The Lunch Room

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I remember it like it was yesterday. Here I was, a twenty-four year old young man walking into the cafeteria of “institutional church” for the first time. It was my first day of school. Up until this point, my day had been going well. I had completed all my assignments with swiftness and completed all the tasks my teacher gave me with no questions asked. I was still reliving the euphoric moment when I accepted the call from God to build His Kingdom. I was just so excited to finally be here! I’ll admit I was nervous for lunch time. At lunchtime, everyone came from their various classrooms to eat together. It was an opportunity to meet everyone in our school. I’ve heard rumors of the cliques and how divided the lunch room was. I heard the cool kids sat at one table while the “others” sat alone. All day long, I wondered if I would be invited to sit at the cool table or if I would sit by myself.  

As I entered the cafeteria, I immediately noticed the cool kids’ table. It was the largest group. As I stood at the doorway with my tray of youthful passion and ZEAL, one of the popular kids looked at me. After a few seconds, he motioned me to come sit with them. Not knowing what to do in that moment, I began to walk towards the table. The popular kid beckoned his posse to make room for me to sit-down. As I sat down, the other ministers’ eyes were like motion sensors, scanning me up and down. I could tell they were trying to judge whether or not I belonged. As I sat down, I looked at their trays of food. Ironically, each person at the table had the same kind of food on their tray. They each had the same juice box of traditionalism, a sandwich of old methods, and a bag of organizational politics. As I listened to their conversations of the “old days,” each one continued to share with me their accomplishments as if I was auditing their spiritual productivity. They began to ask me questions about who I knew and how I got here and if I could preach. It was all about status and accomplishments. 

At no point did anyone ask me about my goals or passions--although I did get a few intense questions about ‘position’ and ‘power.’ I responded by saying “I’m not here for that; I’m here to build the Kingdom.” Before I could even finish my statement, they all looked at each other and burst into laughter. One man laughed so hard that his juice of traditionalism came back out through his nose, causing him to gag as he laughed. But as I was being heckled by “the old school,” I turned and saw a table scattered with men and women. I thought to myself, those must be the “others.” As the men continued to laugh, I picked up my tray and walked over to the few that were sitting alone. I sat down, and each of them greeted me with a warm smile. As I looked at their trays, I noticed each person had a different selection of food. One young lady had a juice box filled with passion for young adult ministries. Another man sitting next to her had a sandwich layered with creativity and ingenuity. The last woman sitting with them had a bag filled with enthusiasm for social issues. Each one of these individuals had been ostracized for bringing a different lunch to the table than what was commonly served. 

I believe Adventism has fostered an environment similar to that of a student cafeteria. The popular kids (our leaders) have created a system that perpetuates the institutionalization of thoughts and talents. They’ve created constructs that challenge and stifle the unique abilities of so many vibrant voices within our church. Our innovators, creatives and thinkers are left feeling confused, frustrated and lonely. We’re made to believe that there is no space for us and thus we’re pushed to the corner of the cafeteria. When it’s time for “show and tell,” only those who share traditionalist views of evangelism and discipleship are given applause and affirmation. Those who present methods that are steeped in unorthodoxy and innovation are dismissively labeled liberal. 

Due to these toxic dynamics, generations of Adventists are losing their ZEAL.  Contrary to popular belief, this has nothing to do with our Adventist message but everything to do with our non-relevant approaches. This has only reinforced the idea that “as long as we continue to hold up ‘the tried and true’ methods, we will grow the church.”  The popular kids have strategically constructed rhetoric steeped in our denominational heritage to blind the masses to the revolutionary change that needs to take place. As our church continues to grow old, instead of young, the popular kids (better known as the controlling, oppressive leaders who stifle our church growth in the name of “getting back to how we used to do things”) continue to take their self-righteous seats every four or five years. Instead of making room so that our revolutionary voices can be heard, we’re forced to sit by ourselves at lunch time. As we open our lunch boxes of fresh ideas, and sip from our juice box of spiritual passion, we’re left rethinking our place and position in our community. We start asking ourselves the questions “Why am I even here? Will I ever have a place here? Why don’t they make room for me?”As the popular kids and their posse’s gossip, giggle and laugh at our ostracism, we begin internalizing this treatment. We no longer feel like we belong in our faith communities. The church has created this paradox where large groups of Adventist Creatives who are made to feel like they cannot make a valuable contribution to the body of Christ.

