Skip to content

44 Comments

  1. Frank Allen
    15 May 2014 @ 12:28 pm

    I think the local pastors could elect several among them to take over the ministerial directors positon, with the help of a part time church office sectuary. 

    I believe that live internet weekly group chats for pastors, would save considerable money, instead of Hotel accommdations. One Las Vegas meeting I attended cost over 20,000 dollars. Pastors could organize gatherings where they pool their accommdations for frequent time spent in discussions and friendship, without the Conference president. Baptist operate very well without such heavy administration. 

    I think that Conference funding and expenses should be posted on line and a comment section similar to Adventist Today for members to offer suggestions that can be viewed by all.  

    It think the Conference should aim to operate on 5% instead of 10%, cutting office staff and property could make this possible. Churches with schools should be allowed to keep 50% of the tithe for school expenses. 

    I think the Conference should abandon the term president in favor of Director, with assistants chosen from the lay elders of local churches. All other positions can be directed from dedicated lay or ministerial individuals, except the educational director. 

  2. William Noel
    15 May 2014 @ 1:34 pm

    Here are my suggestions for reorganization.

    First, drawn from how ancient Israel was orgainzed under the direction given to Moses by God, administration should follow a 10:1 ratio.  Pastoral districts would be drawn on the basis of geography and distribution of churches.  The only exception to this would be for servicing particular language groups.  Ethnicity would not be a reason for overlapping territories.  Each pastor would be responsible for a minimum of five churchs up to a maximum of ten churches across the area.  Each area pastor would report to a supervisor who oversees up to ten pastors.  This 10:1 ratio should be followed as uniformly as possible up to the North American Division.   

    Second, refocus pastors away from managing the operations of churches to gift-based ministry development and church planting.  Pastors should be teaching members how to discover and develop the ministries the Holy Spirit wants them doing and letting the members take over running the church.  Any pastor who does not plant at least one new church in a three-year period should be fired for non-performance.

    Third, using the tithing model from ancient Israel, the local church keeps the tithe and forwards only a "tithe of the tithe" to the next administrative level. This will resolve many of the financial problems faced by local churches and dramatically improve the visibility of the church to the public. 

    Fourth, new pastors should by only the most successful pastors during an internship of at least four years in a single area and before attending seminary.  A secondary internship of at least two years should be served in the same way after seminary. 

    Fifth, specialized services such as Trusts, legal, ministerial, etc. should be concentrated at the level where they can optimally balance cost and deliver of services.  For example, in an area with a high member density it may be necessary to have these services at the second administrative level where they may function better at the third level in a region with a smaller membership density. 

    Sixth, wherever possible the publication of conference and union magazines should be transitioned from print to e-publishing.  A small, centralized editorial team (probably less than eight people) could provide this service for the entire North American Division versus the one or two people in each conference office, at the unions and then again at the division.

    • William Noel
      15 May 2014 @ 5:59 pm

      A correction…

      Fourth, new pastors should be mentored only by the most successful pastors…

    • billman
      16 May 2014 @ 7:35 am

      Question for you, Noël.

      By operating under a 10:1 ratio, is it possible that the church may end up with even more levels of organisation than it currently has?  And, would a church on say the east coast need to reach up through more levels than a church on the west coast, before they got to the division level?

      I think that what you are proposing may require a level of conformity that may stifle, rather than invigorate, a church.  A pastor over say 5 churches would flavour the church his/her way, whether it be progressive, conservative, or any other label one can propose.  Which could mean that a person struggling to belong in one church may need to travel a very long way to find one they could fit into.

      I would be interested in your views.

      • William Noel
        16 May 2014 @ 1:21 pm

        Those are good questions where the answers seem to depend on other factors than just the single point of potential action.

        There are a number of potential approaches to the 10:1 ratio.  Ancient Israel was organized by tribe and the church is organized by conferences and unions.  Changing from the latter to the former will require some major changes in how we think with the most essential part of that change being the elimination of the conference and union borders.  The only essential borders that remain would be the boundaries of the North American Division, the nations within that territory and the area covered by a pastor's multi-church district.  I've not seen a count of the number of churches in the NAD, so for the sake of discussion let's say there are ten thousand.  That translates into a thousand pastors with 100 administrators above them, ten administrators at the second level and one at the Division level (plus support staff to be determined).  That's 111 direct administrators as compared to how many now?  Maybe you have those numbers handy. 

        This proposal also requires that we take a serious measurement of the contribution each department of the church makes to the growth and vitality of the church and determine if they are worth preserving. 

        Whether this change would stifle or invigorate a church most likely depends not on the pastor but on the church itself and how pastor-dependant it is.  One of the great blessings I enjoy is being part of a congregation that, with the cooperation of the conference, declared at its establishment that it did not want to be pastor-dependant.  We have a part-time pastor.  We've takein ownership of the church and resposibility for the vitality of the church.  Our pastor is a once-a-month guest speaker who focuses most of his energies on the youth where he is having a great impact. 

