Analysis of The Community Church
It says: 2The policy of the Dutch Union wants to present in the first place a Biblical vision on what the Church ought to be (p.5), …. and give an answer as to how diversity in the church can get a basis in believes, personal life and divine service, and how we can be more involved in the communities we are part of (p.1).
But the arguments for change are not taken from the Bible, but are taken from the world. Besides, the Seventh Day Adventist Church does not have to be reinvented. It is already well established what the Seventh Day Adventist Church is and ought to be.
The DUC says that the mandate for this policy was one of the resolutions of the representatives at the Union Conference of November 2007, where she was asked to develop initiatives to give room to the manner on which diversity gets a basis in believes, life and divine service, from an attitude of love and acceptation and mutual understanding.
And to stimulate churches to become more involved in the local community and enhance involvement (of members), fitting to the scale and possibilities of those churches (p.1 Introduction).
All well phrased and said, but that doesn’t mean that the EC got the mandate to develop new policy.
Problem analysis of the writer
This policy of the Union gets the evidence for the need for change from persons who do not believe in God. How can unbelievers educate us how to please the Lord of Heavens?
The literature references the writer made, is very curious and it seems that he strongly endorses the opinions of those secular writers - for he would not bring them up to the stage if they do not underline his argument to convince us of his view.
Now, the first one brought to the stage, the sociologist Durkheim3 (p1), is not a exactly an example for a Christian. This world wise degrades God to the human level, and religion to subservient to science and servile to the society on behalf of “social cohesion.” The endorsement with the analyses of this and many other unbelieving sociologist and philosophers is in the document argument and motivation for this new vision on doing church.
Therefore it is far from being a Biblical vision. For, how can you build a Biblical vision on unbiblical evidence? The policy is totally inadequate for a vision on the future of a Bible founded religious community as the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which has a vital message for humans in these last hours of this planet earth.
Promoters of this policy will argue that it is just an objective (scientific?) analysis of modern society. But the writer himself states that this is not the case. He says that “on basis of the analyses, some problem area’s [within the Church] - are identified and some answers [to the problem] are given” (p1).
The Solution of the writer
We find it very difficult to hear the people we must reach with our message referred to as clients (p3). We don’t “sell” the gospel and the people are not “buying” it from us. This “marketing” of the gospel is one of the most prominent characteristics of the mega church growth methods. This does not fit us, for it is not Biblical. Freely ye have received – God didn’t asked us for a down payment - freely give. It is a gift of mercy.
The key question is asked: What can the Advent Church do to be the spiritual home for people of our time? This is an important question. It deals with the church as meeting place for social contacts. (p3)
Brothers and sisters, the church is first the meeting place where we find God. “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.” Thàt is what we come to look for, week after week on Sabbath mornings. And yes, absolutely – we also see God in the face of our fellow brother and our fellow human being, but if people do not know God and acknowledge Him, than they will not recognize Him in their fellowmen. At the most they can be humanists, but their drive in life is not God given.
It is stated: To build a relationship it is equally necessary that the church knows how she is looked upon from the outside and how she is prized. What impression do unchurched people have of the church? (p4).
We speak about image here, in the first place - how do the outside world see us. But, do we not know how the world thinks about Bible founded Christians? Is that it? We give you two Bible places: 2 Cor 2:11 – For we are not ignorant of his devices. And Acts 5:29 - We ought to obey God rather than men.
How much should we change to get rid of this rigged image? The document answers: There should be less emphasis on the institutional aspects and more emphasis on the humane side of the church. The church must be seen as a happening between humans (p5).
Brethren, the church of Jesus is His bride. His woman, and that implies in the first place a happening between God and men. Or do we miss a point here?
Because God has created us after His image, and that image was shattered at the fall, He puts in all His efforts to restore that image IN us. God has always wanted to live with men, His people. That desire in Him is so great that even if there are but two or three that come together in His name, He is already there. If we just want to be among men, we don’t have to be a church, but if we want to have communion with God, we must want to come exclusively into His presence. In the presence of God we find holy communion with each other.
