Drop the Mic: Reincarnating the Adventist Faith Part 1

Then Toto Pulled Back the Curtain…

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken.”

You can take this to the bank: Adventist faith has almost completely lost its ability to draw enculturated North Americans into our congregations. In 1913, it took $5,500 (inflation-adjusted US dollars) to bring one convert into the church; in 2005, it took $41,000.1 In a recent report, the Northern California Conference published their total baptisms and tithe revenue for 2014. That year, it took an investment of $98,000 in salaries, revenue and programming to baptize one person.2 And as hard as it is to get people to join us, here’s the other problem: People are leaving us — in droves. General Conference research from 2013 shows that during the 21st century, 43 people left for every 100 who joined the Adventist Church.3

As of 2011, the church in North America was still growing, but barely.4 Membership most likely would be declining like most other Christian denominations if it wasn’t for Adventists moving to our continent from other parts of the world, establishing congregations to meet their cultural and linguistic needs, and introducing first- and second-generation immigrants of similar backgrounds to the Adventist faith. If North America follows the trend of Western Europe, almost all new growth in Adventist churches will be through Adventist immigration into North America and conversion of other recent immigrants rather than through conversion of enculturated Americans (immigrants’ grandchildren and subsequent generations).4

As a pastor of a congregation with a rich and influential gospel ministry history of over 110 years, I now have a front row seat for watching the precipitous decline of ours and other Adventist and Christian churches in metropolitan Los Angeles. I can testify to how difficult it is to convince people that they should give our congregation a chance to show that following Jesus and partnering with us to live out his mission is worth their time. Most people aren’t listening to us. We’ve been tuned out.

Many articles and books have been written in an attempt to explain why the decline is happening and to offer solutions on how to reverse the trend and begin attracting people to church again. While I don’t propose to have a better answer to the why or the proven solution for the how, I would like to suggest what is, I believe, the reason for this decades-long trend. Next week, I will suggest a possible corrective to these fatal flaws. Then, in subsequent articles, I will provide examples of how this corrective could be implemented and contextualized in local Adventist congregations.

I think the best way I can explain what has happened is to watch the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. For those of you who believe the film massacred the original story in L. Frank Baum’s book; or, if you prefer to ease on down, ease on down the road with Diana Ross and Michael Jackson in The Wiz, I respect your choices. But there are some plot differences between the three, and for this article’s purposes, we need you to stick with Judy Garland.

You remember when Dorothy, her dog, Toto, and their Kansas farmhouse were swept away in the tornado and landed on top of the Wicked Witch of the East in Munchkinland? As Dorothy steps out of the sepia-toned farmhouse and into the Technicolor Land of Oz, while amazed at the magical land she has entered, more than anything she wants to return home. So, based on the advice of Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, she begins her odyssey to the Emerald City, home of the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz, to see if he can help her get there. As she journeys down the yellow brick road with Toto at her side, she gains three companions who also need something that only the Wizard can provide: a brain for the Scarecrow, a heart for the Tin Man, and some courage for the Cowardly Lion.

They finally make it to the palace of the wizard and meet his green floating head encircled with fire. Dorothy and her friends meekly approach this supernatural spirit and tell him what they each need. The green head’s booming Dolby voice promises to give them what they want if they go and fulfill the task he has for them: killing the Wicked Witch of the West and bringing him her broomstick. The four agree to the wizard’s proposal and, despite some close calls and harrowing experiences, “liquidate” the witch with water and free the Land of Oz from her tyranny. Triumphantly, Dorothy and Toto march with their friends back to the Emerald City with the Wicked Witch’s broomstick in hand.

When the wizard receives them and sees that they have successfully carried out his wish, he appears to second guess his promise and tells them to leave and come back the next day because he needs to think about things. Indignant that he might renege on his promise after all they had suffered and what they had risked for him, these no-longer-timid sojourners stand up to the wizard and call him a fraud to his green fiery face. As they yell at each other, Toto notices some movement behind a curtain in one corner of the room. He scampers over to the curtain, wraps his jaw around it and rips it back to expose a man speaking into a microphone and animatedly pushing buttons and pulling levers. In horror, the four pilgrims realize that they had been told a lie. There was no great and powerful wizard: there was just this nervous humbug of a man who had created a green screen illusion to hold onto his power.

