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TogetherAgain Newsletter

Volume 5, Number 1; May 1998

Editor: Gary Russell
Managing Editor: Curtis Rittenour
Designer: Matthew McVane
Type Placement: Ginger Calkins
Content Consultant: Paul Richardson, Monte Sahlin, and Ralph Martin

Published by the Center for Creative Ministry for the Reclaiming Committee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. If you would like to contact us with questions, want to be on the mailing list, or would like to share your ideas, please contact us


FEATURE article


Those who come back to church get a standing ovation in heaven

The ballpark announcer gasps: "Look, it's . . ." He gets a little choked up, then clearing his throat, he begins to speak rapidly: "Ladies and gentlemen, pitching for the San Francisco Giants is Daaave Dravecky!" The crowd is on its feet, waving wildly, cheering, whistling. As Dravecky pitches a winning game, the crowd responds with six standing ovations.

It's halftime in an NFL playoff game. The fans have been waiting for two years for this moment: Joe Montana, recovered from injuries that almost ended his career, takes the field as quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and leads the team to two touchdowns for the win. The fans are ecstatic. Another great comeback.

Magic Johnson in the 1993 Olympics, Larry Bird after surgery, Michael Jordan after retirement … in the world of sports and entertainment, when the legends and stars make a comeback, they are greeted with cheers and standing ovations from their fans.

The pastor is making the morning announcements when Mary Montgomery hurries through the back door and heads for a nearby pew. Heads begin to turn—Mary, born an Adventist, recently divorced, hasn't attended church for years, but today she just felt like bringing her two preschoolers to cradle roll. She tries to listen to the sermon, but her active little ones keep her distracted—moving in, out, and under the pew. Do you hear the applause? Does she get a standing ovation?

Shawn stands outside the church between Sabbath school and church, smoking a cigarette. When he was in elementary school, his folks were baptized in an evangelistic campaign, went to church sporadically, then stopped. A public high school graduate, he's now on his own and decided to come back for a visit. He sits alone, and those around him—noticing the distinctive smell of tobacco smoke-give him plenty of room. After the sermon, when the pastor makes an appeal, Shawn walks to the front. On the way out he tells the deacon at the door, "I'll be back next week, and every week." Do you hear the cheers and shouts?

Head elder Johnson was a pillar in the church from the first building fund-raiser. He was faithful with his tithe and gave liberally to special appeals; he ministered with weekly Bible studies, taught Sabbath school, and served on the board. For 20 years his name was closely associated with the church, until that year of confusion. Johnson became the talk of the town—an affair, a divorce; he lost his home, then his job. It seemed as though the best thing for him to do would be to leave and never return. But one Sabbath morning he enters church with hat in hand and eyes to the floor. After the sermon Johnson pauses at the door to speak a few words to the pastor. "I've made a tragic mistake, the biggest mistake of my life," he says as the tears begin to moisten his eyes, "and I've asked God to forgive me. Now I want to be rebaptized." The members standing in the foyer begin to…

There are other examples that come to mind: students who leave home and the church; those who, for whatever reason, work on Sabbath, marry non-Adventists, or use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs; disillusioned members who are no longer actively involved, but return for special speakers or camp meetings; visitors who are noticeably different from the regular members—dressed casually or in work clothes, wearing lots of jewelry or an unusual hairstyle, or disabled in some way. Is someone there to encourage and cheer?

Yes! Although we may not see or hear the fans cheering wildly on Sabbath morning, those who make a comeback to church, taking small or giant steps on the road of repentance and recovery, are getting a standing ovation in heaven:

"There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth" (Luke 15:10).

This parable sends a message to the men and women, friends and neighbors, parents and siblings, who are there when the lost is found. To each of us, Jesus extends these invitations: "Rejoice with me" (Luke 15:6,9) and "Be glad" (verse 32).

-by Tom Kohls
Reprinted with permission from the Adventist Review, June 19, 1997.


HURTING parents

When Your Teen Doesn't Like You

Most teens do grow up and once again like their parents

I didn't mean to do it! I know all the rules about snooping in a teen's personal affairs. However, while reviewing my son's homework for his youth group's Bible study, the words leaped out at me. In a prayer section, my child told God that he didn't like his parents very much!

Once this revelation might have reduced me to a puddle of tears. I would have chastised myself for multiple parenting failures. But that was three teenagers ago. This time I only smiled with recognition at the familiar emotion so clearly expressed.

I would never claim to have "arrived" in the process of rearing teenagers. However, our own experiences, observation of others, and reading the experts have resulted in some conclusions about the best ways to respond when our teens don't like us.