A happening between humans is therefore not the essence of being church, for we cannot separate the church of Christ from God, for then we won’t have a church, but a club of people that measure their goodness at the standard of the society they live in. That club won’t find it difficult indeed to change with the society. That is where Satan’s efforts are aimed at!
The wise sociologist say that churches are mesostructures and all mesostructures will vanish (p2). But IF the Seventh Day Adventist Church is God’s church, then she is no mesostructure, bound to vanish if she does not go with the flow, just because world wise say she is.
The church of Jesus Christ will not vanish, because we believe it is God’s church. The set of rules we have in the Seventh Day Adventist church, are given under the leading inspiration of God’s Spirit after day without food, nights without sleep, much fasting and praying. If we cannot believe that anymore, than we have nothing to add to the Christian firmament and then we have no distinguishing message and no point of existence anymore. Then God can better look around very fast for another band of people that will bear the expected fruit. But we know that there is no time left for that. There will not be another church, so we might as well get our acts together and start proclaiming our message, so help us God almighty.
We are very confused now. In almost every Advent Magazine the DUC reports on how the church in Holland is growing. The Ghanese church in Amsterdam has a structural growth of 15% each year, … floating on the “old fashioned Seventh Day Adventism.” What is the reason for this utterly negative self-image? What is the real problem of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Holland? Do we have a problem or does the society has a problem? Or is it that a few people within the church have a problem with the church?
The document states: The church is more than a school where fundamental believes are being taught. And very philosophical .. At the same time she is nothing more than a school. The DUC presents love as the principal value (p5).
Love is indeed the basis, but love becomes a vain cry, a hollow sound, a sounding cymbal if it is not founded on faith and firm beliefs (after all we are a church and a church happen to have doctrines) - we only love, when we love God, and keep his commandments … In this relationship it is God who calls the shots and man that loves God and wants to please Him, keeps them. That’s the natural course of things.
If society does not want these rules, then it’s clear that our message will not be accepted. But do we have a problem then? No, because the people are free to choose! They will ultimately have a problem. What society wants or does can never be a standard for acceptance of the church by society, because then the church would deny het God and His Word, and that’s the moment she will cease to have any point of existence in the sight of God. God does not play church. The church is His bride for real. If we deny God in the things that we do or say, our religion will become a horrible caricature, that will scare people off and will chase them away very fast.
If it is said that we ought to become a church with others, in order not to be patronizing (p5) to the world, then we can rather suggest to stop being church and call ourselves “The club of Seventh Day Socialists” instead. But if we are bring to the people the words the Lord has given us, we shall be called patronizing by the majority of them. No matter how loving, tactful or euphemistic we will bring our message. We will only not be patronizing when we stop altogether to be a Bible founded church. That’s Satan goal and that’s why this is a task we cannot take upon us, because then we will be doing his job. Believers carry out a vision on reality, that has its roots outside themselves, that they have accepted as truth, that has reformed their thinking and that’s why believers will always be a strange duck in the pond.
We ask ourselves which gospel we can bring to the world without being classified by many as “patronizing?” We cannot commit ourselves only to hand out bread in green pastures. Even Jesus hated that very much. He said every time: “Go your way, and sin no more” with that indicating that there ought to be a denouncing of the old life. Which believes shall we cast away, that the world would accept us and we can become relevant to them? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is – will become that instant - the enemy … of God.
The writer states, When one establishes and sustains a community the focus point is ‘to justice’ (praxis). This is a fundamental Bible concept that lies at the basis of sjalom (peace). Besides this praxis, faith is also important for a healthy church (p5).
Any marriage between church and world is doomed to fail. Who, do you think, will foot the bill? We ought to remind ourselves that a cohabitation between church and world has never happened in sjalom and it will end in a compete warzone in the near future. Jesus was very clear on this point; He said that he didn’t came to bring sjalom. And the peace is not signed yet.
