Sabbath and Creativity

The Sabbath is much more than a memorial of Adam and Eve and Eden. First and foremost, Sabbath is a celebration of the creativity within the heart of God.[1] He is always the center of every doctrine. Creativity captures the heartbeat of the Trinity better than almost any other divine attribute besides love.

The denomination’s 20th Fundamental Belief ends with the following statement: “Joyful observance of this holy time from evening to evening, sunset to sunset, is a celebration of God’s creative and redemptive acts.”[2] That is certainly a valuable insight, but more important than celebrating God’s acts is celebrating God Himself. It is the Godhead’s inherent creativity that gave birth to everything good throughout the universe.

The truth about God’s creativity, that the Sabbath highlights, cannot be revealed to others by word alone. To have credibility, creativity must also be seen in the lives of both members and churches. Otherwise how we live will contradict our words as followers of Christ.

Sabbath can become compartmentalized where we treat it as a stand-alone event with no particular relationship to the rest of the week. But biblically, the other six days of the week are built upon the values contained within the seventh, one of the most prominent of which is creativity.

To use an analogy, Sabbath is not simply one story in a seven-story building. It is, instead, more like the foundation on which the rest of the building stands. Sabbath-keeping is not just about how to spend a day, it is about how to spend a life.

The first angel’s message of Revelation 14:7 states, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Revelation 14:7 NKJV). We honor and worship “Him who made” not only by keeping a day but also by very intentionally making creativity a core characteristic of our lives.

When we become a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, we also become co-creators with God. People who keep Sabbath well say, “I am now going to approach life in innovative and unconventional ways in order to reflect the life of my Lord. I am going to put on new spiritual glasses and see myself now as an inventor, a discoverer, an explorer.”

Creativity is not a quality that only applies to artists. Because we are made in the image of God, we all contain the Holy Spirit inspired ability to create. Our paintings may look like the scrawlings of a monkey. Our attempt to play a musical instrument may sound like a bird call on steroids. Nonetheless, we can all be individually creative at things like spirituality, cooking, problem solving, child raising, interior decorating, cleaning, gardening, work, strategic planning, vacation planning, money management, conflict management, time management, service to the community, relationships, exercise, teaching, research, and on and on.

Sabbath-keeping churches are also committing themselves to highly valuing creativity as well. Congregations that are stuck in a rut, who resist Holy Spirit-inspired change, are not good Sabbath-keepers. A Sabbath-keeping church that is uncreative is an oxymoron.

Congregations need to hold firm to biblical beliefs and principles, but also eagerly embrace inventive change that allows them to remain relevant to member’s needs and the needs of their communities. Tragically, our young people, especially, are flocking away from churches they feel are out of touch, that are more like museums than paragons of cutting edge messaging, relationships, and service.

One of the main reasons so many Adventist members and churches do not welcome or seek out change and innovation is that creativity has largely been bred out of us by too many well-intentioned, one-size-fits-all, initiatives from denominational leadership. For decades the organization has mistaken uniformity for unity, which has robbed us of our God-given, creative destiny. Originality has been leached away by dictums from higher up the denominational food chain that specify, “You’re all going to do the same thing in the same way.” My focus here is on methods and procedures rather than beliefs and policies that are clearly in line with biblical principles.

I am old enough to remember the hallowed days of “Ingathering.” For decades it was handed down and mandated for all pastors and congregations across the country.

I pastored in the 1970s during the heyday of this national fundraising strategy. I apologize to anyone who loved Ingathering, but by the time it filtered down to my local congregations it had become an annual misery.

It is my understanding that the funds raised through Ingathering started out as a bonus to the denominational budget (extra). However, it later became part of the budget which dramatically ratcheted up the pressure. To make sure that every pastor complied, our conference published a weekly “List of Shame” that contained the names of the pastors whose churches got their goal and those who didn’t. Our particular conference even threatened to not approve any time off for the Christmas holidays until we raised every penny.

In those days, churches were given a goal of $25 for each church member to be raised in November and December. We were expected to get the money by organizing congregants into groups and territory. Some lucky people provided transportation while other members bundled up and went house to house.

