Transcending Talk with Tithe

Transcending Talk with Tithe:  An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

Dear Fellow Leader,

Again I have been impressed by the strong and succinct conviction of Elder Jan Paulsen (2009) as he articulated in the October 2009 edition of Adventist World, “We must give young adults meaningful roles within the church (p.10).”

And notably, Elder Paulsen has re-initiated the Let’s Talk series that he has been conducting around the world for over half a decade (Lechleitner, 2009).  Even though I support these fine and admirable verbal gestures, I feel we fail new generations if we only offer another round of conversations and compelling articles.

So I share this open letter with you leader—whether you offer volunteer leadership in your local church or campus or serve as a ministry professional, educator or administrator.  Leader, I implore you to move beyond conversations about youth and young adults to conspicuous and calculated action.

Although I admire the outspoken positions our leaders have taken on this issue (Martin, 2009), I want to invite you and every leader in the Seventh-day Adventist Church to transcend talk with tangible action. Specifically I’m asking you to tithe.  Tithe one or more of the following beginning today:  (a) Travel, (b) Time, (c) Timothys, (d) Telecasts, (e) Talents.

Tithe Your Travel

Divert one of your travel appointments, and instead sponsor a young adult to attend a leadership conference. Instead of taking on that tenth speaking appointment or attending another committee meeting, invest that trip’s budget into the leadership development of a young adult.  Go to for the latest details on these young adult training opportunities.

Tithe Your Time

Offer a tenth of your time each week to mentoring a young adult.  If you average a 40-hour workweek, then set aside four hours this week and each week to nurture, apprentice, and encourage a young adult.  Begin to pour yourself into the next generation.  If you are working a 60-hour workweek and are saying to yourself, “There is no way I can offer six hours each week to mentor a young adult,” it may be that you need to change your work habits/schedule.

Tithe Your Timothys

Empower a tenth of your young leadership to develop new generations.  You may be in the situation where you have a large team of young ministry leaders [i.e., a campus ministry or student association for an Adventist college or university].  Ask your team to train, mentor, and nurture the young people that follow them in age.  Set aside a tenth of the resources and efforts you give to minister to your campus/church and invest it in the next generation of leaders.

Tithe Your Telecasts

Dedicate a tenth of your broadcast time to intentionally disciple young adults. Knowing the integral role media plays in young lives, invest in nurturing their spiritual growth through music, television, film, drama, comedy, photography, literature, art, production, etc.  Overtly involve young adults in the production, creative, and technical aspects of the tithed endeavor.

For some of you, the pulpit is where you broadcast the Gospel.  Afford at least a tenth of the worships in your church to involve young people.  If you don’t have any youth in your church, more radical tithing may be in order.

Tithe Your Talents

Begin today to let a young person take your place. The classic parable admonishes us to multiply our talents, not bury them in the sand.  Although often referring to talents as money, I would offer here a hybrid application, noting that your skills, abilities, giftedness, and wisdom need to be invested in the next generation.  Allow “up and coming” young adults to take roles you might have easily and competently taken.  Give them the opportunity to take your place—at least begin with a tenth of your place.

Do one or more or all of the above.  Dear colleague, I am personally appealing to you to instigate this “tithing” conspiracy today.  If you or someone else calls you a “Seventh-day Adventist leader,” this talk-transcending-tithing request is for you.  Whether travel, time, Timothys, telecasts, or talents, I ask that you put your tithing into motion today.

Thank you for your kind consideration, and in advance I share my gratefulness for your immediate action.  I believe that leaders best represent the Christ who relentlessly pursues new generations by transcending talk with tangible transformational relationships.  May the GOD young adults seek be found living among those who love Him with all their heart (Martin, Bailey, & LaMountain, 2009).  May Jesus be found in and through…you.

Lead, Love, Live,
A. Allan Martin, PhD, CFLE
Associate Professor of Discipleship & Family Ministry
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Andrews University


Lechleitner, E. (2009, October 22).  Young professionals talk change with GC PresidentAdventist Review, 186(30), 10-11.

Martin, A. A. (2009, Winter). Burst the bystander effect: Making a discipling difference with young adults. The Journal of Applied Christian Leadership, 3(1), 46-53.