We’re going to stop the film there. Don’t worry, we’ll finish it next week. But for now, here’s where we are: the conventional wizdom in the Land of Oz was that if there was something lacking in your life that no ordinary human, munchkin, witch or flying monkey could fill, there was a great and powerful wizard who could do anything, including meet the very need that you had, no matter what it was. He could give you a new heart, restore your strength and courage, renew your mind, and, most importantly, take you home. It’s a story filled with hope: no matter what difficulties you face during your life in Oz, there is a wizard that has access to the wisdom, mysteries and powers of the great beyond. If you respect, honor and obey the wizard, you will be safe, you’ll receive everything you need and you will find the life you’ve always wanted. This is what Dorothy was told and what she put her hope in. But then a puppy dog pulled back the curtain, exposed the tragic truth and shattered her belief. There was no great and powerful wizard in the Land of Oz.

Here’s the Adventist version of this plot. In our traditional evangelistic methodology, when a Dorothy or a scarecrow that has awakened to their need of God has walked into our court, we dazzle them with our knowledge and the amazing, life-changing benefits that will come to them if they follow our instruction. Here’s how we do it:

  • We start by introducing them to the Bible, the roadmap to all truth and, ultimately, to God. To help them accept that the Bible is the authoritative source of all truth, we…
  • Utilize our interpretation of the prophecies in Daniel to show how the rise and fall of world empires along with the arrival of the Messiah were precisely predicted hundreds of years before they took place. Once people see the degree to which God fulfills prophecy, they will be convinced or re-convinced of the factual reliability and divine truth of the Holy Scriptures. At this point, we…
  • Present the core scriptural teachings of orthodox Christianity — God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Trinity, Salvation, etc. — and the corrective scriptural teachings that Adventists bring to bear on the Sabbath, the state of the dead, the nature of hell, the spirit of prophecy, the second coming of Christ, the investigative judgment, and more. With each teaching, we promise them that they will experience God’s richest blessings for believing in the Bible and obeying His commands. We may also warn them what could happen if they reject our clear scriptural teachings. But if they choose to accept our teachings, we will…
  • Invite them to be baptized and join the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As we celebrate their baptism, we promise that they will not regret this decision, that their lives will be forever changed for the better and there will be a peace and joy that God’s spirit will put in their soul that can’t be taken away because they have come to understand the truths revealed in our propositional teachings.
  • Boom. Drop the mic. Walk off the stage. Nailed it. The Adventist wizard has saved another soul.

Whether the above methodology was the correct one to use in the earlier years of Adventism is not my concern. It appears to have had more success in a time where being a citizen of Canada or the United States was synonymous with being a Christian. But there is no denying that this methodology is now flawed for one simple reason:

We can no longer expect people to believe that the Bible is a source of all truth and that we have the best understanding of it. Especially in large urban areas and along the coasts of North America, there is quickly becoming a prejudice against the Bible and those who push it. In these areas, Christians are seen as more immoral than agnostics and atheists. To assume that people respect the scriptures and attempt to take them through our constructs of Bible prophecy is pure folly. Most people won’t even give us a chance to share our doctrinal understandings. If they do give us an opening to share, they’ll pull out their smartphones and show us dozens of articles that counter our teaching with other interpretations. We can’t prove the superiority of our scriptural interpretation. If preaching and studying the Bible is the way we introduce ourselves to the community, we have failed before we even begin.

But the fatal flaw of our methodology isn’t how we do it, but that we have rarely delivered on what we promise – ever. I hesitate at what I’m going to say next. Let me remind you that this is the first of a series. This isn’t the conclusion of the matter, just the introduction. But before we move on, this needs to be said and I think we need to sit with it for a bit. Here it goes:

We as Adventists have been obsessed with proving ourselves to the world as the Great and Powerful Oz. We promise our converts that if they accept us as God’s true and faithful wizard, they will gain access to the Divine and find the deepest needs of their souls met. But there is now too much evidence and too many stories of how our converts have put this claim to the test and discovered that it is often a big, fat lie. They pulled back the curtain and exposed the feeble, dying church that is scurrying around trying to keep the illusion up, telling itself and everyone else that the projected image is still true. Tragically, converts often draw the subsequent conclusion that if Adventist wizardry is a fraud, then Adventist’s promise of a loving and faithful God is also a lie.

Jesus exposed the fake wizards and the conventional wizdom of his time:

“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life…. I know that you do not have the love of God inyou. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me.5

I have a hunch he might say this exact thing to us now.

