Joel Sarli was Associate Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and the second editor of Elder’s Digest when this article was written.

One evening, I asked a pastor friend why he looked so discouraged. He immediately admitted his low emotional state and started to explain: "We planned a series of evangelistic meetings here at the church. The plan was solid. Everything we did was designed for our people to bring their non-Adventist friends with them. My worst fears were confirmed. As far I could tell, of the two hundred or so who attended, only two of our people brought anyone with them. My conclusion is that their neighbors aren't really their friends."

Many contemporary Adventists have abdicated from the world. In trying to be godly, we have confused Jesus' injunction to be "separate" with social segregation. It seems that in some way we are afraid of being contaminated by the sins of society. We let the activities of our church and relationship with our fellow Christians dominate our lives. We worship together, meet in small groups for Bible studies and nurture during the week, and talk on the phone to arrange social events for the weekend. We send our children to Adventist schools and depend on each other's children to be our babysitters. We sense that the world is dangerous to our faith, so we set up a subculture within the larger society.

Instead of cultivating significant relationship with people outside God's family, we stifle meaningful contact with the very people who could benefit from experiencing life with serious Adventists.

This approach to the Adventist life contradicts what Jesus taught during His last week on earth. Jesus knew that His time on this planet was nearing an end, and He left clear instructions about how His followers should relate to the world. Essentially, He said, "Do as I have done."' As Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father on behalf of His disciples, he spelled out His directives and expectations. John 17 details the account: "I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world.... They are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one.... As You sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world (verses 11, 14, 15, 18).

The tragedy of the modern Adventist Church in some places is that Jesus' strategy for evangelizing the society with the good news of the gospel has been reversed. Instead of being in the world but not of the world, too many of God's committed people are of the world but not in the world. They have been both captured and intimidated by the environment. They have been seduced by the world and have adopted the world's way as their own they are "of" the world. They have succumbed to a kind of social segregation they are not "in" the world.

How can our neighbors taste the goodness of the Adventist message if we don't give them the opportunity to try it? It is time for our congregations to recapture the true meaning of the words of Jesus in John 17. It is time for us make the local congregation alive again as an agency of winning souls to Jesus Christ.