Martin, A. A., Bailey, S., & LaMountain, L. (2009).  GODencounters: Pursuing a 24/7 experience of Jesus. Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing.

Paulsen, J. (2009, October).  Why do they walk away: Keeping youth and young adults engaged in the church must be one of our highest prioritiesAdventist World: NAD Edition, 5(10), 8-10.

About A Allan Martin, PhD

Jeremiah 24/7
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29 Responses to Transcending Talk with Tithe

  1. Javi says:

    Well said/written…as in all things at some point if all we do is talk we look like Washington politics…it’s time to get busy. I wonder during this coming GC Session how many people under 35 will be delegates?

    • aamphd says:

      @Javi – Thanks for your kind affirmation. I concur with moving beyond political rhetoric to observable action! I am not so much concerned with delegate representation at the GC Session, but rather every Adventist leader taking on the challenge to be actively mentoring. If that occurs, representation will emerge naturally.

  2. deeperguy says:

    Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that our church behaves just LIKE our government. A lot of good talk, total lack of meaningful action. Happy to criticize and finger point, less happy to teaching people about Jesus. Preserve the Institution at all costs! It’s why I don’t consider myself and Adventist any more.

    If there are any NAD delegates under 35 at the GC this year I will be SHOCKED.

    • aamphd says:

      @deeperguy – I hear you. The intent of my essay is to challenge spiritual leaders to move towards meaningful action, intentional discipleship. I don’t feel delegates at these large politlcal party conventions will impress Jesus, nor young adults seeking Him. I believe Adventist leaders are called to some personal responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission in their own lives. I’m trying to in mine.

      • Raj says:

        The General Conference session isn’t a political party convention. It may often look like that because many in our generation just thumb our noses at anything that looks like the institution. However, we choose to be employed by that same institution. Ironic, don’t you think?

        As for @deeperguy-being an Adventist isn’t about the people at the GC/Division/Union/Conference/Ignition (and not in that particular order)–it is about the principles for which the church is based on. Now, if you don’t believe in the Seventh-day Sabbath, the Second Advent, the state of the dead, and the other beliefs of the church–that’s a personal choice and each is welcome to it. But before we judge God’s “institution” by some of the people, let us remember it is His “institution”. Whether a tent in the wilderness, under Eli’s son’s (literally or spiritually), under the Pharisees and Priests, the Dark Ages, Reformation, Millerite movement, or our current evolution of it.

  3. Branden says:

    As essential as tithing is to the working of the church, so is this investment. I feel that our churches will be operating in the red with out this focus in effect. How can we not be investing in our young adults in this way? They have the time and the energy and the qualities we invest in will be multiplied seven fold. We as leaders must put our time and energies where our mouth is.

    • aamphd says:

      @BranDen – I completely agree! In addition to being a tremendous “natural resource,” I believe in the spiritual movement that Jesus started and feel that if Adventistism is to get on that Jesus train, that young adults will be the ones to burst us out of our fixation with ourselves and recklessly jump on board with Christ.

    • Raj says:

      I like the proposal. They may not be able to allocate a travel budget because they’re often specifically approved/assigned, but everything else is definitely doable. I just wouldn’t call it tithing. What with “Pagan Christianity” muddying the concept and all.

  4. Alex Pinilla says:

    Right on Alan! What you are asking is essential if our church is going to be renewed and continue to be a transformational agent in spreading the gospel message.

    It is good to hear of our leaders’ realizations and desires to engage the new generations in the work of the church, but “talk is cheap!” Le us see actions, intentional transferring of power unto the “young and the restless.” (What are we afraid of?)

    On the other hand, maybe we are asking of them an impossibility! The human nature is selfish and self-preservation is our main concern at all levels! I am reminded of a college professor of mine who said “power is never given to us, we must take it away!” How true is this?


    –Let us cry to our God for Spirit filled leaders not afraid to begin the process of replacing themselves.

    –Let us find ways to make leadership and power-transfer a sooner reality.

    But maybe I am just dreaming… maybe we are all just dreaming!


