See also Greg Taylor's Biblical Journey.
People have often asked me this question, "How can anyone ever leave the Seventh-day Adventist Church?" I have asked the question myself in times past. "How could a person step away from this message having come to know all the church teaches?" My observations have been that if people left Adventism it was because they had lost their spiritual direction, or had fallen into some sinful lifestyle. This trend has changed in the past number of years, however. More and more people are leaving Adventism and actually becoming more devoted to Christ in the process. This just does not make sense to many in the church because they believe Adventism is "the truth". How can a person leave "the truth" and still follow Jesus? Even more foreign to this way of thinking is the notion that someone could actually be led out of Adventism as a part of their spiritual growth process. This is the question that I wish to address in the next few pages. I hope you will listen to my journey and prayerfully examine what I have to say. Check things out with the Scriptures to see whether these things are so.
I was born and raised Adventist. I went to SDA schools all the way from grade school through my masters degree. While I did take an excursion away during my teens and early twenties, my name was never removed from the SDA church books. I was baptized at age twelve even though I did not know Jesus. I was brought up in a legalistic home that strongly followed the teachings of E.G. White. I knew a lot about the law, but little about grace. I was one of those kids that wanted to do right but just did not seem to be able to. So, in time, my failure to live up to all the rules caused me to become discouraged. When I finished at the church- sponsored highschool, or academy as they are called (got kicked out actually), I gave up on God and the church. I ran from anything that sounded like God. This choice nearly destroyed my life and ended with my addiction to drugs and alcohol. For nearly four years I suffered from this addictive lifestyle without hope and in failing health. My life was totally falling apart. I decided to try Jesus one night while I was on a drug experience, and I have never been the same since. The Lord reached down and touched this hard heart of mine in spite of my desperate condition, and He breathed into me new life. I became a born again child of God. I will ever praise the name of Jesus for His unfailing love for me!
As soon as I became a Christian, I checked into a Christian recovery center called the Bridge Fellowship in Kentucky. There I started reading God's Word and growing as a Christian as well as getting clean (sober). After seven months there, the way was opened through my parents to go to Southern Adventist University (then S.C.). I went there as a Christian wary of the denomination but anxious to learn about God. Interested in training so I could share the good news with others, I became involved with the student ministry opportunities there on campus and found many Christian friends. It was at Southern that I became an Adventist by conviction. I studied education because I had a passion to teach in a church highschool and help other kids learn about Jesus rather than just legalistic church rules. But by the time I was a senior, the local conference leaders sought me out to ask me if I would consider becoming a pastor. By this time I was willing to consider serving as a pastor, something I had sensed God leading me to from my childhood, but I had resisted even through most of my college experience. I accepted the call, and served as an intern for one year at one of the local churches there.
During this time, a theology crisis hit the church. Desmond Ford was removed from his teaching position at PUC for his views regarding the Investigative Judgement. Walter Rea was removed from his pastorate because he brought to light the extensive copying that had been done by E.G. White in the writing of her many books. To call the impact on the Adventist community devastating would be an understatement. My senior pastor ended up leaving the SDA system discouraged. I went on to seminary wondering if I was an Adventist. One thing was clear, I knew from my own research in the manuscript documents that E.G. White did borrow extensively from other authors and often attached the "I was shown" phrase to it. I also knew that the doctrine of the Investigative Judgement had serious problems. So I went to Andrews Theological Seminary knowing that I was in a precarious position as far as the church was concerned. I took my new wife of 18 months and went to Berrien Springs.
Several things happened to me at AU that saved me for the SDA ministry. First, several professors just poured grace into me. Ivan Blazen was a Godsend. I flourished under his teaching. I also was blessed by Raoul Dederen and Hans LaRondelle. These men helped me see that the perfectionism of those in the church that opposed Ford was not the position of all the professors. Next, I was able to study the Investigative Judgement and was given a few plausible explanations which at the time quieted my concerns. I know now that these solutions were grossly inadequate, but they were helpful at the time. What is more, some experts from the White Estate came to the campus with a lawyer's report that exonerated E.G. White of legal culpability in the plagiarism charges. While I know today that this was only because of the legal loopholes in the law of her day, not because it was not illegal or wrong, it still quieted my thinking.
