Forgive, as He forgave
I would like to commend Roy Adams for his article “Seventy Times Seven” (July 2017). Too many of our people feel real guilt over being unable to forgive people who have offended them in such tragic circumstances as Adams describes. It was good to read such a balanced approach to this issue. Having worked with young people all my ministry, I have come against a number of situations that some of those youth will never recover from—like having a child as a result of a rape because they did not believe in abortion.
Being a Jew, Peter’s mind would have gone to Daniel 9:24, with 70 weeks of 7 given to the Jews to make an end of sin and bring in reconciliation, and understood that we need to forgive in the same way that God forgave those Jews who responded to His plea, while those who did not respond were rejected.
—R. Possingham, Australia
Nurturing new members
I have just read the article “Shutting the Back Door” (July 2017) in Ministry magazine. The five key points mentioned were very meaningful and useful; I have to absolutely agree with all of them. I am not saying I am using them, but I need to use them! I have experienced something like a “U” curve described in the article, but, fortunately, did not leave the church (thanks to God, of course). We often discuss in church very deep theological matters and pursuing new members, but, as was said in the article, we do not nurture our new members. Some specific things from the article (like not sitting with new members, associating with established church friends, forgetting new members, and so on) I can see operating in the church I attend, and often these are mistakes I make myself. So, thank you very much again for this article. It was very enriching, and I hope it will help me to care for new people in the church in a much better way.
—Matúš, Czech Republic
Come before winter
As a long-time reader of Ministry, and now retired, I have a problem you can help me with. How should a retired pastor be used? Dual ministry? At the least, perhaps, a regular pastoral interactive sharing of his or her experience and wisdom, either one-on-one or with a group.
I was hoping you would have an article regarding this already on file that you could send me. If not, please consider it a topic worth your attention.
—Wil Nuckolls (Baptist), Fair Oaks, California, United States.
PS Hurry, I’m 85.
I am writing to say that I appreciated all the articles in your September 2017 issue, especially the one by Dr. Stefanovich. I also learned from Seth Pierce’s article, “Vanishing Acts.” But I do see some irony in this sentence by Pastor Pierce: “A speaker creates an existential absence through an overuse of ‘clichés, quotations, and secondary sources’ that leaves listeners feeling ‘deceived and deprived.’ ” It seems to me that the same “existential absence” can be created by your writer’s adherence to the apparent requirement (written or unwritten, I don’t know) that every Adventist contributor quote Ellen White at least once.
It is distracting when I know that Mrs. White will be quoted once or multiple times in each article, whether the quotation is the very best that could have been chosen to underline the point, or not. For this reader, it tends to create that “existential absence” that Brother Seth mentioned, and distracts from a writer’s credibility. I start thinking thoughts like, “Was any quote necessary here?” Or, “Would a biblical reference have been more appropriate?” Or, “Does this writer believe that Mrs. White was just as authoritative as Isaiah or Jeremiah?” And I have to struggle hard to wrench my focus back to the writer’s main point.
In conclusion, let me say that when I was a young man, having left off church attendance, not walking with Jesus but instead leaning toward atheism, one of your colporteurs handed me a copy of The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan. That book, plus my reading the whole Bible for the first time, plus the persistent prayers and witnessing of many friends, relatives, and even strangers, finally led me to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. I have great respect for Seventh-day Adventists. Yours in the Lord.
—Rev. Dr. Robert Hellam, Seaside, California, United States
RESPONSE FROM SETH PIERCE
Dear Rev. Hellam,
Thank you for your gracious comments about our church. I am so glad you have had some positive experiences with Seventh-day Adventists. More importantly, I rejoice with you in the truth you have found and the saving relationship with Jesus that has also called you into ministry.
You bring up an excellent point about the use of Ellen White’s writings. First, I would agree with you that her writings are often abused, in print and even in the pulpit. Frequently, Adventists will lean back on familiar White quotes (without any attempt at fresh application). I share that concern, and we need to diversify our sources. Where I would slightly deviate from your point, though not completely, concerns the context.
In a professional journal, there is a bit of argumentation that needs to rest on authoritative sources versus testimony. In the case of our faith tradition, Ellen White holds some authority, though SDAs very clearly spell out that we do not hold her on the same level as Scripture (see for example, “Sola Scriptura: The Reformers and Ellen G. White” by Alberto Timm, in Ministry, October 2016). Secondly, while the journal is interdenominational, it is distributed to every Adventist pastor. Occasionally, one runs into someone who tends to be suspicious of non- Adventist sources (which is tragic in my opinion), so a quote from her can act as a buffer against unnecessary pushback.
The context the article speaks of is the pulpit—and most sermons should not “preach” like an academic article. A journal article has a particular style and “rhetorical situation” that doesn’t work in the pulpit. Journal pieces are bound to use a lot more, and, ideally, a wide variety of, sources/quotes, including Scripture. A quick glance at my article reveals eight citations from Scripture, seven non-Adventist academic sources, and one Ellen White/Adventist quote, so, given the audience, it seems like a diverse mix. I also think it appropriate for pastors of various traditions to cite those who were influential within their tradition (Methodist/John Wesley, Reformed/John Calvin, Lutheran/Martin Luther, etc.).
However, on a macro-level, you may be onto an interesting Adventist literary dynamic—what percentage of Adventist pastors feel compelled to use Ellen G. White as an authority in their writing? Feels like an article waiting to be written . . .
Blessings on your ministry!
—Seth J. Pierce, Lead Pastor, Puyallup SDA Church, Washington, United States