Slipping Standards & Reflecting God's Image

I just received a letter from someone that I would like to share. It has questions that you may have asked. I know I have! I have removed any names as the names and location are not imporant. What is important is who we are and how we answer the questions in our hearts!

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David, I have a few questions for you!! I have seen a shift in our church in the last few years with the standards of the Adventist church. Such has jewery, couples living together, music,[my owntraditional views] ect. I called XXXXXXXXX and talked to him about it, he's the assoc pastor. He said that our church is a GRACE church, I said is there not standards anymore for
our church, and does anything go?? Eatting out on Sabbath, flying, going to the movies, ect.
I sound judgemental, and I'm not, I worry more about the heart of these people, and our church, and the Spirit within. Grace is wonderful, and yea, but is then everything else ok that we do , because we have Grace??
I grew up in the black and white Adventist age, and I know there needs to be growth, and some changes, but when is enough, enough?? Am I off base David? I know 100% that it's our relationship with God, but as SDA, to be in the world but not of the world, how are we different? Is it just the day we keep?? Does it not have to be our heart, and a reflection of
the God we serve?? What example are we to others?
My Husband has given me beautiful jewery pieces, I would not want to be a block for someone else, so I don't wear them around others, or when we travel I do under my clothes. And thats not honest either. I don't want to be judgement, I sound it, just am concerned when
people that have been in the church along time, who I've looked up to now change. And when I went to them and talked to them in a kind spirt, they said it does not matter, our church does not care what we do, things are different now.
David hope you can understand what I'm trying to say, and that is, is there still standards in the SDA church??
Thanks for listening, XXXXXXXXXXX

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Dear XXXXXXXXX,

Good questions. And I know exactly where you are coming from. Your's is not a judgemental stance, just a place of observation and questioning!

The church is the people. The Adventist church is Adventists. We are the church. So, the answer to "Does the church have standards anymore?" is answered by asking yourself, "What are my standards?" The key criteria for discovering your standards should not be based on "what you do" but on "who you are" inside. Actions reflect what is going on inside, but actions are not the problem. If we give people a list of what to do and what not to do we will result with either obedient robots or rebelious individuals. Focusing on controlling (or even analysing) the actions and looks of the adventists around us will leave us disenchanted.

There is a story that Doug Batchelor tells about a woman married to an Army Lieutenant. Every morning he would give her a todo list. And every evening he would go thru the house checking off everything on the list. She hated it! He died and she remaried a gentle kind man. Some years later she was in the attic and found one of the old lists. Her stomach turned at the memory of it. Then she looked at the list. As she read down the items she realised that she had done everything on the list nearly every day for her new husband, but didn't begrudge him for it. She did it because she loved him!

Our goal must be to look at Jesus. Spend time - countless hours! - staring into his perfect character. Discover in Him who you are called to be. And become that person in your character. Don't worry about what you eat, wear, etc... That is why Jesus said exactly that - "Don't worry about what you will eat or what you will wear!" God will provide those for you. Here's a twist on that text. God will provide your desires for what to eat and what to wear as you begin to replicate his character. But, we can't become like Jesus by saying, "Well what did Jesus do? Ah yes, he ate fish. Better go have a Salmon Salad! Oh, that's right, Jesus wore sandals and didn't own a house! Better sell up and get out the thongs!" Sounds rediculous, doesn't it? But, we do it with others, don't we!? "Look what She's wearing! Look what they are eating. Oh, for shame!" Jesus calls us to look upon his beautiful face - look to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. And by beholding... we are changed.

And guess what? The more you become like Christ and speak of him the more others around you - especially Adventists, most of whom truly desire a deeper relationship with Christ - will want to become like you. Then you can lead them to Jesus. And they will change as they behold him. We who with unveiled faces look upon his Glory... are being changed... into ever increasing glory... to the glory of the Father... Makes sense, eh?

God doesn't what robots. He wants people. individuals. And he wants them free. free of guilt. free of to do lists. But, he wants them to be reflecting his image. That is how he created us in the first place - in His image! And his ultimate goal is to return us to that image.