    • aamphd says:

      @Alex – Yes we are to be a transformational agent, but I don’t believe it is an issue of power transfer, but rather for all of us to connect to a Christocentric energy. The organic church doesn’t have established adults as the head, it is Jesus Christ alone that is the head of the spiritual body. As we learn the interdependence of body parts, organs, both big and small, we begin to “live” completely relying on Christ and needing each other. In the book of Joel, there is a prophecy of a day when young and old will dream and see visions, I’m eager to see that prophecy fulfilled.

  5. Steve says:

    I’m challenged by this practical and sacrificial suggestion. I find it easy to say, “Kudos” but what will my actions be after that short burst? Next, I look for something I can handle without altering my current path too much, which makes me wonder about the sacrificial thing again. And then I wonder what I will need to cut in order to make these changes. Rationalizing works its way in as I explain to myself that I’m already doing all that I can.


    • aamphd says:

      @Steve – Thank you so much for your candor. You are on the mark, as this challenge is likely to call all us leaders to a more Sabbatarian practice of leadership in order to even attempt this tithe. As a young adult, I experienced mentoring by leaders who had to intentionally cull out space for building/fostering a relationship with me. They had to decide to send me to training events and to pour their wisdom into me. This came at the sacrifice of other things. I value deeply the poignant reality you are asking every leader to consider for the sake of implementation. Otherwise it is simply another “pat on the head” for another generation.

  6. Rich Carlson says:

    Great writing; great idea; great goal; great young adults worth investing in! Talking may sound like “Washington politics” but sometimes that’s all Washington can do (church or state) because of the size of organizations and I can’t wait for them to get the organization on track– I am the organization. I can’t change Washington, but I can decide today to continue “tithing” my life for the next generations. They’re worth it. I hope I don’t use talking as the excuse for nothing getting done. I shouldn’t foget, Alan’s article is talking– but it has inspired me and others to continue and/or begin investing in the young adults. I happen to know that MANY of the “talkers” up in Washington are also “doers” and investing their lives heavily in the youth. So I thank the talkers for inspiring me. Now I commit myself to responding by doing!

    • aamphd says:

      @Rich Carlson – Keep on keeping on! You have decades of proven mentorship that has not only shaped young adults but has infiltrated the culture of your campus. I love it when a person can back up talk with action. We don’t call those people politicians typically, we call them activists. Thanks for being an activist throughout your career, and challenging yourself to take it to another level.

  7. lisahope says:

    There are many good ideas and thoughts here and I deeply respect leaders like Jan Paulsen and Allan Martin who are passionate and serious about creating space for young adults in the system we know as the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I fear, however, that the mark might be missed even with this approach.

    Many young people are leaving the church and DON’T WANT a position of leadership or power. Many have NO DESIRE to be discipled by someone in the church. Many feel that the church, or anyone associated with it, is the LEAST SAFE place to turn with questions or concerns.

    As long as church leaders and members have to be instructed in how to love young people, how to welcome them into churches, how to give them positions within the church, there’s something even more important that is missing.

    If someone has to be instructed to love me, I don’t want their love. If God’s transformational love doesn’t flow out of a personal encounter with him, it won’t make an impact in my life. Jesus said that it is BY OUR LOVE for each other that all men will know we are disciples (John 13:35).

    UNTIL THIS LOVE is what makes us a PECULIAR people and not the fact that we go to church on Saturday, etc, etc, I fear that all the trainings and conversations, no matter how effective they are, will strike to the right or left of the heart of the issue for the majority of young adults.

    • aamphd says:

      Hey Lisa I am completely with you. I am not wanting to endorse a position in the church, and maybe I should have been more emphatic about that. What I am wanting to spur is interpersonal relationships with some intentionality. Nothing forced or coerced, but definitely more than accidental. Discipleship doesn’t happen completely by accident. Sometimes spontaneous, serendipitous, surprising…absolutely. But as an adult I have to decide to think about someone other than me every once in a while.

      And for the essence of the “organic” church, discipleship is as vital as the great commandment. Jesus is clear that kingdom living is more than personal piety and religious rituals. We are to do life together.

      Thanks for the many ways Lisa you mentor so naturally and caringly. We need more disciples just like you.

