Who are Seventh-day Adventists? What is the criterion for becoming and remaining a Seventh-day Adventist? Why are so many of our young people choosing to leave the church? What part do parents, local church members, and elected leaders at all levels of the church play in the choices our young people make day by day?

I will make a feeble attempt to answer each of these questions—bear with me, please!

Who are Seventh-day Adventists?

Ask any member of one of the five or six Adventist churches in my hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska and you will get a wide array of answers. Please note that all of them may be right. Put them all together and see what you get.

“Birds of a feather flock together.” This adage tells us that people tend to attend a church where others think like they do, act like they do, and have many other things in common. So, after receiving this information, do we know who Seventh-day Adventists are? Probably not!

The harsh reality is that the Adventist Church, as a denomination, is badly fragmented. We are not united in doctrine, which causes much contention, finger pointing, and judgmental attitudes.

What is the criterion for becoming and remaining an Adventist?

Any profession undertaken by a person (medical doctor, educator, doctor of divinity, etc.) requires that person to reach certain specified goals. These goals, if met, allow that person to practice his or her profession.

Because becoming a Seventh-day Adventist is such a high calling, we would expect the criterion to be broad, high, and deep, which it is. Yet anyone who has a willing and obedient heart is an acceptable candidate! Education, money, or positions are not prerequisites.

The highest criterion is to accept the scriptures as God’s inspired Holy Book and to make a determined effort to walk in the light given to us by the Holy Spirit. This is the beginning of Adventism! When we do the above, we will always want to remain an Adventist. Why? Because of our deep love for the Master and our desire to serve Him!

Remaining an Adventist requires giving our all to Him. All that we are and all that we have must be surrendered—a total dedication. We must lay all on the altar of sacrifice.

Why are so many of our young people choosing to leave the church?

The Great Controversy is being worked out in each of our lives: a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. It’s all in the matter of choice—I choose the straight and narrow way that leads to eternal life, or I choose the broad way that leads to destruction.

If our young people could understand the importance of making the right choices maybe they would be more inclined to do so. Matt. 16:26 asks us, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

The evil one is out to get us and he will do everything he can to accomplish that goal. Again, it’s a battle between the desires of the flesh (world) and the still, small voice of the Spirit.

In Rom. 7:17-20 Paul tell us of his battle with the flesh and the struggle to do right. He makes the choice clear in verse 25: “So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (RSV).

John puts the answer to question number three in a nutshell in 1 John 2: 15-17: “Love not the world neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away and the lust thereof; but he that does the will of God abides forever.”

If we have an ongoing relationship with the Lord, He will let us know what He means by the “world” and the things that are “in the world.” We cannot have a relationship with the world as depicted above and an ongoing relationship with God at the same time. It’s one or the other. The choice is ours.

Is the price for salvation too high? Jesus didn’t think so when He chose to die for us!

What part do church leaders play in the choices our young people make?

Perhaps the answer to this question is more important than the three previous answers. When considering leadership at all levels, we must realize that every person plays a part in helping our young people or hindering them because everyone exerts an influence, be it positive or negative.

Beginning with our parents and going to the most prominent elected church official, we all exert a “good” or “bad” influence on other people. Because most of our young people are easily influenced, we need to be very careful, and realize that what we do and what we say is being watched and heard. And it will have an effect.

I mentioned earlier that our church is fragmented. We are playing right into the devil’s hand and it needs to be taken care of. This sort of thing confuses our young people. Let me cite a few areas in which there is a lack of cohesion: principles for choosing appropriate music, the ordination of women, validity of the Ten Commandments, “proper” dress, LGBTQ+ issues, how to understand and apply the writings of Ellen G. White. I am amazed that God is still able to use His people in spite of the divided condition of His church.

I could say much more concerning this fragmentation, but I will let the following paragraph tell us how we got into this mess:

“For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord’s professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years.” (Selected Messages, vol 1, p. 69)

May the Lord help us to believe His promises, be united in purpose and service to our communities, and soon experience the eternal face-to-face relationship He has planned for those who love and follow Him.

Frank Forbes is a retired Seventh-day Adventist elementary teacher/principal who taught for 35 years in the Southern and Mid-America Unions. He and his wife, Myrna, have been married for 58 years and are members of the Piedmont Park Seventh-day Adventist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.