The best thing you can do for your church is become a beacon of Light. Represent Jesus fully. Not by being brazen in what you "do and don't do" but in being authentic in your relationship with Jesus and with others. They will see Him in you! Start a prayer group. Study John with a small group of ladies. Take a box of chocolates to the pastor's wife and pray with her. Open your home to the new Christians in your church for a games night. Find an area in your church that is falling down spiritually and get VERY involved. Do things that lift others up. Represent Christ where you feel he is being misrepresented. Be Jesus' ambasador to your church without saying such! Just life the life because you know the life-giver. Spend rediculous amounts of time with Jesus and he will lead you!!

God bless,

Dave

Pastor's Perspective - June 25

Knowing Jesus Better – Sabbath One

It is Thursday night and I am doing the final preparation for this Sabbath’s sermon – “Who is Jesus?”
I have saved something for tonight. Something that I knew would be painful for me. But, something that I also know will help me to be ready. I am watching my DVD of “The Passion of the Christ.” I saw it on opening night last year. The pain from that first viewing – the agony of seeing Jesus suffer so much – is still fresh in my heart and mind.
Now, I am watching it for the second time.
I have just finished watching the
Gethsemane scene. Jesus falls to the ground praying, “Abba!”
Satan hisses, “Who is your Father?” … “Who are you?”
Later the men come to take Jesus away. “Who are you looking for?” Jesus asks.
“We are looking for Jesus of Nazareth.”
“I am he.”
I am he. I am he…
Who is Jesus? Who is he really? He is more than a man. More than a God. He is something beyond. Far beyond. Jesus is…
All.
All we need. All we have.
Jesus is All. And then some.

The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Churches - Habit 3

The third habit is relationships. The author shares a number of stories of good and bad examples of how relationships limit or release our church's growth. He starts with a "pop quiz"..

Q. Whom did Jesus censure?
a) Theives and Prostitutes
b) People who ate cheese
c) Judgemental & Unaccepting people

he he... I like the cheese bit. We do get caught up on the strangest things. Gladden challenges church leaders to confront people who demonstrate unchristlike attitudes. I know I have had the joyous opportunity to help a member here or there drop the "B" and learn to put the "L" or "Gr" in front of their "attitude."
Gladden suggests that many adventist churches need a "Millstone Ministry" where we keep a collection of millstones ready and, according to Jesus' comment about those who offend young people, fasten one to the neck of each rude and inconiderate member. Then lead them to the nearest body of water and give them a shove! Ouch! I guess people would learn to be nice pretty quick... or the church would be empty in no time!
This chapter didn't tell me anything new. Just some good points on an oft-rehashed topic. Why do so many of our members demonstrate such unfriendly natures? Where does it come from? From Christ? Not likely. So, why is it present? Are we so far from our Saviour that we can't even represent his character in our words and actions at church? I'm afraid so. How do we help people who are caught in the downward spiral of "bite-now-think-later"? Is Millstone Ministry the only way? What would Jesus do... I mean it... What would Jesus have us do?
Our church must be a safe place for new people and members alike. Gladden finishes his chapter with four questions:
1. Do we truly want lost people at our church?
2. Are they safe here?
3. Do we truly love and respect one another at church?
4. Are we safe here?

The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Churches - Habit 2

The Second area that Ron Gladden says limits the growth of our churches is the Facility. He asserts that a clean, well presented functional facility is essential. He suggests that your church should be up to the standard of presentation of the homes of people you are trying to attract.
His major focus in the chapter focuses not on the building, but on the car park. In the '70 & '80's people came to church on the average of 4 people per car. Today people come two people to a car. This means that our number of car parking spots are the greatest limiting factor on our growth. He says if we don't make room for them to park at our church they wont. (makes sense, doesn't it!)
Looking at Rosny's situation - 31 parking spaces - 20 years ago we would have had a comfortable 120 attenders every Sabbath. Now we have about 60. The numbers work perfectly!
Gladden gives three suggestions for parking limited churches.
1. Buy surrounding houses, knock them down and pave them over.
2. Build a new church with a bigger car park.
3. Plant a church - thus hiving off 1/3 of your members making room for new people.
Rosny is moving down track 3. It is exciting to see that we will grow just by making room for new people to park their cars!