The final and most important factor was my first wife, after a little over two years of marriage decided that she was no longer interested in being married. When she left just before the midterms of the winter quarter, my main focus for the next year and a half was to survive. I moved away from the theological difficulties to focus on my own grieving process. I had to leave my issues with the church on hold in order to survive. I did not directly deal with the theological issues for many years. My confidence in E.G.White was never the same after that however. I knew that there were severe problems with her authority . I still read in Desire of Ages and Steps to Christ, but I knew that to use her as a biblical commentary on the level with scripture was to ignore the problems with her credibility.
While at Andrews I made the acquaintance of a pretty young communications student named Paula Wesner. We talked a good bit, and were acquainted through campus ministry activities. While we never dated until after I graduated from the Seminary, we developed a great friendship. Upon leaving Andrews we started a long distance relationship that was to end with us getting married in March of 1985.
Paula and I threw ourselves into ministry. At first we pastored in a couple of district settings. We did the evangelistic meetings, etc. I became increasingly uncomfortable with the traditional evangelistic methods, which focused on last-day events and prophetic interpretation. I felt my calling was to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to lead them to Him as their Savior, and help them learn to live in relationship with Him. What I encountered mostly in the traditional approach was targeted at people already in a church somewhere. The sessions only had one or two nights dedicated to the Gospel, and the rest to our distinctive doctrines. I felt much of the methodology of hiding our name and using a public hall was deceptive. Much of the content of the seminars and series was based on proof texts that I knew were suspect. They were not supported by context. I began to feel frustrated with the district pastorate, and when an opportunity came to be a full time youth pastor, I jumped at the chance. We went to Kettering, Ohio and served the youth of that church for six and a half years.
Paula is a natural at hospitality, and I love sharing basic Christianity. It was a perfect setup. We got far away from the theological issues and right into the important ministry of leading these kids to Jesus. Most of them had, like me, been raised in the church but did not know Jesus. Paula provided a warm hospitable environment where this could take place. We saw many kids come to Christ, and some go into full time ministry.
During this time, however, I needed to learn about balance. Youth ministry is extremely time demanding. Planning all week and leading events all weekend (often intointo the wee hours of the morning) took their toll. I almost burned out and quit ministry at that time. Thanks to God and to a few good friends I was nursed bach to health and found another breakthrough in my spiritual life. I experienced a deepening of my walk with the Lord that was like a conversion on a much deeper level. Paula was growing too. Not just spiritually! She was pregnant with our first son, Jordan. Soon Matthew came along too. These two gifts from the Lord helped us understand God's love for us in a whole new and deeper way. God's grace is so amazing!
Along with children came the realization that we could not keep up the youth ministry and remain balanced. We had a family of our own now to minister to. We also had a deep sense that God was calling us to something special. One day the call came to go to Asheville, NC. There was a church that was trying to move to more contemporary methods of outreach. They were using youth ministry principles to reach adults for Jesus. They were trying methods used by the Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. We prayed much about the decision, because we were well aware of the dangers of trying to transition a church to a more contemporary model. Many have tried and few succeeded. So we prayed intensely for God's guidance. After many clear indications of His providence, we moved to North Carolina. This began an intense yet rewarding season of ministry. A tremendous personal and spiritual growth took place in us. God blessed our church too. In spite of the fact that some 50 people left during the transition from a traditional to a contemporary model, we grew from an average attendance of 120 before the transition to where we now have a vibrant congregation of 500 members. We truly saw the hand of the Lord in the renewal at the Foster church. My evangelism gift was able to be used in such a way that did not force me to use the traditional methods. Paula was able to use her gifts in hospitality and creative communication, and our boys were able to enjoy many friends and a great community.
