June 3, 2019

Just Say "Yes!"

They know things that their church needs to know.

Bill Knott

He seems oblivious to the fact that the ceiling lights in this vast tech convention exhibit hall have blinked for the next-to-final time. One more blink, and we may have to find our way in pitch-blackness through the maze of hundreds of booths toward the light streaming through one open door.

“You see,” he says, “this app could solve a real-life problem for the church. Every year hundreds of thousands of Seventh-day Adventists around the globe attempt to transfer their membership from one congregation to another. The process frequently takes months, even years: the frustration gets to be enormous. Knowing how difficult it may be, many members now don’t even bother to request the traditional letter of transfer. They simply move to a new place, and start attending a new congregation. Church records rapidly get out-of-date. If there was a way that encrypted member information could be quickly and securely sent by wireless device from one church clerk to another . . .”

In another moment, we are going to have to rely on the light shining in his eyes to find our way to the door.

They know things that their church needs to know.

* * *

She stands in the church lobby with a group of twentysomething young adults, deciding at which park they will convene for their weekly Sabbath afternoon “walk and talk.”

“I’m an agronomist for the World Bank,” she says with a gentle smile, knowing that her job title will require further explanation for a preacher schooled in history and theology. “I study soil composition patterns in eastern sub-Saharan Africa to recommend new grain products that provide better yields during periods of multiyear drought.”

Would her work have an impact on migration of populations in the region? I ask, trying to match my memory of geography with stories appearing in my newsfeed.

“Absolutely,” she says gently. “I think you’re getting it.”

* * *

They are both astonished when I ask them if they have ever previously shared their ideas and their skills with persons in church leadership.

“No,” each says slowly, as though the question was slightly fantastical. “I didn’t think until just now that anyone might really be interested. But I would love to show my church how what I’ve learned and what I do could make a difference in the way we serve each other and the world.”

* * *

Across the face of this world-circling movement, there are hundreds—no, make that tens of thousands—of Adventist young adults working in technology, science, education, business, and the arts who are willing—no, make that eager—to show the church they love how it could find new efficiencies and methods to spread the gospel, feed hungry people, care for the displaced, and make the most of limited resources.

They aren’t asking for a job: most, in fact, would find it difficult to shoehorn their gifts and training into the traditional quadrants of Adventist employment. But they know things that their church needs to know: they have deep training and clear thinking, and they see the bridges between what is happening on the cutting edge of their areas of skill and the bleeding edge of a broken world’s needs.

It’s time—no, well past time—to invite them into the circle where policies are made, initiatives are planned, and resources are distributed.

Four years ago, I sat with one such talented young entrepreneur as he attended his first ministry committee. On the agenda was a plan to spend $30,000 on a contract with a media firm to provide “social media support.”

He stared at me in disbelief, and when I nodded, slowly raised his hand. “I don’t want to be impertinent,” he said slowly to the committee, “but you should know that all that software is available for free on the web.”

“You earned the price of your ticket to be here today—many times over,” I told him after the meeting. “We need more people like you.”

And we do. Right now. Moving forward.