Is it time for Adventists to drop the mic for a different reason? Instead of punctuating the proclamation of our superior revelation of God with an authoritative thud, should we shut down our sound system, turn off the spotlights and the smoke machine and fall before God and the people of our communities and admit that we have not been, are not now, nor ever will be the great and powerful wizard? Is it time to admit that, despite all the efforts by our denomination for the past century and a half, we have not been able to live up to the image we have projected about ourselves? That for all our bluster about the superiority of our teachings, they have not led to the transformations we hoped for? Should we finally come to terms with our flawed humanity and stop trying to be something we’re not?

I think we need to consider it. For Dorothy’s sake.

Todd J. Leonard is senior pastor at Glendale City Seventh-day Adventist Church and president of Glendale Communitas Initiative, a local non-profit organization devoted to families working their way out of poverty. He shares life with his wife, Robin, and three daughters, Halle, Abigail and Emma.

Notes and References:

1. Beckworth, David and S. Joseph Kidder. “Reflections on the Future of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America: Trends and challenges (part 1 of 2).” Ministry, December 2010. https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2010/12/reflections-on-the-future-of-north-american-seventh-day-adventism.html 2. Hanson, Andy. “A Canary in the Mine?” Adventist Today, April 26, 2015. https://atoday.org/a-canary-in-the-mine/ 3. Oliver, Ansel.“At first retention summit, leaders look at reality of church exodus.” Adventist News Network, November 19, 2013. https://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2013-11-19/at-first-retention-summit-leaders-look-at-reality-of-church-exodus/ 4. MacDonald, G. Jeffery. “Adventists' back-to-basics faith is fastest growing U.S. church. USA Today, March 17, 2011. https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/2011-03-18-Adventists_17_ST_N.htm 5. John 5.39-40, 42-43a. The Bible: New Revised Standard Version.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8017

John 5

39 “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.

I applaud Leonard for quoting this verse in his article, because it is the only answer for Adventism. Forgiveness of sin, and new life, is found only in Christ–it is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. This rock-solid salvation–the completely finished work of the Lord Jesus on the cross, and the resurrection, is the good news of the New Covenant. Jesus is the “superior revelation of God” (John 1, Hebrews 1)–not a prophetess who made failed predictions (Deuteronomy 18), and not any additions to the gospel.

Adventism teaches an incomplete atonement through the Investigative Judgment doctrine, which diminishes any assurance a believer may have regarding their salvation. Adventism teaches the Galatian heresy through its overwhelming emphasis on grace + law-keeping (primarily via the sign of the Old Covenant–the Sabbath). Adventism teaches tri-theism instead of an Orthodox trinitarianism. It teaches a man-centered narrative, via the Great Controversy worldview.

None of it is the gospel. Only Jesus (+ nothing), bring new life and freedom. The answer for Adventists and Adventism, is to come to Jesus alone, and have life. Only Jesus offers true rest. Resting in Christ comes about through faith in the Lord Jesus himself, not through the Sabbath (Mathew 11:28, Hebrews 3, 4), nor through any other means.


This seems a very jaundiced view of the triumph of the gospel!

Just last night I listened with thanks to God as the principal of the local Adventist school spoke of two examples of how the Spirit works to introduce people to Christ in our contemporary culture here in Australia.

Three students from one family came to the school from the wider community! The father came to investigate the school armed with a host of questions and issues before they were enrolled. The principal answered these queries to his satisfaction. During a Week of Spiritual Emphasis in recent years the speaker initially asked the study body which of them wanted to give their lives to the Lord. He spent the rest of the week telling the students how to do so. Our three students responded, though they didn’t have a particularly religious background. Later that year they were baptized with their mother who had been nurtured by her fellow employees at the school. Some months later the father of the family followed suit, declaring that he wanted to become the spirtual leader of that home. Their faith continues.

Very recently, after a student chaplain led week of spiritual emphasis another ‘secular student,’ who was constantly pushing back on all things spiritual, was challenged to test God out. He prayed several times for a sign that God was real. He received one on Sunday morning, so that day he took himself off to his family’s old spiritual home. He just happened to be sitting next to the sister of the youth worker of that church. She invited him to the youth service. Soon he was attending the local Adventist church with his school friends. The report is that this student is now a regular attendee.

These are just two examples of how the Spirit of God is still impressing lives.