During this time we visited Willow Creek for numerous training events. We were so moved by the connection with other Christians who love Jesus and are sold out to reaching the world for Him. The worship times were like a little taste of heaven for us. I remember us discussing how this movement of God was so much more vibrant than anything we had ever experienced in Adventism. I remember thinking and discussing with Paula that the remnant people of God will be people passionate for reaching the lost and who love worship. That is the message of the first angel of Revelation 14:6+7. We had such a deep desire to see these things happen in our own local church. Much of what we learned at Willow Creek we tried to share back home. Gradually God lead us as a church to a more open and expressive style of worship and a deeper commitment to reaching lost people.
For a long time I had a problem with the idea that the Adventists were the one and only remnant church. I felt that the focus was too small and believed the concept of a remnant message rather than that of a "remnant church" was a more realistic interpretation of Revelation 12. The problem of the lack of spiritual renewal in most SDA churches and the presence of abundant life in others outside our church kept bothering me. After about five years at Foster we started to level off in our growth. We were still a vibrant church, but it seemed that we were not truly reaching our target group, unchurched people. While we did reach some unchurched folk, most of the ones we were reaching had some Adventist background. Not that this is not an important group to reach, but that is mostly all we were reaching. I would pray and pray about this. My evangelism gift was burning inside me, yet it seemed that something was blocking my effectiveness. I began to think that there must be something wrong with me. I spent much time soul searching. Is this just an ego thing that makes me want to have a large church, or is it the compassion for lost people that is driving me? I went for some Christian counseling which was most helpful in solving some issues from my past that I was not aware of, and the issues of success/failure that I was dealing with. I was able to look at the parts of me that needed healing and confess them to the Lord, and receive His forgiveness.
Meanwhile, the church remained plateaued. I found that I was not so interested in the size of the church as I was in using the evangelistic gifts God had called me to use. This was a time of deep soul-searching. I knew something was blocking God's plan for using this gift in my life, but I didn't know what it was. We explored a few calls, but did not sense the Lord leading us away at that time. I would go away for spiritual retreats and fast and pray asking God for direction. I would claim Luke 11:11-13 for the presence of the Holy Spirit and for clear direction from God.
About this time a friend in a similar ministry had Carl George, an outreach and church growth specialist, come to his church to study it. His churches' growth had plateaued as well. Carl George's assessment was that they could not break into the unchurched community because of the Sabbath issues. This was too great a barrier for most people not brought up or married into Adventism. For pastors who are called to reach people for Jesus, this seemed problematic. We must reach the world yet we are encountering a barrier that is a part of the very structure of Adventism. At the time, I just accepted that if God wanted to use us to reach people outside the system, He would make a way.
Meanwhile, a couple of my friends in similar ministries left Adventism to start non denominational churches. Their initial separation from the SDA church was a result of financial issues between themselves and the conferences they were in. They were struggling to support a full church ministry and send 100% of their tithe away to the conference. This issue is one that every Adventist pastor faces, so I was sympathetic with their situation. However, shortly thereafter they moved away from the seventh-day Sabbath to a Sunday worship format. I must admit that at the time I was angry with them. Not in a rage sort of way, but I felt they had caused a dark spot to be placed on the already shaky contemporary evangelism movement within the church. I had been much less concerned when they left the church over issues with the tithe, since the SDA system does severely strangle the local church of resources. Adventist pastors from the most conservative to the most progressive have problems with that. I had hoped that they would prove that churches could be successful without being a part of the system financially. But the Sabbath issue discredited them in my eyes and in the eyes of most of the SEA church community. I told them how I felt. They were both gracious to listen to my concerns, shared a few of their ideas, and were Christian gentlemen toward me.