I distinctly remember one frigid, blustery Sunday when a football game involving my favorite team was being televised at 3:00 p.m. With way too much Ingathering goal left to raise, I felt compelled to schedule another foray into the community that same afternoon at 2:00 p.m. If no one showed, I got to go home, guilt free, and tune in.

1:55 – no one.

2:00 – no one.

2:05 – no one.

2:20 – no one! I started to lock up.

2:25 – Two very senior citizens slowly maneuvered their dark colored Dodge into the church driveway. Resignedly, I trudged out to meet them. They rolled down the driver’s side window and said cheerily, “Hi pastor, we want to drive.”

As the years went by, fewer and fewer members participated and the money got harder and harder to raise. I often mused, “Why does leadership seem to be far more concerned about us going into the community to get money than to serve.” Alas, that misery has now gone the way of the horse and buggy.

Uniformity was also too often imposed when it came to evangelism. I remember cringing when I heard one of our conference leaders say, “We want every church to hold evangelistic meetings this Fall.” It was like telling farmers, “I want every one of you to harvest tomatoes this Fall,” with no regard for whether or not there had been any seed sowing, watering, weeding, fertilizing, etc. With no regard for the kind of soil or weather conditions they were dealing with.

It took so much time and energy to comply with leadership’s mandate, that we had little vitality left for other outreach initiatives. We didn’t get brownie points for anything less than baptisms anyway.

Uniformity also showed up in the prescribed services on Sabbath morning. I recall members who were outraged if we didn’t follow the denominational manual on what to do during the Sabbath School Preliminaries. I also remember one of our denominational leaders commenting to me, “Isn’t it wonderful that I can go to any Adventist church anywhere in the world and know exactly what the order of the worship service is going to be?” He was willing to sacrifice creativity on the altar of uniformity.

The suffocating effects of uniformity were also manifest in having every adult Sabbath School class around the world study the very same General Conference-generated lesson each week. It is certainly a useful resource. But what most likely developed from good motives and positive intentions, eventually became a bulwark against any other approach. Anytime I talked about studying something that was more relationally oriented, I was met with aghast stares and stern resistance. There should have been a thousand different creative ways of doing adult Sabbath School across the United States. Instead, leadership has put use of the Sabbath School Quarterly on a par with doctrine.

Other examples of imposed uniformity could be sited. Such a strategy has done lasting damage because it robbed us of the local creativity that should be the very hallmark of a people who venerate the seventh day.

The Lord knew that the poison of uniformity can result in inflexibility, intolerance, and distrust. Therefore, He gave us the Sabbath as a clarion call to break free, shed our old constrictive thinking, and strive to become known, collectively, as some of the most creative people on the planet. Sabbath’s call to creativity reminds us of the need to provide an open, accepting atmosphere where people are encouraged to ask questions, make mistakes, and think outside the box.

During the past several years, the approach of mandating sameness in methods and processes appeared to substantially recede. Sparks of creativity started to glow. Flames of innovation were igniting in the church more widely than ever.

But then came the five Compliance Committees from the General Conference in 2018. In terms of creativity, they are like taking a fire hose to all those sparks and flames of innovation. They have a chilling effect that is sure to set congregational creativity back many years if they are allowed to continue.

The five Compliance Committees are, in fact, just the opposite of what true Sabbath-keeping is all about. Simply bringing them into existence promotes a culture of threat and public shaming which is the opposite of what creativity requires. The five Compliance Committees represent a God of domination and uniformity rather than a God of boundless innovation and empowerment. Their mere presence therefore represents a major hindrance to the proclamation of the Three Angels’ Messages, which include the Sabbath at the very core.

“In The Art of the Idea, John Hunt states, ‘Fear might be a strong catalyst for entrenching obedience, but it’s a lousy motivator for fresh thinking.’”[3] In her book, The Change Masters: Innovation & Entrepreneurship in the American Corporation, Rosabeth Moss Kanter lists “10 Rules for Stifling Innovation.” Rule #6 states, “Control everything, carefully.”[4]

The five Compliance Committees were clearly established to “control everything, carefully.” As such, they form a serious road block to the call to creativity that is at the heart of our denomination’s purpose.

