It’s Friday and the sun is setting. You look at the sky and marvel at the streaks of pink hues turning purple. Do you feel joyful? Rushed? Disappointed? Ambivalent?

The questions of how one spends their time on Sabbath was recently proffered to several people in the Mid-America Union.  Here’s the response of a busy big-city pastor.

1.  Can you describe your family?  Including the ages of your children, if there are any?

Pastor Keith Hackle Jr.: I have a family of 4. My wife and I met in high school and have been married a little over 19 years. My son is a sophomore at Oakwood University and my daughter is a freshman at Oakwood University. We also have a dog who turns 8 in March, he’s a Wheaten Terrier and his name is Charlie

2.  I was told you are in the St. Louis area; does that mean you pastor a large church (over 300 members) or a smaller one?

Pastor Keith Hackle Jr.: I have the privilege of Pastoring the Agape SDA Church here in University City (St. Louis), MO. In attendance every week we average close to 100 members (in person and on Zoom) and but as is the case with many of our churches there are many more listed as members of the church in eAdventist   I am also the Director of the ACS and Stewardship departments for the Central States Conference.

3.  Were you brought up as an Adventist?  (If not, please explain how you were introduced to this message.)

Pastor Keith Hackle Jr.: I did not have the privilege of growing up Adventist, and proudly proclaim that I am the product of evangelism!

In 2005, during my undergrad studies, in Cincinnati, I was placed in a cohort with an individual that was an Elder in the Adventist Church, James Lampkin. During my presentations I would share with the class my involvement in my church (First Baptist of Batavia), my faith in God and passion for His Word.

One night, James sent me an email about an upcoming assignment, but at the end of the message he asked me a question, “when did the first sin occur?” Always, up for a challenge and passionate about the Bible, I shot back, “Adam, in the Garden of Eden.”

A short time later he replied, “are you familiar with the war that took place in Heaven?” Then, he followed up that question with another one, “why do you go to church on Sunday?”

To which I responded, “everybody goes to church on Sunday!”

“Have you ever heard of the Sabbath?” James inquired.

“Yes, Sabbath is Sunday!!”

“Prove it! Show me in the Bible where God said Sabbath is Sunday and not Saturday.”

Challenge accepted, I spent the next two days scouring the Bible trying to find where the shift had been ordained by God. I couldn’t find it. Stumped, I called my Pastor/Uncle and told him that I had a friend that was a member of some “Christian cult” called Adventist, that he’d challenged me to prove that God changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, and that I was having trouble locating the answer. He said we’d discuss it at the upcoming Wednesday night prayer meeting. I was convinced that we would be able to help James come into the light.

Prayer meeting finally came and I was excited. My uncle shared the question with the rest of the congregation and began presenting his argument:

– The disciples were together on the first day of the week and Jesus came amongst them. – John 20:19

– The church was together on the first day of the week when Eutychus died. – Acts 20:7

– Paul took up a collection on the first day of the week. 1 Corinthians 16:2

All text that I had read prior to arriving at the Prayer Meeting and none pointing to God ordaining a change in Sabbath observance. So I raised my hand and said, “Pastor I still don’t see it, I don’t see where God approved a change.”

To which he answered, ”you don’t see it because your mind was already made up before you got here.”

Looking back, I understand that my uncle was not responding because I was a member questioning his Pastor, we had a deeper relationship, I was a nephew questioning his uncle and in my family that was not tolerated. Slowly, he began to close out the study, and from the corner of my eye, I saw a hand raise. It was my aunt, his wife, and she said, “but Pastor you still haven’t answered the question. You still haven’t showed us where God ordained the change.”

That night lead my wife and I to make a decision. We went on to complete the Amazing Facts Bible study series with James and his wife. We stopped attending our old church and for many weeks, would go to the park on Sabbath and just have worship there. Eventually, we began to attend the Shiloh SDA Church in Cincinnati, where were rebaptized and became deeply involved in ministry.

4.  How would you describe the way you and your family celebrate Sabbath? Please include information for the entire 24-hour period.  For example, do you have a traditional Friday night meal, or routine?  How do you and your family spend the hours after church services?

Pastor Keith Hackle Jr.: Our Sabbath celebration has varied over the years, but constants have been: a family meal, a reading of the Word, singing and occasionally a Bible based film. One might say that initially we were semi-legalistic. We shied away from interactions with friends and family members that weren’t Adventist, we over-analyzed every action and decision. Largely because we were serious about the decision that we’d made and didn’t want to offend our God. What helped us was having a group of individuals that had children like we did, that loved God like we did, that invited us to potlucks. At these gatherings we learned what it means to make Sabbath a delight. To turn your foot away from the world and focus on the gift that God has given us in the Sabbath.

We’ve had times when we host Sabbath meals, we’ve had times where we will go walk in nature, there are times when we’ve done service initiative on Sabbath, and other times when the week has been so hectic that after church we’ve come home eat a meal and seek rest!

We’ve been Blessed to live in a variety of cities and each one has provided a different Sabbath experience to our memory bank, none better than the other, each special in their own way. Cincinnati allowed us to experience Sabbath observance amongst professionals from different career fields. No matter their occupation during the week they took time to observe the Sabbath because – the Sabbath transcends occupation. Andrews University allowed us to experience Sabbath observance amongst students on different levels from all around the world. This highlighted that no matter where you are from – the Sabbath transcends location. Des Moines, IA allowed us to experience the Sabbath as a Pastoral family and to learn to be intentional not allow for responsibilities to overshadow time with family. – the Sabbath teaches balance. St. Louis has allowed us to experience Sabbath in different spaces. My children were in Academy for two years before now transitioning to college. They’ve been able to take their Sabbath experiences from home and go off to create new experiences with their friends, while my wife and I are learning to experience Sabbath as empty-nesters. No matter where we are or what’s going on we believe – the Sabbath is still special.

5.  Lastly, what suggestions or advice would you give to your peers (friends of your similar age group) to help them enhance their Sabbath experience?

Pastor Keith Hackle Jr.: To enhance your Sabbath experience, allow your Sabbath experience to be a reflection of your relationship with God not your attempt to live up to the expectations of mankind.

My journey towards Sabbath observance started because I had a genuine relationship with God. I desired to do His will and I learned that I was failing, though unintentionally, at doing that. Once I was informed I had to make a change, and it wasn’t easy. A change didn’t just mean separating from my church it meant separating from family. I love my family, but I love God more! I allow my relationship with Him to dictate not only my observance of the Sabbath but how I observe the Sabbath. I don’t want to anything to intentionally offend Him, misrepresent Him or underrepresent Him. I seek to make the Sabbath a delight for not only me but also for Him as He spends this special time with me. To enhance your Sabbath experience, seek opportunities to make your Father smile!

Keith Hackle pastors the Agape Seventh-Day Adventist Church in University City, MO. He is also the director of Adventist Community Services and Stewardship Ministries for the Central States Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and the treasurer for St. Louis Unified Seventh-day Adventist School.