Paulsen Urges Young Adult Involvement in Local Churches
Involvement in a local congregation is the best way to make an impact in the global Seventh-day Adventist community, world church president Jan Paulsen told two groups of young people gathered for the first Let’s Talk broadcasts in Asia. Urging active participation in both church activities and personal spirituality, Paulsen answered questions from students and young professionals from across East Asia.
Young people from Cambodia to Bangladesh met in Manila, Philippines, on February 7 for the first of two Let’s Talk installments in East Asia.One theme—how to make Adventism, a religion with predominantly Western roots, relevant in Asia—emerged early in the February 10 broadcast from Hong Kong, which included young people from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
“You don’t take people out of [their] culture,” Paulsen, who donned a red changshan, traditional Chinese formal wear, for the occasion, said. “The church has to find a meaningful way to reach people within their cultures. The values God teaches must make sense and be meaningful within your own culture.”
Participants at both the Hong Kong broadcast and the February 7 recording from Manila, Philippines, wanted Paulsen’s take on marriage, divorce, and being single.
Paulsen, citing his own 52 years of marriage, stressed the value of choosing partners wisely and attending premarital counseling. Because marriage is a “commitment, not an experiment,” Paulsen said cohabitation as a “trial run” is not an acceptable means of cutting divorce rates.
Paulsen continued the theme of commitment—this time loyalty to God—when answering several questions about Sabbath observance from the group in Manila. When a student from Myanmar said some state exams are held only on Sabbath, Paulsen mentioned the work of the church’s Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty to eliminate religious discrimination.
One student asked whether it’s OK to let Sabbathkeeping slip to curry favor with a professor or a boss. “We don’t compromise the Sabbath for anything,” Paulsen said.
And when young people trust God, they can also depend on their own “good minds and sound judgment,” Paulsen stressed during both broadcasts. “Look, you know what’s right,” he said in response to questions about music, movies, and other entertainment choices. He then shared the guidelines he uses to choose music for his iPod: “Is it worshipful? Does it communicate a message from God? Does it bond a community of believers?” If not, best not to “baptize” it, he said.
Several questions surrounded appropriate activities for Adventists. Should Adventists campaign for politicians, run for office, associate with other denominations, play sports? Paulsen’s “Yes” to each question was tempered by a warning—don’t let anything elbow out your commitment to Christ. If you seek election one day, he told the students, “don’t confuse the agenda of the state with the mission of the church.”
“Know who you are and don’t compromise your identity,” Paulsen said, advising the students not to cloister themselves away in a solely Adventist community. “Christ said, ‘Let’s go down and meet those people.’ So don’t be a bystander—go with conviction, the assurance of who you are and the value of what you offer,” he said.
When a participant from Cambodia whose family died in the genocide under Pol Pot asked whether God would allow people into heaven who never had a chance to accept Jesus, Paulsen assured him God was “generous” beyond human comprehension. “Aren’t you glad He is the One who will ultimately answer your questions?”
—by Elizabeth Lechleitner, Adventist News Network, with AR Staff