The Biblical concept of Sjalom peace is, Peace on earth with people of good will – people awaken Gods pleasure, because they submit themselves to Him – showing forth their trust by the manner they lead their lives and keep His commandments. Thàt is our message of peace, sjalom; Thàt is the praxis of the gospel that brings lasting sjalom peace …
The writer rightly says that the covenant of God with men is based on trust and justice (p6). But the only manner in which that trust can come to the front in our lives is by doing what the Lord asks of us. And justice, even towards unbelievers, is the outcome of trust, and not the cause of it.
We cannot have good will with the world and at the same time with God. Indeed our members must learn that faith in God also means that you do not pass your neighbor by, even if he is not a Seventh Day Adventist, but we don’t need a new policy for that, but the sermon of Jesus on the Mount – “Ye have heard that”…” But ye … not so” (Mat 5, Ef 4:20).
The little books Thoughts from the mount of blessings and Christian Service of EG White give us a perfect policy vision on Practical Discipleship in a secular society.
Our society has changed, but not our God. Thank God, not our God! And because true believers live in Gods reality -- that doesn’t mean by the way that they are aliens or turned inwards, because God stands firmly with both legs on this earth!! – we too can be in the world but not of the world. Can we be completely involved with people who are of good will and still remaining wholeheartedly Seventh Day Adventist.
The DUC document states, When a prophetic call is made, it is equally important that the message is accepted (p8).
This is not true, for the messenger is but an instrument in Gods hand en it is not his duty to make the message acceptable; it is his duty to make message heard. God himself will take care of the acceptance by His Holy Spirit.
Our prophetic message is a call to people of good will to turn back to their faith in and first love towards God. People of good will shall hear the call, understand it and accept it. God’s promises are a surety. When He says that His word will not return void, it will not.
The rest will deny it as plain as that. Jesus, the most practical gospel worker we know, said, Don’t waste your energy on that, because you have no influence whether they accept it or not. Throw the seed of the gospel w i d e without reserve, but you can’t change the fact that most people will continue to see you in a certain way. Thát’s their choice. Don’t throw pearls to the swine’s …
Then Augustine, the RC church father is brought to the stage, where he said: “don’t go outside of yourself. Turn inward, into yourself. In the inward man resides truth” (p10).
Augustine’s teaching of “the inward man” is based on teleology, the ethical transformation that leads man to true happiness, via the (self)invention and cultivation of the divine element that’s in him. This all is based on the Greek philosophy of the neoplatonism, that led him to the conclusion that God is as immaterial as Wisdom and Happiness. In the thinking of Augustine a happy life is the same as eternal life.
The quest for true knowledge of the divine has lead Augustine from Manichaeism4, via the Stoic5 to Neoplatonism6, before he eventually conversed himself to Roman Catholicism. A path we should not even suggest to our members.
Brethren, Augustine is preaching a lie as an elephant here7! The Bible clearly teaches something quite the opposite: That all good that we could think of and do, originates from God, for there is no one that is good, than He alone (Psalm 14:3; Ecclesiastics 7:20). And that we must learn the Truth (Galatians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 8:2).
How then must we learn to know Him if we have Him already within us? No, we learn the truth and the good and recognize them in the face of God, and not in the world and certainly not in ourselves. We learn the truth and the good by experiencing a change of mind – to think totally different than the world – by the proportionate we give the Holy Spirit room to work with us (Ephesus 4:20).
Augustine is dead wrong! To bring him forth as an authority on the matter and as part of the solution, is not correct. In this document the evidence comes from how the world thinks that the Church should be, but we have the mind of Christ and we know what the Church is. Don’t we?
Should we call up these unbiblical theories to change our view on God, our evangelizing and to reform our “community spirit”? Should we not rather call the people to prayer for the holy anointment of the Holy Spirit, who will bring to our minds all we ought to know about God, about sin and righteousness and judgment, instead of getting counsels from unholy, pagan philosophies, in quest for real happiness and the god in us?
The Bible teaches us nowhere about the divine in us. We have to image God in our character (nature according to 2 Peter 1:4), by the indwelling, life changing influence of the Holy Spirit, but we will never become divine. The word almost in Psalm 8:6 is only a small word which indicates an unbridgeable gulf between us and God, unless by Jesus Christ, and never by our own efforts. In Christ alone, resided the godly in the flesh, that’s why “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ, For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:8,9).
