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Discussion with Alan Parker -- 2

Posted below is the email I sent back to Dr. Parker, VP for Evangelism for Amazing Facts. We are continuing the discussion about Adventist Evangelism and Amazing Facts' role in that.

Dr. Parker,

Thanks for the thoughtful response and an inside look at Amazing Facts. I would love to a be fly on the wall when you and Doug Batchelor are going at it over some texts. I know it's gracious and no chairs are thrown but I'm sure it gets interesting.

I'll tell you, I don't really know what to think. Either I am dead wrong about A.F. and they are much more balanced than I thought, or you represent the "softer" side of A.F. I would imagine that it's a bit of both and I've heard from several people that they really respect you and think you are helping provide a more healthy balance that might have been missing in the past. I really have little response to your answers because they were answered so well. I applaud A.F. for the extensive work they do with the Bible Studies and prayer and is a much needed ministry of the church.

As I read through your email, I came to realize that my "gripe" isn't necessarily completely with A.F. I realized that while it is a ministry, it also is a business. A.F. exhibits good business practices by targeting specific groups and making sure their material is the best possible at reaching that kind of person. If A.F. tried to make material targeted at Youth or those who have been affected and embrace aspects of postmodernism, they probably wouldn't sell much. I guess my problem is with the church which tends to define a traditional Adventist evangelistic series as the gold standard of evangelism. Small groups, food banks, health fairs, etc are great programs but it's not evangelism unless it ends up with a preaching series full of beasts, visions, and the Sabbath.

With that being said, I wish A.F. would leverage some of their influence in evangelism and try to promote other methods of evangelism. As you shared, your material is most effective at reaching Christians and I would also guess an older, modernist crowd. As I asked on my blog: Is converting a Baptist truly evangelism? I'm not against it, but I certainly don't think it should be our target. The reality is that a preaching series lasting a month or more and the Bible Study lessons are not going to reach the unchurched and so different methods are needed. These methods aren't money-makers and can't be duplicated on a large scale so business-wise, it would be terrible for A.F. However, I still wish A.F. would "take one for the team" and maybe get the discussion rolling and start the brainstorming.

With that being said, I do have a few concerns about the content of the A.F. lessons that maybe you can respond to. You've been proving my suspicions wrong about A.F. so hopefully I'm wrong about these as well.

1. I don't find them to be the most Christ-centered lessons. They aren't completely devoid of Christ but they tend to focus on the Adventist distinctives more than on who God and Jesus is. I'm worried about an Adventist tendency to say that the rest of the evangelical world has Jesus but we have more to offer. I'm scared we've lost Jesus in the midst of preaching the distinctives. Why doesn't A.F have several lessons in the set of 27 just focusing on Jesus and God? I'm not saying the other specific lessons don't tell us about God but I think focused attention, aside from the prophecies, is helpful.

2. They call for a mental commitment to doctrines but not much social action. It feels like the only social action called for is to take off jewelry which is debatable as to whether it is a social action. What about the need to help the poor and needy, forgive others, love enemies, and live sacrificial lives? I know there are hints throughout but it is so heavy on the cognitive level that I think those challenges end up getting lost in the bigger picture of prophecy. Is telling people how the world will end all we have to offer or do we have instruction on how their true lives can begin?

3. What happened to the Biblical narratives? I think one of the things they're missing is the stories of the Bible which really connect with people and then provide an opportunity to call people to join the story of how God's working in the world today. The lessons are what I call "proof-text heaven." Texts are given with no regard to their context and I believe the student ends up getting a scattered look at the Bible and not an in-depth one. Does this really provide someone with a good understanding of the Bible or do they end up dependent on pastors and A.F. to tell them what to believe because they just know a text here and a text there?

Again, thanks for taking the time to do this. I'm enjoying the discussion and hope you are too.


David Hamstra said…
I would formulate your first question differently: Why aren't the doctrines and prophecies taught in a way that shows who Jesus is? Shouldn't Christ be explicitly at the center of each doctrine? Isn't he the focus of all prophecy?

This is not a question I put just to Amazing Facts but to my church in general and to myself.
Anonymous said…
Those are good questions, things that I've been wondering silently for quite some time. I look forward to the responses.
Nice job Trevan. After reading through both of these post I find myself wondering: If this is AF who have I been bumping into while growing up in Sacramento. So much of what Dr. Parker spoke about contradicts my own experiences with AF. I am grateful to have this new experience to temper and balance what I have encountered in the past.

One aspect of Dr. Parker's response I found myself mulling over a great deal was his views on evangelism and postmodernism. It seemed to me that he was indicating that in order for someone to be effectively evangelized they would need to abandon a postmodern world view. I am probably missing something, but it appeared that he believed God is bound to the categories of modernism and impotent in the face of relativism, which would seem to contradict early church history. I am not sure I believe that. In fact I think the reaction to modernism may have helped us rediscover the biblical narrative and therefore breathe new life into contemporary biblical encounters.

I also would like to know if AF has considered what might happen to our churches and their organization if (when?) there aren't anymore Christians to convert to our church? It is a well documented observation that Christianity in North America, despite the rise of Mega-Churches, is in decline. So what happens then? Can we afford to wait for postmodernists to come back to modern foundationalism?

Loving the posts and the respectful dialogue. Thank Dr. Parker for me.
Anonymous said…
Hey Trevan, you are doing an excellent job. Dont give up until you get to the bottom of the whole issue. God bless!

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