Saturday, April 18, 2009

Doing it alone?

Do you ever get the impression that Adventists are evangelising the world completely on their own? That the burden of taking the gospel to the whole world is the task of Adventists all by themselves?

This issue struck me (again) yesterday as I was watching the latest Mission Spotlight. As I reflect on all the material we produce describing and praising the denomination's mission work, I find it hard to remember much talk at all about what other Christians are doing in spreading the gospel. Why is that?

Is it because we think we are the only ones who understand the true gospel?

Is it because we think that God is only using us to spread the gospel?

Is it because, deep down, we think that all other Christians are "Babylonians" and that we can't work with them?

Are we afraid that, if we worked with them — or at least saw ourselves as carrying out a similar task — we would have our uniqueness diluted and "the truth" contaminated?

I would love to see our Mission Spotlights referring to the work of other Christians in spreading the gospel. All groups are going to report on what they are doing themselves — that is entirely appropriate. But wouldn't it be good, just sometimes, to know that we are not out there alone? That other Christians are also spreading the gospel? That the burden is shared by others? And that, maybe together, we have a better chance of spreading the Good News of the kingdom throughout the world (see Matthew 24:14)?


  1. Though Parker makes an interesting, and perhaps valid point, Mission Spotlight has not been produced for at least a year. Perhaps he is referring to one of the other video-type reports currently being distributed to North American SDA churches.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with this perspective. Right now my Conference uses the population of our province as a goal for evangelizing for the Gospel. It leads me to conclude that all the other Christian faiths don't count. That God's work is only being done through Adventism. That ultimately, Adventism won't be happy until it's conquered entire civilizations.

    What if we weren't competitors? What if we were society servants? What if we saw ourselves as bringing the meager gifts that God has blessed us with and offering them where appropriate in blessing to the world around us?

  3. Sadly, I have to agree, here in Mexico most of the members see other Christians as competitors, many SDAs even try to "evangelize" them.

    I´ve even translated some excerpts from statements and documents from the GC website to tell some folks, that the official point of view of our church is not what they think.

    Relationships with Other Christian Churches and Religious Organizations

    A Seventh-day Adventist Statement on Religious Liberty, Evangelism, and Proselytism

    How Seventh-day Adventists View Roman Catholicism

    These are some of the excerpts, I translated:

    "Seventh-day Adventists regard all men and women as equal in the sight of God. We reject bigotry against any person, regardless of race, nationality, or religious creed. Further, we gladly acknowledge that sincere Christians may be found in other denominations, including Roman Catholicism, and we work in concert with all agencies and bodies that seek to relieve human suffering and to uplift Christ before the world.

    Seventh-day Adventists seek to take a positive approach to other faiths. Our primary task is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the context of Christ's soon return, not to point out flaws in other denominations."

    "Evangelistic and missionary activity needs to respect the dignity of all human beings. Individuals need to be truthful and transparent when dealing with other religious groups. Terminology should be used which avoids offending other religious communities. Statements which are false or ridicule other religions should not be made. "
    "To avoid creating misunderstanding or friction in our relationships with other Christian churches and religious organizations, the following guidelines have been set forth:

    1) We recognize those agencies that lift up Christ before men as a part of the divine plan for evangelization of the world, and we hold in high esteem Christian men and women in other communions who are engaged in winning souls to Christ.

    2) When interdivision work brings us in contact with other Christian societies and religious bodies, the spirit of Christian courtesy, frankness, and fairness shall prevail at all times."

  4. As stated in the Fundmental Beliefs Adventists appreciate any effort of Christians to exalt Christ before the world. At the same time, they realize that they have a unique message no-one within Christendom shares, regarding truths such as the Sabbath, the heavenly sanctuary, the state of the dead, the second coming of Christ before the millennium etc. God raised the Advent movement to be His appointed gathering agency for all His children that are scattered over this world's churches and religions. While we do not commend those institutions that are identified by Scripture as Babylon we do not engage in taking up the task of judging the individual.

    The point is: Let's shun the extremes. The Adventist Church is a unique church because it is the fulfilment of Bible prophecy. This does not mean that we are arrogant as long as the claim is true. Neither does it mean we regard ourselves superior to other Christians and avoid contact. But also, it doesn't mean we are just one more church on the block. Let's be humble, but let's not deny that God has a people of His own sovereign appointment in this world as foretold in prophecy just as He had one in Old Testament times.

    Honestly, it's not that hard to reconcile those aspects, is it?

  5. Johannes, thanks for your thoughts. I am curious, where in the bible can you point to the Adventist Church being the fulfillment of Bible prophecy?

  6. Marcel, there are several facts that point in that direction. Knight's latest book Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism is a strong case for that, especially coming from a credible and unbiased historian who has left the church and come back.

    Marvin Moore's Could it Really Happen offers a lot of evidence in that direction as well.

    You should read them with an open mind, but DO read them.

  7. Thanks, I'm well aware of the book, having edited three reviews of it myself (but have yet to read it). Aside from that, I'm looking for the scriptural reference that unequivocally lays to rest the claim "The Adventist Church is a unique church because it is the fulfilment of Bible prophecy."

  8. Depends what you are looking for. Are you looking for our precise name in Daniel and Revelation? You wouldn't find it.

    If you're looking for a special people in the end of times that would stress the importance of God's 10 Commandments and the faith of Jesus (according to Revelation), then you would be closer to an answer. No other church seems to care about the right version of the 10 Commandments and having accepted an altered version thereof.

    But that's not really our main uniqueness. We were raised to call people to "Fear God and give him Glory, for the hour of his judgment has come." We are called to stress the importance of the Second Coming and his judgment. You won't find that in any other church either.

    Anyway, these are some points to consider. If we are indeed in the end times, than the SDA Church is preaching and fulfilling prophecy.

  9. Actually many other Christians are talking about the second coming and God's Judgment. Most importantly they are preaching Christ and Him crucified.
    Some of our evangelists are preaching doctrine to the detriment of the Truth (Christ is the Truth). They be giving truth but not the whole truth (which we cannot know in this world).
    If the doctrine does not include why it is important to Christ (Sabbath rest is rest in Christ), then it is worthless. We may get converts that like novel and new ideas, but if they are still beating their wives (as an example) of what use is it?
    As I read church papers, it appears that the word "Adventist" is in every paragraph. That seems like obsession with self. We are a self-centered church who seems to think the world depends on us for its salvation. This is arrogance and pride. Like the Laodicean church that thinks it has everything.
    The only perfection the last-day remnant will have is that of perfect love reflected from Christ. We will not be saved by knowledge any more than works. Dependence on Christ and not ourselves and our knowledge is the most important need for the end-time people.
    The person who goes to church on Sunday to worship and rests in Christ, is keeping the Sabbath more than the one who goes on the right day out of duty.
    The unique doctrines are only the frame on a picture and not the picture (Christ). Some preach the frame and leave out the picture or maybe just give it a passing mention. Conversion and saving souls does not mean converting to a set of doctrines.
    Sometimes doctrine (with secular audiences) can be used to tell what God is like as an opening wedge, especially telling people there is no everburning hell kept up by God. But most doctrines should come later after Christ is presented.