In the practical guide on discipleship Jesus presented on the Mount, we find the much needed balance (p11). His manner is more than sufficient.
But now we want to invent warm water. When we marginalized some of the fundamental beliefs, we first drowned the baby (the unchanging principles of Biblical truth) in the bath and then we threw it away with bath water and all! Many of our members do not know the difference anymore between an Seventh Day Adventist and a non-Seventh Day Adventist. We have been telling ourselves that it was not important. We were actually ashamed to say that we have the truth of the Bible. Because we have told each other so during the last 50 years, we have come to believe it, and that’s why we have ceased to bring that practical faith into practice.
Let’s please encourage each other to turn back to the teachings of Jesus about how to grow in with and depth. Then we shall see how successful we will get in our churches.
The Implications of the writer
Let the duty of the ministers (p12) be, to organize the church in such a way that everyone gets a task in the work and that there is not one “called” person who does everything and the rest stands by lame and idly.
In respect to the duty of ministers the Lord has not kept us in ignorance. We are counseled: “The world will be convinced, not by what the pulpit teaches, but by what the church lives.” “Preaching is a small part of the work to be done for the salvation of souls. God's Spirit convicts sinners of the truth, and He places them in the arms of the church. The ministers may do their part, but they can never perform the work that the church should do.” “The best help that ministers can give the members of our churches is not sermonizing, but planning work for them. Give each one something to do for others. Help all to see that as receivers of the grace of Christ they are under obligation to work for Him.” (Christian Service, 1925, chap. Co-operation of Ministers and Laymen, p. 67,68,69). Ministers should preach more about Jesus and share to the members the implicit way of believing, which our Lord Jesus presented us in His sermon on the mount; about how our Attitude as a practical believer should Be.
The much strived for holistic vision (p13) of our church must be nothing else than the vision of Jesus; don’t just say “the Lord will bless you,” but provide for a coat if you have two and share your bread and fish. Don’t pull out an eye in return, but take care that mister One Eye is compensated for his loss; pull your sheep out of the well on the Sabbath day, but put a lid on it that it might not fall in it again the next Sabbath. Do not greet only your brother for then you are not more than the pagan. Be faithful to your spouse, for that’s the will of God. Don’t be haughty and know your weaknesses. You are the neighbor of the man next door … Maybe we should get our old, Biblical vision from the shelf – spirit-head-heart-hands, which is the same as: soul-mind-heart-strength (Matthew 12:30), which is the same as: life-reason-emotion-action. It was indeed a very precious principle.
The Executive Committee appoints pilots. (p 14). No, the churches have their own growth programs and the Union does not violate the autonomy of the churches as long as they uphold the accepted standards of Seventh Day Adventism.
We cannot only lay emphasis on the local church (p14), and keep the international organization out of view. We are not separated from the international context of our World Church. The international context underlines the unity and the harmony, that everywhere in the world the Seventh Day Adventist church and her members are recognized; from the outside and from within! The DUC must abide by these rules of unity and harmony, otherwise we in Holland will become a dissident separated field within the World federation of Seventh Day Adventism.
Members have a equally important role as the minister (p15). Who wants to lead have to learn how to serve first. A minister must be corrected by his members when he expresses whishes, thoughts and theories that are not in line to our believes. Building each other with in loving words, always having the good intentions and uprightness of both parties in mind, but ever keeping in mind the deceitfulness of hearts. In a mature church this doesn’t have to be a problem, for we are no spoiled children.
But we do not seek Augustinic, epicuristic8, neoplatonic or new age spirituality (p15) or spiritual formation, which is nothing less than spiritualism in a new cloak.
We don’t need spirituality, but guidance of the Holy Spirit, who convinces of sin, righteousness and judgment, that we may denounce sin, be righteous and can admonish and encourage en finally do where to God has called us and that we can finish up here and go Home.
It remains obscured what is meant by authentic faith experience (p15). In a service, that truly honors the Lord, worship is a deed that we do to God in the first place. If he is central in all that we present and do, then there is no need for alternative liturgy (p15). Do not erase that signs of Seventh Day Adventism please! We don’t have to be as other churches. People say times and times again that, because we do things different they experience our services as refreshing.
