“Jesus did not have the truth.” I stared at my teacher in disbelief. Did he really just say that?

It was Bible class, and my teacher had just finished a lecture about Ellen White. At the end of the lecture, the teacher asked if we had any questions.

One of my classmates brought up an issue for which Jesus and Ellen White appeared to offer different teachings. “Which one,” the student asked, “should Adventists believe?”

The answer was “Ellen White,” because on this topic “Jesus did not have the truth.”

I was outraged. Jesus Christ, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6), had just been accused of not having the truth. Did all Adventists feel this way? If so, I wanted nothing to do with the church.

My Upbringing

I was raised Adventist, but my parents did not teach me the Adventist doctrines. I was taught about Jesus and only Jesus. Growing up, I thought the only detail separating me from other Christians was that I went to church on Saturday instead of Sunday.

But at church and school I was exposed to Adventist teachings. I was taught of the close of probation, the mark of the beast, and the 2300-day prophecy. As a child, I was convinced only Adventists would go to heaven. I prayed for my friends who were devout Christians (but not Adventists), hoping they would find their way to my denomination and be saved.

I believed this for most of my life, until I heard what my teacher had to say about Jesus. At that point, I decided to forget everything I had been taught and discover the truth for myself.

The Bible says to be saved we must “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38, NIV). I decided that this verse was one of the most important in the whole Bible, and that it should be shared with as many as possible.

When we talk about young people leaving the church what I don’t hear is how many are leaving Adventism to join different denominations. The fact is, a lot of people who leave Adventism join other Christian churches because they feel they are connecting more with God there.

I think many young adults leave the Adventist church because most of their lives they are not exposed to enough basic Christian beliefs. They can name more books written by Ellen White than by the apostle Paul. They can detail more prophecies of Daniel than parables of Jesus. If they were taught the beliefs that make the Adventist church part of Christianity, they would be more willing to stay.

Many denominations focus first on Jesus. Pastors spend weeks of sermons on Jesus’ teachings, and only occasionally discuss their own denominational beliefs. Often with Adventists, it’s the other way around; exclusive beliefs come first, and then Jesus.

Not all Adventists are like this. In fact, the best sermon I’ve ever heard came from an Adventist theology major who visited my home church nearly 10 years ago. He preached about God’s love in a way I hadn’t heard before and haven’t heard since. He spent most of his sermon going through verses which pointed out how much God loves us, and repeated over and over the power of Jesus’ love when He gave His life on the cross.

At one point, he asked, “Do you know how many sermons I’ve heard about God’s love? I can count them on one hand. That’s pitiful. We need to bring emphasis on God’s love back into our church. It has been gone too long.”

I Choose Adventism

After my encounter with my Bible teacher, I evaluated my beliefs.

I chose to stay in the Seventh-day Adventist church.

I realized, at its core, Adventism is still a Christian denomination. Jesus is the focal point, as is strictly stated in the doctrine. All the other little things—the seventh-day Sabbath, for example—fall within Adventist beliefs as well.

I am an Adventist, but I am first a Christian. If the church were to teach that, more young people would stay.

Author Jack Sauder is a junior communication major at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.