1. REMEMBER who is the adult. Admittedly, our adolescents are headed toward maturity, but it's that very process that often creates friction in your relationship. And while your teen's emotions may be volatile and even extreme, your reactions need to be calm and even-tempered. Granted, this can be difficult beyond measure, but it will diffuse conflict and promote peace.

2. SMILE as often as possible. My youngest teen has a strange sense of humor that borders on wacko. Still, we can occasionally sort out a truly funny moment to share. And, yes, now and then we are the brunt of his humor. Recently I was climbing a carpeted ramp in our home. However, my slick-soled shoes resisted joining me in my trek, and I repeatedly slid backwards. What delight my son found in my predicament! Me? I simply enjoyed the chance to bring some pleasure into his sometimes gloomy days.

Humor is a great stress reducer. Cultivating it will lighten many otherwise desperate moments in your homes.

3. SMOTHER your teen with love, but do it discreetly. Don't come on too strong, but practice appropriate thoughtfulness, touch, and kindness. Teens often try to establish their independence by alienating or rejecting their parents and others. Verbal hostility, physical distance, and haughty arrogance are just some of their methods. It's easy for parents to have their feelings hurt, and of course you must establish limits. But keep on loving them, too. Put a favorite candy bar on your teens pillow; write her a cheery note commending her for her good character traits, hard work, achievements, or special effort. Teens especially enjoy "overhearing" positive comments made about them to someone else. Look for ways to bless them, especially in the rough spots.

4. Ask God for patience and WAIT for these years to pass. Most teens do grow up, do once again like their parents, and often become very much like the very adults they rejected. The truth of this came home to me in a serious but very encouraging way the night our 19-year-old daughter died. Shela had spent her life confined to a wheelchair, but her adolescence was emotionally typical. We even found some comedy in the fact that she really didn't want to be seen with us, but someone had to load her wheelchair!

The night her disease took her life, I went into her room trying to grasp the reality of our loss. God graciously led me to a small notebook in her drawer. On its spiral pages was a note expressing gratitude to God for her home and for the "wonderful parents" God had given her, affirming her love for us.

Most teens will come full circle. You simply must wait. 5. But as you wait, PRAY. You are the strongest link that your struggling, often confused children have with their spiritual roots.

Our greatest gift and our greatest obligation is intercessory prayer. Pray for your teen's physical and emotional safety, for positive peer relationships, and for them to stand firm in the face of temptation. You can petition God to reveal Himself to them in exciting ways, or for Him to convict them of sin they need to confront. I've even asked God to expose wrong in the lives of our children so we could effectively deal with it.

Be faithful in your prayers for your children. And pray with them at appropriate times. Pray over them, too. Sometimes I've slipped into their rooms at night, as they slept, and stood quietly, bringing them to God in prayer.

Walk through scriptures and ask God to make your teen faithful in trials, as Joseph and Daniel were. Pray that they will love God, as David did. Request that they grow, as did Jesus, in "wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52). Cling to God's promises on their behalf.

Admittedly, some teens will walk in deep rebellion, bringing inexpressible heartache to their parents. Others will sail joyously through these years. But for me, and I hope for you, these principles will be an anchor to keep you directed and give you hope—especially if you've happened upon the discovery that your teens don't like you right now.

—© by Lettie J. Kirkpatrick, a homemaker, freelance writer, and speaker with a husband and five children in Cleveland, Tennessee. Reprinted with permission from Women of Spirit, July/August, 1997.


BOOK review

Loving Across Our Differences

by Gerald L. Sittser (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994)

ISBN: 0830816682. Sittser is associate professor of religion at Whitworth College, Spokane, WA.

"Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another," Jesus said. "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35). This "new commandment" is, as Jesus stated, the secret to the church's witness in the world. The unbelieving world will identify Christians as true disciples of Christ when they see them love one another.

As simple as this mandate sounds, we know through personal experience that it is not so simple after all.

So begins the first chapter of this challenging book. Over and over again, the Bible calls believers to love and care for one another. That has never been easy. But now, in a time of extraordinary pluralism, the many differences among Christians make the commands to love one another seem almost impossible.

In spite of this, Sittser believes the commands still apply, perhaps especially in light of our divisions. In his insightful chapters, he considers scripture's "mutuality commands" such as greet one another, forbear one another, comfort one another and admonish one another.

He doesn't duck the tough issues. He discusses Christian differences in worship styles, politics, social issues, doctrine, and numerous others. Yet the book is warm and hopeful. He pays close attention to the Bible and uses dozens of real-life stories to show how we can, indeed, love across our differences.

