Gwydyr Rd, Crieff, UK, PH7 4BS

I had one of those encounters with someone this month that rattled my cage.

The young lady told me how sick she was of her church – her list of complaints included the Sabbath School teachers who think they know everything and feel God has sent them to be the font of knowledge and wisdom to the class; the members confessing love for the church family but who rush off after church to do their own thing; the ones who dutifully talk to you but you can tell they only want to tell you and when you speak their minds are elsewhere. “They are just hypocrites!” she blurted. “Why would I want to go to church?”

Over the years the compartment in my brain that stores these kinds of stories has saved a number of them.

Recently a pastor asked me to take a look at a letter sent by a young person who had left church and something she wrote. Before I quote from the letter let me tell you that it consisted of several pages of the usual reasons why coming to church was just not a worthwhile activity. She had little criticism of the church’s beliefs and held to her faith walk and hope in Christ’s return – she just didn’t need the hypocrisy of ‘church’.

But … in part of her letter she wrote something that really struck me. She wrote “…Compassion is not a word that is discussed or recognized among the general Adventist population…. Let me just say, though, that I think ADRA is the one thing Adventists are doing right—it’s not an organization out to “convert” the masses….it’s there to HELP people, individuals and I truly believe that they do it better than most. There’s an emphasis on sustainable economies, protecting the environment, helping women and children, etc…but as far as sitting in the pews each week, compassion is not a reality. At least not the pews I was sitting in.”

I think hers is such a powerful observation. It would appear that ADRA’s compassion ignores the thinking and activities of the person being served, while the Church’s compassion and serving is, in her mind, so often conditional. Are there two faces to church? Is it meant to be like that? ADRA’s philosophy is to help each person without regard to gender, age, ethnicity or political or religious association. What is your local church’s philosophy?

Can the two words and philosophies – ADRA and Church – be synonymous? What if Church could copy ADRA and serve people regardless of age, sex, race, ethnicity or religious association and with no aim but to serve and be there for them simply because of the compassion of God?

Hmmm – the Seventh-day Adventist Development and Relief Agency Church.