        Unfortunately, a great many of our churches are pastor-dependant and in some of them the pastor is allowed or expected to run everything.  This turns the members into idle servants and is probably the primary reason why so many churches are shrinking.  How such a church will respond to such a change in pastoral oversight as I propose will depend on the church.  I expect some will survive but most will go through a revolutionary period leading to resurgence as the members learn to minister and become an active church instead of pew-warmers.

  3. Steve Ferguson
    16 May 2014 @ 7:46 am

    William: 'Second, refocus pastors away from managing the operations of churches to gift-based ministry development and church planting. Pastors should be teaching members how to discover and develop the ministries the Holy Spirit wants them doing and letting the members take over running the church. Any pastor who does not plant at least one new church in a three-year period should be fired for non-performance.'

    Totally agree.  If you look at the history of the NT, and then even the history of the early SDA Church, it seems the 'clergy' were those with the Apostles, not the Elders.  The importance of this is that the Apostles were the first missionaries – literally – as that is what the term means in Greek.

    Our clergy exist to plant new churches, and then to equip and mentor a number of Churches.  The problem is that at the end of the 4th Century, the proto-Catholic Church basically had the elders of the largest metropolitan regions subsume the title and role of Apostles.  And it hasn't really been fixed since. 

    And to be honest, most Pastors IMO are not that great at the administration of Churches.  That is not where their talents usually lie, and often local Churches are better run by experienced lay people from other professional backgrounds.

    • William Noel
      16 May 2014 @ 1:31 pm

      Steve,

      One of the most painful experiences of my professional life was discovering that I was not gifted to be a pastor and having to change professional directions.  What both amazes and disappoints me is how many I know who are barely successful enough to stay in pastoral work and do so because they could not make a living doing something else.  I know one such pastor who just retired and has relocated to a place where, as he told me privately, he can learn to live without doing pastoral work.

  4. Truth Seeker
    17 May 2014 @ 11:00 pm

     "…but that fact also means that hundreds of thousands of African Americans have been lifted out of poverty by the Regional Conferences over the seven decades of this organizational arrangement."
     

    Exactly what did the Regional Conferences have to do with lifting anyone out of poverty?

    "Fourth, new pastors should by only the most successful pastors during an internship of at least four years in a single area and before attending seminary.  A secondary internship of at least two years should be served in the same way after seminary."
    That sounds like a good plan. And pastoral tenure in a church should be a maximum of seven years, better five years.  In my view the Pastor should not run the nominating committee. Some Pastors will say that he must have people he can work with. Having too much control of the nominating committee he doesn't have to learn to work with qualified persons who may favor an approach to matters that differs from his.

     

    • William Noel
      17 May 2014 @ 11:25 pm

      Truth Seeker,

      I'm not sure I can agree with you about maximum pastoral tenure in a district because of the number of factors that must be considered in making such a decision.  If your concept is the status quo where a pastor may have only one or two churches, then I believe the pressures for making such a change will be considerably greater than if a pastor has multiple churches (possibly the ten I propose) in their district and they are focused on planting new churches.  If they're successful at planting churches, then I think the decision to relocate them may depend more on personal factors than their effectiveness. 

      I generally agree that pastors should not be involved in things like running the nominating committee.  The more churches they have to oversee, the less time they will have for things like that because they will be forced to focus on their most important task, which is training the members to do the work of God. 

      As for the regional conferences, I don't think there is any question they have seen a great increase in the affluence of their members over time.  I attribute that difference to changes in education and society far more than anything the conferences have done.   

  5. Anonymous
    18 May 2014 @ 5:27 pm

    I have listened to our leaders discuss this issue for the last 50 years!  It will be very hard to change much until the economics force the issue – and that IS coming as more and more Adventists in North America change their giving patterns.  The old days of most SDAs giving 10% to the local conference are gone.

    • Anonymous
      20 May 2014 @ 3:32 am

      Quoting Mr. Webb: "It will be very hard to change much until the economics force the issue – and that IS coming as more and more Adventists in North America change their giving patterns.  The old days of most SDAs giving 10% to the local conference are gone."  Bingo!  Exactly!   Church administrators are not "bad" people.  In fact, many, if not most, are totally dedicated and doing the best they can even if they have little professional training in management.  It is just that they are humans like the rest of us. They are not going to eliminate their own administrative positions and those of their fellow clergy until they are forced to by the lack of funds.  This is what is going on with the elimination of the jobs at the Review and Herald printing operation in Hagerstown.  That operation is facing bankrupcy and the GC and NAD is not (read can't) bail them out this time.  However, most of these jobs are not those of administrative clergy. That's coming.  If the majority of the laity redirected their tithe to the local church, there would be rapid downsizing and elimination of unneccesary administrative levels within the church starting with the elmination of Union conferences.

