Tuesday, February 14, 2012

To Leave or Not To Leave, That is the Question

For years people have assumed that I want Adventists to leave their church. Well, yes and no.

More than anything I just want people to follow Christ. There are many Adventists who are called to leave and it is extremely difficult for them. They are plagued by fears of deception and of going to church on Sunday, and if you are an former SDA you won't need me to list out the other fears placed in you by Ellen White.

If you are called to leave Adventism, I wrote a book for you to help ease the transition out. I did it out of love because leaving was for me a very traumatic experience. I loved being an Adventist. My Adventism was like living in an episode of "Leave it to Beaver" or "Andy Griffith." My Adventism had been sweet and innocent, comfortable. Sabbath, in my heart, had an ethereal glow from sunset to sunset and it was my favorite day of the week. It just seemed strange to give up such a good culture to walk into a culture that might have been more theologically correct, but a lot less sweet and comfortable.

For me, leaving Adventism was like walking from a sunny day into a cold, scary dark cave, and it took enormous amounts of courage. But I knew I was following Christ and He had my hand.

Our book, "It's Okay NOT to be a Seventh-day Adventist" was my way of helping those after me see a light at the end of the tunnel, to know that someone has gone before and made it through. A field guide to shine the light on those scary shadows in the cave that may make you run back into Adventism.

The other side is better, full of a joy and peace you didn't know existed. Knowing Christ, post Adventism, is like discovering a treasure beyond your wildest imagination.  You breathe differently, more fully, with ease. Things smell and taste better. You feel as if you were let go from a prison that you never knew you were in. It takes so much faith and courage to do that. Often people stay Adventist because they don't realize there is something so much better.

For those called out? Yes, I want them to be obedient to God and enter into a greater life of Christianity, united with the entire Body of Christ.

But I also think that there are some that God calls to stay in, not to defend Adventism but to bring her into a deeper understanding of the gospel.

It is kind of silly to send missionaries out to those who don't understand the gospel when you are smack dab born into one. Some Adventists are supposed to stay in as missionaries within Adventism. After all, the majority of SDA beliefs fall within Christian orthodoxy. They just need to see how a few of their doctrines are not biblical. What would happen if God removed all His people from within Adventism? That would be catastrophic for these wonderful people.

God is leaving a remnant of Adventists within its system to baby step them out of their erroneous doctrines into the light. Inch by inch we are seeing this happen. For the momentum is towards Biblical Christianity and the few who have not yet been liberated from SDA traditions are loudly reaching back towards the past trying to grasp onto the wrong doctrines to prevent any more movement. I think this historic Adventism leadership is temporary.

God has plans for Adventism, for their good and not evil. He isn't going to abandon them, but keep enough people inside to keep the gospel alive that they may grow into a healthier church.

Do I wish that a miracle would occur and instantaneously all SDAs could see the truth and we would all then become united as one Body of Christ, with no more suspicions and skepticism of other Christians? Of course yes, but love is patient....

As anxious as we former SDAs are to grab our family and friends and pull them into our joy, our liberty and show them the beauties of Jesus from outside Adventism, we must trust God in all things.

I know God in-sources SDA missionaries and we need to give them enormous support, (as long as they are not excusing disobedience to God calling them out!) for it has got to be terribly lonely in there.

So if you are one, I stand behind you. Don't see our ministry as against you but pulling for you.

However, I do think the vast majority of Adventists are called to leave, not stay in. While there are those given extraordinary skills to perform self-surgery, I think most of us need to out source our theological healing. We need the fullness of the Body of Christ to be healthy as Christians.


dpm said...

Have you ever met someone who *got it*, had the veil removed and felt called to stay in to help others see?

I haven't.

Is this a real phenomenon or just theoretical?

Teresa Beem said...

I have met many Adventists who do understand the gospel but I must admit they have some pretty big blind spots. (But since I have them too, I figure I can't expect perfection from them when I am not there yet myself.)

There are two SDA televangelists who come to mind. They actually do get it... I have heard from their mouths or in personal emails that they know Adventism is dead wrong as far as pillar doctrines but they say they feel called to stay in and preach the gospel--not Ellen White, not the Investigative Judgement, etc.

Even if I don't fully understand it and there is a slight temptation to judge them as just staying in because they are a big fish in an extremely tiny pond--I do my very best to resist such thoughts and accept what they say with sincere love.

They will need all our prayers and support if God really does have them in for that reason.

Sharon said...

I am glad to see that you feel there is hope for Adventism and that a small group still inside can make a difference. The Church I grew up in was an offshoot of the Adventist branch on the sabbatarian tree. We tied ourselves back to William Miller. That chruch was Armstrongism (Worldwide Church of God). It started refuting the teaching of Herbert Armstrong in the 1990's. Thousands of people left to form even more conservative churches that worship the writings of Herbert Armstrong. The chruch took a tremendous hit financially and had to sell off all it's major properties. The chruch now is a vibrant community that does walk in the grace of Jesus. So yes, there is hope, but it is going to be a painful process and can potentially produce even more legalistic splinter groups of Adventism. Be prepared! It's a bumpy road but oh so worth it! The video of that process is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWAtvE1xiRk

Charissa said...

Oh, yeah Sharon!!!! She posted that video before & it was very long, but I watched the whole thing and it was AWESOME!!! I was SO proud of them! I never heard that story before then...

Anonymous said...

