing the congregation of the dangers of The One Project. I happen to think The One Project is doing a wonderful job of presenting Jesus to the world. How can I challenge what happened at this church in a Christlike manner? I don’t want to be judgmental or argumentative.
Signed, Jesus Fan
The unrelenting criticism of The One Project (and similar gospel-oriented programs and speakers) is puzzling to Aunty. The One Project takes as its goal to lift up Jesus, his teaching and example. What can be wrong with that?
Apparently a lot. Aunty reread some of the critics (including, it turns out, the General Conference) and it appears to her that it comes down to this: too much Jesus, and not enough Seventh-day Adventism!
Aunty grew up in an era when Seventh-day Adventism was all fear and guilt. In those days we weren’t permitted to feel any confidence about salvation. We were terrified of Jesus’ return, and had so many rules that we could hardly keep track of them: whole Sabbath School classes were devoted to discussions of what we couldn’t eat, or wear, or do on a Sabbath afternoon, and how soon the Catholics would persecute us.
Aunty remembers when a godly teacher first explained the New Testament’s teaching of God’s grace: that we are saved by Jesus, not by food or jewelry or knowing the schedule of the end times. Suddenly she saw that Jesus was a lot more loving than the church was—and she wanted to share that with everyone!
And that’s what The One Project appears to try to do, too.
Why do some Adventist pastors and leaders take such offense at the generosity of God’s grace? Understand this: it’s not The One Project these well-intentioned folks are afraid of. What bothers them is that Jesus, as he’s presented in the gospels, is just not Seventh-day Adventist enough for them!
It seems to Aunty that the Jesus of the Bible weakens the denomination’s hold on people. If people aren’t under subjection to church teachings they could be set free to make choices the church doesn’t like. That’s why it sometimes sounds as if believing in the church saves us, not God.
Such pastors and leaders mean well. But they hurt people. The One Project isn’t perfect, but you have less to fear from it than you do from someone who would waste six sermons preaching against it.
How can you challenge this?
- Answer every objection to God’s free and generous grace from the New Testament—such reassurances are abundant. Don’t let Ellen White, or authoritative-sounding denominational statements, or ad hominem attacks on your loyalty (“You’re not a true Seventh-day Adventist, so why are you even here?”) dominate the discussion. Answer with the words of Paul, Jesus, and the others, who say over and over, in many ways, that God loves us and wants to save us.
- Keep your words soft and your demeanor kind: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32.
- And if this becomes the entirety of your faith experience in that church, escape to another congregation. God doesn’t expect you to suffer under bad religion.
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—always without identification of the writer. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.