Jesus went through the same treatment during his time here on earth. He was rejected and denounced by his own community. In Luke’s account, Jesus’s own community “cried out all together, saying, ‘away with this man and release for us Barabbas’ ” ( Luke 23:18). Jesus’ execution was due to the chants of his own community. His community left him standing alone. How could a man be able to withstand such treatment? It’s because Jesus understood what it meant to truly belong. We must understand that true belonging isn’t solely found in our relationships with people. True belonging is when we believe in and realize that we belong to something greater than ourselves--so much so that we can find the sacredness in standing alone when necessary. In other words, our sense of spiritual belonging provides us with the backbone we need to stand alone, or sit with those who are ostracized by the status quo. It’s a hard thing to do. It’s a great feeling to be accepted by the group. But true belonging doesn’t come with just fitting in, pretending, or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a daily practice that requires us to be vulnerable and comfortable being uncomfortable. 

Many of us spend the majority of our lives compromising our ZEAL in order to fit in. I almost fell into this trap. Those who sat at the popular table were men who allowed the organization to master them. Those who were ostracized were ostracized because they refused to give in to the dysfunctional norms. I challenge you to embrace the sacredness of being counter-culture. It’s when we stand alone that we gain a deeper understanding of the One who is greater. Consider the impact of those who decided to stand alone while building God’s Kingdom. I challenge you to consider the courage, the ZEAL, the discomfort, and the loneliness of the Savior, the apostle Paul, the disciple Peter, the martyr Stephen, the trailblazer John the Baptist, the prophet Jeremiah, the prayer warrior Daniel and the strong Queen Esther. Allow your ZEAL to keep you rooted in who God has uniquely designed you to be. Dare to stand alone no matter the cost.  

As I sat and ate with these men and women who had been ostracized, I listened to their stories. Like me, they believed our church was in desperate need of revival and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit like the church in Acts. They too believed that we lived in unconventional times that call for unconventional measures. They weren't drawn to organizational power or position. Instead they sought a greater power. A power that is greater than us. As Paul writes, this is the same mighty power that raised Jesus from his grave and sent him to be with His Father (Ephesians 1:20). I quickly realized that I wasn’t sitting amongst the outcasts. I was sitting amongst revolutionaries.

- Jordaan Houston


My 11-year-old feet dangled off the top bunk while I began to evaluate my surroundings. I was in my bedroom, but somehow, I felt so different. The ideas and ideals that I was taught in home, church, and school just weren’t adding up. I couldn’t reconcile them with the reality my pre-pubescent mind was now digesting.

Why did we wage war instead of peace? Why were our own domestic issues not being resolved?

Why did it matter that Adventists were featured in National Geographic as people who lived longer lives if they were living unhappy lives?

Why did ‘rational truth’ matter if it changed nothing? Why was the attempt to “always being right” creating relational dysfunction?

The rays entering my window could not shine bright enough to lift the dissatisfaction I was experiencing. I was dissatisfied with the dysfunction of the corporate bodies I belonged to. I was dissatisfied with the dichotomy between appearance and actual condition. I wanted us to actually partake of the truth and benefit from the truth as well. So, I pulled out my 5x7 tie-dye journal, and I made a list of goals I wanted to achieve by age 25. Dissatisfaction had activated my imagination.

Honestly, I still maintain this habit now in my adulthood. I am still that 11-year old girl who copes with dissatisfaction by dreaming. I am dissatisfied with the present condition of our SDA institution—along with many other Seventh-day Adventists. I am dissatisfied and pained when so many of our churches look and act like the tombs; I am dissatisfied by our fixation on deciphering the signs and symbols of a complex future while neutering the Gospel’s ability to transform the present; I am dissatisfied and pained by the prevalence of apathy, and I am dissatisfied with the Laodicean lethargy that keeps us from championing the justice of love.

However, I am no longer that 11-year old girl. Imagination is not the only way I can cope with the negative realities that I grapple with. I don’t have to suppress the expression of dissatisfaction, settling for doodling on pieces of paper as my way of escape. Now, as a strong and God-breathed expression of purpose by design, I can do something about; I can harness the power of ZEAL!

I live convinced that the spiritual promises of Scripture are not utopian falsehoods. Rather, they are concrete imperatives for the people of God to galvanize and execute. Flaws and all, the followers of God in Scripture are said to have, by faith, “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised” (Hebrews 11:33). These are not just personal and private victories achieved. They are social victories that transformed each of their respective spheres of influence. Enforcing justice deals with making decisions in the midst of socio-political environments. Conquering kingdoms refers to toppling over faulty systems. The miraculous and seemingly impossible change is materialized, by faith, with the activation of ZEAL, the God-given energy bestowed upon us to change that which is not as it should be.

Great change can be birthed by coupling dissatisfaction with ZEAL. Yet, seeing someone express their dissatisfaction and ZEAL is sometimes uncomfortable for others. And, you’ve probably been there yourself. You’ve probably been misunderstood as harsh, overly critical, disrespectful, or unrefined. The act of expressing dissatisfaction can easily be misinterpreted as trying to tear a good work down rather than being seen as constructive building up. Jaded by their own failed attempts at transformation, others may be wary of expressing ZEAL; they could be downright frightened of it.

