’m writing this column 35,000 feet in the air, on my way to Dallas, where thousands of young prayer warriors are expected to gather from all over the world. These Seventh-day Adventist prayer warriors are coming together to call on the name of the Lord in behalf of themselves, their church, their communities, and their nation. I believe with all my heart that God is right now making a mighty move over this earth in one final salvation push for millions who do not know the Lord. In addition, these “moves” of God are being born in atmospheres of prayer, such as the massive convocation of youth about to get under way in Dallas. By the time you read this, we’ll know what God did among His people in Texas.
I further believe that God is calling people from every corner of the world into a “nation” of sold-out Christ followers who are passionate and determined to accomplish God’s kingdom agenda. This agenda, if I read the Word correctly, is not about building a great denomination, but a nation—a holy nation. My fear is that some in our faith community will miss that move because we thought it was about us, when in fact, it never was.
Nation Versus Denomination
The dilemma for those who focus on a denominational label only is that they will naively believe God has relegated the accomplishment of His kingdom agenda to the group. And even if significant members of that group have no passion for the lost, it makes little difference, because as long as they have their names on the membership rolls of the group, that in itself will be enough to qualify them to be part of His nation. It’s called righteousness by association.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has clearly been given a biblical remnant message. This message is, without a doubt, a powerfully convicting message for those who heed it. This message is mandated to go to the entire world. But who will carry it? Certainly not denominationalists, for they’re satisfied just being associated with the “group” and receiving the benefits of such. They show up for group meetings on schedule, immerse themselves into group potlucks, go to group convocations, mouth all the high sounding group-speak, and from time to time, even engage in group politics. Oddly, there is nothing wrong with this, if being part of the group is the ultimate goal. But if being part of God’s nation is the goal, then simply being content to be part of the denomination—the group—can be problematic to one’s spiritual health.
Citizens of God’s nation understand fundamentally that they live in this world as representatives, ambassadors of the nation itself. Everything they do serves to advance the agenda of God’s kingdom nation. Even on their jobs, people of God’s nation understand that they are not primarily there to make money and advance their careers. Instead they are there to push the kingdom agenda, which is to impact as many people as they can with the absolute necessity of knowing God, and have an intimate relationship with the only One who can get them out of this crazy world alive. People of God’s nation even understand that when they secure a job promotion, the ultimate value in that promotion is securing more influence for His kingdom.
In the months to come I will be sharing more about what it means to be part of God’s nation, not just the denomination. There are broad implications as to what it all means if taken seriously. Your entire way of life immediately shifts. Your worldview is radically changed. Your priorities are reordered. And yes, your personal agenda is co-opted by God’s kingdom agenda.
The apostle wrote: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9, NIV).
Growing up I used to hear people talk about being part of the remnant of the remnant. I think I have it now: I need to be part of God’s remnant nation, not just the remnant denomination.
_____________________________Fredrick A. Russell is senior pastor of the Miracle Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church in Baltimore, Maryland.