The old pillars of the Advent Movement - Salvation in Christ, Sabbath, Sanctuary and State of the Dead, and the Second Coming - are still relevant today as they support and reinforce the biblical worldview.

Yes, the Adventist Faith needs to be reincarnated through the power of the Spirit of God!

Yes Thomas! I was a pastor for many years. I never gave a Bible Study to demonstrate that my understanding of Scripture was superior to anyone’s. I did assume that my fellow bible student was interested to learn how he or she should live! Teachings such as salvation in Christ, the Sabbath, the sanctuary, the state of the dead can be presented as having supreme existential relevance today.


I also learned lessons from the Wizard of Oz. After many years of work and participation in countless Adventist church councils and committees I have picked these top five;

  1. Notice how Toto was not scared of the Great Wizard’s theatrics, yet he was so small in size, compared to the Wizard, to me Toto, the dog was the main character in the movie. It’s not the title you are given that makes your point. (e.g.currently Mr. Comey to Mr. Trump)
  2. The smoke, flames and images of Oz were designed to frighten people into doing as the Great Wizard commanded. Fear is the lowest denominator
  3. Toto simply was true to what he saw, looked behind the curtain, saw it was a scam, started barking until others paid attention to him and came to see what all the barking was about.
  4. Who was behind the curtain? Just an ORDINARY PERSON controlling the levers that created the illusion of the Great Wizard’s power and authority. How easily we give our power away!
  5. When Toto pulled back the curtain and completely exposed him, the charade was ended. We can see, in this tale, just how loud the bark from a little dog can be.
    How about OUR bark? How big is it? Most of us remain silent and wait to be given whatever salary and cheap affirmation, if any, by our church leaders. It’s time to wake up as Dorothy did and hold ourselves and others accountable. “There is no place like home.”
    I am looking forward to part 2 of this article! Thanks!

Thanks, Todd, for an excellent analogy using a contemporary meme. Along with this awareness, I look forward to your presentation of what does provide realistic, practical, sustaining hope. “What puts the ape in apricot?”

Btw, I’m a non-immigrant Adventist convert; coming to grips with the Bible’s authenticity and veracity played a huge part in my growth. Everyone has a different story. In addition, we all need to pay close attention to “the man behind the curtain,” no matter what hierarchical message is being currently proffered.


Unfortunately analogy is one of the weakest forms of argument, Todd. What if the great and powerful wizard is perceived to be GOD? Where does that leave you, Dorothy and her companions, and us? In an existential loathsome pit of despair. Analogies are sometimes seriously flawed.
Looking forward to how you will develop your ‘thesis’ in Part II.


The format/composition approach, in the article, is really indicative of a major problem in the denomination and why the back door is so wide. (Clue:1 JN 4:5 & culture of celebrity)

Your reply is a clue as to another major subtle causative factor as to what is sabotaging Christianity: the simplistic, shallow soteriology approach that is gaining ground. A few weeks ago, I heard somewhat the same comment in Sabbath school. Basically it is we don’t need to listen to so many bible verses on what God’s will is …Jesus is enough.

By the way, is it grace alone or faith alone? How many 'alones" can one have? These are obscure, ambiguous neo-clichés & platitudes.
Your reply is an envelope with a covert message hidden inside.
To some it is quite evident by the use of the Matt 11:28 placed right next to Heb 3 & 4

Try sharing your definition/concept of the gospel with those you worship after asking them to write down their version. Many if not most SDA or Christians don’t even know what the gospel is and for that matter what grace is. You will see that the responses are all over the map.

As far as Galatians…review 2 Pet 3:16

I challenge you and the 5 who liked your post to ask your pastor to perform a survey to find out what % of the congregation have ever read the whole bible through once in their lives. The usual statistic is that 75-90%, of churchgoers, have never read it.

Hos 4:6 & Neh 8:8 are verses that reveal why the problem is growing in Christian churches. Other than SDA , I attend non-SDA mega-churches as well as smaller local non -denom ,and denominational churches… Just visiting a few weeks, one can see the difference in quality of churches just a few blocks apart. When SDA have the luxury of church shopping, what is the major reason why they settle on one church instead of one of the others?