For part 1 of this series click here

Pastor's Perspective - June 18

The 40 Days of Knowing Jesus Better (June 25 - August 6)
Imagine if Jesus walked in to church this morning and said, "I am going to be here for the next forty days. I will be physically involved in everything your church does. I will come to church on Sabbath mornings. I will come to your small groups. I will personally come and talk with each of you anytime you begin to pray. I will read the book with you and help you to truly Discover the Real Jesus!" That is the type of experience that we will share together in the 40 Days of Knowing Jesus Better.
You will experience Jesus' presence more fully as you are more fully involved. Attend a small group. Read the book. Set a special time aside each morning to pray. Come to the evening readings each day at 5:30pm at the church. Read the extra suggested reading. Listen to the audio CD of Steps to Christ that Pr Dave has prepared. Get involved! And you will truly feel the presence of Jesus coming near to you!

Pr Dave

Rope & Bucket - John 4

Recently while reading John 4 I had a thought.
The first 42 verses of John 4 tell the story of the Samaritan woman who Jesus meets at the well outside the town of Sychar. It is a very well know story to Christians because it is often repeated for a variety of reasons.
It shows Jesus acceptance of all people.
It gives a clear picture of Jesus' purpose for coming to our planet.
It shows that when we meet Jesus he offers us something we had been longing for but didn't know how to find.
It shows the passion that Jesus has for saving the lost.
It is the first story of personal evangelism after conversion.
It one of the few times that Jesus says clearly that he is the Messiah.
But, there is a hidden gem in the opening dialogue. After asking for a drink and being chastised for talking to a Samaritan woman (two strikes against her) Jesus offers the woman "living water." She immediately sees the imposiblity of Jesus' offer. How can he offer her water? He doesn't have the tools or the knowledge to do what he says.

John 4:11
"Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?

The woman didn't know the meaning of "living" as Jesus was using it. Therefore she assumed the meaning of "water" was exactly what she had always known it to mean. But, the adjective changed everything! In her limited understanding of what Jesus was talking about she could see that he needed a few things before he could deliver water to anyone. First he needed a rope, then he needed a bucket. And it better be a long rope - because the well was deep! Because he didn't have these things he must be using a different water source... so she asks where he's getting his water.
Her comments are perfectly reasonable. She sees Jesus' need - he needs a bucket. he needs a rope. or he needs a different water source. What she doesn't see is the meaning of his previous words.

John 4:10
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

Once Jesus explained who he was what he meant by living water she was a new person. She was changed forever! And her understanding of living water no longer required a rope or a bucket. She had taken a long full drink of living water once she recognised the source!

With the drastic change in mind that happened to this woman I would like to throw a different two word phrase at you. One that meets us where we are today. One that would change us completely if we understood the meaning of the words.

Christian Church

What have we done to the church Jesus started? Where has the church the disciples grew in a matter of months gone? What has happened to the eveangelistic zeal and effectiveness of the woman at the well, the apostles, and the early church? The answer to all these questions can be found in our definition of Church. We have turned the church into a location, a group of people... Both incomplete definitions by a long shot. What is the Church really?
What about the word Christian? What has that word's definition degenerated into? A group of people (a club, clique, group, society)... a moral lifestyle that leads to healthy living and healthy relationships... What is a Christian really?
What should happen when we combine the words Christian and Church? If we were truly Christian (literally "Little Christs") what would the church be? A building? A group of people? Or would it be known for it's character rather than it's location and members?
Once the Samaritan woman understood the full meaning of Living Water she ran to her friends, family and enemies - the whole town! - and lead them to the Living Water!
I believe that once we understand the full meaning of Christian Church we will run into the world and find anyone and everyone we can and bring them to the home, heart and body of Christ!

The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Churches - Habit 1

This afternoon I read the first of the seven deadly sins of declining Adventist churches. They have been explored in a book by Ron Gladden – an Adventist Pastor in the States.

I received the book – The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Churches – in a parcel from my Dad last week. So far it is a very insightful and challenging read.

