What I Hate About Friendly Churches

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I hate friendly churches.

OK, I don't "hate" them in the common sense of the word because hating people is not cool. When I say I "hate" friendly churches what I am referring to is the mindset that leads them to be friendly, not the people themselves. 

Now you may be wondering, why would anyone hate friendly churches? Here are three simple reasons.

1. Friendly is relative. I once attended a church that was far from friendly but for some reason, the head elder of the church thought it was a very friendly church. His definition of friendly was being met, so he was satisfied. I also remember a sermon I heard by a pastor who visited a church where no one said hello. Not a single person. Finally, during the lunch he decided to approach a member and strike up a conversation. During the conversation the member invited the pastor to return with these words "we are the friendliest church in town".

That's the problem with "friendly" churches. Everyone has their own definition of what it means to be friendly and for those who have been in the church a long time, that definition is really bizarre. Somehow, not saying hello to guests is friendly to them. Weird. I know. Its as if, so long as they aren't being mean to people, then they are friendly. And so long as they, themselves, feel comfortable they assume everyone else does as well. Newsflash: No.

2. Friendly is cliche. Walk into any business who values customers and you are bound to be met by a friendly staff. They smile, shake your hand, ask how your day is going and if there is anything they can help with. They exhibit superb politeness and civility, do everything to make you, the customer, feel welcome and make your experience so good you will want to return in the future. And you do.

But here is the thing: No matter how friendly that business is, you know deep inside they don't really care for you individually. Their friendliness is nice and you may even strike up a personal friendship with one or two of the staff. But that business itself is not your family, and it never will be. 

Friendly churches are like this and what makes them cliche is they are not doing anything different to what the world is already doing. Their love goes no further or deeper than the local Target or Kmart. The members may boast of the church's friendliness, but in the eyes of the outsider, such friendliness is cliche.

3. Friendly is powerless. The bottom line for why I hate friendly churches is because God never called us to be friendly. Instead he called us to be loving. Being polite and civil may get you the reputation of friendly, but being inclusive, intimate and a servant to the needs of those you encounter is what being loving is all about. Love is a lot harder to be relative about because the Bible gives us a clear picture of love in Jesus and a clear definition as well. Love is putting others before yourself. Love is unconditional - it welcomes, adopts and embraces people of all walks of life. 

God called our churches to be loving because love is powerful. In John 13:34 Jesus commands us "Love one another as I have loved you." And how did he love us? By sacrificing his own life on our behalf. He continues in verse 35 by saying, "By this [this = love not friendliness] all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." In Romans 12:10 Paul writes, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Outdo yourselves in honoring one another."

That kind of love is far deeper, broader and higher than friendliness will ever be. It goes beyond a smile, a handshake and small talk. This kind of love invests itself in the other. It seeks to serve, to bless and to honor. It goes beyond the call of duty to make someone a part of your family and bring healing, community and transformation to their lives. In short, this kind of love is powerful.

And here's the reality: No matter what the church does, its always going to be hated by the world. Jesus told us that. If they persecuted him, they will persecute us. So then, if we are going to be hated and persecuted, we might as well be hated and persecuted for being just like Jesus the "friend of sinners" (Mat.11:19) - a people who are inclusive, intimate and embracing of all.

If the world is going to hate the church, it might as well hate it for being loving.
— Candice Marie

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Is your local church friendly or loving?
  2. What can you do to nurture a loving culture in your church above and beyond just being friendly?
  3. In your opinion, why are do so many churches fail at love?
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Pastor Marcos is a millennial Adventist pastor with a passion for Jesus, the narrative of Adventism and the relevancy of the local Adventist church. He pastors in Western Australia where he lives with his wife and children. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Replacing Tradition with Creation

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When it comes to the conversation of Adventism, the church and our struggle to fulfill the great commission one word comes up more than any other:

TRADITION

Yep, that's right. I said the "T" word. A word which, in some sectors of Christianity is almost a cuss-word. A word which invokes emotional responses that vary from warmth and appreciation to disgust and aversion. I have concluded that no conversation on mission can ever occur without a season of wrestling with the "T" word.

Now here's the thing I have learned. Tradition is not a bad thing. Everyone likes it. Traditions are nice. They help create artistic and meaningful expressions of faith that we can celebrate. The problem emerges when tradition morphs into commandment. When the church comes to the place that it is unwilling to change, adapt or evolve on a non-essential simply because we have "always done it this way". And the end result of this attitude is missional ineffectiveness.

Don’t be a traditional Adventist. Be a creational Adventist. 

The only solution is to replace tradition with the powerful, theologically intense foundation of creation. If we, as a church, model our ministry and culture after God's creative heart we will be constantly creating new traditions that are meaningful to emerging generations and cultures. Its not about doing away with tradition, its about subverting it to a theological commitment to creation.

In other words, don't be a traditional Adventist. Be a creational Adventist. 

The best part is, there is already a huge movement of creational Adventists sweeping the church. This month, I interview a young, up-coming millennial pastor at Avondale university on  his vision for the future of Adventist evangelism and how creativity can restore missional effectiveness to our church. Check it out below!

