This was too long of a comment to simply add under the previous post:
I think it’s abundantly clear that Christianity as a whole has become bloated, complacent and “rusted” as noted. There are many reasons for this: a steadily declining moral atmosphere in the Western world and in America specifically, increased materialism and a decreased value placed on life, among others. While as Seventh-day Adventists we claim to understand and interpret the Bible correctly (and therefore imply that all other denominations do not), we also run the risk of lazily settling into some truths that we have been handed down by the forefathers of our church without careful, ongoing study and/or a real, personal conviction of the faith we ascribe to.
This is acutely evident starting in our academies and colleges, where students are taught (spoon-fed?) what to believe without being made to think about the history and implications of our faith. We just repeat what we’re told. For many of us, religion boils down to daily chapel meetings, visiting other churches with our choirs in order to raise money (even though the churches in the conference already give money to Adventist education), and just becomes something we do versus something we truly believe that then changes our lives in a significant way. This is the norm, granted there are exceptions to this.
As I’ve stated before, many of these students then get into “real life” attending public universities, realizing that they are ill-prepared to face both the academic challenges as well as the secular Darwinistic onslaught in the first science class they attend. With a shaky foundation, they are faced with powerful peer pressure, countless temptations and difficult moral choices, clashes of culture shock and feeling lost on a campus of thousands whereas previously they were “kings of the hill” in an academy of several hundred at most. Many are easily overcome with doubt, with secular and leftist pressure to give up “silly traditions,” or “bigoted views,” are made silent to adhere to political correctness and often chastised by both their peers and their professors when their views may seem to be “tainted” with religious or moral overtones. And so, in an effort to find external peace and to fit in, they gradually let go of their childhood faith (which was just that) and become open to new ideas, such as the one that says all religions are equally valid and that they have their cultural applications but they are merely outdated attempts to show humanity the way forward. What we should focus on now, they claim, is that all morality is relative and that you may have your truth and I can have my truth and we are both right; we should all get along and focus on hard facts of Science and the progress we’re sure to make towards Utopia.
With the astronomical rise in the acceptance of legalized sodomy (homosexuality), the continued push for transgender identities and other mental disorders being perpetrated as “normal behavior,” and enforced by mainstream media to be seen as progress, these students grow up into adults who are without a true moral compass, much like a ship without a rudder being tossed by each wave, whether it’s climate change activism, equal rights for LGBTQIAetc., political activism bordering on Communism and many others. Without a strong foundation of personal faith and understanding the Bible for themselves, they latch onto whatever current is strongest and go along with the majority. If the majority decides attending church is overrated and outdated, they cease to attend church. If the majority is more worried about getting jobs once college is finished than about true education which never takes a break (spring, summer or otherwise), then they join that bandwagon too and live off of their parents rather than risk applying and interviewing for jobs they are not prepared to perform. Meanwhile they complain, behave as if they’re entitled, take to social media to “express” themselves and become increasingly confused about the things that really matter.
This is a grim picture of the majority of students coming out of church academies and/or colleges, who are slowly but surely leaving their faith instead of feeding it with good works. The leadership of the SDA church is partly responsible for this, since they in part deny that there is a problem in the first place and because the half-measures they employ to counter the real issues are weak and ineffective. Leadership is also partly to blame for the lackluster educational and spiritual preparation of many pastors who are nothing more than PowerPoint preachers. They speak without conviction, without relevant life experience and afraid to speak the uncomfortable truths that Jesus spoke when He walked the earth more than 2000 years ago. Many others are simply not “called” nor truly equipped for the work, but see it as an easy income and relatively safe career path. These are most loathsome. As in His time, the religious leadership is more worried about their positions, their salaries and benefits and their reputations than being worried that the sheep they have been entrusted with are being stolen by the enemy, not just during the night but in plain daylight. They would rather silence the ones that rock the boat rather than admit their boat has been taking on water for years. Jesus plainly called them out, in public, for all to see.
It can be further said that people are leaving the church because the love of many has grown cold. Some have never learned to love in the first place. They are seemingly Christian in appearance, but on the inside they are not filled with the Holy Spirit and do not know God. As John poins out:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another… If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”
How many professed Christian church members are failing in this regard? By failing to see the beam in their own eye and constantly nit-picking their neighbor about the speck in his or her eye, we have turned off many would-be believers, young and old, and have been called hypocrites by many more. Young people especially are victims of this behavior by older and should-be-much-wiser members. The younger generation of people deal with much more bombardment of the world on all sides than did their parents, constantly under the pressure and gaze of social media, with mainstream media telling them that what was once good is now evil and what was evil is now good. They are confused and therefore easy prey for the enemy to snatch when they are dismissively treated to a cold shoulder, a cold gaze or an icy response from a more holier-than-thou “veteran member.” It is easier for these younger ones to head out into the world, where anything goes as long as you’re not a bigot. They are received and celebrated as belonging to the world, and our seminars and potlucks hold little prospect of winning them back, unless we are changed to be more Christ-like in our love towards them. Many of them are guilty of public sins and eagerly we point the accusatory finger, while inwardly we hold some cherished sin that no one sees. We pride ourselves on our piety while condemning when one of them stumbles. Instead of comforting the wounded, hurt and confused ones, we end up pushing them out altogether so as not to “infect” ourselves just by their presence. It matters not if previously they may have contributed their God-given gifts and talents in service of the church; we let one person’s actions or mistakes define what we think of them, and by default, who they are.
Having said all this, I don’t believe that any one person or group of people can “fix” the church. Only Christ, at His second coming will separate the wheat from the chaff and His criteria will be whether or not we have known Him. It won’t matter how many Revelation seminars we’ve presented or Sabbath school classes we’ve taught. It won’t matter if we brought vegetarian dishes to potlucks or whether we are vegan or not. The only things that will matter then is if He knows us and if we have known Him, and have made our lives a testament of obeying the greatest commandments: loving Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. That will be the difference and this is not being told to the people in church as often as it should be. Instead we have lost our focus, fighting battles that are not ours, such as defending God in the science arena. He doesn’t need our defense, and due to our remarkable ignorance of both science AND religion, we make things much worse than they are. We make ourselves look foolish and defensive instead of sticking to the mission that Jesus gave His followers, which is to preach the Gospel to all the world. The Gospel is the Good News of eternal life and salvation through faith in Christ. The fruits of that faith will be good works in this life, works that are blessings for others, which in turn helps attract them to Christ and propagates the movement. Christianity was never meant to be a rigid, defunct and bloated organized industry that merely serves as a members’ club to belong to. It was meant to change people’s hearts and minds and that of their families, friends and neighbors into the likeness of Christ so that He could come quickly and claim them as His own. This is what His peculiar people should be like, serving as a beacon of light in a darkening world. From that point of view, true Christians are indeed becoming an endangered species. The disappointment is that we have perhaps relied too much and too long on our church leaders, instead of relying on and getting to know Christ, who is the chief cornerstone on which the church was built.