I am a Black Adventist, I know the core teachings aren't Biblical. It's hard to leave because the Black Adventist community is so tight knit and I would be hard-pressed to find another community of Christian Blacks as organized, as educated, as the Seventh-day Adventist blacks. The problem of segregation is not unique to the Adventist church, sadly. Either a church is 99.9% white or 99.9% black or 100% some other ethnicity. There are a few churches that are different but they are few and far between. I love my Black people but it is just a totally different culture and socioeconomic situation inside of SDA and outside of it. And frankly I am not comfortable outside of it. I have found a RARE multiracial "Sunday" church that I like, and I do attend there. But how can you beat the globality of Adventism? Everywhere you go in the world, there are Adventists. The schools are everywhere. And despite Biblical error, Adventist culture promotes health, education, wealth, and I have yet to meet a broke Adventist regardless of his/her background. I mean, the church exudes class and distinction just on a whole. These things make it hard for me to leave and just go to "any old church".

Anonymous said...

And then another thing you will not find outside of the Adventist church is fiscal responsibility. That tithe envelope is on point. You know where every dime of your money is going. And then every year there is a church budget meeting, members can come and see how the money is being spent. You would be hard pressed to find that in ANY other church. And furthermore, the minister's income is fixed and the ministers rotate so that no church becomes a cult of personality or is abused by the minister. Black "Sunday" churches (I can't speak for any others) are notorious for taking people's money and being completely unaccountable. I have been to a COGIC church (largest Black denomination in America) where every week the Pastor would park his Bentley right next to the main entrance where people would walk in. Just disgusting. Furthermore the Adventist church has seminaries. No one can be an Adventist minister without at least a bachelor's, preferably a master's, and every more preferably a doctorate. Do you know how much education is required to become a COGIC minister? You got it, none. So I go out to these other churches, black, white, AND inbetween...the preaching is so watered down relative to the depth I would get as an Adventist. Like I'm now getting water crackers instead of a full meal! Let's not forget Sabbath School...what other denomination has worldwide Bible studies that coincide? Like I can bring my SS lesson to Africa and participate in the discussion? What other denomination even actually CARES about the people studying the Bible? Man, the Adventist church is sooo excellent and organized! It is truly a church you can be proud of. This makes it so hard to leave!

Teresa Beem said...


Sorry about your dilemma. Maybe you have been called to stay in and teach truth! Just be courageous in doing it. Don't let your feelings of pride and cultural comfort become more important that preaching God's word.

As far as the rest....
It depends upon where you live. Because my husband is a travel nurse, and we move around the US about every six to 12 months, we have gotten a really good picture of Christianity in America.

While the Pentecostal churches do reflect a lot of what you are seeing--biblically illiterate pastors and very loose organizational structures that don't provide financial oversight, I find that if you go to Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist or Anglican/Episcopalian churches you will see a difference.

I have to agree with you that in most Southern Protestant churches I have gone to, I see mostly white-haired, over 60 attendees (mostly white skinned too). Still a lot of segregation, but self-segregation because people tend towards their own culture and lifestyle. (as well as race). Don't know what to do about that....

A lot of the Protestant churches I have attended do have a complete run down of every penny the church spends and accounts for in weekly bulletins. And monthly financial meetings are open and the pastor encourages people to come.

And when it comes to seminaries and teaching, some churches allow people to take a couple ON LINE courses and they get an official "bishop" certificate or pastoral diploma. It is ridiculous. But I do know that most churches--Catholics, Orthodox, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist and some Baptist require four to EIGHT years of seminary training after college. A Wisconsin-Synod Lutheran Priest told me he had to have over FOUR full years of Greek and Hebrew and that he had to go to post graduate school for eight years to be a priest.

So, those churches you cite are rare.... Most churches do have lots of financial accountability and educated leaders.

Where you find the big problems are in denominations that are completely local, independent and have no hierarchal structure--and mostly fundamentalist.

Sorry that you have found so few good churches in your area. For my husband and I, we had to attend many different ones in order to find one we felt taught true Biblical doctrines. It takes a lot of looking around, but eventually you find one.

I will be praying that the Lord will give you strength to follow His will no matter where that takes you. If it is to stay within the SDA system and preach truth--that will take a WHOLE lot of God's grace and strength on your part. That actually will be harder than leaving--no matter how crazy the churches around you! (haa haa)

Remember we are not called to comfort, but to sacrifice. We are called to pick up our cross and follow Christ no matter how difficult. God bless you dear Brother as you find God's path for you life.

retep said...

my faith eroded slowly, first removed Ellen white, then the sanctaury and investigative judgement dogma, then religion altogether , am now an atheist and glad to be free from it all.

dpm said...


Your reasoning for staying within the Adventist system is shallow. I'll be blunt about it, yes.

It's akin to you saying, "My wife disrespects me, hits me, spends all my money going out with her girlfriends. She cheats on me and never lifts a finger to support me, but that woman can cook! That's why I stay. One day she told me that she puts a small bit of poison in my food. I have been feeling ill, but it's not that bad. I'm sure she doesn't put that much arsenic in my food. I betcha there are other women who would have killed me already! I will never find a woman that can cook like this! And that's why I stay."

Black Adventist pastors may *sound* educated, but if what they are saying is not true, then the way they *sound* is just an illusion.

Churches will forever be segregated if everyone just stays in his own church and complains about segregation. Get up, move and be the change you want to see.

We left Adventism (black Adventism) and asked God to show us where our next church, within the Body of Christ, should be. He led us to the church where were are currently members. It's a white church and we don't mind that one bit. Our pastor has a PhD, by the way. They told us that they'd been praying for people to join them so their congregation wouldn't be so homogeneous. We were an answer to their prayer and they were an answer to ours.

In many ways you will feel like you are out of your comfort zone when you leave the cocoon of Adventism. My question for you, is, is the Gospel worth it?

Our story is here: (http://lifeassuranceministries.org/proclamation/2011/1/faithstory.html)
Feel free to contact us if you want to chat more.

Teresa Beem said...

Thanks so much DPM, you said it so much better than I could. I also, because of some of his comments, assumed he was a pastor, but I am not sure. Hope we can get him back and keep the conversation going...