Should We Leave the Church?
week I received a letter from a person in the Northwest, who said I was
a devil because I was not giving a call out of the Seventh-day Adventist
week or so before that, I received a letter declaring I was doing wrong
because I did not make it my first work to tell people that all those,
not in the organization, cannot be saved.
individuals who write these letters may be well-meaning in their
intentions, but their position is not mine.
is a great controversy. It has been fought for over six thousand years,
and is now being waged in our world, and among the Advent people.
that controversy is not the church. It is something quite different. Yet
there are those who are trying to change the terms of the great
controversy—and make it a battle over organizational relationship.
heart of the controversy lies somewhere else. Only those who recognize
the fact will be able to relate themselves properly to other believers.
me say that again, but in different words: Only those who place as top
priority the true basis of the controversy, will be able to come into
close harmony with all the other children of God. In contrast, to make
interpersonal relationships the foundation stone of Christianity—can
only lead, ultimately, to friction, exclusiveness, and, efforts to
dominate, and, frankly, I-am-better-than-you Phariseeism.
then is the key issue in the great controversy?
question of paramount importance concerns obedience to God and His Word.
Is the Creator true and just in all that He does? Does He have a right
to command us? Are we obligated to obey Him?
issue is not the church, it is obedience. People are not the basis of
the great controversy, it is the Word of God. Organizational groups are
not the center of the crisis, it is God, His character, and whether we
will submit to and obey Him.
Final Crisis will be fought over obedience to the Bible Sabbath, part of
Gods holy law. Does God have a right to be obeyed, or not? Should
creatures obey their Creator? Should they live clean, honest lives, in
harmony with the Ten Commandments—when He, by the great sacrifice of
Calvary, makes it possible for them to do so?
Final Test will come over your loyalty and your obedience to God and His
law. Organization will not be the test. The question will be whether you
keep the Bible Sabbath and violate the Sunday Law. Organizational
membership will not be the issue.
that time, there is a good possibility that nationwide Sabbathkeeping
organizations will be dismantled or taken over. When the crisis comes,
Adventist organizational structures will very likely come to an end. The
Inspired Writings indicate that denominational positions, committees,
policy books, and chain of command will have been shattered. No longer
will your pastor witness and give Bible studies for you. No longer will
an organization tell you what to do, keep you in line, or do your
missionary work for you. You, and a few faithful ones in your locality,
will do it yourself. In that day, you will stand almost alone.
is not denominational loyalty and membership certificates integral to
the great controversy? Organizational connections are an effect, not a
cause, in Christian experience and in the coming conflict.
will not overcome in the Final Crisis because you are a church member,
but because you have put away sin from your life, and are so thoroughly
dedicated and obedient to Gods Word, that you can face death and, and
by His grace, carry on through to the end.
no one imagine that church membership is going to deliver him in that
final hour, or in all the hours before then. It is a personal, full
relationship with God which alone can enable one to resist temptation,
obey Gods Word, and prepare for the hour of death—or the Final
Crisis which the National Sunday Law will bring upon us all.
the situation becomes even more complicated, when we consider the fact
that, because of their consistent obedience to the Inspired Writings,
many of Gods faithful ones have been disfellowshiped from the church!
Are they going to be lost because they do not have church membership? Of
could organizational membership be the central issue, when so many have
been forced to leave the denomination?
are faithful souls who have been disfellowshiped for sincerely doing
their best to help all in their local congregation to see the importance
of study and obedience to our precious heritage, the Bible and Spirit of
with the repeated calls they have given to obedience and a return to
earlier teachings and standards, men have ejected them from local
congregations. Are they going to be lost because wicked men cast them
out? Of course not.
is clear that organizational relationship is rapidly becoming less of an
issue. There was a time when, being a true Seventh-day Adventist, could
generally be equated with being an accepted, on-the-books church member.
But, especially since the early 1980s, the entire matter has become very
confused. Many of Gods most faithful, commandment-keeping people are
now outside the denomination. In view of this situation, it is rather
foolish to declare that only those in the denomination are Gods
people, and only they will be saved.
then, what about those outside the organization—who declare that the
denomination is Babylon, and that everyone in it is destined to burn in
is a devilish teaching, and it is inspired by Satan!
is the prince of darkness who prompts individuals to declare that true
Advent believers—any of them—are reprobate and destined for
we are to protest the evils in the denomination, so that those evils
will be put away. Contrary to what some imagine, that is a good work and
very necessary. But we are not to denounce Gods faithful ones as
evil! The track of error lies close beside the track of truth. It is
right to reprove sin; but it is wrong to denounce Gods faithful ones
as being of the devil.
