Top Ten Ways to Kill Your Church

Institutionalize. Make sure that the majority of the church budget is used to maintain the existing programs and structure. Don't spend too much on outreach. When the Waldensians who had lived and died for their faith for centuries joined the general Protestant Reformation in 1532, they went from a movement to an institution and lost their focus. But history won't repeat itself.

Be apologetic about our Seventh-day Adventist name. Successful organizations like McDonalds, Honda or Nordstrom wouldn't think of promoting their logo. So call your church or school something generic like the Community of Happy Friends Fellowship. Maybe someone will inadvertently wander in and then a year or two later you can tell them who you are.

Don't emphasize mission or mission offerings. Ellen G. White was wrong when she said the best way to strengthen the home field is to invest in foreign missions. After all, charity begins at home. And by all means don't show the quarterly Northwest Spotlight on Mission DVD that comes to your church highlighting stories close to home.

Lower the standards. We don't want anyone to feel disenfranchised. Robinson Crusoe didn't know what he was talking about when he said, "Expand the fences too far and the goats on the inside become as wild as the goats on the outside." It doesn't really matter what your members eat, drink or do.

Make music the war department. Use the same style all the time. Just repeat sweet little praise ditties each week. And definitely don't use hymns that reinforce our fundamental beliefs. Always remember upbeat music is from the devil. Or only sing 1800s songs with four-finger accompaniment. That will make the older saints drool for the good old days.

Public evangelism is passé. Systematic reaping meetings are too confrontational. Besides, the evangelist might use some proof texts. Don't ever emphasize prophecy; the public has no interest in future events. Limit evangelism to something creative: knitting evangelism, beach evangelism, golf evangelism. Eventually someone may hit their golf ball into the church parking lot. Then you've got them.

Doctrinal pluralism will maintain church unity. The Presbyterian Church lost 1.2 million members in 21 years because it chose pluralism and became "devoid of a clear theological voice," according to the award-winning book, The Presbyterian Controversy. But that doesn't mean it would happen to Adventists. So just pick which of the 28 fundamental beliefs you like from our theological cafeteria.

Never discipline. Families and churches are much stronger and happier without any discipline. The Gospel song was all wrong when it says, "If mercy's all we ever show, there's half a God they'll never know."

Ignore the inspired writings. Ellen G. White predicted her teachings would become of "non-effect." Make the red books the unread books. Consider her teachings devotional but not authoritative, particularly in areas of science and archeology. Remember how effective they were as "Club of the Month books."

De-emphasize the distinctives. Dean Kelley, a Methodist guest lecturer at Andrews University, said, "…Tithing, the seventh-day Sabbath, foot washing, etc., are the things that make the Seventh-day Adventist Church unique, distinctive and demanding. How can the Seventh-day Adventist Church stop growing? Be like the Methodists." Kelley was a Methodist, so what does he know about Adventists?

If your church is currently not experiencing growth, or worse, has a decline in attendance, be honest. Ask some tough questions. Take this list to your next church board meeting and discuss it during the devotional time. And if any of these "suggestions" apply to your church, for heaven's sake, change it. It's too late in earth's history to be just playing church.

August 01, 2007 / Editorial