When these pastor friends left Adventism and later the Sabbath, I went through a time of study. My primary reason for being an Adventist was the Sabbath. I had believed up to that point that Adventism was the closest church I had ever encountered to teaching Bible truth. For this reason I was solidly an Adventist by conviction, in spite of my concerns regarding Ellen White, the Investigative Judgement and the remnant church teachings. I was convinced that Sabbath was God's special day. My sermons during this time were clearly direct on this issue. I also taught new believers that, while Adventism was not a perfect church, it was the closest to biblical truth as I understood it. Therefore, I had no problem calling people to make a commitment to becoming part of the Adventist church. I would often continue by stating that if I ever discovered greater truth in the Bible I would follow it.
I studied the materials that my friends, who had left the denomination, recommended. I also poured over materials written by Adventist theologians including Samuel Bacchiocchi, the Church's foremost authority on the Sabbath. In addition, I consulted two of our denomination's most respected professors and writers with a passion to prove where my friends were wrong. I read, studied and convinced myself that the Adventists have the truth on the Sabbath. I also believed E. G. White had the spiritual gift of prophecy even though not reliable as an interpreter of scripture. I saw Adventists as having a remnant message although not exclusively, and the 1844 Investigative Judgement, though complicated, could be made to agree with EGW's position with some creative imagination and proof- texting. But the kingpin for me was the Sabbath. You do away with that and you have no Adventist church. After all it is part of the name!
About this time my family and I were preparing to start on a Sabbatical. We had planned to travel around the USA and see national parks and on the weekends visit churches. That is just what we did. We had a wonderful trip. All along the way we asked the Lord to show us what He wanted us to do with our lives. We wanted to be open to His leadership and follow Him no matter what the cost. Having a whole summer to study, pray, listen and observe seemed like a great way to hear God's voice. And it was a wonderful summer. I would pray and listen each day. Each time I sensed the Lord telling me to just wait. God let me know through deep prayer and study that what He wanted me to learn from the sabbatical experience would hit me all at once and it would be biblical and crystal clear.
During the summer we were struck with the lack of spiritual vitality in all of the Adventist churches we visited. While the people were sincere, there was such a dearth of life it was depressing. It was almost as if they were just going through the motions of "doing church". The Sunday churches were the other way around. With the exception of one church we visited, all of them had such life and joy that it was contagious. We would rejoice when we were in these churches of various denominations or independent communities. When we would visit the SDA churches, we would get so sad and depressed. I remember praying, "Why, Lord, if the Sabbath is so significant and part of your moral law that is binding on all Christians, why are you clearly blessing other churches, while the Adventist churches are, at best, maintaining?" We came back from our Sabbatical energized on the one hand and saddened on the other. We were so glad to get back into our church where there was some vibrancy. Before I went back to work I spent three days by myself on a spiritual retreat studying and praying for God's leading for the next season of ministry. I journaled, studied, prayed and reflected. Still the same answer. "You will know what I have for you to learn, and it will be soon. I have a plan for your life and will reveal it through My Word."
Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. I got a call from a fellow Adventist pastor and long time friend that I know is in love with Jesus like few others in my life. I have great respect for his walk with the Lord and commitment to following Him no matter the cost. He opened up to me and shared that he had been studying the Sabbath and was not sure our SDA position was biblically based on the New Testament. It blew me away to say the least, but he mentioned the same issues I had been having concerning the non-sabbatarian churches having such an obvious anointing of the Spirit of God while ours were struggling. I shared my struggles with this question. To make a long story short, several others of my friends that I know are sold out to Jesus were all simultaneously dealing with the same issue. That began an intense time of study for me. I went back to the materials I had studied to argue with my former Adventist collegues, and this time I decided to study them with an open Bible and an open mind. Perhaps God was trying to tell me something. What I learned from God's word has literally upset my world. At the same time it has been the most liberating and soul satisfying study I have ever embarked on. True to His promise, God has radically transformed my way of thinking. Paula has been blessed deeply by this study also. We have come to an understanding of the Bible in a whole new and powerful way.