Thanks for the interest & reply.
I will be preaching a sermon next month titled…
“Adventists Anonymous”

1st things 1st…

a clue is the words…“and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God”

If Jesus is a gift & grace is a gift & faith is a gift…why aren’t all saved? AND why are there almost 8000 verses in the New Testament?

harpa & those who read the post…

“Christ-centered” is just another ambiguous, abstract, obscure cliché/ platitude/ religious lingo frequently tossed around, in Adventist circles, by those who are paranoid, fanatic and/or hostile about legalism.

One does not find Christ through Great Controversy any better than through the Wisard of Oz. Read Daniel, John and Paulthrough the New International Version. if only Wm Miller had. Copy, this nonsense would never have occurred.


I am a 6th generation, life-long Adventist. And I intend to remain an Adventist (by my definition). However, I have never read the whole Bible through, although I’ve studied it in depth.

Here’s why:

  1. The Bible is a compilation of writings (books), and this compilation was put together by a group of Catholic Bishops (leaders) long after Christ died. That is why we refer to “the book of Genesis” or “the book of Hebrews”. The difficulty in determining the biblical canon is that the Bible does not give us a list of the books that belong in the Bible. It was actually not until 367 AD that the church father Athanasius first provided the complete listing of the 66 books belonging to the canon. And even today there is not complete agreement on which books belong in the Bible. Ellen White used a Bible that included books we no longer have in Protestant Bibles.

  2. There are two kinds of books. Those meant to be read cover to cover such a “Desire of Ages”, and those such as “Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories” where each story stood alone and was not necessarily related to the stories around it. Another common example would be the Reader’s Digest condensed books.

Thus I find no virtue in just reading the Bible cover to cover. God did not provide us a list of what should be in the Bible, nor the order in which they were to be compiled.


You bring up some good points.

I don’t believe that most SDAs have read the Bible cover to cover and I know that most have also not read more than 2-3 EGW books at best (or most). When most SDAs in NAD are born into the faith some of the Adventist “knowledge” base comes from absorbing it through sermons, conversations, school. Adventists are comfortable enough with the “string of pearls” biblical truth approach that most of us received while growing up. In all fairness, I don’t know if this is more or less the same in other Christian denominations but it is what it is within Adventism. I am not convinced that this is ever going to change.

I will also agree that Adventists don’t have a good grasp of what the “Gospel message” means…it has more or less been preempted by whatever Ellen White (or individual’s interpretations are thereof) has said upon the topic. Adventism, furthermore, is based upon concept of works not grace and it shows in it’s Fundamentalism. I know very few Adventist that feel that they are “saved” by grace. Sadly enough.

However…the quality of anyone’s Christian spiritual experience is dependent solely upon their hearing and acting upon what the Spirit guides them to do. It matters less whether or not one has the proper (i.e. correct/true) church. It is easy to see where this has been a problem in a corporate experience and SDAs are no different than any other denomination in this. Adventism cannot impact the world by having the “truth” but by rather living the life of Jesus Christ as fully as possible. “All other ground is sinking sand.”

@jay0143 The Spirit will not go against the Law. This is an issue only when doctrine is upheld above all else.


Which Bible did EGW use? Did she quote from books that aren’t in KJV?

I never cared much for the Wizard of Oz…

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Eunice, Here are some answers from the Ellen White Estate.

“While it was Ellen White’s custom to use the King James Version, she made occasional use of the various English translations that were becoming available in her day. She does not, however, comment directly on the relative merits of these versions, but it is clear from her practice that she recognized the desirability of making use of the best in all versions of the Bible. For example, in her book The Ministry of Healing, Ellen White employed eight texts from the English Revised Version, 55 from the American Revised Version, two from Leeser’s translation, and four from Noyes, in addition to seven marginal renderings. In her preaching, however, Ellen White preferred to use the language of the King James Version as it was the most familiar to her listeners.”

Here is a link to an article in the Adventist Review that speaks about Ellen White using the apocrypha (which is not part of the Bible as we know it): Ellen White’s use of the Apocrypha

