Church leaders and members alike are concerned about my generation. Many are asking, "Where have all the young adults gone? How do we get them back? How do we avoid losing young people in the future?"
I cannot pretend to have all the answers to these questions. But I can tell you why I am still an Adventist.
I was raised in an Adventist home and went to Adventist schools. My path down the straight and narrow was closely guarded until I neared adulthood. I reached a point where I felt I had to begin researching for myself everything that had been dictated to me up until that point. When I began to think for myself, my entire belief system and world view was challenged by what I found.
I certainly believe that fundamental beliefs are important in our church, but they are not what kept me holding on through all my questioning. As I see it, there are three reasons why I am still an Adventist.
1. Relevant involvement: In college I organized and led praise and worship music for church-related activities. After graduation, I was fortunate enough to get plugged in at a church where my musical abilities were utilized. It was easy to want to stay involved in a church where I felt needed and valued.
2. Present truth: The Adventist church was founded by intellectuals who refused to believe that their churches had everything figured out, and continually studied the scriptures for new revelations of truth from God. Though it is sometimes hard to see, I am convinced that this philosophy of present truth still exists in our church today. I want to be a part of this effort to continue to grow in our knowledge of God and how we can serve him better.
3. The true mission of Christ: Jesus told us to preach the gospel to the whole world, but he also told us to take care of the hungry, thirsty, estranged, sick, naked and imprisoned. He told us to love our neighbors. He even told us to love our enemies. The way we treat other people is a major theme in teachings of Christ. To ignore or downplay the significance of this function is really to downplay an essential part of the gospel. Organizations like Adventist Community Services and ADRA are just a few examples of Adventist efforts to preach the whole gospel by reaching outside of the church to our neighbors, our communities and our world. While so many denominations are focused on pushing their agendas into government, the Adventist church is trying to make the world a better place through invitation rather than legislation. I am proud to be a part of a church that is taking a different approach. It is an approach that I believe is modeled after the ministry led by Christ himself.
So what about the young adults who have left the church? Why have they left? Some of my friends who have left the church say they are dissatisfied with what they feel are knee-jerk answers to legitimate questions they have about church doctrine and philosophy. Others feel like their understanding of worship is not valued.
I certainly don't know all the reasons some young adults have left the church, and I don't have all the answers. What I do know is why I am still here. During my search for truth, the churches I attended kept me involved and helped me see the value in certain church philosophies. Today I am thankful that I am still an Adventist, and I hope my experience sheds some light on how our church can address the needs of future young people as they embark on their own quest for truth.