This book can help develop spiritual maturity in those who read it and deepen the life of love in the church-an essential quality for those in reclaiming ministry.




Creating A Place of Peace

What does a safe environment look like? How do you know if your church members are ready to receive someone who has not been in church for some time? Be with Paul Richardson and Mike Aufderhar as they explore these and other questions on TogetherAgain Roundtable.

Also meet Jim Lorenz, the pastor of one congregation that started a 'battered Christian's shelter' called PEACE—People Escaping a Chaotic Environment. Whether we find ourselves in a difficult space or not, we want our church experience to be a pleasant, hope filled one. And that's what your church can be with some intentionality on creating safe places and encouraging safe people.

Discover the ways your church can benefit from a 'battered Christian's shelter'. Learn the 10 principles that guide a place of PEACE. Make it priority to have a number of other leaders join you as you participate with us live on May 2. Call in a question or comment to the program at 1.800.676.5446.

May 2, 1998, 4-6 p.m. Eastern
Call 800-ACN-1119 for satellite details



SafetyZone Kit

A Workshop for Friends Reaching Friends Who Quit Church

Most missing members are looking for a safe place to come back to church. This eight-part workshop helps churches and members build safe places through relational bridges. Materials in the kit include: Leader's Guide, Participant's Guide, Overhead Transparency Masters, Training Videos.

Learn more here

TogetherAgain Roundtable

TogetherAgain Video Seminar on Reclaiming Missing Members

Quarterly TogetherAgain broadcasts are made on reaching former members. These two-hour videos can be used in training events for your congregation or missing members ministry. Ask for the "TogetherAgain Uplink/Reclaiming Roundtable" video tape by event date.

Learn more here

Welcome Home Kit

Mailing materials and Guidebook for a Reclaiming Ministry

A 24-page Guide Book to help you set up a Reclaiming Ministry in your church. Also included is a Homecoming Kit of artwork on a CD-ROM disc to be customized for use on a reclaiming Sabbath of your choice (including letters, response cards, refrigerator notes, posters, bulletin inserts, etc.).

Learn more here



Only One Came Back

Fear often keeps us from doing the right thing

Bobbing in the water like corks, hundreds of people froze to death in the frigid waters of the north Atlantic waiting for rescuers, when the mighty ship Titanic sank to the ocean's floor. Many of them could have been saved.

I'm sure you're familiar with the story of one of history's greatest tragedies. A luxury ocean-liner, the finest ever built, said to be indestructible. Legend has it that one person was overheard commenting that "God Himself couldn't sink this ship!" Lifeboats were removed before she set sail because they took up too much space. No emergency drills were conducted. The threat of icebergs was laughed away as people ate and drank and danced.

But for hundreds of them the April 1912 trip ended all too soon when an iceberg cut six slashes into the hull of this "unsinkable" first-class cruise ship. Oh yes, the lifeboats were used. Hundreds of women and children and a few men were safe in them. Those who didn't make it into a lifeboat were issued life vests. And as they shivered in the icy water, they prayed that the lifeboats would come and pull them out.

But only one came back.

Interviews with survivors confirmed it. Only one lifeboat came back to pull people out of the bone-chilling water. Others could have. They had been tested and found they could hold 70 full-grown men without danger of capsizing. Most were released with less than sixty women and children. Some slipped into the water only half full.

Over 2,200 people were aboard the Titanic. There was lifeboat space for nearly three-quarters of them. Yet, instead of seventy-five percent being saved, nearly seventy percent died.


Because the people in the lifeboats were afraid. They were afraid that if they went back, the people in the water would swamp their craft and they would all end up wet and freezing to death. So, instead, they sat shivering in their lifeboats, waiting for another ship to come pick them up, and trying to drown out the cries of their former fellow passengers who with tears and cries, pleaded with them to come and rescue them.

Approximately 1,513 people died that night—over 900 who could have been saved if each lifeboat had been filled to capacity. Without diminishing the loss of the nearly six hundred who would still have perished, think of how many could have been saved if all of the lifeboats had gone back! That's the real tragedy!

You and I are on a cruise ship. It's a luxury liner designed by God Himself. It will not sink. It will make it safely into the harbor. We call it the church—that is, the church universal. At the same time we are each in a lifeboat from that great ship—the local church in which we worship, serve, and build community. There's plenty of room in our lifeboats. Many of them are less than half full. At the same time, there are hundreds and thousands of people who once sailed with us who are now freezing in the icy waters of lost-ness, many of them silently praying for rescue to come their way. Is your lifeboat willing to go back for them? Are you?

—Gary E. Russell