How Important is the Medium in the Advent Message?

phariseesIf the mission or purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is truly the antitype of that of John the Baptist – to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus – the next logical question that arises is, how is that done? Again we must go back to the life of John the Baptist for the answer. When you study his life and ministry two things become unmistakably clear: He lived what he taught and he taught what he lived. There was no dichotomy between his words and his everyday life. In the case of John the Baptist, the medium was the message.

When I look around at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America I wonder if we truly understand the relationship between how we live and the message we proclaim to the world? It seems that some are convinced that the message is all that matters, that proclamation alone will prepare the world for the coming of Jesus. So we spend millions of dollars a year on evangelistic outreach events in local churches, we mass-produce evangelistic literature to be passed out in our neighborhoods. We produce television programs that are streamed all over the Internet and around the world on satellite stations.

However, when we adopt the mindset that “the message is the message” and someone rejects the message, we assume that they are rejecting the God behind the message, when in fact they may just be rejecting the medium. In other words, us! Thus we cast the blame of stagnant growth of the church in North America to the culture around us rather than looking in mirror and accepting the fact that the problem may have much more to do with us then the message we are trying to share. Are we living like we truly believe Jesus is coming soon?

If the answer is “no,” does that mean that we should stop proclaiming the message until we can really start living it? When you really think about it, the answer to that question is not so clear. On the one hand the church has been given a mission to take the message of Christ’s soon coming to the entire world, and so it should seem obvious that the church, despite its hypocrisy, should continue to “fake it until we make it”. However, on the other hand we find this sobering quote from the Spirit of Prophecy:

When the theory of the truth is repeated without its sacred influence being felt upon the soul of the speaker, it has no force upon the hearers, but is rejected as error, the speaker making himself responsible for the loss of souls.—Testimonies for the Church 4:441.

In other words, the medium is actually more important to the success of the truth being accepted than the truth itself! In fact, a medium that is not living the truth – although speaking the truth – is a lie, which would explain why the individual rejects the truth as error. Cognitive dissidence between what he sees (the medium) and what he hears (the message) creates a justifiable excuse to reject it.

This gets to the heart of why so many younger generation Adventists have such a hard time with the churches remnant theology. When one is brought into membership into the church, the 13th vow on the back of the baptismal certificate states the following:

Do you believe that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the remnant church of Bible prophecy?

In order to be baptized one must answer “yes” to that question with conviction. But what exactly makes the Seventh-day Adventist Church the remnant church of Bible prophecy? It is interesting that the 13th vow references Revelation 12:17, which reads:

“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 12:17 KJV)

Yet the description of the remnant in the text mentions nothing of proclaiming a message per se. The “Remnant” are not defined by what they say but by rather who they are. The identity of the remnant is rooted in character – keeping God’s commandments and having the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Thus though the church today may proclaim a remnant message – can we honestly say we are the remnant in its truest sense? I’m not sure we can fully say that until at least the majority of us, like John the Baptist, who was a type of whom we are to be the antitype, are living what we teach and teaching what we live.

In short we need to become the remnant we claim to be.  Future posts will be wrestling with a relational theology that helps get us there.

7 comments for “How Important is the Medium in the Advent Message?

  1. Debora
    August 25, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    I feel the Medium is important. The seed is still planted and how it is taken care of is another story. No one is perfect no matter how much the messenger tries. However, on the other hand, it is important to set a good example and be doers of the word not just hearers.

    • Travis Walker
      August 27, 2015 at 8:25 pm

      Yes – we should never diminish what the Holy Spirit can do with a seed of truth that is implanted through a sermon or tract. I attribute my conversion to those seeds of truth implanted in me when I was young. However, even those convicted of the truth need an example to follow in real life that matches up with what they read in the scriptures. With no example even true conversions flame out all too soon and join the lukewarm state that has infected the majority of the church.

  2. Eric Huffman
    August 27, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    I think the take home message for me here is that the Medium needs to go ahead and live the message! I’m learning that the revival and reformation we all know is necessary will actually need to take place. There is no way around it. I’m committed to it. What about you? I’ve recently been learning that I don’t have to have things my way. To receive Christ is to die and let Him live His life in me. We can’t have it both ways. God bless!

    • Travis Walker
      August 27, 2015 at 8:19 pm

      That is the heart of it I believe. We need to live the message! I too wonder when that expectation will become the norm in the Advent Movement. There are only two reasons I can think of why truly living the message hasn’t taken a stronger hold on the church. One: we haven’t been taught a practical way to do it, or two: living the message appears too costly to most of us. Maybe it’s a combination of both, Let’s continue to strive for in Christ experience everyday!

      • Eric Huffman
        August 28, 2015 at 10:07 am

        I think it’s both. It’s becoming my mission in life to make things practical. I also have decided to make sure I am experiencing whatever I preach or share with others. If it will work for them, it had better work in my life :-). Something I noticed several years ago, and have tried to emphasize ever since, is that the Third Angel’s Message is as much a demonstration as it is a proclamation. “…here are they that keep the commandments of God, and have the faith of Jesus”. Not here are they that talk about the commandments”.

        • Travis Walker
          August 30, 2015 at 11:45 pm

          Yes – proclamation may convince the intellect and even convict the conscience but it rarely reaches into the heart. However, practical demonstration of the Three Angels Message will prepare the heart to receive truth even before it knows what truth is. When demonstration precedes or is at least concurrent with proclamation truth is no longer viewed as an abstract intellectual exercise but rather a relational journey. Adventism needs to find a way to change the way we define conversion from an intellectual acceptance of truth to more of a practical fulfillment of it.

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