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One of the biggest Mega-Churches in the world is not a church at all. But people are entering the doors every day, even though it does not advertise, and people are finding their God and people are being saved.
Alcoholics Anonymous – Narcotics Anonymous.
They have ONLY 12 Concepts to the finding and living in “God”. And ALL of these are ACTION activities.
NO Passive activities.
Miracles of changed lives are happening. They do this by being taught to Talk to their Higher Power at least twice a day. Read. Attend meetings. Share with each other during meetings.
One hour meetings. 15 minutes of reading, 45 minutes of sharing. The Serenity Prayer begins the meeting, the Lord’s Prayer ends it and the words, keep coming back, it works if you work it.
I frequently take some friends who have no transportation to meetings. A couple of weeks ago, in the BIG BOOK [Alcoholics Anonymous book] STUDY it was covering the chapter on Atheists and the Higher Power. It said Atheists do not have to believe in their Higher Power, JUST talk to Higher Power. Twice a day. And it gives a suggested list of things to talk about.
During the discussion time that particular day there were 2 young men and 1 young woman who shared. They, all 3, stated that each had grown up in a home whose father’s life-long career was a pastor of churches. But all 3 stated that they had never found a relationship with God while at home. They said they were blessed because some way they had gotten to the depths in drugs and alcohol, had found their way to AA rooms. And NOW they have the RELATIONSHIP with God that they never learned while at home. And you could see the happiness and joy as they told their stories.
After them, several men and 1 woman who had 20-25 years in the rooms, shared similar stories of growing up in Christian homes, attending church as young adults, but never developed a RELATIONSHIP with God until finding the 12 Active Concepts of AA.
Perhaps THIS is what is missing in SDA church Mission Mininistry – Relationship, NOT DOGMA ‘as one said’, not promotion of Rules and Regulations, but promoting Action of Relationship. Just 12.
AA was begun by 2 drunks in a hospital, being cared for by an attentive Nun. They told their stories to each other, and received help from each other. Invited others to join their conversation sessions. And thus this World Wide [literally] Movement was begun.
And millions have been blessed. Millions have found Relationship with their Higher Power – God.

Here is an unrelated comment from a book I have been reading —
"People who are toxic, psychopathic, or sociopathic are always those who cannot maintain relationships, who cannot sustain relationships. They run from them. Usually, either they are loners or they make all relating with them very difficult.
"I once met a psychiatrist who made a statement to me that I thought first was an overstatement. He is older than I am, and he said, “Richard, at the end of your life, you’ll realize that every mentally ill person you’ve ever worked with is basically lonely.” “Oh, come on, that’s a little glib, isn’t it?” I replied. “Oh, I admit, there are probably physical reasons for some mental illness, but Loneliness is what activates it.”
…“I think we’re back to this mystery of Trinity. Now we’re prepared to say that God is absolute relatedness. I would name SALVATION as simply the readiness, the capacity, and the willingness to stay in relationship. As long as you show up, the Spirit will keep working.” — Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance, pp. 45,46.
That is why they say at the close of AA and NA meetings – Keep coming back. It works if you work it.[The 12 Action Steps]

PS – the non-Canon books of The Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Prayer of Azariah and the song of the three jews [hebrews] are especially as good at contemplation reading as the Psalms. Baruch is another one for meditation and encouragement.
We as SDA miss a lot by NOT having these in our SDA Protestant Bibles to meditate on.
They are available from Oxford in the New Revised Standard Version binding.
If Ellen and her household read them, I am sure that she, and they, received a Blessing through the Word.

Bill – yes, If a person is willing to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior they cannot be baptized by a
Seventh day Adventist Christian pastor.
If a person JUST wants to become a Seventh day Adventist member of the group, they can be baptized by a Seventh day Adventist pastor.


Thank you so much Elder Leonard for focusing on what is different today.

Perhaps my experience can further help clarify how things are different today.

When I was baptized in 1957, all of the various ministers who were baptizing their children, friends or students said exactly the same words. After a few words about how happy he was for me, his son, that I was being baptized that day, he said, ‘Bill, because you have accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, I now baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.’

Today we hear all kinds of statements, but rarely the one I heard that day.

Instead, whether at PMC at Andrews University where I am a member or the ever shrinking congregation the Central California where I commonly attend also, the reason for baptizing is that the person had committed their life to Jesus, is determined to serve him the rest of their lives, and is going to do all they can to spread the gospel as a Seventh-day Adventist.

In short, 50 years ago the Seventh-day Adventist church baptized everyone into Jesus, and then invited them to become members of the Seventh-day Adventist church.

Today, we skip the Jesus part, and baptize new members into the Seventh-day Adventist church.

I asked a family member who was ministerial director of a major NAD conference whether a Seventh-day Adventist pastor could baptize a person without that person agreeing to become a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church. The reply was that this is forbidden.

So long as the new member is dependent on the church, they are essentially doomed to disappointment and in more than 40% of the cases apparently departing the church.