That discipleship prevents that we lay too much emphasis on organization and church authority (p15) is another hoax argument. This is the Simple Church principle, and most surely must not introduce it in our church!! Discipleship in the first church of Ephesus acknowledged organization and church authority (see Acts 15).
Jesus said: Moses – the Law – and the Prophets, they testify of Me. All education must point to Jesus, uplift Him. He is the centre point of our desire, the nucleus of every promise and every expectation. There in is our peace. He is our peace.
Conclusion of the writer
The end conclusion wants us to believe that the church is dealing with and extremely negative self image (p16) Why are we so focused on image? Image is how others see us, and for a church that is not all important. Most important is how the Lord of the church see His church! But who has this negative image? Has this been researched? But we can imagine that ether is a negative image of us with the enemies of God and His truth, and with that the enemies of his commandment keeping people. But should we be concerned about that kind of image?
One thing is sure, if we seek connection with the culture around us, then we will lose the little identity (p16) we have left, because Satan and his worldly instruments do not want us to have a distinct identity. Only Satan is eager for us to go that way!
This policy is in its core not Biblical. It presents to us a worldly vision of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
When our focus is Christ, His truth and His soon to be second coming, then all artificial man made differences fade away, because we are bound together in Christ, the only true unity He wished for His true Church according to John 17:21.
When our focus is Christ, His truth and His soon to be second coming, then we should be consecrating to God ourselves, our lives, our efforts and team up together, side by side, everyone with his/her own talents, to spread the last message of truth grace, to every people, kindred, tongue and nation; to cry out to God’s people that His kingdom is at hand.
We are unspeakable rich in mercy; what a privilege to be Seventh Day Adventists!!
We advise all the members and the churches in Holland not to underwrite this policy document The Community Church, even if it comes to us as a voluntary advise of the DUC, but to turn it down altogether.
We the church boards and all members have to speak out to the DUC that our churches want to stimulate involvement with the material we already have. It lays unused on our bookshelves: The Bible (see for instance Leviticus 19, Matthew 5-7), and Steps to Christ, Thoughts from the Mounts of Blessings, Christian Service of EG White.
 Careful study of the document clearly shows that it presents the principles of the Community Church, probably taken from the mega churches Saddleback (Rick Warren) en Willow Creek (Billy Hybels). The DUC is experimenting for some years now with the church growth methods of these mega churches. Though the General Conference recently labeled these methods as insufficient for the SDA Church, the DUC seems to want to turn them into general policy. In fact the document self gives this reference on p. 10. Though the given link leads to a forum site telling you nothing, but when one clicks a little further, searching the Internet things are readily clarified.
 The blue markings indicate quotations from the vision document. According to Durkheim an important objective of religion is the enhancement of social cohesion, social involvement and binding. The scientific thinking is for him a more perfect form of the religious thinking and because religion is but the sanctification of the more desirable social values, seemingly secular social forms can also be defined as religion. Religion cannot be erased from society but it will have to step down for sociology.
 In the Manicheistic view of life a divine kingdom of Light is the counterpart of the kingdom of Darkness. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manichaeism.
 The stoic philosophy presents itself as the only way to man’s happiness. Everything that happens in the world is strictly predestined. Freedom and autonomy for man is that he is free how to react on that fact. That reaction defines one’s happiness. http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism.
 The essence of Neo-Platonism is that our soul can choose whether it will attach itself to matter, or that it will try to ascent to the higher level. This last can result in a temporary, mystic unity with the One. According to Plotinus, the establisher of Neo-Platonism, this is something that can only be attained after long and serious practice of philosophy, as our soul firstly reaches the intellectual level, and after that can experience the Unification. That is the highest level humans can attain, and should be the ultimate goal of all his efforts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoplatonism). I.o.w. perfect sanctification by works and self salvation! In Dutch we have a saying: A truth as a cow, that is, a big and confirmed truth. This is a big and confirmed lie.