Why We Do and Don’t Need the Church
by Raj Attiken
by Raj Attiken, October 20, 2014
A few days ago I received an announcement about yet another symposium that claims to expose one more heresy within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It prompted me to reflect on why, despite so much of the nonsense happening within our church family, the Adventist Church needs to exist and, in fact, flourish. The reasons are many. The church can be a community where we journey together as brothers and sisters always and everywhere toward the Christ who is always anywhere and everywhere. It can be a community where we support and nurture each other through the various contours of the journey as we learn to go deep with the Divine. It can be a committed community that gives heartfelt emotional support, and welcomes, and forgives. It can be a community that teaches us to love well and live well, and to advance hope and joy to all people.
However, there are a few “not-so-good” (in fact, lousy) reasons why the church should exist. Among them is that it gives a pretext for groups such as those conducting the symposium to claim legitimacy for their conjured-up causes. If the church did not exist, such groups would not have a captive audience to which to market their conspiracy theories (think contemporary Christian music, contemplative prayer, spiritual formation, emerging church, meditation, etc.) and infuse fear, suspicion, mistrust, and insecurity in the hearts of people. It is a twisted irony that these groups derive their life from the very church that they allege is in apostasy. To the informed it is also amusing that the issues these groups warn Adventists about as “hot” issues are those that have been around within Christian circles for decades and centuries!
In the larger geopolitical and geo-religious world today, we see how groups who hold visions of religion that are more “religious” than religion resort to unhealthy and often violent means to establish their visions of religion. In the process not only do they do untold harm to people but they also misrepresent and distort religion.
If there were no Adventist Church, groups such as the organizers of the recent symposium and their ilk will have to find new audiences to feed their need to control, to infuse fear and suspicion. They will also need to find new ways to legitimize their identity and existence. But, if there were no Adventist Church, most of us will not have a community that we call home — a community that gives shape to our faith, our worship, our relationship, and our service.
I don’t expect the Adventist Church to go away, at least not anytime soon! I wish, however, that sanity will prevail in our faith community, and that more and more of us will create new landscapes of faith, hope, and love, rather than of fear, guilt, and insecurity.
Dr. Raj Attiken was born in Sri Lanka, attended the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary at Andrews University and then served as a pastor in the United States. He was elected secretary and then president of the Ohio Conference where he served in denominational administration for nearly three decades. He is the author of a book on leadership which can be obtained from www.adventsource.org, the resource center of the North American Division.