The Publishing Ministry is department of the Johnson Town Seventh-day Adventist Curch and is didicated to the following:
- The proclamation of the gospel through the printed pages.
- The nurturing of persons who their eyes do not give them the privilage to read.
- Mobilizing the entire church membership to actively participate in the Publsihing Ministry to fulfill its mission of baptizing all who will believe, thus populating the kingdom of God
S P E C I A L I S S U E
BY KIM PECKHAM
F YOU'RE THINKING ABOUT RETURNING TO CHURCH, YOU HAVE TO ask yourself, "Do I really want to go back and deal with all the hypocrites, Pharisees, and vegetarians?" Of course, you can find the same kinds of people at a Greenpeace rally; but still, you should think it over.
Consider the experience of Moses, who was raised in the Hebrew "church." Eventually he left home and landed a high position in government. You would think the church members would be happy for him, but every time he came around the old neighborhood, it was always the same: Someone would make a comment about his "worldly" Egyptian haircut, or the fact that he wore too much jewelry, or that his linen skirt was much too short.
He tried to explain that everybody at the palace wore these kinds of clothes, but the saints just said, "If all your friends were jumping off the Great Pyramid of Giza, would you do it too?"
He probably felt like saying, "I'd rather jump off a pyramid than build one." But thankfully, his mother had raised him to be polite, so he kept his mouth shut.
The one thing that finally pushed him over the edge, though, was the gossip. He couldn't go to a party barge down on the Nile or get in a fight with an Egyptian taskmaster without the news traveling all over the church. One night he packed up and left town. Which, of course, made the rumors even worse.
Too Many, Too True
If our narrative ended here, it would resemble many stories about individuals leaving the church. A common element in these tales is a congregation that wears on our hero's nerves like an MCI telemarketing campaign.
It would be nice if all church members were positive and fun-loving people who accept you for who you are. But finding people like that isn't easy, and when you do, they expect a large tip at the end of the cruise.
Real people are annoying. And I'm not just talking about street mimes and Osama bin Laden. Every human has an annoying side. They might clear their throat too often, or they might program their cell phone to play Barry Manilow tunes. They might feel compelled to tell you that a dermatologist can "get rid of that mole in a jiffy."
Even people to whom you have pledged eternal love can get on your nerves if you try to wallpaper a bathroom together.
Often the problem starts with words. Like the time in a Midwestern town when one of the saints approached a long-haired deacon to say, "A person who looks like you shouldn't be allowed to take up the offering."
"Fine," said the young man. He handed the older member his collection plate and walked out the door. Thirty-five years passed before he was seen back inside that church.
"How can anybody say something so rude?" you ask. There are some people who mean no harm--and I include myself in this group--but who let their mouth run like a country dog. In my case it seems that my brain says to my mouth, "You go on ahead; I'll catch up with you later."
That's the best explanation I can give for the time I told my wife that her new perm made her look like a cocker spaniel. Eventually she let me back into the apartment, and I'm grateful. I will say only one thing in my defense: It was the eighties, and more people should have been speaking out against the prevailing hairstyles.
Whenever the mouth runs off without adult supervision, it often says something judgmental. A good example is the following statement: "I saw you brought lasagna to potluck. The Spirit of Prophecy says that people who eat ricotta cheese will not see the Second Coming."*
Being judgmental is an almost unstoppable natural impulse, much like the need to talk about grandchildren. I sometimes judge six or seven people before noon--more if I hear any news about Congress.
I mention all this to say that participating in a church family is like walking through Berkeley in a mink coat. Sooner or later someone is going to say something judgmental.
Is It Just Me?
Moses spent 40 yea rs herding sheep before God promoted him to herding people. As is common in church work, the promotion did not come with a raise.
Poor guy had been back with the Israelites for only a couple weeks before they started judging him again. He had been trying to negotiate the release of his people, and Pharaoh started making things tough around the workplace.
The Hebrews came to Moses and said, "May the Lord look upon you and judge you! Pharaoh is going to kill us, and it's all your fault."
Moses could have thrown up his hands and gone back to his old job. At least the sheep didn't blame him for everything. He was just trying to help.
Instead, he sympathized with the Hebrews and called on God to fix the situation. Soon the whole tribe was marching through the Red Sea.
Six weeks later the people were complaining again. "If we were only back in Egypt," they wailed.
"But you were slaves, remember?" said Moses. "You carried bricks all day."
"Yeah, the work was hard," they replied, "but the company cafeteria was great!"
The Hebrews continued with their critical and generally annoying behavior for 40 years, and Moses stuck with them the whole time.
In fact, when God was considering wiping the slate clean and starting over with a less-annoying group of people--"Those Babylonians seem really nice," He might have said--Moses stuck up for the Israelites. "Please forgive their sin," he pleaded. "But if not, then blot me out of the book You have written."
Why was Moses willing to give up his life for this bunch of whiners?
I imagine that part of it had to do with the burning bush. Tim Lale, coauthor of Ten Who Left and Ten Who Returned, makes this observation about the people he interviewed: "All of those who eventually returned to church fellowship had an experience of awakening with God."
Each of them came to a place in the desert where they could sense the heat and smell the smoke of their own burning bush. Their relationship with God was revitalized; then they rejoined a community of believers.
Danny Palakiko had that kind of experience. He was a teenager when he gave up on the Adventist Church. The thing that really annoyed him was that he wasn't supposed to eat pork. His friends on the island of Maui made some really good pork. And he liked the octopus, too.
Palakiko skipped around other religions for a decade or more. Then he came back to visit his old congregation. "When I walked in the door of the church, the presence of the Holy Spirit was so imminent--so easily discerned," he remembers. He had to stay.
Wasn't he still annoyed by the other members? Didn't he disagree with some of their ideas? Danny has an answer for that: "You get to a point where you realize that you're missing something that you need. So you're willing to put all that other stuff aside."
Yeah, It's Like That
I hope your seat belt is securely tightened, because I'm going to shoot off in another direction. Strangely enough, all this reminds me of marriage. On my wedding day, my father-in-law announced that when I married Lori, I married the whole family. This took me by surprise, as I had purchased only two tickets for the honeymoon.
But he was right. I do spend a lot of time with Lori's family. Luckily, they're nice folk, and we get along just great (as long as we all don't try to pick up a restaurant check at the same time).
But it really doesn't matter whether they are nice or not. I would have married my wife even if her family were a tribe of murderous, head-hunting cannibals. It's the relationship with her that's important. And if that means we have to hike into the mountains of Borneo for Christmas, well, so be it.
Anyway, are you thinking about going back to church? Well, don't go back because you think we've become a fun bunch of handsome, fashionable, and witty people since you've seen us last. We can still be annoying and judgmental. Sometimes we're about as much fun as reading volume 9 of the Testimonies on a Saturday night. Sure, we want to worship with you again, but there's a good chance we'll fall short of your ideals.
There's only one reason to come back, and that is to be closer to the Bridegroom. The rest of us are just the in-laws.
* It's hard to improve on author Anne Lamott's response to people who make judgmental statements: "Hey, you know the difference between you and God? God never thinks He's you."
Kim Peckham is an advertising copywriter. No one in his local church would agree to be quoted about his annoying behavior, though the deacons did mention the enormous amount of crushed Cheerios they find under the pew where he, his wife, and 18-month-old son sit.
Taken from: http://www.adventistreview.org/2003-1536/story4.html