I was amazed to discover that the New Testament does not teach Sabbath the way I thought it did. I learned from Colossians 2:16-17, Galatians 4:10, Romans 14:5-6, and Hebrews 3-4, that Sabbath was an institution that pointed forward to Jesus and therefore was no longer binding on Christians. The New Testament points to a Person (Jesus) as the true Sabbath, not a day. I discovered that The Law is reinterpreted, in Christ, for all believers. The New Testament makes very clear which portions of The Law have carried over in Christ and which have not. Finally, I found that the day of worship is NOT the final test of loyalty to God, rather the test is a full surrender to Jesus Christ sealed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I realize that this understanding needs further development, so I have included a brief survey of my discovery process in the appendix. I would highly recommend taking the time to read and study this material and see whether these things are so.
I remember some years ago there was a "Hidden Picture" craze. These pictures showed up in offices, books, lobbies, etc. Often there could be seen crowds of people gathered around these pictures, that appeared at first glance to be nothing more than a bunch of colors randomly splashed across the page. Nothing more. But as people would concentrate on these works of art, one after another would exclaim loudly, "I see it! I see it!" Then they would immediately coach others on the correct way to look at the painting so they could see it too. I would do my share of staring at these pictures too. I wanted to see whatever it was that was so exciting in these otherwise strange looking paintings. But I was not one of the fortunate ones. I saw nothing.
Then one day I sat down in front of one of these wall hung versions with some time to kill and just stared. It must have been 15-20 minutes I sat there just staring. I was just about to give up and call the whole thing a farce when all at once I saw it! A beautiful three dimensional rendition of the Statue of Liberty seemed to jump off of the canvas. It was truly amazing! I could hardly believe it. Soon I was leafing through a book of similar paintings looking for their hidden secrets. What a discovery! Once I made that initial discovery, all of the pictures seemed to come alive. I could never look at one of these Hidden Pictures the same again.
In much the same way the scriptures came to life for me as I studied. At first I saw what I had always seen. But then one day it came to life for me. I began to see the Bible as I had never seen it before. Once seeing the truth come to life like this I could not see the Bible the same way again. I do not in any way want to put down anyone else's understanding of scripture. Nor do I want to say that I am right and others are wrong. All I can say is that I have seen a picture of God and His word that has shattered all my previous paradigms. I am grateful for this gift of God's grace.
Let me say one more thing. The study of the Sabbath, because of my position as an Adventist pastor, carried enormous personal risk. Everything I have ever known as a Christian and a minister could be at risk. My wife also has deep connections in the church. We have life long friends we hold dear. We have a church that we love dearly and that loves us. We have no particular, marketable skills outside of ministry. Paula has put her writing career on hold so she could be at home with our sons. We have no careers to fall back on in an emergency. So it was with fear and trepidation that we started to study not knowing what might come of it, but wanting from the bottom of our hearts to follow the Lord even if it meant losing everything. After all we had encouraged people through the years to follow God no matter the cost and trust Him with the results. What kind of spiritual leaders could we be if we refused to risk all for the cause of Christ ourselves.
Some of you may be asking, "What about E.G. White? How does she play into all of this?"
Paula and I have taken the position that we are going to be "Bible and the Bible only" people. That does not mean that we do not consider there to be a proper place for spiritual gifts, but because we are to test the gifts by the Word, and not the other way around, in formation of theology, we must go to the Word.
We must make reference to the fact that there are severe problems with EGW that unfortunately the church has been unwilling to deal with openly. To be fair, we suggest that every concerned Adventist do some research on his or her own and decide what place they wish to make for EGW in their personal theology. I suggest getting on the internet and researching Ellen White. You will find sites that are pro-EGW and others that are critics of her ministry. You should read both and make up your own mind. Remember I Thess. 5:20-22.