As that ministerial director went on to note over dinner with family, “We have to change. Because what we are doing isn’t working.”

Really looking forward to your coming installments. There is hope!


I’ve previously looked into this and don’t know why people make a big fuss about Ellen White and the Apocrypha. There’s nothing there. From that article you posted; even it says,

According to her grandson Arthur White, “the full meaning and significance of the E. G. White statement of 1850 is not clearly seen. It should be observed that Ellen White makes no reference to the Apocrypha at any time in her writings in the subsequent 65 years.”

BTW, I’m not saying people shouldn’t read the Apocrypha.


I have read the bible every day for over 30 years. I found a KJV one year bible in Christian bookshop. I now have a New k J v bought from an Adventist book shop. It has been my life blood connection to Jesus Christ. I no longer believe many doctrines of the church because God has revealed truth to me every day. I have purchased these Bibles for friends and those who have been baptised. One person gave it away to a homeless person and another said they would rather read the red books. It has truly amazed me that I have met with attitude. How can we be wise unless God’s word is precious. I no longer study SS lessons but my 365 day Bible has travelled the world with me. I am a child of the King and a princess of the Kingdom. I just love my daily reading. On Jan 1 it starts with Genises 1, Matt 1 and Psalms 1 and continues chronologically through the Bible. Every SDA should own one. Praise God for the Protestant Christian Bookshop

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I am no longer a member, but touch bases now and then to see if something will pull me back. My mother was a church school teacher, I did 16 years of Adventist education, and read more than the average number of EGW books so I know the teachings and culture well.

This moment in history is the golden opportunity for the SDA church to reach out to Millenials and former members, but the church seems to be blind to their own prophecies. The mainstream Christian church has lost all credibility by changing their God to justify following an immoral man for political power. This is the moment of prophecy that I learned as a child.

Adventists have much to say, but you are silent. As the American Christian church cheers war and a candidate who said he would kill women and children of ISIS fighters you could be pointing to the Adventist church’s pacifist roots. As the American Christianity worships beauty and wealth over substance you could be calling for the worship of God. As the American Christian church praises taking medical care from the poor, you could be pointing to the Adventist health system and healthful living.

Read EGW’s description of Lucifer in the GC. Yes, seriously, go read it. Yet, Adventists are focused on women’s ordination, and trying to decide if transgender people should be shunned. What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Ezek 16:49 (Hint: it is not homosexuality)


“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life."

I’d view this quote in a different way. Yes, Adventism highlighted its distinctives in the early 20th century to the point of forgetting Christ, but I believe the sentiments you and the author are perpetrating swings into the other ditch. Recognize that in Jesus’ comment to the Pharisees, He doesn’t admonish them to discard the scriptures, but rather see Himself throughout, as the “Scriptures point to me”. We are not to discard scriptures as the foundation of truth, nor are we to present them with no life in them. Growth is not happening because we do not present our doctrines with Christ in the center of them all!

I know this comment doesn’t follow the ideology of most who follow this journal, but I hope and pray that you will be able to read this with an unbiased and open mind, not looking for the justification of self but rather the search for the right.

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Mainstream, evangelical Christianity has lost all credibility in America, with its lust for political power, its anti science posturing, its decrying and simultaneous aping of the surrounding culture, and it’s pie in the sky prosperity gospel delivered by rich televangelists that cannot deliver what they or their message promise. Young, educated people see through this mess, and see that the emperor has no clothes.

Adventism is unfortunately not far from this. It approaches people with packaged propositional truth as if that is the essence of spiritual life, and what will feed their spiritual and relational hunger. It adds a burdensome set of requirements ( such as diet and holy times) to the gospel as if they are essential to it, when the NT is clear that they are not. It puts these issues into the center of Christian life, and through them has created a triumphalism that elevates the organization above every other expression of Christian faith, relegating the rest to apostasy. Meanwhile, it is blind to its own traditions and utter distortions of healthy spiritual life and Christian community.

With its roots in religious liberty, its views of the holistic nature of human beings, its valuing of healthy living, and its overall view of the counter cultural nature of the kingdom of God, Adventism should be well positioned to speak with a clear and difference making voice to people of this time. But with all its other baggage, it seems that nothing less than a total reimagining is what is in order, in order for Adventism to ever flourish let alone survive in 21st century America and the West.

I look forward to the next installment of this series!