      • cfowler
        20 May 2014 @ 10:31 pm

        I'm sure that giving patterns have changed.  But also, a shrinking and aging membership in the SDA church.  The official story of 1.1 million SDA's in the NAD is way off.  If they are lucky, probably half that amount attend at all, and probably a total of 30-40 percent of that 1.1 million attends regularly. 

  6. Truth Seeker
    20 May 2014 @ 1:35 am

    I was thinking in terms of a Pastor having one or two churches. One Pastor not far away has been Pastor between 12 and 15 years and the Conference leadership seems powerless to move him although I've been told they have made him available thru whatever means they have.
    Another Pastor of one church not far away has been there about 12 years and some of the members have decided it's long enough but he is popular. Is his popularity because he never discusses lifestyles?

    I'm not really intrigued with the idea of a church having  very little leadership as some congregations seem to have little sense how a church should be operated.
    Maranatha

    • William Noel
      20 May 2014 @ 1:38 pm

      Truth Seeker,

      You're right.  Leadership is a big issue in the church.  My question is whether we will allow the church to be focused using the leadership of a single person in the role of the pastor, or if we will be like the Apostolic Church we see described in the Bible in the book of Acts that is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

      The current leadership model in the church is directly contrary to God's plan where the Holy Spirit empowers individuals to minister in complimentary ways and directly leads the church through their various ministries.  If God could empower members and lead the church the way He did in the New Testament, is there any reason He couldn't do it today?  Just our unwillingness to let Him directly lead and empower us.  What is keeping us from having that experience?  Only our doubts about God.   

      A church without a strong pastor is not a church without leadership.  It will develop leadership.  The question is how the leadership vacuum created by either the departure of a pastor or having to share a pastor with multiple churches will be filled.  Will it be by individuals operating in traditional ways and pursuing their own objectives?  Or, will it be under the control of the Holy Spirit like we read about in Acts?

      A dozen years ago when my church was forming we were part of a very traditional congregation.  Our pastor invited Dr. Russel Burrill to come for a weekend series on church planting.  What he showed us from his research really opened our eyes to the terrible reality of the status quo in North America.  Among the nuggets I remember was that churches in single-pastor districts typically were shrinking at the rate of a little more than one percent per year.  Two-church districts were shrinking, though not quite as fast.  Church growth did not begin until there were at least three churches in a district.  Contrast that with the countries where the church is growing the fastest.  That is where you find pastors often having ten or more churches in their districts.  Now, look at your church.  If it hasn't been growing by at least 5% per year over the past decade, your church is in trouble.  If the membership has been holding steady or even dropping, it is dying. 

      Will giving pastors multiple churches mean the churches will start growing right away?  Probably not because there will be a transition period while the churches learn to operate differently.  A few churches will die because the members will fail to embrace their responsibility to become servants of God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Most will go through a period of learning to discover and follow the Holy Spirit.  As this happens God will raise-up new leadership and the churches will begin growing at rates you only dreamed of seeing.  Will everyone turn into a leader? No.  But the number of people who get involved will surprise you. 

      It is amazing watching God raise-up new leaders.  People you never imagined as leaders will begin being effective in ways you (and perhaps they, also) never imagined.  One example of this at my church came about five or six years ago when a father looked at his daughters and began expressing unease about their spiritual future as the eldest was about to turn ten.  His particular concern was the lack of activities for the youth.  At first he complained that we had no Pathfinder club.  Then he realized maybe God was calling him to start one.  So he proposed the idea.  Others endorsed it and he discovered God was already providing him a team to make it happen.  Today the youth percentage of our attendance is the highest in the conference and we have the largest Pathfinder club as compared to membership (146 members the last time I checked).  Several weeks ago a cluster of the older teens came to help on one of my ministry projects.  Let me tell you, they were a terrific bunch of young people whom I would be proud to be around any time!

  7. Stephen Foster
    20 May 2014 @ 6:30 pm

    My understanding is that, as it stands, there are nine Regional Conferences and eight Union Conferences in the American mainland U.S part of the NAD.
     
    Obviously the Regional Conferences would resist changes wherein the Regional Conference presidents lose titles/responsibilities. Naturally the more numerous State Conference presidents would do likewise.
     
    If we could accommodate the administrative officers, we might come up with a solution; or at least an organizational structural solution.
     
    Structurally it would seem to make sense to turn the Union Conferences into ‘local’ conferences; and geographically divide the U.S. into the same, or very similar, regional configurations that the Regional Conferences are currently configured. (Needless to say, they largely already are.)
     
    This would eliminate a layer of organization/bureaucracy, but perhaps not nearly as many positions as one would think at first glance. These conferences would have a lot more responsibility in terms of the number of congregations and constituents that each would serve.
     
