Do you and I as individual Seventh-day Adventist Church members have a responsibility to protect the Church and help maintain standards and goals? When we joined the Church, we took baptismal vows. We should have agreed to vow #9: “Do you believe in church organization? Is it your purpose to worship God and to support the church through your tithes and offerings and by your personal effort and influence?”
Our talents, time and abilities are different. This is where the “personal effort and influence” come into play. However, there are three minimal opportunities for every member to utilize, and I would urge you to consider if you are being true to your vows.
One: I believe that unless you are a gifted speaker, author, musician, etc., the greatest opportunity you have, as a Church member, to protect and upbuild the Church is at the local level.
If you are not a regular attendee at Sabbath School, or do not participate in the discussion when questionable ideas are posited, you are missing the most basic opportunity for service to Christ’s Church. Participation will grow your ability to stand for what is biblical, pure, and good in the Church.
The same goes for the weekly Prayer Meeting, the Business Meeting, and the Board Meeting if you are a member. I have sat in Board Meetings for years, and there are faithful Board Members who never say a word, even when the discussion grows divided and heated.
Two: This is typically the stepping stone to greater personal effort and influence in the Church. If your Church members hear your voice speaking for the ideas they hold dear, they are more likely to nominate you for positions of higher influence, such as delegate to the Conference Constituency Meeting.
But, if all you do is influence your local Church to remain faithful to the standards and the mission of the World Church, you have accomplished a mighty work! So, even if a higher Church entity is failing to fully support the decisions made by representatives at the General Conference level, the local Church has the autonomy and right to maintain its faithful course. You make the decisions as to whom you baptize, how you discipline members, whom you ordain as elders, and even if you are a smaller Church, you can tell the Conference whom you will or will not accept as your Pastor.
Three: Process, process, process! To be effective as a voice defending the faith, you must understand, at every level of church governance, process! This is a simple learning experience. Learn parliamentary procedure, read the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual. Keep the Manual handy; it is invaluable in dealing with issues at the local Church level. Speak up, and insist that the Manual be followed at the local Church level. Every member, elected to a church office or not, has the right and responsibility to insist on proper process.
Did you know that any member can request to be allowed to address the next Board Meeting, and to request an agenda item be in place for your next Business Meeting? The processes at the local Church level are mirrored, or at least, reflected at every level of church governance.