I recently asked my congregation what they thought the one thing was that the Seventh-day Adventist Church needed in order to fulfill its mission. One young man, who isn’t a member, raised his hand and, to my utter surprise, gave a one-word answer: humility.
I asked the question because it had been informally posed to some of the General Conference leaders during the General Conference Session in St. Louis, which I’d been watching the week before. In between sessions, various leaders were interviewed and given opportunity to share their thoughts on the state and direction of the denomination. And as they responded to this specific question— with answers ranging from revival to unity to a renewed commitment to the Bible—I pondered how I would answer it. The answer I came up with was the same one the young man gave a few days later.
Revival, unity, and a deeper commitment to Scripture are all important. But it seems to me that what the church needs more than anything else is humility.
Historically, Adventism has closely identified with the “remnant” of Revelation 12, which can lend itself to a heightened sense of self-importance. But we’ve also—and perhaps just as important—identified ourselves as the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3, which is a humbling identity.
According to Christ, the Laodicean church claims to be “rich,” “wealthy,” and in “need of nothing,” totally unaware that it is, instead, “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). In other words, the Laodicean church’s assessment of itself is delusional and out of touch with reality. Some serious self-deception is going on. A condition that should elicit humility has instead elicited pride.
Thus, Christ invites the Laodiceans to buy of Him gold tried in the fire, white clothing, and eye salve so they can properly see their true condition.
Embracing humility and Christ’s Laodicean message would be an acknowledgment that we don’t have everything figured out. It would communicate that we know we have more to learn, that we are no better than anyone else, that even the best things we do are as “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). It would indicate that we recognize our existence is justified not by any good thing we do or how big we grow or how many baptisms we get or how much truth we possess, but solely on the basis of Christ’s righteousness.
In short, it would be an implicit commitment to the gospel, which says that we have nothing of ourselves of which to boast—but that our worth comes from Christ.
This assessment applies to me first, of course, as much as anyone else. I have plenty of self-righteousness that needs to be subdued and obliterated.
But it just seems to me that, among other things, having an honest awareness of ourselves—in short, having humility—is an exceptionally attractive force in the world, especially in this current cultural moment. The outside world will likely be more impressed by our identifying ourselves as Laodicea than identifying ourselves as the remnant. My young friend at church suggested as much.