    Perhaps plans and efforts would be more coordinated in this sort of an arrangement. Perhaps the time has come for change.
     
    My first blog on this site made the case that Regional Conferences in America have been nothing short of a Godsend. I still believe that; yet two things can be true at the same time.

    • William Noel
      20 May 2014 @ 8:33 pm

      How many jobs would truly be eliminated and how many merely moved is an important question in any reorganization plan. 

      Every time I've heard discussion about eliminating conferences (whether local or regional) the arguments against it typically boiled-down to preserving and/or expanding power and which side of the argument you were on depended heavily on whether you are part of a local or regional conference.  But Jesus didn't send us out to exercise and expand power, He sent us out to grow the Kingdom of God.  What is it going to take for us to make growing the Kingdom our Number One priority?

      • Stephen Foster
        20 May 2014 @ 11:23 pm

        I understand your frustration about exercising and expanding power; but people are only human. (If it was your job being eliminated you might just have a different take.)
         
        The point is that we should perhaps be more willing to give church leadership the benefit of the doubt when there are no evidences or signs of corruption. I think that they are focused on growing the church as priority Number One. That may be part of the problem.
         
        The “Kingdom of God” isn’t the church. The Kingdom of God includes the church. The church promotes the Kingdom of God. The church represents the Kingdom of God. The church isn’t the Kingdom of God.
         
        The church should be focused on growing the Kingdom of God; yet realize that doing so may not be reflected in numerical growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Church growth is certainly a laudable objective. We are commissioned to teach and baptize. But there are many who need to hear and know what we (should) know.  Many will become part of God’s Kingdom.
         
        We should take our watchman’s duty seriously; and should be as wise and serpents and harmless as doves in so doing.

        • William Noel
          21 May 2014 @ 12:38 pm

          I'm not aware of anyone accusing any church leaders of corruption.  The primary issue is (or should be) effectiveness in growing the Kingdom of God.  Jesus told us to go and make disciples.  Discipleship is NOT measured in baptisms, but in having people who live and operate in the power of the Holy Spirit as Jesus taught His disciples and who are capable of creating new disciples.  If we're not being disciples and creating new disciples, then we're not doing what Jesus told us to do.  Current growth rates show the church is an abysmal failure at creating disciples in the industrialized world. 

          We need to examine every aspect of church function and leadership and be able to clearly identify how it contributes to church growth.  If the answer is just a fuzzy feel-good, unclear or negative then we need to eliminate it.  The simplest, easiest, most affordable and most effective way to do this is gift-based ministries.  If the Holy Spirit empowers it, then do it.  If not, then we shouldn't even be thinking about doing it.

          • Stephen Foster
            26 May 2014 @ 8:53 am

            The point is, since this isn’t about corruption, and since neither of us are “aware of anyone accusing any church leaders of corruption,” that—in the absence of—we should perhaps be willing to give church leadership the benefit of the doubt insofar as commitment and focus are concerned.
             
            I agree that some money flow changes in North America do appear in order. I believe that streamlining the organizational flow will facilitate changes in the money flow.

  8. Stephen Foster
    20 May 2014 @ 6:30 pm

    My understanding is that, as it stands, there are nine Regional Conferences and eight Union Conferences in the American mainland U.S part of the NAD.
     
    Obviously the Regional Conferences would resist changes wherein the Regional Conference presidents lose titles/responsibilities. Naturally the more numerous State Conference presidents would do likewise.
     
    If we could accommodate the administrative officers, we might come up with a solution; or at least an organizational structural solution.
     
    Structurally it would seem to make sense to turn the Union Conferences into ‘local’ conferences; and geographically divide the U.S. into the same, or very similar, regional configurations that the Regional Conferences are currently configured. (Needless to say, they largely already are.)
     
    This would eliminate a layer of organization/bureaucracy, but perhaps not nearly as many positions as one would think at first glance. These conferences would have a lot more responsibility in terms of the number of congregations and constituents that each would serve.
     
    Perhaps plans and efforts would be more coordinated in this sort of an arrangement. Perhaps the time has come for change.
     
    My first blog on this site made the case that Regional Conferences in America have been nothing short of a Godsend. I still believe that; yet two things can be true at the same time.

    • William Noel
      24 May 2014 @ 1:29 pm

      Let's take this a level deeper.  Russel Burrill, author of several books about Adventist church planting and growth, states that the Number One problem in the church preventing growth is congregations becoming pastor-dependant instead of members discovering their spiritual gifts and learning to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit.  According to his research, on average where the pastor-church ratio is 1:1 (or any time there is more than one pastor per congregation) that church is losing members.  Where there is a 2:1 ratio those churches are also losing members, though at a lesser rate.  Churches do not start growing until the pastor-church ration reaches 1:3 or greater.  The fastest growing Adventist churches are the ones where the ratio is 1:7 or greater. 