The first chapter focused on Pastors. Gladden suggested that pastors who are doing “the expected” are pastoring shrinking churches. But the Pastors who are focusing on three key areas are seeing growth in their members and their churches.

The three areas pastors of growing churches focus on are:

  1. Leadership – Leading leaders is the key secret of massive growth – see Acts 6…
  2. Personal Evangelism – Pastors who have a passion for one-on-one soul winning engender this passion in their laity.
  3. Communication – Good solid preaching is at the heart of all growing churches.

Gladden asserts that pastors who are primarily focusing on these three areas are pastoring growing churches – or will be shortly!

Born to lead - Leadership foundations

I'm reading through Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur. In his chapter on Peter he spends some time considering whether leaders are born or made. I like a quote I have heard John Maxwell say, "I've never met a leader who wasn't born!"
MacArthur suggests that while leaders must develop their skills and gifts to be truly great leaders there are three basic characteristics that are at the foundation of all great leaders - embedded in their character from birth.
1. Inquisitiveness - always asking questions, always wanting to know "why?", "how?", "what for?".
2. Initiative - makes things happen, doesn't wait for others to get the ball rolling but runs ahead of the pack.
3. Involvement - doesn't like to watch, lives in the middle of the action and loves it.

Peter had all three of these qualities.
Due to his inquisitive nature, he asked more questions of Jesus than anyone (and got rebuked more than anyone!)
Because of his initiative, he jumped out of the boat first to walk to Jesus, spoke up when asked "who do yo
u say that I am?" and preached the first sermon after Pentecost!
His desire to be involved lead him to the presence of Jesus many times. He was one of two disciples in the courtyard where Jesus was being accused. All the other disciples has already abandoned Christ, but Peter was still close enough to Jesus to see the pain in his eyes when Jesus looked into Peters soul as the cock crowed.

The part of this chapter that affected me the most - stopped me in my tracks actually - was a quote that I had never heard before. It was in the middle of a paragraph, almost an aside...

"As the familiar saying goes, it is much easier to tone down a fanatic than to resurrect a corpse."

This may be a familiar saying to many, but to me it is a new one. And it is a place to stop and think for a spell... It makes sense. But it requires patience. A fanatic would already be a person accustomed to action - they just need some more water in their soup and a fair bit of clear direction and strong leadership... But... I LIKE IT!

How God Changes People...

I received a very challenging and thought provoking email from one of my best friends from High School and College in the States. He and I spent countless hours together in the dorms, at big camp, driving and even singing duets together to entertain a caravan full of family members!

As I have been here in Australia ever since going into ministry he was quite surprised when he discovered that I am a pastor. And rightly so...

Here's his email...

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  • I have a question for you? One that had been bothering me for a long time.How did you become a pastor? when I saw you name in the ministry magizine I was floored. YOU a pastor. it just did not seem to fit the person I remember? could you explain that.
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That really got me thinking! I reflected on my life and realised that he had an excellent question! Here is my response...

  • That is a very good question!
    I took a volunteer position to Lilydale Academy in Melbourne, Australia in 1994 working as an assistant dean in the boys dorm during the evenings and mornings and as a campus ministries director during the day. I was working with a girl named Toby Norris who was doing the same thing. Together we really enjoyed the campus ministries role. After that year I decided that I really wanted to be a high school chaplain. I did some research as to what study I needed to do to become a chaplain and Theology was the answer. So, I did Theology at Avondale College (the only Adventist university in Australia!)... When I graduated I made it very clear that I wanted to be a chaplain. Instead, my internship was in a country location with one big church, one church plant, and two small country churches that were over an hour away. I was really frustrated at first. But the more I ministered to church folk the more I realised that God had led me to pastoring!
    I have been told by many people ever since I was a child that I would be a minister one day. I always argued with them. Not me. And I rebelled against that direction in my life. But, looking back, I see that God has been shaping me all along. At Rio I was Class Pastor in my Senior year (along with Jenifer Bottroff). I was also the Head RA that year. God was shaping me for leadership and spiritual leadership.
    I have often asked myself the same questions as you asked. How can I be a pastor? How can I lead people to God? How can He use me as a leader of His people. And the only answer that works at all is, "Because Jesus died on the cross for me and stands in my place before the Father." I have had a few doses of humility since being a teenager. I was spoiled and selfish. God has been working on me for the last 10+ years. This Sunday is my 10th wedding aniversary! Marriage, Fatherhood and pastoring have all lead me to a more accurate view of myself.
    I must say, looking at who I was as a youth and who I am now as an adult, that God can use anyone. He has great plans for everyone. His plans for each of our lives are specific and exciting. We just need to humble ourselves before Him and allow him to lift us up and direct our paths.
    God bless,
    Dave
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Isn't it amazing how God changes us so that we can be used by him? I am still greatly humbled every time that I consider what I have been called to do!

