Asking Questions, and the Future of the Church

Why are we here? What is our mission as a church? How do we describe God? How should we view other Christian denominations? What is at the core of sanctification? How should a Christian regard the environment? alcohol? sex? politics? abortion? evolution? There are many questions.

Last week I was chatting with a friend about the state of the Adventist Church in Denmark. In that conversation the idea was floated of launching a new church magazine for people my age – people who will soon be growing too old for the youth magazine, but don’t really feel ready to join the mainstream. While there is probably too few resources for such an endeavour (and, as I pointed out, some bloggers try to fill the gap) it highlighted an issue of change. Change in the broader culture and now also in the church.

For years the education system (in Northern Europe, at least) has been teaching everybody how to question the established; not to take truths for granted; how to judge anything and anybody on their merits, not on our own presuppositions. I believe this is good. And while church has been slow to catch on (as it has with many things – music is one), this is now the predominant way of thinking among the educated young and middle-aged, within the church as well as outside it.

The church has been actively, if not explicitly, encouraging this, at least at the youth level. Many years of teen retreats, pathfinder camps, the boarding school Vejlefjord, and other things have somewhat contributed to a new way of thinking: that asking questions is ok; no, that it is good. The church planting projects of the last decade have, despite their very different styles and missions, had this in common: they ask questions. They do not take established truths for granted. They wonder: why don’t we do like this instead?

Once upon a time the Adventist pioneers did exactly the same. They asked questions, they sought answers for themselves, and they didn’t accept the argument: that’s how we’ve always done it. Today much of the Adventist establishment has grown stale. And while older generations may tolerate young people asking questions, many do so with an expectation that eventually they will find the right answers (i.e., theirs).

I don’t think finding the right answer to every question is possible, or even desirable. There are some things people will never fully agree on, and this doesn’t have to be a problem. I believe and hope that the current leadership of the church in Denmark will acknowledge and encourage this. I dream of a church where nobody ever stops asking questions; and nobody ever stubbornly holds that they have the only right answers. Because they never do – only God can claim that right.


Author: Kenneth Mollerup Birch

Living north of Copenhagen, Denmark. MA in Information Science. Interests include communication, internet, sociology, language, politics, religion, theology, travel, music, and food.

8 thoughts on “Asking Questions, and the Future of the Church”

  1. My initial objection was the added cost in print and postage service for yet another publication by the church. I’m not sure they would deem it worthwhile, considering the demand.

    It might be possible, though, as a grass-roots project – a Danish version of Spectrum, perhaps. It definitely sounds tempting 🙂 The question is demand, I guess – would there be a market for something like this in print, or would it best be kept online?

  2. I’m in – for what it’s worth. But I am unsure about the demand – aren’t these discussions best kept in the blogosphere, anyway?

  3. I’d be interested to hear more about the key change topics (the environment is clearly becoming bigger here in the U.S.) and how next generation Danes address them from the Adventist tradition.

  4. First step in my mind could be a web page inspired by the spectrum page. Really an Adventist Forum.

    Niels has a point – why don’t we just send more articles to the official church magazine – i know the editor is open to it.

  5. Yes, a website might be a way to go. Question is, whether it should be a traditional free-for-all forum (which can quickly turn ugly without moderation) or more of a collection of articles by selected authors – an online magazine (or group blog), if you will. Perhaps the latter is the more interesting option.

    As for joining the mainstream, yes that’s a good point. And I wouldn’t mind contributing more to the church magazine (if the editor is reading, she will be after me for that). The question is if the mainstream readership is “ready”, or are there still issues that many readers would be offended by? I still remember some of the angry letters to the editor printed in the past.

    @Alexander: Identifying topics will be an interesting undertaking, as will exploring them. But what I’m after is not just viewing other topics “from the Adventist tradition”, but also questioning elements within that tradition itself.

  6. I think it could be a Scandinavian thing in three languages. (Some of us will just have to get some practise reading Swedish)

    A combined page with
    a) Blog by the editorial staff
    b) Articles by selected authors – as a magazine would be
    c) Podcasts
    d) comment option on all of the above – this could be semi-free-for-all (that is: moderated on the basis of a code of conduct

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