      From this data it should be clear that our greatest problem with church growth is not that we have conferences and unions, but that we have far too many pastors. 

      • Stephen Foster
        26 May 2014 @ 8:39 am

        It could be that the churches that grow, and duplicate, and multiply are simply those with dynamic leadership; and that a dynamic leadership ends up with multiple churches. In other words, that chickens precede eggs.
         
        There are often other factors to consider.
         
        It could also be that where the church is growing fastest, economics prohibit 1:1 and necessitate one pastor leading several congregations.. (Actually, we know that to be true; at least as it concerns conference-employed pastors.)

        • William Noel
          26 May 2014 @ 6:34 pm

          According to Russel Burrill, churches built around a dynamic leader may grow for a time but are inherently weak because they are built around a "cult of personality" that seeks to expand and replicate the ministry of that leader.  Thus the church is in danger of suffering greatly and even collapsing when that leader is removed.  In contrast, the churches that encourage each member to discover and develop their personal ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit are the ones that grow with the greatest strength and endurance. 

          I like to make homemade bread.  One of the lessons I've learned over the years is that adding too much salt makes the dough rise more slowly.  Add enough salt and it doesn't matter how much yeast you put in the mix, it won't rise the way you need to make a loaf anyone will enjoy eating.  Having the right amount of salt is critical to a making a good loaf.  In the same way, the church grows when it has the right balance of spiritual gifts.  Since the church is growing the fastest in the places where we have the fewest pastors and slowest in the places where it has the most, that should tell us we have too many pastors and not enough of the other essential spiritual gifts.

          • Stephen Foster
            27 May 2014 @ 3:36 am

            The most dynamic and effective leaders will, of course, encourage, cultivate, and emphasize the spiritual gifting of its members for edification. Growth would be an organic development of this balanced approach under the Holy Spirit.
             
            Leadership is a gift; and churches that have dynamic leadership grow. In our denominational model of personnel deployment/recruitment, those growing church congregations invariably get the attention of conference leadership in terms of getting the most proven and experienced leaders assigned to them.
             
            Think about it this way, given the stagnation and attrition that we witness in much of North America, the only reason, besides immigration, that we appear to be treading water is that we have a number of these dynamically growing congregations (some of which proliferate with satellites and spin-offs).
             
            If you visited churches in Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas, Houston, Huntsville, AL, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Riverside, CA, suburban Washington, D.C. among other places, you might acquire a more positive outlook on things;  then again, maybe not.

          • William Noel
            27 May 2014 @ 1:17 pm

            Yes, leadership is a gift.  How many of the people following the leader in one of those congregations are discovering the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for their personal ministries?  Surveys of rapidly-growing congregations (mostly non-SDA) show that the church may have a larger number of ministries, but the percentage of the people involved in ministry is less than in much smaller congregations.  Further, the size of the church makes it difficult for people to become part of an intimate and supportive spiritual community that nurtures them during the week.  These churches are successful at creating a "cult of personality" around a dynamic preacher but failing to effectively create disciples for Jesus. 

            I know several people in those growing congregations in Huntsville.  Their single concept of how to spread the Gospel is preaching end-time events like their pastor does.  But God is not blessing their efforts because He has not called them to do that.  Preaching is one of the very few ministries their pastor tells them they should be doing and the church offers them no support in discovering what ministry the Holy Spirit wants them to be doing.  So they are harvesting the disappointment from failure that is the natural result of not knowing the power of the Holy Spirit in them.  I'm seeing a steady stream of people from one of those churches at mine as they search for a new church home.  They were on a spiritual high for a time but today their faith is suffering greatly.  Some have transferred their membership to my church.  Another, a co-worker, left a primitive Baptist church to join the SDA church but recently went back because of her disappointment.

          • Stephen Foster
            27 May 2014 @ 2:51 pm

            “I know several people in those growing congregations in Huntsville. Their single concept of how to spread the Gospel is preaching end-time events like their pastor does. But God is not blessing their efforts because He has not called them to do that.”
             
            This is anecdotal and contradictory information. Growing congregations is your yardstick for success. Growing congregations are being blessed in their efforts to grow their congregations by definition.
             
            This suggests that if you don’t perceive that people are doing things as you perceive they should be done, then they are not being blessed no matter what—not even the growing congregations. This sounds more like a personal issue than anything. 

          • William Noel
            27 May 2014 @ 8:49 pm

            Anecdotal?  Yes.  Contradictory?  No.  Thinking the only proper "ministry" is what their pastor does is exactly why the vast majority of SDA churches in North America are not growing and the few that are growing have little or no sustaining power aside from the cult of personality that grows around a dynamic preacher.  God never designed for the ministry of the Gospel to be done by pastors alone.  That is why scripture mentions pastors as just one role in a list of roles and spiritual gifts that are offered to all who believe. 