Pastor's Perspective - June 11

Perhaps you noticed the display in the hall and are wondering what's been going on in the church this week... We had a Kids Club that was lots of fun! After church today we are providing a special lunch for the kids and their parents. The parents will then be treated to a concert of songs, puppets and a brief presentation of the Gospel. For photos and more details about the kids club see the church website - rosny.blogspot.com

Pr Dave

The Whale's Tale - Kids Club

We are nearly done with week two!
Last week we ran The Whale's Tale in Collinsvale and this week are running in it Rosny.
There is an interesting difference between city and country Kids Clubs. We had between 15-18 all week in Collinsvale. But in Rosny we have been getting under 10 kids each day. We had to send most of our helpers (youth) home for the rest of the week. But we will still be having a fantastic Thank You Party for the kids that helped!
The theme for The Whale's Tale is based on a parable I wrote for a theology class at Pacific Union College. I wrote six puppet scripts to be the foundation for the Kids Club. These Scripts flesh out the ideas presented in the parable as well as teaching basic character development each day.
Jenny made the puppets! (All except for Sebastian who is from the Little Mermaid cartoon.)

Kids Club - Colinsvale

The Whale's Tale - Week 1

We have finished this weeks Kids Club in the Colinsvale Church hall! It has been a successful week with a fantastic turnout for the conclusion & concert this afternoon. We had a lovely luncheon provided for the kids, parents and grandparents which was followed by the kids performing a concert, the puppets doing the concluding segment and myself giving a short talk about the soon coming of Christ. Next week we will be doing the same program at the Rosny Church for the kids in that area.
One of the segments today was a picture review of the week. You can have a look at the Powerpoint Prestentation and enjoy the pictures of the kids and their activities for the week. (It is a 2.5 meg download, but well worth it if you have a connection to the kids, the program or my family!)
I will add the puppet scripts at the end of next week as well as some closeups of the puppets that Jenny made for this special program. I don't want to put the scripts up this week and have the Rosny kids get ahold of them before they have seen them in action!

Pastor's Perspective - June 4 "From Serfs to Farmers"

This week I listened to a book that talked about the four types of people that exist in every organisation. Serfs, Farmers, Hunters and Wizards. Each can move up to the next level by asking the right questions. Moving from being a Serf to being a Farmer is the easiest move. It is achieved by asking one simple question that Farmers ask, "What little change can I make to help this situation?" While being a Serf may seem safe, it is actually the most dangerous position to be in. Why? Because when things change the Serfs get left behind. Interestingly enough, in the Gospel Commission there is no room for Serfs. "Go... Making Disciples ... Baptising Them... Teaching Them..." Sounds like a lot of farming, hunting and magic!
Let me give you a few scenarios that are currently facing us as a church and then you ask the Farmer's question and apply the answer you come up with.
1. Our tithes and offerings have been falling progressively for months
2. There is a need for new Adventist Churches in Sorrell and Lauderdale
3. Our Primary, Junior and Youth Sabbath Schools need assistant leaders and helpers
4. Our next 40 Days Program is starting on June 25

Have I got you thinking? Good!

God Bless,

Pr Dave

Dave Edgren ~ Story: Teller, Author, Trainer ~

BOOK DAVE NOW! Dave Edgren is passionate about creating a values-based storytelling culture. In his engaging and often hilarious way,...