  8. John Grys says:

    Great start. I think the question, to follow up with Lisa’s comment, centers on whether the goal is to get them “back” into our institutions. If we are merely cloak and daggering them back to the institution as it is, good luck. I wonder if the day will ever come where this generation would create a parallel institution because they see one currently bloated and more interested in preservation rather than pursuit. I think the question I reflect on here in wine country is, “Why would they want to come back?” What is the compelling factor(s)? With as savy a group as they are, they will be able to read through all attempts to bring them back.

    Thanks for stirring the pot. Wonder if anyone ever listens to renewed action, however.


    • aamphd says:

      @John Grys – I agree with you and clearly new generations can sniff out a “bait & switch” from a mile away. Additionally and clearly, Kinnaman & Lyons book, unChristian, has conspicuously pointed out hypocrisy as a pronounced characteristic of our faith that has even non-Christian young adults turning a deaf ear to the cause of Christ. I differ from Elder Paulsen, in that I am not trying to call young adult back, although I want to harness his rhetoric in this regard. I am challenging all faith leaders to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, to live out the teachings of Jesus. It is a Christocentric movement that undergirds this challenge, however it may also reveal institutional flaws. It is on the issue of loving discipleship that I challenge Adventist leaders. Thanks for your kind affirmation, I’m praying for real leaders to step up.

  9. elisa says:

    I guess that is the point as John said – what is the goal? and what are we trying to get them “back” to? i admit that many times i don’t have a problem sharing Jesus and the incredible experience available with him but when it comes to an organization i commiserate with my friends’ reluctance to be involved or get back into something structured. i don’t know that a parallel organization is the answer because anything that is “organized” has the trappings that most post-moderns wish to avoid (policies, procedures, manuals, etc). i feel torn between my inherent need to organize everything and feeling “safe” in that environment and the overuse of these rules and regulations (“red tape”) that happens to any institution no matter the size.

    but more than solving the ENTIRE problem i think that Allan’s encouragement to just start with me and as Rich Carlson wrote above “i am the organization” so what can i do in my sphere? even investing time no matter the end result is valuable. i am reminded that we can’t wait for this to impact the entire organization before we are happy with results but rather make a change or a move among the people around us.

    I aspire to be like the mentors who’ve influenced me – but I admit that i’m clueless and not very good with my meager attempts. being in malawi adds another layer for me personally but i continue to pray for opportunities and strength…

    • aamphd says:

      @elisa – as always you are spot on. But let me offer comment to your “mentoring aspiration” commentary. You are exactly a case study of a mentoree going about the cause of Christ. So in Malawi, you are trying to live as Christ in the midst of red tape, tremendous need, and missional opportunity. This is God’s current call to you and we pray continually for God to live in and through you there in the mission field. Additionally, you somehow make time to stay connected with movements you have helped spark (i.e. Oasis, GODencounters, Deeper, etc.), this is a fulfillment of the Great Commission. I would also report that the prayer room you started in Bolingbrook Adventist Hospital has been carried on by the chaplain and administrators there. Even in your mighty prayers, new generations are being discipled. Because you dare to pay forward, the ripple effects of what GOD is doing and has done in your life is creating legacy. You are an example of a young adult, turned leader, turned discipler. We are proud of you and trust GOD to continue to add to His cause through your faithfulness.

  10. lisahope says:

    I hear you, Allan, and I know you aren’t attempting to endorse something forced or coerced. How do we strike the balance between being intentional and it feeling contrived? And what is the purpose and goal, as John and Elisa mentioned.

    To most young adults who have left or are leaving the church, there’s nothing worth coming back to. The bridges have been burned, so to speak. And this generation isn’t likely to create a “parallel institution,” as Elisa mentioned, because the institution has been irrelevant in their lives, for the most part. Why attempt to recreate something that has not created value in their lives?

    And truly, it is the interpersonal relationships, that you speak of, Allan, that will create positive energy–not changes in the system or institution, at this point in time. Young adults don’t want to be a project, though, and it can be difficult to separate out being intentional from designing another “program” because “program” is what older generations are used to and to some extent are still looking for.

    And so creates my resistance to more conferences and trainings… does that make sense?

