LOCAL CHURCH vs. INSTITUTIONALISM
When you think about the SDA Church, do you think about global headquarters—or your local congregation?
Global councils and constituencies vote this or that policy, which only matters in terms how it benefits local churches. Everything the denominational hierarchy does (let’s call it what it is) has value only to the extent that local churches are blessed.
Why? Because the local church is where the action is. It’s where people get dedicated as babies, baptized as youth, mentored as teens, married as adults and finally, at the end of the day, have their funeral. It’s where members and their guests hear and discuss God’s Word Sabbath after Sabbath. Church administrative offices, bookstores and media centers all shut down on the Lord’s Day so employees can worship in local congregations. There everybody gathers to get energized and equipped to disperse once again into the marketplace and classrooms of the community.
What about our schools? Adventist education is worth every cent needed to fund its institutions — if and only if they support and nurture local churches. Indeed, our dedicated teachers are facilitating that throughout the Northwest. Students and teachers interact with the larger church family, both in Sabbath worship and in community outreach. Church members are supportive grandparents, aunts and uncles to the students. There is a deep affection, an inspiring synergy between church and school, that can’t be fully described; it must be experienced.
This is also true for Adventist academies. Teens are being mentored for ministry in local churches. That’s the purpose of Christian education — not primarily to keep our kids from becoming evolutionists and drug addicts, but to help them find their place in the body of Christ. We can be proud of our academies because they do their part to build up local congregations. So does our flagship educational institution, Walla Walla University.
All Seventh-day Adventist institutions and administrative offices have value only for building up the local church. Otherwise they don’t deserve to exist.
So please don’t make a big deal about somebody’s 100th birthday dinner unless she has served as a centurion in the Lord’s army, building up her local church. Don’t clutter his inbox with photos of smart kids winning scholarship awards unless they use their skills right now to build up the body of Christ. That’s how the work of God will finally get finished around this world — through all of us, young and old, in local churches.
Political pundits remind us that “all politics is local.” That’s likewise true for Adventism. It’s all about the local church — led by dedicated pastors worthy of your highest respect and warmest affection.