            I prefer to follow the commands of Jesus to work in the power of the Holy Spirit and create disciples for Jesus.  A disciple does not get caught-up in the cult of personality that grows around dynamic preachers.  Their commitment is to God alone and ministering in His power in the myriad ways that He directs.  By doing this they are both creating new believers and mentoring them into disciples.

          • Stephen Foster
            27 May 2014 @ 10:31 pm

            Of course this is another false choice. It’s all of the above William; all of the above, all of the above. There is nothing wrong with dynamic leadership. Dynamic leadership can come from a pastoral leadership team and an engaged church membership/laity. They can work effectively together in concert in cooperation with the Spirit of God.
             
            There is often a danger in getting caught up in the cult of personality; but visionary leadership is a good thing. I agree that a disciple of Jesus “[doesn’t] get caught up in the cult of personality that grows around dynamic preachers.” But a disciple of Jesus will fully appreciate and seek to leverage dynamic preaching to bring individuals into a saving knowledge.
             
            Clearly you don’t hear and/or don’t appreciate the preaching gift and its ministry efficacy. That is truly tragic in my view. (This is somewhat analogous to never tasting fresh pineapple; or to being deprived of cool, pure water when you are parched.) The other spiritual gifts should always be developed and utilized by each member for the purposes for which they were given (which was actually primarily for church edification).

          • William Noel
            28 May 2014 @ 12:52 pm

            It appears either you are not understanding what I'm talking about or you just enjoy arguing.  I support "all of the above."  The problem is that we never have "all of the above."  Our focus is so heavily on dynamic preaching and leadership that we prevent God from growing the diversity of ministries that He wants in each member of every church, including you.  Instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to be the obvious leader of the church, we limit Him to an occasional passing mention.

            If you want dynamic leadership, connect with the Holy Spirit, not dynamic preachers.  If you like dynamic human leadership you're going to be totally amazed by God.  Why should you be satisfied with mere human leadership when you can personally connect directly with God's leadership and receive the empowerment He wants to give you?

          • Stephen Foster
            28 May 2014 @ 4:20 pm

            What part of “an engaged church membership… [working] effectively together in concert in cooperation with the Spirit of God” prompts you to suggest that I am “satisfied with mere human leadership” or whatever you’re saying?
             
            Exactly what part of my assertion that “other spiritual gifts should always be developed and utilized by each member for the purposes they were given” prompts you to suggest that I (“even you”) support in any way “[preventing] God from growing the diversity of ministries that He wants in each member of every church, including [me]?
             
            There’s no need to answer those questions. Your constant and blanket negativity toward the church— other than your congregation—is depressing. An example is, “The problem is that we never have ‘all of the above.’” (One of my late, great father’s friends, the late, great Elder D.C. Batson, used to say, “Never is a long time.”)
             
            Quite obviously, we don’t understand each other; nor do we understand what each other is saying—no matter what we say. I would be satisfied to stop conversing. (I only like arguing for understanding’s sake.) It’s clear we come from parallel universes. I do wish you well though, brother.

          • William Noel
            01 June 2014 @ 12:02 am

            Your lack of understanding comes from supporting the mediocrity that is so widespread in the church and defending the continued practice of failed concepts instead of following the model Jesus gave us for how the church should operate.  Recognizing the general failure of the church to achieve the mission Jesus gave it to do was not pleasant experience for me so I sympathize with your resistance.  About the only thing more unpleasant and difficult was deal with was recognizing personal contributions to that failure and my defense of it.  If God hadn't forced me to confront those things and decide to actually following the model He gave for how the church should operate I would not be in the church today.  How long will you keep defending the mediocrity that is causing the church to be spiritually impotent?

          • Stephen Foster
            01 June 2014 @ 12:10 am

            Quite obviously, we don’t understand each other; nor do we understand what each other is saying—no matter what we say. I would be satisfied to stop conversing. (I only like arguing for understanding’s sake.) It’s clear we come from parallel universes. I do wish you well though, brother

  9. Trevor Hammond [22oct1844]
    21 May 2014 @ 9:29 pm

    RE: "If the majority of the laity redirected their tithe to the local church, there would be rapid downsizing…" (Dr. Taylor)
    —–
    Dr Taylor is pitching for a Congregationalist model of church governance. Not sure how progressive that is because it takes us back to the 16th/17th century. He suggests redirecting tithes to the local church will weaken conferences financially thereby forcing them to downsize and/or destabilize. This again, is regressive to say the least and implies that every local church does what is right in their own eyes which I assume will include holding their own independent doctrinal positions too. The Seventh-day Adventist Church as a worldwide body will disintegrate and fizzle out with such a system especially in terms of our Mission, Message and Mandate. This is perhaps what some want.  It also serves as an example of how liberals in all sincerity contribute towards Adventism.  They wish to hold the Church ransom by threatening to withhold finances in order to have their own way in classic Machiavellian style – ordo ab chao.  One positive outcome is that it is one way of getting the rest of us to pray more and give more.  I hope the New Congregationalist Separatist Independent Non-Conformist Adventist Churches Dr Taylor envisions will have fond memories of the world church as they sit on their padded pews in their air-conditioned ten-thousand-seater domed cathedrals thinking of ways to spend all the cash gained from redirecting tithes.
     

