Today, I begin a new series on independent and self-supporting ministries with the view of providing some clarity and understanding to these ministries.
Defining Independent and Self-Supporting Ministries
Independent Ministries refer generally to those organizations and individuals who supposedly work along the church, assisting the church in advancing its mission and message. Within the context of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Wikipedia notes, “Supporting ministries are those that exist to support the church's ministry. The Seventh-day Adventist church recognizes the contribution made by these organizations as being such that the main church is unable to contribute to.” Furthermore, it explains that such organizations “adhere to official church guidelines and do not openly solicit tithe or solicit money from members during official functions” (Ibid). Philip W. Dunham and Maylan Schurch, in their book entitled Blinded by The Light: The Anatomy of Apostasy, estimate that there are some 800 such ministries that are mostly supportive of the church and its teachings. Additionally, Matthew A. Bediako, former Executive Secretary of the General Conference, in an article in the Review, pointed out that those “who provide and receive these services have been equally blessed.” And as a means to coordinate these ministries, their strategies, plans and foster communication, “the General Conference appointed a committee to oversee these key objectives. The committee's goal is to encourage mission initiatives, while at the same time preserving unity, order, and financial support for the basic church structure.”
Examples of Such Ministries
Self-supporting and Independent initiatives include some of the well-known ministries such as:
HKEA Evangelistic Alliance
My Gospel Workers
The Voice of Prophecy
Quiet Hour Ministries (formerly The Quiet Hour)
It Is Written
Voice of Prophecy
White Horse Media
Firstlight Broadcasting Network
The above list is not exhaustive as there are more international and of course local ministries within some of our local fields. However, not all independent or self-supporting ministries work in tandem with the church, and therefore the following section.
Self-Supporting Ministries Viewed With Concern
Back in 2000 Woodrow W. Whidden wrote in a Ministry Magazine article, “In Self-supporting, ‘supporting,’ and ‘independent’ ministries are terms that have created considerable discomfort and confusion in the minds of many Adventists in recent years.” He explained, “These expressions encompass Adventist para-church groups and organizations that normally have some missionary, evangelistic, revival, or reform (theological or lifestyle) goal as their reason for existence. ‘Self-supporting’ and ‘supporting’ groups have generally been positively viewed by denominational administrators. It is the ‘independent’ ministries that have raised the most concern.” (Ministry Magazine, August 2000).
Whidden detected that the ‘independent’ ministry groups all seem to have two things in common:
1. The vast majority of these groups proclaim their loyalty to the formal denominational organization. This, however, is usually followed with a careful listing of the church's numerous faults and theological defects.
2. While affirming loyalty to the church, such organizations deliberately claim that the church is deficient both in doctrinal purity and ethical accomplishment.
What should be the approach of the church toward such groups? Next week, I will continue my research based on Independent Ministries.