To be faithful to the spirit of Sabbath, I urge members and churches to stand up and live out their high calling of reflecting the creative heart of God. I also urge leaders to push back against anything that hinders widespread creativity and embark on a strategy that fosters originality and innovation among members and congregations in every possible way.

Notes & References:

[1] Seventh-day Adventists Believe: A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines, (Washington, D.C., Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1988) 248


[3] Tony Vengrave, “How to Stifle Innovation,” intrepidNOW,

[4] Ibid.

Kim Johnson retired in 2014 as the Undertreasurer of the Florida Conference. He and his wife Ann live in Maitland, Florida. Kim has written a number of articles for SDA journals plus three books published by Pacific Press: The Gift, The Morning, and The Team. He has also written three sets of small group lessons for churches that can be viewed at He is also the author of eight "Life Guides" on CREATION Health.

Photo by Skye Studios on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

" Grant me the privilege of the liberating joy of Sabbath. The privilege of truly tasting the delight of Sabbath. May I be undisturbed by sadness, by sorrow, or by sighing during the holy hours of Sabbath. Fill Your servant’s heart with joy, for to You, O Lord, I offer my entire being. Let me hear joy and jubilation. Help me to expand the dimensions of all Sabbath delights. Help me to extend the joy of Sabbath to the other days of the week, until I attain the goal of deep joy always. Show me the path of life, the full joy of Your Presence, the bliss of being close to You forever. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."
— Siddur Sim Shalom [1985], pg 303.


The Sabbath was made for man not not man for the Sabbath. A dairy farmer has an entirely different Sabbath than a banker or school teacher. Certainly Sabbath for a pastor differs from than of a member of the congregation. My children remember with great joy the mountains, the desert, and the sea shore of our California days. I also recall them with thankfulness, but my greatest joy was Graham Maxwells Sabbath School Class. Then came Georgia and a cultic rigor. Highlighted by the purge at Southern with the Cookie Monster an topped off by Davenport. The last time I attended the Augusta Church the children’s sermon lasted 25 minutes on creation. Some delight!


I have a number of books discussing the blessings of Sabbath and
written by non-Seventh day Adventists. Several of these are –
Dan B. Allender, “Sabbath”
Molly Wolf, “Hiding in Plain Sight – Sabbath Blessings”
A. J. Swoboda, “Subversive Sabbath”
Abraham Joshua Herschel, “The Sabbath”

I have found these messages about the blessings of Sabbath to be
much more inviting that what the SDA Denomination puts out, or
what is preached in Evangelistic Meetings.


I appreciate what the writer of this article is aiming for. I just think it is coming from the wrong launching point. Knowing the crucified and risen Christ is about how to spend a life. This is what the NT says and centers on over and over and over, not the observance of holy times.

Regarding creativity and unity within diversity, how about, “One man regards one day above another, while another regards every day alike. Let every one be convinced in their own minds?” How about embracing this type of Christian freedom that allows for individual difference regarding the observance of holy times within a creative unity? How about embracing all types of different Christians, Christian groups, and Christian experiences that are centered on the power and the love of the risen Christ, whether or not it is centered around the Sabbath? Maybe by doing so Adventism would become a more free, and a more dynamic and Spirit led movement that finds life and creativity from Christians outside its own borders.

If the sabbath and its keeping are the touchstone for what this article advocates, then why has the denomination been so steeped in rigidity, uniformity, and stifling legalism for so long? Could it be that something is being expected out of Sabbath keeping that simply is not there, and that it has no real power to produce?

Some different thoughts on this issue…




I am in agreement with what Frank has said and if I may add my own contributory words here they would read like this.

Perhaps we should focus more on the Jesus of the Sabbath rather than the Sabbath day itself.I am not sure whether I am that keen or creativity or the lack of creativity, but my concern is that we exalt the Lord of the Sabbath far more than( a) putting so much emphasis on a day, in relation to how it is kept or not kept, the focus of the day in our prophetic interpretation and so on.
What really stands our for me, is the focus that Jesus Himself placed on the Sabbath,as a time to do good, to heal, to restore,consistent with His mission on the earth, in addition to pointing people to abide in Him and find salvation in Him.

Could it be that we as SDAs have a misplaced focus about the Sabbath- that is, we focus on the day in and of itself, and try to highlight the ‘benefits’ of the day rather than focusing on Christ to whom the day, as well as the entire Scripture points to as the Lord?