    • aamphd says:

      @lisahope – Your resistance is valid and endorses accountability. Yet, those of us that are systemically bi-lingual need to coach both past and emerging generations.

      In many cases, when adult ministry leaders go home taking off their “church hat,” they actually relate well with their children. They sometimes toss the football around with neighborhood kids, and even at times volunteer in their local community…maybe tutor or coach soccer or chaperone a field trip. Without their “church hat” these activities are done out of love and care without agenda. It is that authenticity that needs to be encouraged.

      Lisa, keep the institution accountable, we don’t need another program. However I don’t think ANY Adventist leader [or any Christian leader for that matter] should carry that role without seriously considering the Great Commission and Great Commandment.

      Additionally, I believe that new generations are hungry to be part of something bigger than themselves. I would offer the “cause of Christ” as a notable movement to fuse their lives to. If I am a disciple of Jesus, I have been called to a ministry of reconciliation as well as asked by Jesus Himself to “disciple” others. I am to coach them in “this way of life.”

      As you are bilingual, I deeply value your skill to coach both past and emerging generations. As you are honest, I depend on you for accountability. As you are passionate about Christ, I need your leadership to foster new generations as well as guide older ones.

    • SteveYeagley says:

      @lisahope – I just re-read your two posts. Thank you for your honesty in expressing these thoughts. I think you’ve struck at the heart of this issue for me. It’s about the soul of Adventism, about who we’ve become, and whether or not we who we are brings real value to the lives of young adults in terms of relationship. You ask the question, “Why attempt to recreate something that has not created value in their lives?” Excellent question.

      I think again of Gary Hamel’s article on the Facebook generation. In contrast to the static heirarchies of today’s institutions, he says,”Online hierarchies are inherently dynamic. The moment someone stops adding value to the community, his influence starts to wane. Power is always on the move, always flowing—towards those who are making a difference and away from those who aren’t.” I don’t think we realize just how easy it is for any business or church to be “unfriended” in a Facebook world.

      Perhaps part of the way forward is to focus on creating communities of value rather than communities of mere belief. John Mayer sings, “Belief is a beautiful armor, but it makes for the heaviest sword.” And that sword can be wielded against our own. Which may be why many churches today have begun to develop core values in addition to statements of belief. In a world as dysfunctional as ours, healthy love and community must be coached and modeled. Common values structure and guide our relationships with each other and those outside of the group. Perhaps the right values, consistently taught and practiced from leadership on down, could help to create the kind of safe and caring community young adults yearn for in our churches.

  11. johngrys says:

    The challenge for the emerging generation may be this: what does a generation do with organization of any kind when it feels that organization of any kind is not worth the time or energy to invest? Whatever the “cause,” will there be a “self-discovery” that some kind of organization is necessary? Is the discontent with organization of any kind or just the combination of organization and religion? Does “spirituality” become “religion” the moment spirituality is organized? If at the root of the challenge is their experience with organized “spirituality,” is there a way to healthfully process those experiences? People who have suffered from bad relationships, while maybe shying away from relationships at all, still recognize the value of relationships.

    Just a few more thoughts.

    • aamphd says:

      Great thoughts, but hoping for more than rhetorical questions. Do we have models of where organizations have been able to make the cultural shifts necessary to win back the confidence of leery emerging generations?

      I see it all the time in the corporate world, do we have any examples in the history of denominations?

  12. deeperguy says:

    It seems to me that the reason people are leaving the church is, frankly, because the church has become more about itself than about teaching the Good News. It’s not unique to the SDA denomination, many before it became the same way (there wouldn’t have needed to be a Reformation, for example).

    People, especially YA, want to make an IMPACT in their communities, but the church system hinders them from doing so, to the point where they feel useless and helpless to do anything for God. So they leave.

    Perhaps the idea worth considering is something akin to the Pivotal Design premise:

    Not that it’s THE answer, but it does give some definite food for thought.

    • aamphd says:

      Love the model put forward with pivotal design. Have been intrigued with the parallel universe that Ron has created. Great food for thought, any workable models of pivotal design within Adventism?

