Commentary on "A Perpetual Ministry"
Day 5: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - Reclaiming Former Members
The topic of today’s lesson is reclaiming folks who have left Adventism.
The author states:
“Backslider is a word we wish did not exist in the Christian vocabulary. It is a fact, however, that many people slide away from church and from a saving relationship with the Lord. Although people do, at times, leave us over doctrine, most of the time they leave over other things, usually personal disputes and so forth. Whatever the reasons, we need to do all that we can to create a loving and nurturing environment that would help those who join us want to stay among us, despite whatever personal issues inevitably arise.” (Emphasis supplied)
The author ends with this question:
“Think about those who have left the church and the reason why they did. Is there any one person with whom you could re-establish contact with, resume friendship with, minister to, and seek to reconnect them with the church? Pray about how you could go about doing this.”
It is interesting how the author ascribes motives to people who have left Adventism with little evidence to bolster the assertion. He claims that people leave not for doctrinal (read: substantial) reasons, but for personal dispute (read: unsubstantial/shallow) reasons.
Some data was recently collected via survey from former Adventists, and it can be seen here: http://arthurandteresabeem.blogspot.com/2011_12_11_archive.html. Specifically, 86% of the total sample (200+) respondents indicated that they left Adventism because the doctrine did not line up with the Bible. Please note that random sampling methods were not employed for this study; however, it provides some evidence that there may be a significant number of members who are leaving over doctrinal differences. As the internet continues to supply members with unfiltered, independent information and provides opportunities for former Adventists to bond with others who are in the same process, we may see an increase of individuals in this category.
From a purely anecdotal perspective, I have noticed that although individuals do leave Adventism because of personality clashes or because of being offended by someone, there is also a substantial number that fall into one of two additional camps:
I do not know which of these groups is larger; but it seems a tad presumptuous of the author to assert, with no supporting evidence, that most folks leave because of 'personal disputes’. However, it is unfortunately not all that surprising because this tactic fits very well with the mindset in the leadership whose goal is to keep as many people from questioning the doctrine as possible. This is classic behavior that is seen in religious sects, who attempt to control the narrative and the information to which the members have access. One salient example is that Adventists study the Bible primarily through their own Sabbath School lesson materials in which each Biblical concept is filtered through the lenses of Ellen White’s interpretation.
There are quite a few psychological tactics for ensuring that people think and act within a group’s rules and norms, and it would seem that the author is engaging in one of these strategies when he asserts that most folks do not leave over doctrine. The underlying assumption is that not many folks leave for substantial, rational, or intellectual reasons. Instead, they leave for superficial reasons. This sends a powerful message to the rank-and-file Adventists in the pews—intelligent people don’t leave this organization. And when they do, it is for relatively illogical reasons.
Personally speaking, when I decided to leave Adventism, I heard variants of the following ideas: “You are an intelligent person. You’re too smart to leave!” At one point in my process out, someone had accidentally emailed me a message about me to someone else. A portion of the message read something like, “Dana has a Ph.D., so it’s really amazing to me that she no longer comprehends the truth of the Sabbath. You’d think she’d know better!”
Somehow, Adventism indoctrinates its members to assume that it’s the less-intelligent ones who will be leaving the organization. However, if an educated person does leave for well-thought-through reasons, then they take comfort in Ellen White’s statement that the bright lights will go out at the end of time.
“The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The observance of the false sabbath will be urged upon us. The contest will be between the commandments of God and the commandments of men. Those who have yielded step by step to worldly demands and conformed to worldly customs will then yield to the powers that be, rather than subject themselves to derision, insult, threatened imprisonment, and death. At that time the gold will be separated from the dross. True godliness will be clearly distinguished from the appearance and tinsel of it. Many a star that we have admired for its brilliance will then go out in darkness. Those who have assumed the ornaments of the sanctuary, but are not clothed with Christ’s righteousness, will then appear in the shame of their own nakedness." Prophets and Kings p. 188 (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, Adventism presents to its members an airtight case that eludes falsification and discourages members (particularly young people) from: (a) asking questions, (b) thinking for themselves, or © exposing Adventist doctrine to rigorous questioning. The fact of the matter is that none of us should have to resort to controlling people’s thoughts or the flow of information because truth will always survive tough scrutiny.
Personally, when I was growing up, I recall just how former Adventists who studied their way out (and remained Christians) were spoken about by the members. Formers who studied out were not at all respected and were considered to have engaged in the highest form of treason. They were intermittently pitied and derided as being deceived and irrational; and all the Ellen White quotes would surface regarding the fate of those who once knew the Sabbath truth but rejected it outright. The message was clear. If you wanted to be a respected, intelligent individual, you do NOT, under any circumstances, break ranks.
Folks raised in this kind of Adventist environment and later are forced to follow their conscience and leave Adventism because they cannot reconcile its teachings with the Bible can suffer for years with emotional and spiritual scars. So I suppose in a sense the author is correct—many individuals who leave SDA are emotionally wounded but not for the reasons he specifies.
Copyright 2012 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised May 23, 2012. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Camp Verde, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
The Sabbath School Bible Study Guide and the corresponding E.G. White Notes are published by Pacific Press Publishing Association, which is owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist church. The current quarter's editions are pictured above.
Official Adventist Resources
Please Support This Project