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Summer 2016

Recently, over Sabbath dinner, we had an interesting and enlightening conversation with several committed Adventist young people, specifically medical students, about spirituality and their perception of our church. Some were interested in and affirmed an understanding of, and commitment to, Adventist doctrine; others expressed little interest in . . . our more distinctive doctrines, such as the sanctuary, a literal 7-day creation week, and the Sabbath.
The general sentiment, however, was that prior generations of Adventists spent way too much time discussing and arguing over doctrine, and far too little time focused on real issues, such as poverty, inequality, tolerance, acceptance and more inclusiveness of groups like the LGBT community. Several expressed an affinity for working closer with other Christian groups that do a “better job” of reaching out; others said that our unique doctrines prevent us from being more inclusive, tolerant, and loving.
There truly is a postmodern mindset in this latest generation, while it very much values spirituality there is less interest in traditional “religion”. The young generation is not typically doctrineoriented, and find many of our unique beliefs of little value, or even divisive. They see themselves as inclusive, loving, and they have a passion for ministry, particularly for the disadvantaged.
I find this generation to be thoughtful and looking for a real way to be engaged, while shunning the part-time religion of their parents that appears compartmentalized around church on Sabbath but does not seem to extend into ‘regular life’ the rest of the week. This generation is looking for practical, even radical, ministry.
I was also struck by the fact that the few students who still voiced confidence in our unique doctrines and mission as Seventhday Adventists were raised in homes actively engaged in ministry or mission service. Some even spent a year in mission service, which allowed them to identify with the uniqueness of Adventism. The point is, it seems, that Adventist education has largely lost the practical side and does not capitalize on the opportunity for mentorship.
Many of us, as young people in medical and dental school, were also idealistic and had aspirations of doing something meaningful in the world. Over the years some of us have become jaded, disappointed with religion or church organization, and maybe have been lulled into a listless faith.
No question, the older generation would benefit from the enthusiasm and idealism of the youth; at the same time, the youth could greatly benefit from association with men and women of experience who are actively engaged in ministry. “We just want to be listened to and heard,” one of the young people said, “and we appreciate being able to talk with an older generation who could explain some things without feeling judged.” Mentorship is, therefore, crucial to helping our young people understand our doctrines and their relevance. Equally important are opportunities for the older generation to practically apply what we preach.
AMEN is uniquely poised to help in this process with our mentoring program; it pairs up experienced clinicians with students, and involves students in outreach, such as AMEN free clinics, as well as other ministries like Pathways, and overseas mission trips. The final work of giving the Everlasting Gospel to the world will involve all of us working together: ministers, physicians, dentists, and other laypeople. I believe this will be done most successfully, and our strengths maximized, by pairing our youth with men and women of experience.