My name is Mitchell Powers, I am a Seventh-day Adventist, and I am actively choosing to continue to be an Adventist believer. I adore the message and convictions of the Adventist Church and my intention is to seek out the doctrines of the Bible earnestly and to practice the theology of the Bible in a wholesome fashion. As such, however, as an aspiring pastor and growing academic in theology and religion, I believe God has given me a hard message to bring to the Adventist Church that might bring forward an amount of change and recalibration in our church.
This message is an appeal to those in the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference, to those who are members of local churches, to those who run publishing houses from Fulcrum to Spectrum, to our hospitals and schools, from inner cities to rural landscapes. This isn’t a letter to depress, shame, or infuriate but rather to call the church at large to aim higher in social justice, to love better, and to grow in deeper faith and more honest and wholesome in theology.
The Adventist Church is a brilliant conduit for people of many backgrounds to experience Jesus. However, the church at large has several areas of needed growth.
The Bible hosts prophets like Jeremiah, Isaiah, Jonah, Amos, and several others who have potent messages to redirect their own church communities, or communities God needed to communicate with. Likewise, I am presenting five points that I am calling upon the church to hear with open hearts and with a Spirit-led mind.
These points are not indicative of every leader, member, pastor, chaplain, or worker in the church but cover a list of topics that other children of God have called out to improve in our church. To this, we must give a careful ear.
Dear Adventist church,
1. We have stripped unity from the community.
In churches, members are separated over the politics of society and forget their neighbor’s illness, depression, or poverty. Because of political agendas, we, the church, have turned a blind eye to those who vote differently. Is it not said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”1 we must set aside our political agendas, set aside our selfish ambitions, and act like we mean what we say when we claim ourselves to be a Christian! It is okay to vote differently, think differently, and believe and invest in different things, persons, and systems, but we cannot, as a church, let those matters separate us from being loving, unified, and best serving the world. Is it not said, “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”2
2. Our evangelism is dead.
Our methodology is buried with our ancestors. Ellen G. White said, “Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence.”3 Tell me, church, is hiding in our sanctuaries and groups, waiting for the end to come, truly “reaching the people?” Do we desire the good of the people or a new, sound system? Are we always sympathetic to people in need or only when it might benefit us? Christ’s method will give true success, however, our church statistics and outreach numbers promote a lack of success. Is our current church ministerial method a working Christ method as White suggested? If so, where is the “true success”?
3. We have stopped at “Happy Sabbath.”
We expect new members to magically walk through the door on a Sabbath morning. We say, “Happy Sabbath,” shake a hand or two, and sing our worship songs. Meanwhile, thousands are on the streets, millions in slavery, and many in depression. As God said to a worshipful people who neglected the poor, “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me . . . Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.”4 Church, the most sinister sin to Yahweh is that of despising the poor, not taking care of the widows, and neglecting the orphans.5 I trust that it is no bold statement to say that if we too neglect those in need as a church and yet still gather in warm worship shelters with food and running water, then maybe God might also “despise our religious festivals.” What good are our hymns, our stained-glass windows, our quarterlies if we do not reach out to the poor, love single mothers, and address poverty?
We must walk very carefully, church. Remember Ezekiel who said, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”6 Have your potlucks, but until they are shared every week with the needy and hungry, we are no better than Sodom.
4. Our modality is judgment first, then hospitality.
Coffee drinkers, moviegoers, those in jeans or those wearing jewelry—many people who have entered an Adventist church and do not fit the stereotypical Adventist lifestyle receive a cold shoulder or side comment between members. Is it not Jesus, whom we worship, who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”7
Church leaders, elders, CEOs, teachers, and members alike, what if we approached people with a genuine and empathetic heart? What if we sought out people’s stories instead of casting out those who might not be able to afford the nice suits we wear? Our judgment is dated; hospitality is what’s in.
5. Our ordination is an abomination.
Let me speak to those in the president’s administration. I have high respect for all that you do. You have spent hours in conversations that were weighted with difficult material, but I fear some of the Adventist leaders have lost their way and have hardened their hearts to the convictions of God. They have been persuaded by tradition instead of guided by the Holy Spirit.
For those sitting in the big seats of the church committees, what do you have to say for yourselves when we talk about women’s ordination? Are you proud of your decision? Do you not know that it was Jochebed who discerned God’s guidance and provided to history the life of Moses or that it was Deborah who led lawfully a lawless nation?8,9 How about Ruth, who was a virtuous ancestor of Jesus, or Mary, the loving mother of Jesus, or the dedicated women who stayed by Jesus’s side during the crucifixion? What then can you say about our own pioneer and prophet, Ellen G. White? Are these brilliant women not created by God and ordained to do great work in the church? Do you not know that by prescribing who can and cannot be ordained, you take on the role of God and assume the responsibility of declaring who can or cannot officially minister? Is not ordination itself an adaptation from the Catholic church? What is there to say for the hypocrisy and injustice and errors of our ways?
There is grace, there is mercy, and there is love. God has destined you, me, our leaders, and our church to do great things in this world and to love the world more than we could ever imagine. We might falter, but in the points mentioned above, perhaps we, as the church, might prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in what our best next step is.
To the reader,
Know that the purpose of this piece is to call out the general errors and injustices of the Adventist Church, not to give a full, fair, or accurate representation of any one singular person. My prayer is that this message might spark questions and plant seeds that the Holy Spirit will work with.
Let us not fault ourselves and generations to come by not evaluating our mistakes, but may we be blessed by opening our hearts to the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we may better grow to be like Jesus.
Notes & References:
1. Mark 3:25, NIV
2. 1 Thessalonians 5:14, NIV
3. Ministry of Healing, Ellen G. White
4. Amos 5:21-23, NIV
5. James 1:27, NIV
6. Ezekiel 16:49-50, NIV
7. Matthew 11:28-30, NIV
8. Exodus 2:1, NIV
9. Judges 4:4, NIV
Mitchell Powers is a religion student at Walla Walla University with a concentration in business and an emphasis on social welfare. He serves as the student lead chaplain and student association spiritual vice president.
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