We have come to the conclusion from our research that she is not reliable as a prophetic voice. That does not mean that she was not inspirational at times. We both love the books "Steps to Christ" and "The Desire of Ages". But EGW clearly, knowingly and extensively copied from other sources while claiming that she was NOT doing so except in a few rare cases. Some estimates of her borrowing are as high as 80%. Even the Desire of Ages, my favorite EGW book, has, according to a church sponsored study, "no significant line of thinking that is original" to her. Even in her works where she said "I was shown", there is evidence of extensive copying. She copied down other's materials and in many cases the errors right along with the truth.
Some have said that the laws were different back then. She could not have been convicted in a court of law in her day. Maybe not, but James and Ellen were quite adamant that others should not borrow from them without giving credit! They even took others to task that had done so pointing out the dishonesty of the practice. The community feeling regarding literary piracy was much the same. I have in my possession a copy of the Healdsburg newspaper dated March 20, 1889 where the local community was up in arms over some discovered plagiarism in her writings. Clearly it was dishonest and she knew it. The people in her own neighborhood did not approve of it. It was this discovery that forced her to admit using outside sources in the book "Great Controversy". Even then, she only admitted what she knew others knew about her use of sources.
There is also the cover up of her visions that taught the opposite of what she later believed. Early Writings claims in the preface pages iii and iv that there have been no deletions. They claim to include ALL of her early works. They claim that only a word here and there has been substituted to update the original meaning. All of this was done "under the author's own approval." The truth is, significant portions of her early visions were left out and the original meaning was changed. I have seen comparisons between her earlier documents and the book Early Writings. Clearly the deletions were intentional and misleading. EGW knew full well what was going on. These suppressed writings have been covered up by the church and by EGW herself. This was considered by her fellow laborer W. W. Prescott and others to be dishonest and deceptive.
For us, the biggest problem with Ellen White is the effect she has had on the SDA church. There is still wide misunderstanding of the gospel of grace in Adventism. In our years of service this has been an enormous barrier in helping people find assurance. It is not that she did not teach grace. She did teach it beautifully at times, but she also taught perfectionism. Adventists are still basically confused as a people about the very core of the Christian faith. It is so difficult for most Adventists to grasp the Gospel because of these statements. We have never seen an Adventist church truly dedicated to applying the writings of EGW that is a vibrant, alive, growing, happy church community. The responsibility for this falls directly on the shoulders of EGW. Surely a church with 100,000 pages of "inspired" writings should have an even greater grasp on the Good News than other churches. Sadly, this is not the case. Jesus teaches us to test the prophets by their fruits. What do we do with the problems just mentioned? Gal 1:8 says that even if an "angel of light" comes and teaches a different Gospel let him be accursed. Ellen White did not teach a "faith that works" but a "faith plus works" theology, even in some of her later works like the Great Controversy. Read the chapter on the Investigative Judgement and see what you think. With just these issues alone we are compelled to say that EGW is at best unreliable as a prophet. We surely cannot say that we should take her opinions as a companion volume to the Bible.
We believe there are some reasons it is hard to let the full truth about EGW come out. One main reason may be a vested interest in hanging onto the idea that EGW was a true prophet on the scale of one of the biblical prophets. It is part of the "remnant church" identity. Back in 1919 the decision of the Bible Conference held by our General Conference was that there be an immediate disclosure of the problems with EGW as a prophetic voice in the church. They proceeded to attempt to help people understand the truth about her gift. But there was such a backlash against those who were trying to tell the truth, that some key Bible teachers were fired. Unfortunately the denomination stepped away from disclosing the full truth about EGW. An atmosphere of fear to discuss these issues prevailed. Today we have to face this reality after many more years of ingrained misconceptions.
The Revelation 12:17 statement that the remnant will keep the commandments of God (which SDAs take to mean the Ten Commandments, but is not supported by the linguistics as discussed in the Bible study section) is part of this remnant identity in the church. The second part of the passage states that this "remnant" will have the testimony of Jesus. The Adventist perspective then points out that Revelation 19:10 says that the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy. The conclusion: the "true church" of the last days will teach all of God's commandments including the fourth, and will have a prophet. Many SDAs affectionately call the writings of EGW the "Spirit of Prophecy."