Could it be that rather than focusing on law and commandments, we, by the Holy Spirit 's leading allow Christ to be Lord of our lives and live the Spirit filled life as Christ lived on the earth- to bless people and moreso seek Him for salvation?

Could it be that because of our interpretation of certain prophecies in Revelation,we lost sight of Jesus and His gospel,and consequently emphasize the wrong aspects-. Remember it was Jesus who gave to John the Revelation at the beginning and it is Jesus again who speaks at the end… In sum, when we study the Revelation our focus should be on Jesus and His power to save. Shouldn’t we place our focus here in Jesus Himself?

Has it occurred to anyone that in the new testament, within the gospels and in the epistles that the focus is increasingly more and more about Jesus and the gospel- the good news of salvation rather than on the Sabbath day itself?

In a very real sense it is possible for a denomination to focus on a day so much that in reality, it may exalt a day rather than the Creator of the day and commit idolatry- that is idolizing the Sabbath-the period of time which God made holy? Isn’t that itself ironic, since we as a church emphasize law and commandments so much that we end up breaking the first commandment by our misplaced zeal about the Sabbath?

Perhaps it is time to get back to the foundations if true Christianity- to Jesus and His gospel, to proclaiming simple faith in Him as the means of salvation, which was what Jesus and the apostles preached? Wouldn’t we, be more effective witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ if we did these things?

My prayer is that the Holy Spirit would lead us to exalt Jesus more, to point others to Him far more than we do and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and dwell in our lives just as Jesus did when He was on the earth.

Blessings to all.


Foundation? What about “…the foundation of the apostles and the prophets with Jesus the Messiah himself as the chief cornerstone?” The community of faith stands upon the witness of the apostles and prophets to Jesus himself, as do our individual lives. The imagery of this article is sorely misplaced. It betrays the distortion and misplaced emphasis, even with good intentions, of Adventist theology. I’m sorry. I just cannot help but speak up.




May I add this treasure: The Jewish Sabbath: A Renewed Encounter by Pinchas Peli (1930-1989).


Frank, I agree. Sabbath takes on a life within itself in various shades of adventism which attention should only be reserved for Christ!


Good point, Frank. In this chapter, Paul declares that we should not judge others or coerce them on their beliefs or actions regarding vegetarianism or sacred days. (Whether they are fellow church members or not, of course.)

Is it the policy of our denomination comply with Paul’s instructions and not to look down on fellow Christians if they do not regard one day above another or regard different days as Sabbath than we do?

How about us? The Bible commands that one Sabbath a year is to be observed from sundown to sundown., the Day of Atonement. Do we obey that commandment, or do we begin all Sabbaths at sundown because the Jews do? I have read that they began their present practice during the intertestamental period.)

It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the [seventh] month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath. (Lev 23:32)

Genesis 1 says that the first day began when God said, “let there be light”.

God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” There was evening, and there was morning, marking the first day. (Gen 1:5 NET)

Since day came before night, the the end of the first day, (called 'evening" in the Bible) came before the end of the first night (called "morning in the Bible).

It appears that the principle of “present truth” might call us to take Romans 14 more seriously.


Two things: One it is so interesting how this article tries to add further prominence to the Sabbath as it is the very foundation on which ALL of Gods law is based. I cannot accept that. The second is how ingathering is now so disparaged. SDA ministers used to wrap it up in scriptures from top to bottom to give it justification. Was it all just a joke? And who was the joke on? (I was always suspicious of the entire concept).


Sadly, as a church, we have used the Sabbath to rebuild the wall of separation that Christ demolished through His sacrifice. We’ve turned a 24-hour period of time into the final test for all time and so we condemn most of the Christian world despite the fact that the fourth commandment is about rest from physical work. We’ve worshiped the shadow while the reality of Christ has been hidden in the shadow.

To argue that Paul meant sabbatical years and ceremonial sabbaths is to exalt the weekly day of worship as a reality together with the reality of Christ. I hardly think that this is what Paul had in mind. The Gentiles were strangers to the covenants of promise, separate from Christ, excluded from Israel, without hope, without God. They were reconciled to God through the cross. They were given no instructions on how or why to keep a weekly Sabbath in any of Paul’s letters. Christ broke down the barrier wall by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances.