But this should never cause us to forget that even Christ, in a moment of unpopular and passionate ZEAL, took revolutionary steps to shift the religious institution of His day (John 2:13-17). I challenge you to embrace your dissatisfaction and embrace the ZEAL dissatisfaction inspires. Consider the value that critical reflection and active passion have brought in the past. Consider the dissatisfaction and ZEAL of the prophet Jeremiah, the noble Queen Esther, the reformative Martin Luther, the radical SDA Pioneers, or the visionary Ellen G. White. Embrace the revolutionary, ZEAL infused roots of our protestant faith for the sake of Gospel and people. Don’t just dream; dedicate your dissatisfaction to the Lord, receive the power of the Spirit, and do something about it!

- Judit Manchay

Controversy Creates Change


Controversy is often framed as the boogie-man of religious institutions. Fear of iconoclasts, heretics, radicals, and fanatics usually move sainted administrators to completely taboo any and all controversy. “Team players” are defined as those who don’t rock the boat. Promotions are reserved for those who would never upset the status quo. If you aren’t a company woman or company man, don’t even think about upward mobility. Success within an institution is not designated for the ‘movers & shakers’ because institutions exist to do one thing—perpetuate themselves. And nothing threatens self-preservation like a healthy dose of controversy.

I have to admit it; I can’t blame religious institutions for their obsessive distaste for controversy. I think they recognize its natural progression: Controversy creates change. But institutions are allergic to change. When your primary focus is to preserve or perpetuate, change only portends the possibility of an institution’s demise. If innovation is allowed, an institution might become obsolete. If evolution is not stifled, an institution might fund its own expiration. So the unconventional thinkers find themselves persecuted with extreme prejudice. They are muzzled in order to preserve the people, practices, and procedures that have maintained the current paradigm. Without fail, religious institutions lean on tradition to justify their viability in a changing world—never noticing that their firm grip on the past causes them to relinquish a promising future. Or as Jesus prophesied: “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it” (Matthew 16:25).

Here lies the tremendous irony of controversy intolerance: As an institution obsesses over eradicating controversy, they sign their own death warrant. If controversy is suppressed, meaningful change becomes less and less probable. And if an institution does not change, it can only digress into a toxic irrelevance that will poison any sign of refreshing variance. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Each man kills the thing he loves.” And religious institutions are not exempt from this criticism. All of them love to exist! Yet, they undermine their own liveliness whenever they strangle new ideas, new approaches, new people, and new processes.  

This is why I joined AdventistRevolution. This is why I am supporting the call for a controversial shift to take place.  The Seventh-day Adventist institution is killing the Seventh-day Adventist movement. The moratorium against controversy is yielding a cancerous rigidity that prohibits our message from properly progressing with the times. Our transformational message is being undermined by an obsession with “the good ole’ days.” And as we continue to push people towards remembering what was, we forfeit the opportunity to dream about what could be. The Seventh-day Adventist denomination is no longer a progenitor of the vibrant, the vivacious, and the vivid; it is an establishment that refuses to be relevant because it refuses to embrace one undeniable truth—change is impossible without controversy.

As I see it, we could use some great controversy  in today’s Adventism. No, not a reprint of the epic work by Ellen G. White, but a group of Adventists who won’t allow the institutional hierarchy to continue suffocating the creativity and innovation that will yield change. I think it is time to start embracing controversy, because we desperately need a revitalizing rebrand. I think the time for change is now! And I think the way to spark said change is to ignite an AdventistRevolution.

- Michael Polite

Alternative to Empire


One of my favorite Biblical authors is Luke. His dual volume of Luke-Acts is an account not only of the life and ministry of Jesus and the community of “The Way” but also a commentary on first century society. Luke, although a physician, shows us through his history/narrative the dynamics of class, race, and even gender in first century society and how the Christ and the people of The Way engaged these areas of difference. 

It was great to have spent the past several months studying the book of Acts with my worship community as we asked ourselves the question: What does it look like to be a community “by faith”? I had the honor of starting the sermon series off and as I studied the book of Acts again, I (being the fly nerd that I am) saw an obvious connection between Star Wars and The Way. 

In Star Wars, there is a clear dichotomy made between two empires. You have the Galactic Empire, an oppressive regime that calls itself the dark side, using the Force for “evil.” But, you also have the Rebel Alliance, a group that is connected to and empowered by the Force (not abusing its power). The Galactic Empire is rising in strength as they attempt to take over and, in many ways, destroy the galaxy. The Rebel Alliance refuses to cave into the Galactic Empire and attempts to thwart its sinister plans through acts of revolution and subversion. The course of the Star Wars trilogy chronicles the back and forth between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance. 