The problem with this interpretation is that it does injustice to the linguistics and to the context of Revelation. In Revelation 19:10, the "Spirit of Prophecy" is a clear reference to the Holy Spirit. It is another name for the Holy Spirit that inspires the prophets. This same Spirit is belind all proclamation of the gospel. To translate that the testimony of Jesus always refers to the prophetic voice would be to ignore what the rest of Revelation says about the testimony of Jesus. For example in chapter one verse two it says, that John "bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, and to all things that he saw." Is he referring to EGW here? That is surely not a fit. In context it appears to be a reference to the Gospel message. Now notice verse 9. Here, John says he was on the isle of Patmos for "the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ." Does this refer to EGW? No, it is not even a reference to prophecy in general. He had not yet received any prophetic visions. This is a clear reference to the Gospel, the testimony (witness) about Jesus. It became clear to me that to fit EGW into Revelation 12:17 was a stretch as well. I do not want to be guilty of reading my own version of eschatology into the text rather than letting the text speak for itself. This is incredibly dangerous in light of the warnings about adding to or subtracting from the words of the book found in chapter 22:18-19.
Our primary reason for becoming Adventist years ago was our deep desire to serve the Lord. Both Paula and I joined this church (myself by re-baptism in my college days) became SDAs because we believed it was the denomination that most closely followed God's word. We saw in Adventism a group of people who were not afraid to follow their convictions even if they were not popular positions to take in our culture. We became part of the church primarily because we believed Sabbath observance was required and was honoring to God. We were also attracted to the healthful lifestyle. We believed that Adventism had much to offer the world. We still believe much of what the church teaches.
While Paula and I do not believe the Adventist position, that the Sabbath is morally binding, is biblical, we do believe that it is a healthy way to live and has merit for spiritual growth. We value and support the concept of Sabbath rest. We enjoy the spiritual benefits of taking a day that is dedicated to God and family. We love taking a media fast for a day and letting the noise and clamor cease. This is a part of our spiritual lives that we hold dear and will always treasure. But to insist that it always be on Saturday, or that it is mandated by scripture, is adding to the Word of God an unnecessary requirement for new believers. It constitutes a stumbling block that is not necessary. It gets in the way of many coming to Jesus. We believe that we should remove all obstacles from the path of the true seeker except the scandal of the cross. This is the heart of the message of Galatians and the rest of the New Testament.
Paula and I have a deep love and concern for the Adventist church. We have not been hurt or mistreated. We do not hold animosity toward anyone in the church. The denomination has been very good to us. We do not have any horror stories of mistreatment by leadership as some have. We are grateful for Adventism and what it has meant to our family and our growth in the Lord. Virtually all of our maturing process as Christians has taken place within the Adventist church. We have been blessed deeply by our association with the church. But God is calling us to keep moving. I believe that is His intention for the Adventist church as well. There truly was merit in what the Adventist pioneers believed. They were adamant about not becoming another denomination but insisted in calling themselves a movement. By this they were indicating that if they discovered more truth, they would follow it and leave the mistakes behind. The Adventist church has much to offer. If it would keep moving, I believe it could have a tremendous impact on the world as a part of God's remnant church at large. But in a very real sense, Adventism must face it's dark side. It must keep moving and allow God to mold and make it into what He intends it to be.
We are probably more "adventist" than we have ever been. I mean, of course, that we are passionate about the soon return of Jesus. This is why it is time, high time, that all churches stop promoting their own brand of Christianity as the "only true" exclusive community, and instead band together for the common cause of reaching the world for Jesus. This was the passion of Jesus in John 15. "By this will all men know that you are my disciples if you love one another." The mark of true Christian maturity is this love for one another and getting on with taking the message of Jesus to the world. Jesus' prayer in John 17 makes clear that He longs for the unity of His church. It is this unity that will attract the world to Jesus Christ. When Christians fight among themselves it only reaffirms unbelievers in their impression that Christianity is just another human institution.