To check our Lachland Harders project on creativity, visit The Worship Collective.

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Pastor Marcos is a millennial Adventist pastor with a passion for Jesus, the narrative of Adventism and the relevancy of the local Adventist church. He pastors in Western Australia where he lives with his wife and children. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

5 Types of Adventist Churches that Need to Go Extinct

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If you have followed my blog for any number of months you probably found it hard to miss the fact that I am freakishly in love with Adventism. That doesn't necessarily mean I am a fan of the local SDA church through. Adventism is a story and the local SDA church is the organization that is committed to telling that story. The story I love. The organization - not always.

Now allow me to clarify. I am not one of these anti-institution people. I do believe that institution has its place and I like it so long as it stays in its place (a dif topic for a future post). But sadly, the institution can, at times, step into a lane it doesn't belong in and when it does the story gets muddled. Below are 5 kinds of Adventist churches that get in the way of Adventism.

1. The "We're It" Church

Ever been to a church where the people feel like they are the only faithful Adventists left? "We're it" is the message you get when you go there. This kind of mentality breeds big heads - people who think way more highly of themselves than they should. It also breeds lots of complaining and whining about "those other churches", conspiracy theories about pastors and church leaders and unhealthy seperationism. The problem with these churches is they are so caught up in how right they are (and how wrong everyone else is) that they don't have the capacity to be missional.

2. The "Way-too-Faithful" Church

I once belonged to a church (that shall remain nameless) that was obsessed with being faithful to God. Now, allow me to be really clear here. There is no way to be "too faithful" to God. All Christians should aim to be radically faithful. But this church was different. It wasn't simply being faithful to what God had said. It wanted to go beyond what he had said. It would be like a husband telling his wife, "I will always be faithful to you and never run off with another woman. In fact, I will never speak to any woman ever again!" That's what you call being "way too faithful" which in all honesty, is not faithfulness at all.

Sadly, most western Adventist churches I have been to are like this. This is the result of two things. 1) The natural human inclination to focus on our own works and, 2) The work of independent ministries who market directly to peoples fears and insecurities. These ministries, all competing for the same churches to bring them in, have to develop unique selling points that appeal to the minds of people. So most of them operate off a "warning message" kind of marketing that makes people feel that there is this new spiritual danger lurking around that they need to be warned about. The end result is a culture of distrust that stunts the church's missional capacity.

3. The "By the Book" Church

This is the kind of church that is so committed to doing things by the book they could care less about anything else. Are the youth leaving? Have we baptized no one in 3 years? It's all good. We are sticking to the book and that's all that matters.

If you try and raise a discussion about adapting or innovating the way the church functions in order to facilitate discipleship and mission you get shut down quick. There is no flexibility. "We must do the right thing even if everyone leaves" they will say. Sadly, 9 times out of 10, the things they are being so rigid about are nowhere to be found in the Bible. These churches would do well to redefine their culture with Paul's words: "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God" (Acts 15:19).

4. The Nostalgic Warriors Church

A few years ago I was part of a nice and friendly church that shall also remain nameless. They spent years raising money for a new building and when they finally got it everyone was excited. The building was modern and had plenty of growth potential. But despite the new building, everything else remained exactly the same. The culture, structure and function of the church was not adapted in any way to facilitate growth. An ancient lectern was placed at the front of this modern church building that I feel captured the ethos of that community well. They were too in love with the way they had always done things and nothing was going to get them to change.

5. The "We're So Tired" Church

These churches come in two flavors. The mission-less flavor and the missional flavor.

The mission-less flavor kind are the ones that invest all of their time, energy, resources and focus on in-reach. You look at their yearly calendar, scan through the treasurers report or simply hang out with them for a week and you will discover these people place 99% of their church emphasis on themselves. They are tired of evangelism, outreach and mission. So they stop talking about it.

The missional one is different. It tends to be a reaction to all these other churches. Rather than recover the beauty of Adventism for everyone to see, these churches tend to assume that the problem with all the other churches isn't simply their structure but Adventism itself. They are so tired of the legalism and rigidity that they conflate those experiences with the Adventist worldview and then take the doctrines they don't like very much and store them away in the basement. The ones they do like they emphasize till they are blue in the face. The problem with both of these churches is that they are ineffective when it comes to the mission that gives Adventism its identity.

All of these churches, in my estimation, need to go extinct. Some will probably die a natural death since they have no life in them anyways. But if we are not careful, the cycle can repeat itself with different colors. Satan doesn't want the church to succeed and he has a thousands tricks up his sleeve to stop it. And the only solution is for the members, leaders and pastors of the local Adventist church to focus on Jesus and the mission he has given us at any cost to ourselves.

Rather than dying on the hill of tradition, live on the hill of innovation. Enter into eternity knowing you did everything so that by all possible means you "might save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22).

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Pastor Marcos is a millennial Adventist pastor with a passion for Jesus, the narrative of Adventism and the relevancy of the local Adventist church. He pastors in Western Australia where he lives with his wife and children. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.