Likewise, the book of Acts describes the activities of “The Way.”  The Way is how early Christian believers were identified. Margaret Aymer describes “The Way” as “a political religious movement that asserts Jesus of Nazareth as both Master and Anointed One (or Messiah)...Luke portrays its proponents as spreading this political religion as directed by the Holy Spirit.    

The people of the Way were living in under the occupation of The Roman Empire. The Roman Empire, much like the Galactic Empire in Star Wars, was cruel and oppressive. This empire occupied lands and created extreme poverty, marked class distinctions with 2 % of the population controlling majority of the wealth, normalized patriarchy and slavery, and intimidated the less fortunate with brutal violence. In addition, the Roman Empire was also a religio-political movement, seeing itself as the bearer of peace and justice in society and hailing Caesar as a “son of god.” Two empires, two political-religious movements, two messages of peace and justice, two “saviors.” In an empire that seems to be the opposite of all one values and believes, how were the people of The Way to live and survive? The book of Acts chronicles their revolutionary actions—ones fueled by the revolutionary power of the Holy Spirit.  Aymer continues, “Acts thus illustrates the double bind of a colonized people imagining an alternative to Empire...” 

Alternative to empire. Every narrative and vignette within the book of Acts shows us that people of The Way, just like the members of the Rebel Alliance, lived, moved, and acted as they did because they were able to imagine an “alternative to empire.” They knew that the way things were was not the way they should be. Acts in turn shows us that we too can live alternative to the reigning empires of our day. Living alternative to empire is a revolutionary way of living, because revolutionaries have the vision to see what should be.  Living “alternative to empire” is a revolutionary way of living because revolutionaries must accept the challenge to live alternative to empire while also existing within empire. Living alternative to empire is a revolutionary way of living because revolutionaries know that the most subversive messages come from often dismissed places. This is what it means for me to be part of the #AdventistRevolution. While I have every reason to run away from the “empire” of our denomination, the text of Acts reminds me that I can live alternative to empire while living among it! 

I am part of this revolution because God has called me to subvert through proximity. Empowered by the Force (the Holy Spirit), I imagine an alternative and live as if that alternative is reality. 

- Danielle Barnard

The Process of Progress

I am obsessed with working out; more specifically, I am obsessed with Crossfit! I began in January of 2018 and Crossfit has revolutionized how I see the process of progress. The past few workouts have left me on the floor and I am coming to a place where I anticipate being on the floor, feeling wrecked and coming back the next day, to do it again.

I am truly sold-out to the journey, and I’ve learned to value the pain in this process of progress.  Hitting the floor keeps me humble; each rep keeps me honest, and there is no better feeling than knowing you gave your all to something that leaves you sore but strong.

When I look at the early church in Acts chapter one, I see a group of saints who were sold out to the process of progress. Christ, anticipating this reality, says in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”  Christ came and many witnessed his process as He shook up the political and spiritual climate. They also witnessed Christ being murdered for the revolution He incited.

So not only was the early church sold out to the process of progress, but it also counted the cost. They knew that following Jesus’ example, shaking up the political and spiritual climate of the religious institution, wouldn’t be popular or even widely accepted. They anticipated a difficult road, a path requiring consistent prayer, honest vulnerability, and authentic fellowshipping with one another.  Jesus’ followers knew this process would cause iron to sharpen iron—resulting in discomfort and soreness. They knew that the gospel would cost them their very lives.  Yet they were still sold out to the process of Christ and the progress of the church. And like a strenuous work-out, the pain and soreness of their pursuit signaled to them how much stronger they were getting!

Two thousand years later, the bold courage of the disciples has birthed within me a desire to resurrect their revolutionary movement.  I, too, am sold out to the process of Christ and the progress of His church. I, too, am a part of this same, counter-cultural revolution that fully embraces the struggle any worthwhile cause will require.  I, like the church’s first followers, have received the Spirit of the Lord, and I have been anointed to proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and liberty for those who are being oppressed. The process of Christian discipleship calls us to be a revolutionary presence within our spheres of influence, and #AdventistRevolution champions a call for contemporary believers to do the same. The progress of the Church depends upon this level of unconventional, bold conviction.  The apostles showed us what it looks like, and we are a collection of dedicated followers who are committed to doing the same.

I am a part of this revolution!  I am unashamed, a little nervous, and totally sold-out to complete this process of progress.  There is no better feeling than to know you gave your all to something that leaves you sore and strong, and I fully expect for this adventure to build me up one rep at a time.

- Tacyana Nixon