A Look at the Books

Not surprisingly, the Seventh-day Adventist Church keeps an accurate account of our church statistics here. Granted, it takes two years to gather and process them, but among the numbers, you will find a daunting 17,479,890 members. These people were baptized in or joined by “profession of faith”. These people may write the church’s name on a Living Will, or have it inscribed on dog tags in the military. Their kids may be enrolled in Adventist schools. They aren’t involved in sports, don’t wear makeup, and don’t eat meat. They attend church regularly.


This may not be true.

A Look at the Pews

On Sabbath morning the pews are not always as full of Adventist church members as you would think. But, why would people drag themselves out of bed on a Saturday morning to attend a church they’re not a member of? You may ask this question, or similar questions when you look around your church.

Why are so many women wearing heels and spaghetti straps? Why are so many kids wearing khakis instead of suits? Whose idea was it to bring snacks and coffee to Sabbath School? Did they really bring chicken to potluck?

There are people from all walks of life stumbling into our doors, and by the looks of them, it may seem like an accident! The fact is that there may be more “strangers” in our churches than members.

At a small church I attended for the better part of my adulthood (which, granted, hasn’t been long), we regularly had more “visitors” than members. I’m sure this is significantly true of other congregations. At the last evangelistic series you baptised 20 members? Good for you! Where are they?

Odds are they aren’t attending–at least not all of them.

Look at your pews. Who is sitting in them?

Against the Grain

The church of our mothers and fathers is long gone. I am a “fourth-generation-Adventist” (don’t you hate hearing that?), and the church I grew up in is long gone.

We can no longer be considered “The Vegetarians”. Some Adventists eat meat.

Some Adventists listen to country and pop music. Some Adventists of today may not even know what a haystack is, or a vespers service, and may wonder why an hour-long book or Bible study is called a “prayer meeting”.

Some Adventists may not attend church all year long because of various reasons, but they make it for the Christmas program. Some Adventists didn’t meet their spouse at Southern, didn’t go into nursing, and haven’t been on a mission trip. Some of them married a non-Adventist. They may invite you over for dinner and have beer in their fridge next to the tossed salad. They may not have  My Bible Friends, Adventist Home, or Great Controversy on their book shelf. They may have a big screen T.V. which they blast all day long while you visit, and they may have a questionable DVD collection.

Some Adventists aren’t wearing nice church clothes, they read their Bible from their phone, and they’ve never read Ellen White. They may watch sermons on Youtube, but sleep through the church service. They may skip Sabbath School every single week, and leave church early. They may sing a special music and use an accompaniment track that has drums, because they weren’t taught how to play the piano as a child. They may go to public school instead of church school, and they may prefer it, but they still feel left out of the “church school clique”. There may be one mother who’d rather nurse her baby in the pew than the mother’s room, and one guy who wants to be involved, but wears only jeans, and has tattoos. Some of the women would start an exercise group, but they love to shake their hips at Zumba to music the Adventist wouldn’t listen to.

Seventh-day What?

When I was a child in public school it seemed like I was always explaining myself. Why couldn’t I do something on Friday night? I was Seventh-day Adventist. My answer was always met with an inquisitive look. I became good at reciting a little explanation for my church and why I would want to be a part of it.

As a kid it is hard to put a positive spin on “I can’t do things on Sabbath, eat certain things, drink certain things because we believe these certain things…”. What I should’ve done then and what I hope I do now is explain with my actions. It’s not what all I can’t do; it’s what I can. I can serve Jesus–be a part of something BIG.

Back when I was a kid no one seemed to know what a Seventh-day Adventist was. Now, it seems that everyone knows about our church, but there’s still a lot of explaining to do.

Although people may know what an Adventist is, they have the wrong idea of what/who we are and just Who we stand for.

The Picture is Not in the Pews

The days of church pews are limited. They are long, uncomfortable, cumbersome, and limit the utilization of space. Neither do we get an accurate depiction of our congregation by looking at the pews. At many churches you can find the youth in the foyer, the Sabbath School rooms, the parking lot, or…at home. The picture of the church family cannot only be reflected in the pews on Sabbath morning. Nor can it be reflected in who comes to what events, or who pays what tithe-to-offering ratio.

Adventists are no longer the solemn women in flowered, ankle-length dresses, men in suits and ties, and children in tiny church shoes. We’ve reached a generation of church-goers that change into jeans before potluck, sneak in beef jerky, and leave early. They may not go visiting on Sabbath afternoon, but will meet 20 church members at the park for a picnic, spend their Sundays in service to other church family, and you may even catch them reading their Bible at home mid-week!

A Look at Social Media

You see it time and again. Church websites still maintain the default templates, and have never personalized the pages to their own church. The church calendars are empty, or inaccurate, and contact information may be for the previous pastor of four years ago. From the look of it, this church is dead. If it wasn’t, surely they would update their website!

The funny thing is that you can almost certainly find the very same church on Facebook. They probably have a lively group on the popular social networking site in which they discuss aiding fellow brothers and sisters, Bible topics, outreach ideas. There may be people active in the Facebook group who haven’t been to church in weeks. Are they still part of the family?


When we are not so narrow-sighted as to identify our church by Sabbath morning church attendance we will see another church. A church that is alive and diverse. The church that exists only on Sabbath morning is not the church built on Christ described in Ephesians 2. The majority of Christ’s ministry in the Bible is 7 days a week, yes, even Sabbath. On Sabbath he often did things that puzzled the church leaders; he was accused of breaking the Sabbath! He was accused of befriending sinners. His ministry was not identified the way the world identifies the Seventh-day Adventist church.

Revival and Revisit

It is safe to say that the church has been through a revival of sorts. More and more we see programs, literature, and events to make the newcomer more welcome. Many churches have dropped such Adventist jargon as “potluck”, “vespers”, “Dorcus”, even “haystacks”. You may read this and decide that these are bad changes, but I urge you to look at your church pews this Sabbath. Look at your leadership meetings. Look at your church schools, your public schools, and your parking lots. Attempt to discover who your church is, and go meet them! They may not be who you think they are, but allow them the freedom and confidence to show you their true selves. As a church family we should be able to be real with one another. We should be able to tell our fellow brother or sister in Christ what is going on with our family and our home. We should not be ashamed.

If what we are doing doesn’t match up with Who we are standing for, then there is a problem. But, if what we are doing isn’t matching up to who the world thinks we are as Adventists, we’re worrying more about this world than God’s. Who we are should reflect Who we stand for, not who others think we should be. In the end the church is God’s and so is the glory.

Books to Share

Some awesome and “share-able” books about Adventists and other Christians that are outside the mold are available through the Adventist Book Center and other book stores. I encourage you to check them out and share them if you are able.

For men: A Place for Us Guys -Chuck Burkeen

For women: No More Christian Nice GIrl -Paul Coughlin, Jennifer D. Degler PhD.

For youth: Knowing Jesus is Everything -Alejandro Bullón

General: Blessed Are the Unlikelies -Philip W. Dunham


*Individuals and organizations in this writing are generalized ideals and do not reflect a specific person or church.

“Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.