    • William Noel
      24 May 2014 @ 1:32 pm

      Why should we not be embracing the "congregationalist" model?  After all, it is the New Testament model God gave us to follow. 

      Why should we not weaken (or eliminate) the conferences?  The current cash flow structure in the denomination leaves most congregations struggling to survive because so much money flows out of them to the conference. 

    • Anonymous
      27 May 2014 @ 10:36 pm

      "I hope the New Congregationalist Separatist Independent Non-Conformist Adventist Churches Dr Taylor envisions will have fond memories of the world church as they sit on their padded pews in their air-conditioned ten-thousand-seater domed cathedrals thinking of ways to spend all the cash gained from redirecting tithes."  Hmm. The NCSINCAC. That certainly has a ring to it.  I never thought of that.  The way Mr. Hammond puts it, perhaps we should consider such an alternative.

      • William Noel
        29 May 2014 @ 12:39 pm

        Erv,

        No such dreams here.  I can't stand the formalism of pews and, after being spoiled by the intimacy of a smaller church, have felt utterly lost in the larger churches that I have visited.  As soon as our membership hits 250 our plan is to divide and plant a new congregation.

  10. Andreas Bochmann
    24 May 2014 @ 6:04 am

    "This is an organizational alternative that is used throughout Europe and other places in the world field. It is officially labeled a "union of churches" because it operates like a local conference in dealing with congregations and like a union conference in dealing with the GC and other institutions."
    Not quite. This is true for Austria and some Scandinavian countries (not all). All other areas in Europe share the same "5 tier model" described above (though the Division level in theory is not a level in itself, but a local presence of the GC). I understand that in the Netherlands (which until recently just was a union of churches) local conferences have been re-introduced. In other words: there are many issues that need to be considered. Eliminating layers may be a solution in some areas, but could be destabilizing in others. Restructuring is an important, much needed task, but not an easy one. Perhaps we have to say good bye to a "one-size-fits-all" solution.

    • William Noel
      24 May 2014 @ 1:23 pm

      Spreading the Gospel confronts us with challenges that often are very destabilizing.  In contrast, stability (or the illusion of stability) comes when we are focused on maintaining the status quo.  How we spend our money reveals our priorities.  How can we expect to meet the challenges of spreading the Gospel if the church is spending most of it's funds on preserving the status quo? 

  11. Joe Erwin
    28 May 2014 @ 1:06 pm

    Perhaps Christians should "tithe" by giving directly to individuals or causes where there is a need. I think one could find a scriptural basis for this, could one not? 

    • William Noel
      28 May 2014 @ 1:25 pm

      Joe,

      You're onto something!  What is the scriptural model for tithes and offerings?

      In ancient Israel, the tithes and offerings were given to the Levites, who were dispersed among the other tribes as their spiritual leaders.  The instruction in Malachi 3:10 to "bring all the tithes into the storehouse" was literal because they were gifts of crops to provide food for the Levites through the year until the next harvest.  In turn, the Levites gave a 10% tithe to the temple to both provide food for the Levites serving there and for the upkeep of the facility.  Offerings were given in praise to God for the blessings He gave. 

      If we were to follow the Biblical model for tithing today, all tithes would be collected by the local church which, in turn, would tithe 10% of the amount received to the conference.  Doing this would solve many of the financial problems suffered by local churches that simply do not have enough money to maintain their facilities or to expand. 

      As for tithing directly to ministries, this is commonly done.  Often there are direct expenses involved with my ministry that I subtract from what would otherwise be given to the church.  I've rented large trash dumpsters for projects where we've needed them and bought building materials to repair someone's house.  We've had church work bees where we needed to rent equipment such as a bucket lift that cost several hundred dollars a day.  A couple weeks ago the church treasurer reminded me that she was expecting me to turn-in receipts for a project.  I just smiled and took the arrival of a task as an excuse to walk away without answering.

  12. Anonymous
    28 May 2014 @ 4:43 pm

    The system of tithing that has evolved (sorry about that) in the Adventist denomination has been created primarily to stabalize the cash flow to support the administrative superstructure of the church and the salary structure of the clergy. That is not a bad thing.  It is just a smart fiscal arrangement. But it has created two problems.  First, it has been confused with the "Biblical model" which, or course, it is not.  Second, it has been used to create a very top heavy administrative apparatus.  Again, this is not the creation of "bad men" (it is almost all male). It is the creation of humans with human needs and motivations. 