  13. SteveYeagley says:

    I’m enjoying this conversation about engaging young adults in the church. And I think the fact that it’s taking place online is significant. New media technologies represent a real shift in our relationship to institutional structures. Young adults are using technology 1) to shape and share their experiences, 2) to organize themselves into informal networks that seek community beyond walls and borders, and 3) to intentionally bypass traditional structures and institutions that, in the past, have controlled and mediated meaning and provided the boundaries for community and identity.

    I’m reminded of some research I read a few years ago from Reboot, a Jewish organization that teamed up with Greenberg|Quinlan|Rosner Research to look at the issues of faith, identity, and community among Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim youth ages 18-25.

    Their report “OMG! How Generation Y is Redefining Faith in the iPod Era,” begins by noting, “We are living in an era of change in which the individual is sovereign. By enabling every listener to be their own DJ, the iPod has forced the record industry to rethink its business model. By circumventing traditional party structures, has given ordinary people a more powerful voice in the Democratic Party. Tivo, a digital technology, offers television viewers the opportunity to create personal television schedules that do away with commercials, undermining both the networks and their advertisers. Even our most hierarchical institution, the U.S. Military, tries to pass itself off as ‘an Army of One.'”

    The report continues, “The iPod, Moveon, and Tivo allow their users to bypass the ‘middleman’ and take control of their own experiences, whether they are creating a song list or acting politically. The question of whether religious communities are injured from this generational expectation for personalization and customization is a critical one. The continued ability of our religious institutions to organize community and offer meaning is no small matter.”

    No small matter, indeed! What if the researchers are correct? What if the institutional church is increasingly perceived as a cumbersome “middleman” that gets in the way of those who want to participate more directly in spiritual community and meaning-making? What if those accustomed to participating in the “digital democracy” of online culture simply grow tired of playing by the old rules of church hierarchy? How do the fluid identities and liquid communities of digital natives merge with the fixed thinking and localized expressions of the church today? Would they even have the interest or ability to lead within such structures if given the opportunity?

    This may be the time to let David throw off Saul’s armor and to free young warriors to use what comes most naturally to them.

    Consider the advice of management guru Gary Hamel on how to empower natural leaders in the Facebook age:

    “Review the troubled history of any chronically struggling company—like Chrysler, Sony or Motorola—and you’ll find a management model that concentrated too much power in the hands of deadwood executives, and awarded too little power to the natural leaders who might have had the energy and vision to set the company on a new course.

    “But there’s no reason your organization has to follow suit. Natural leaders today have the means to challenge ossified and change-resistant power structures. Thanks to the reach of the Web, a lowly but brilliantly effective leader can mobilize followers across a global organization and beyond—by writing an influential blog, by using that notoriety to get a platform at industry events, by hosting a Web-based discussion on a hot topic, by building an online coalition of similarly-minded individuals, by disseminating a provocative position paper to hundreds or thousands of fellow employees, and by using email to ensure that supporters show up at key meetings. The same technology that allowed Barack Obama to challenge the old guard in the Democratic Party can help natural leaders in your organization outflank the bunglers and the obstructionists.”

    I appreciate Allan’s suggestion of taking personal and incremental steps toward empowering young leaders. I would like to add, however, that this may involve more than a mere “hand-off” of leadership. It may, in fact, necessitate a transformation of the church as we know it. We must not only be willing to give up a portion of our time, travel and telecasts. We have to be open to allowing a new kind of church to emerge, one equipped for new kinds of engagements.

    In recent years, the U.S. military has found itself fighting battles that are less conventional than those of previous wars. It has realized that in order to prevail, it must become a new kind of organization. More importantly, it has thought carefully about how it will incorporate a new generation of soldiers who differ significantly from those who served in the past. I’d recommend that you view the PBS piece “Soldier 2.0” for an excellent description of this.

    If an “army of youth, rightly trained” is to complete the work, the question must be asked, “What kind of army, trained in what types of warfare?” Any training will need to include a careful assessment of young adult’s native abilities, as well as a grasp of the new tasks and terrain that must be negotiated by the church they will lead. And then with their assistance, we must continue to reshape the church for its mission in the 21st century. It may not be “your dad’s army” but it will always be “God’s army” and we should move boldly forward on that premise.

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