Christ reconciled Jew and Gentile to God through the cross. That’s where our peace and rest come from. Reconciliation is through the new covenant in Christ’s blood and broken body, not through an old covenant law, no matter how we think of the weekly Sabbath.

The Sabbath or any day of worship can be enjoyed as Steve has indicated. However, for Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, the Sabbath was never an issue except as he pointed out, it is a shadow pointing to the reality of the true rest for the soul found only in Christ.This gospel is our entry into God’s rest, a rest stretching into eternity.


It’s hard to know what the main gist of the article is about. There’s a lot to unpack, and several issue to deal with. Is it about - 1) the Sabbath being the foundation of our lives - 2) lack of creativity in the SDA church - 3) compliance committees - 4) uniformity being the bane of church service?

I’m going with the title - “lack of creativity in the Sabbath”. Not having been to church or SS for a number of years, I ventured in one Sabbath, without a quarterly, mind you, and was immediately offered one by a well-meaning member, sitting nearby. I said, “No thank you, I have my Bible”. She looked surprised. Determined not to comment during discussion, frustration was overwhelming. Church service followed, like clockwork, - followed by handshakes - and home for dinner. It all washed over me, the familiar routine.

When you’re on that treadmill, it all feels natural and normal, and you go through procedures like you would on your way to bed - the lights, the lock on the door - the washcloth, and the toothbrush. The problem is we do all that without thinking about it - like learning to play the piano - endless scales, until it becomes part of an automatic reflex arc. Sometime later, visiting with a former pastor and friend, who wondered why I hadn’t been to church, I said I had been, “but nothing had changed”. Eyes wide, he asked “what should have changed?”


Today is Saturday, Sabbath to many of diverse origins and beliefs. To me, Jesus, the Christ called Himself the true Sabbath. his invitation is the key—“Come unto Me and I will give you rest—“. Adventism is a strange mix of Methodism, Judaism, and egotism. Ego Rules today.


Yes, it all could be about WEDNESDAY as a day of rest. :slightly_smiling_face: (enough about those calculations): … unless, the weekly Sabbath was already in place as an experience, actuated in the rest offered by Christ - a shadow, thrust forward in time.


The 20th fundamental belief has turned the Sabbath into an idol.


"One of the main reasons so many Adventist members and churches do not welcome or seek out change and innovation is that creativity has largely been bred out of us by too many well-intentioned, one-size-fits-all, initiatives from denominational leadership. For decades the organization has mistaken uniformity for unity, which has robbed us of our God-given, creative destiny."

Yes…and for some of us this has been a primary reason that we are no longer in the church.

How many younger people are pretty much told to “sit down and enjoy what is already here” instead of allowing the Spirit to work through the God-given talents of creativity and innovation. After a while, they feel that their new ideas for worship and in/out reach are not welcomed (and they are usually not) and they leave.

Fundamentialism tends to bred “cookie cutter” approaches to things…perhaps this is a backlash to the fear of “new” and the “unknown”. However, the net result IS that “Uniformity” is prized over “Unity” as it is less threatening to the status quo. When the “creatives” are taken out of church membership there is going to be a stultifying effect- and I see this now in the SDA church.



i not so fondly recall the admonishment to not take pleasure in anything on the sabbath, pre-interpreted to mean “no sex on sabbath”, until i recognized that the biblical pattern says otherwise (as does the Jewish tradition of twice on sabbath). After all, Adam was surely lonely, and had ideas in his head after watching, studying and naming ALL the animals on the 6th day. I imagine he must have rushed off to gods office, and hurriedly knocked on the door, “God, have you SEEN what the gazelles and deer are doing in the moonlight? And the bonobos??
Where is MY lover???”

Take a nap, son, God said.

Tomorrow is the honeymoon.

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That’s like eating at Subway, McDonald’s, and Pancake House on your trip around the world.


I think not:

“91% of all church resources are spent on those already Christian” - Gary Krause. Director of the Office of Adventist Mission, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Also ask how many Adventists would acknowledge this report considering their stance on “sabbath keeping”?