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Sunday, February 12, 2012

A unique ministry

I know there are various trains of thought on this subject (as with most topics!), but this is the way I see things. I would guess that most of us have used various "former" sites/books/materials in our studies out of Adventism. For me personally, I have found the "former" sites to be more helpful to my specific needs than most general Christian sites. Adventism has a very unique understanding of Scripture, and unless you really understand it, it's hard to show someone that it's not Biblical. I have had many people say or insinuate that we shouldn't try to reason with people from the Bible but just love them and eventually they'll come around and be won over by our love. While I see the merit in this (and definitely believe we should love people), I don't think this method alone works with Adventism, and here's why.

Ellen White taught that there will be false revivals in other churches and that while people may "appear" to be Christian, inside they are really not that way. Even someone very close to me said (concerning a non-Adventist friend of the family), "Well, as far as you know they're a good Christian..." Basically, Adventists are generally taught to be suspicious of other Christians - after all, they haven't "fully surrendered" to God because they aren't keeping the Sabbath. I remember when I was an Adventist, I only had a few non-SDA friends. Looking back, the ones that were very good Christians were great friends of our family and I appreciate the love they showed us, but that love never once made me question doctrine or think they had something that I wanted. I still felt sorry for them because they didn't have "the truth" that we had.

So I really don't think that just loving those in Adventism works - I know it didn't for me. I don't know - did any of you leave Adventism and go to another denomination because of that? I grew up with the understanding that while other Christians may "seem" to be Spirit-filled, they were really just getting carried away with emotionalism. In the end, doctrine was very important, and it didn't matter if other Christians seemed happy - we had the "right" doctrine.

I love listening to Christian radio. I find the content refreshing, and I agree with most of what they say. But even when I listened to Christian (non-SDA) radio as an Adventist, that never once made me question my beliefs. I would hear subjects on hell or what happens when you die or worshipping God and I would either change the channel or just think to myself, "They're taking verses out of context - they don't REALLY understand the subject..." It wasn't until I came across material that dealt specifically with what I believed that I began to question and see things differently.

When you are taught that certain passages say a certain thing, it's hard to see it any other way unless someone comes along and shows you things from a new perspective. Most Adventists have EGW glasses on when reading the Bible - whether they realize it or not. Unless you deal with both sides of the subject for an Adventist - showing evidence for something as well as showing why their "proof texts" don't say what they think they say - then it won't make sense. For example, no matter how much evidence you present for the Sabbath not carrying over into the new covenant, unless you also deal with the Sabbath "proof texts" most people will just dismiss the evidence because they "know" what their "proof texts" say and since the Bible doesn't contradict itself the verses you present CAN'T mean what you say they mean.

This is why I believe former-Adventists have a unique opportunity in helping our friends and relatives still in Adventism. Yes, I believe it is not our job to convict people - God takes care of that - but we can plant seeds and point people to the Bible. We believe that God calls Christians to spread the Gospel (not just wait for God to convict the world of the Gospel, but to play an active role in giving people the information then letting God convict), so wouldn't the same principle apply with this? I believe it is our job to share the Biblical evidence and it's God's job to convict.

Many people believe that after we leave Adventism we should just stop talking about it, stop discussing doctrine, stop trying to reach those still in Adventism, but I disagree. As I said before, I would guess that just about all of us have been blessed by the studies of former Adventists (whether it be Mark Martin, Dale Ratzlaff, Chris Lee, Greg Taylor, or whoever!). Most of us probably read a lot of that material while we were studying our way out. Yes, maybe we don't read as much of it anymore, or maybe we don't read it at all anymore. But just because WE personally don't need it, does that mean we turn around and tell them, "Just move on and stop talking about it"? We forget that there was a time that we needed to hear that. Who is to say that someone else isn't at that point right now and is learning and growing because of it?

If we personally don't need it anymore, great! Praise God! Move on! I know that God calls everyone to different ministries. He has given all of us different gifts (music, art, writing, hospitality, whatever) and we use them differently. And I understand that not all former Adventists are called to minister to Adventists or other "formers", but at this point in my life, I believe this is where God wants me. Yes, we need to make sure that in our personal life we have moved past Adventism - and that is something many of us struggle with - but we can minister in a very unique way that most people can't. I am so incredibly thankful for those who stood up and shared what they learned, no matter the fall out and no matter how many people they offended. It helped get out of a very dangerous system, and for that reason I believe we should pay it forward.

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