    The oridinary layperson has the power to change it.  Just tithe to the local church. That is all that is needed. Now the problem with that is that the local pastor is going to get it in the neck from the local conference administration.  Again this is not becasue the local conference officials are "bad men."  They are not.  They are simply trying to do their job of keeping the local conference financially afloat.  If the income to the local conference would drop off by say 50% in a short time, their jobs would be on the line.  

    But don't worry.  The vast majority of ordinary laypersons will not send his/her tithe to the local church because the local pastor, the local conference president, the union conference president, the division president, and the general conference president will all be out preaching of how we need to bring all of the tithes into the storehouse and guess what the "storehouse" is. 
     

    • Steve Ferguson
      29 May 2014 @ 6:31 am

      'First, it has been confused with the "Biblical model" which, or course, it is not.'

      Much agree. The OT texts about tithing relate to Jewish ceremonial and civil practices, which like circumcission and passover, no longer apply. Even the SDA Church and other mainstream practices must recognise that according to the 'orthodox' way of dividing the law into moral, ceremonial and civil requirements.

      In any event, the SDA Church officials always trot out that text about putting the tithe in the sanctuary store house, which they use to justify giving tithing only to the central SDA Church and not independent ministries and charities. However, in ancient Israel there was only 1 sanctuaries; now there is none given the temple was destroyed and replaced with the community of believers. In fact, by their logic, shouldn't we give all our tithes then to the GC only, the central storehouse, rather than 100-different 'mini-sanctuaries' around the world being our local conferences?

      'Second, it has been used to create a very top heavy administrative apparatus.'

      Agreed. However on one way of thinking, not central enough, because we actually give our tithes to local conferences and not the GC.

      But I otherwise agree. My understanding of the NT on this issue is that religious leaders in the 2nd-Temple period largely supported themselves through personal donations. This is actually in much the same way as independant ministries (i.e. including SDA ones) support themselves. The ability of a religious preacher to live wholly off the support of donations was a sign of God's favour. The texts about the right of apostles isn't about a formal Temple tithe (because the Temple still existed) but these more ad hoc donations.

      That is what was so controversial about Paul supporting himself as a "tent-maker". Some saw that as proof Paul wasn't a "real" apostle, amongst other reasons, because it suggested he wasn't much of a preacher (which Paul somewhat admits himself), so he still had to keep his day-job to make ends meet. In other words, to use a sporting analogy, Paul was still an 'amateur' and to outsid critics hadn't gone 'pro' yet in his ministry.

      So our SDA model of tithe is just an artificial use of a Jewish ceremonial and civil-sundry practice, done away at the cross. But we shouldn't be overly harsh on SDAs – most Christian groups do this.

      Dedication is another such Jewish ritual that our Church practices, which I believe is not wholly biblical under the NT understanding of the Law.

      • William Noel
        29 May 2014 @ 3:59 pm

        Steve,

        I'm going to disagree with those who say Paul wasn't a "real apostle" or much of a preacher because he worked as a tent-maker.  How else was he to support himself while he spread the Gospel in places where it had not been heard?  I look at that as an example of courage and dedication for us to follow today.  As for his preaching skills, I think we apply a false standard because the modern concept of preaching is very different from the style of oral presentation used in those days.  Plus, "preach" in the Greek simply means "to proclaim" and carries no implication of a modern sermon.   Considering the distances he traveled, the trials and troubles he endured, the churches he established and the number who became believers because of his work for God, I think he is a great example of a very successful proclaimer of the Gospel. 

        Now, let's throw eschatology into the discussion.  We teach that at some point in the future our preachers will be imprisoned for doing what they do.  This means it will fall on all the members to do the work of spreading the Gospel.  So, since we don't know when that will happen, doesn't it make sense for the church members to learn now how to carry-on the work of spreading the Gospel without them?  Since the administrative structure of the church will be disrupted and decimated, why should we not esteem those who are supporting themselves as they do God's work?  (If you have any doubts about unpaid clergy functioning effectively, just look at the Mormons.)

    • William Noel
      29 May 2014 @ 12:49 pm

      Erv,

      In my conference enough people are long-term unemployed, have had their incomes reduced or are redirecting their tithe to the local church that our conference is feeling the pinch.  But there's a blessing waiting in that cloud that some of us have already discovered: becoming pastor-independent and less conference-dependant.  That's when a church learns to stand on it's own and to be responsible directly to God.  The transition can be traumatic.  I can show you churches that will likely die and others that are struggling because they don't want to change.  I can also show you churches where the members have learned to be responsible to God for their roles and as a result is they are growing.