What Do They Really Hear? Beyond "Adventese"

Imagine this ... You're not a Christian, but have a sudden growing interest in spiritual matters, particularly Christianity.

On an airline flight you enjoy a conversation with a friendly Seventh-day Adventist. You’re so impressed you decide to visit an Adventist church you've seen near your home.

The following Saturday morning, you arrive early. You find a seat near the back of the sanctuary and begin reading through a bulletin you received. Here is what you find:

"The new NAD materials for VBS are available at the ABC or from the bookmobile at AAA tomorrow between 9 a.m. and noon."

"On Sabbath, May 8, the GC president will deliver the sermon at the WWU alumni worship service (shown here via satellite)."

"Tonight’s vespers service will be held at 5:30 p.m., followed by a potluck supper. Please bring only a dessert or beverage. The Dorcas ladies will serve haystacks."

"Next week’s offering: ADRA."

"This week’s quote: '...God's purposes know no haste and no delay'— DA 32."

The opening hymn and prayer sound sincere, but you wonder why they are both in Shakespearean English.

During the sermon, you occasionally find yourself side-tracked by such unexplained terms as “the three angels’ messages,” “the spirit of prophecy,” and “justified, sanctified and glorified.”

Following the sermon, you expect to hear more Old English in the closing hymn but are baffled at the meaning of “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come.”

Okay ... appraisal time — assume you did a good job of imagining yourself with little knowledge of Adventism or Christianity.

While staying in character, contemplate these questions: Did you sense some kind of “code language” exists among those “church people?” Did you leave feeling this group of people could relate to you ... or they were even trying to relate to you? Or did you leave feeling like these folks were a clique' in a world of their own?

Worldly institutions go out of their way to target, reach and communicate with people in understandable ways about their temporal products. How much more should Christians, entrusted with proclaiming eternal truths, strive to connect with people at the most fundamental levels?

A little self-evaluation is a healthy thing. We don’t need to forsake hymns or abbreviations. But perhaps we should check ourselves to discover whether or not we are speaking “Adventese.” If so, it may be hindering the entrance of our proclamations into hearts hungering for the “food” God has to offer.

Jesus died to communicate His love, power and life-enhancing truth. The least we can do is to be sure the message is offered with clarity, with words and actions that reveal Him in with no barriers in between.

March 01, 2010 / Perspective
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