I have been out of the Seventh-day Adventist church almost as long as I was in the Seventh-day Adventist church. Since I have been among and ministering within non-Adventist churches, I have observed some things that I have always thought would be worth sharing with my Adventist friends. These are observations that I wish were shared with me when I was a SDA pastor.
Where these observations come from..
Immediately after leaving the SDA church I became involved in a local United Methodist Church where I had opportunity to preach. I later became involved in ministry and preaching with Southern Baptist churches, including church support ministry within a Southern Baptist Association (it compares to an SDA Conference), and I served as a hospital chaplain for several years with an area Catholic hospital and a Baptist hospital.
So, here they are…
- The first thing I observed was how ignorant other Christians are about Seventh-day Adventist. Whenever I mentioned being a former SDA minister, invariably I would be asked, “What do they believe?” I even knew a Southern Baptist pastor whose congregation rented from an SDA church and he told me he asked the Adventist pastor multiple times to explain what the SDA church believed and the Adventist pastor never answered his questions seemingly trying to gloss over his interest only mentioning that they were similar to Baptist in Salvation, Scripture, and Baptism.
- On multiple occasions, individuals have told me how they knew an SDA but they never spoke about their beliefs. At one hospital where I was a chaplain, we had a nurse who was an SDA and her peers expressed to me that while she was a good RN, all they knew was that her religion forbid her to wear jewelry or eat meat.
- In my ministry as a hospital chaplain I have worked with Catholic priests, sat with Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians of a million flavors. When I listen to them expound their unique beliefs while confidently explaining totally ridiculous unfounded unreasonable convictions and quoting obscure religious leaders, I had often wondered why Adventist aren’t as open with their doctrines?
- I may be a former Adventists, but from time to time I still read or refer to some things written by Ellen White, not as in “as a lesser light” just as one who writes on biblical issues like other writers have. What has humored me over these years outside Adventism is how frequently I will reference Ellen White in my pastoral ministry and writing, recalling how often as an SDA we would try to mask her from our own pulpits as if we needed to hide her identity (in the doctrine of the church) while dealing with non-Adventists.
- To the former SDA minister who has left the SDA church, for whatever reason, I want you to know that there is pastoral ministry outside of the Adventist church. There are many of us out here who have continued our ministry in the cause of the gospel, although most have chosen to quietly do so without making any mention of prior affiliation with the SDA church.
- Protestant churches aren’t very different from SDA churches in their polity, parishioner problems, passion for their mission, and in their belief that Jesus is coming soon.
- Unlike SDA churches, most evangelical churches like Baptist, do not require that each new member sign-off on a set of doctrinal belief statements, except that they have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, so there are members in these churches that personally can and do agree with some Adventist doctrines.
- I’ve learned that legalism has many faces. Those of us who have escaped what we perceived as legalism in the SDA church have soon discovered that other denominations have their own pet legalistic beliefs and practices, they just come in ways and forms other than diet and Sabbath keeping.
- I think that in God’s eyes, Christian denominations are like children and grandchildren who have different personalities, appearances, quirks, and interests, but He loves them all and desires that we multiply His likeness in the world, even though they each only posses a limited likeness to Him, but collectively can reach all.