Unity in purpose is what the true remnant of bible prophecy is all about. In all my years of ministry I can never recall any of us rejoicing over the success of a Billy Graham Crusade. I never heard anyone praising God that Greg Laurie had a successful Harvest Crusade. I must include myself in this group. Why? Because these men weren't part of the "true church". This attitude can unfortunately be found in many church systems. This is not just an SDA phenomenon. I have had to take a hard look at my own attitudes over the years. We believe that the time has come for us to lay aside the exclusivism that has crippled the Christian church for centuries (see Gal. 4:17) and get on with the Gospel Commission (Mt. 28:18-20). We are convinced that this is Jesus' dream for His church in these last days. We believe that the highest form of worship, the most God-honoring path we can choose is to follow Jesus as He leads us. We believe that His remnant are those who obey His commandments to love Him fully, love others as themselves, and are totally sold out to telling the world about Him..
As I write this, I do not know what the future will hold. I do not know what will happen to us financially. I must say that there was a real sense in which I had to face a dark part of my own personality in this struggle. I valued being a respected SDA pastor and having people think well of me. To think that others whom I had known and served in Adventism might lose respect for me was incredibly difficult for me to accept. I had to, in a very real sense, repent for having loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. Now I am resolved that "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." We will find our rest and security in Him. And we will look forward to the seeing how God leads us and how he leads all of you in the months and years that follow. Our prayers are with you and we solicit your prayers for us.
We hope that someday the Adventist church will face some of these issues. We pray that one day soon there will be a courageous move made on the part of the leadership to reexamine the "pillars of the faith" and ask God to give them the courage to study openly, without risk, the fundamental teachings and see what the scriptures teach without worrying what will happen if there is a discovery that there have been some mistakes along the way. It takes courage to face difficult issues. But courage is one of the qualities that Adventists have been noted for in the past. We are confident that the same quality still exists.
We do not think the church will suffer long term from such a study. Perhaps the image that the Adventists are the one and only remnant church would fall by the wayside. Perhaps the Investigative Judgement would hit the theological grave yard too. There might be a whole new approach to the Sabbath. It might be that Sabbath would be a suggested spiritual discipline rather than a moral ought. The name "Seventh-day Adventist" might be reduced to just "Adventist" so as to keep the focus on Jesus rather than the law. Healthful living might be taught from a suggested lifestyle approach rather than a requirement that gets confused with salvation. Maybe the church could become known as a church that truly is based on the Bible and the Bible alone. Perhaps there might even be some apologies made to those Christian groups that have been cut down and abused by the "evangelists" who called them "Apostates" and "Babylon"! Maybe the focus in evangelism would shift toward reaching the 130 million unchurched people in this country instead of primarily those already connected to a church family. Perhaps the Adventists around the globe would become known as a people passionate about reaching people for Jesus, cooperative in connecting with other Christian groups, and totally unselfish in using the church's massive resources for the cause of Christ.
Maybe all of this sounds like a dream, but can you imagine how God could bless an organization with that kind of courage and authenticity? Imagine how spiritual seekers and believers alike would respect such authentic spirituality. But it will not happen if there are not at least a few that are praying for true revival and unity in the body of Christ, the unity that comes when all true Christians take John 17 seriously. When Christians start loving one another and telling the good news to the world instead of clumping in little exclusive denominational groups and pretending they are the only ones, there will be a revival of mammoth proportions. It will not happen, however, if there are not at least a few that are willing to stand up and speak their minds. We happen to know that there are many SDAs among the grass roots, including some pastors, administrators, and teachers, that have this heart. But nothing will happen as long as it just takes place in little discussions in the back rooms. Some of us need to have the courage to speak up and tell the truth. Someday we believe that God is going to accomplish these things in Adventism. We will be praying daily for just such a revival..
Love to all of you!
In Christ Jesus our Security and Rest,
Greg and Paula Taylor
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GREG & PAULA TAYLOR