are men, just now, who are eagerly holding meetings; whose message is
that Seventh-day Adventists are Babylon, and that the entire Adventist
denomination is Babylon.
the God of heaven has given them no such message. The Seventh-day
Adventist denomination has thousands upon thousands of faithful souls
who love their Lord and obey His Word. Enter any local Adventist church
and you will find many faithful children of God. They are not making a
big noise, but are quietly doing the best they can under adverse
circumstances in their homes and, frequently, in their local church.
your sight over the entire world field, and you will find large numbers
of true, solid Advent believers, and many faithful workers.
at the official teachings of the church. Yes, they were damaged somewhat
at the Dallas Session, and the official doctrinal books and magazine
articles since then have not helped, but the official teachings are
still, for the most part, relatively close to our original positions.
is correct to say that there is rapidly-growing apostasy in our
denomination, but it is a wicked error—a lie—to declare that the
denomination is totally evil. That is just not so. Neither the beliefs,
the actions, nor the people are totally evil.
brings us to another point. If it is not our work now to condemn the
denomination as of the devil, how then are we to relate ourselves to it?
Should we be in it? Should we be out of it? Should we avoid it as the
plague? Should we obey whatever church officers tell us to do?
should pray for fellow Advent believers, and former believers who once
rejoiced in the truth, and try to help them. Some of these fellow
believers are still in the church, and some have been cast out. Some
of the former believers are no longer in the church, but many
are—some of them in high positions as pastors, teachers, and
God of heaven did not place you and me here merely to slavishly obey
church leaders, nor did He assign us the task of forsaking fellow
He expects us to obey His Word implicitly, and to work for all those
about us—including true and backslidden believers.
has many faithful souls who are out of the denomination, and He has many
who are in it. They need your prayers and your help. Many, in and out of
the organization, have backslidden from Gods truth. They also need
and ask yourself: What would the devil like me to do? The answer is
obvious: Satan would prefer that you not witness to others. You know so
much, and he wants you to keep quiet. An effective way to do that is to
tempt you to think that you would do well to retire from the battle, and
stop trying to encourage others to obey God.
remember the remarkably true-to-life illustration of the man traveling
through the snow drifts. He is about to give up, lay down, and enter the
sleep of death—when he stumbles upon a fellow traveler already fallen!
In his urgency to save the other one, he must rouse himself to still
greater effort—and, in the process, he himself is kept from drifting
off to sleep.
will notice that I have repeatedly emphasized the words,
denomination and organization. I have not said much about
times of relative peace from intense persecution, Gods church has
organization. In times of great persecution, each faithful soul and the
few around him must stand alone or in little companies, without
any organizational support or guidance whatsoever. Then there are those
times of apostasy, when faithful souls dare not lean on their church
organization for encouragement or guidance.
church has organization, but the organization is not the church. What
then is the church? The true church is composed of faithful
souls. In the Spirit of Prophecy, we are told it is
commandment-keeping people who compose Gods true church. However, we
are also told that there will be tares in the church.
regard to church organization, many people tend to swing to one or the
other of two extremes. They either fear it, or idolize it. Some want to
have nothing to do with organization, while others want it to do their
work for them and save their souls. They hope that the work it does in
their stead will help get them to heaven.
the truth is that neither the organization nor the church is the issue.
The basic issue throughout the ages, and in the Final Crisis, is your
and my personal relationship to Jesus Christ, and our obedience to His
Inspired Writings. Organizational relationship is only on the periphery
of the matter.
or apostasy may drive us out of an organization, blessed fellowship may
bring us into one. But, more and more, as we near the end, we will have
to stand alone or nearly alone. Yet, through it all, we should continue
trying to help and bless others—even those who have cast us out.
carefully in every description of Gods people after the
National Sunday Law crisis begins—and you will note that they are
alone or in small groups. Not once are we told about even a medium-sized
what kind of work are they doing? Read the books, and you will find they
are doing an individual work of ministry: healing the sick with natural
remedies, and going from home to home giving Bible studies. Not once
will you find a reference about evangelistic efforts, church councils,
policy decisions made or enforced, ministerial retreats, or even
the crisis hits, it will be illegal to be a Seventh-day Adventist. We
cannot know with certainty whether the structure of our denomination
will go on past the National Sunday Law edict. There are three
The tares in the denomination will flee from it, and become Sunday
keepers. The organizational structure and buildings which remains, will
not be featured (according to the Spirit of Prophecy, as we have noted
above) in final events, therefore it is very possible that it will have
been closed down by governmental powers.
The tares in the denomination will at that time eject the last of the
faithful ones, fully take control,—and the Seventh-day Adventist
Church will become Sundaykeepers!
key point here is whether the organization will go through to the
end. There is no doubt that the church, the faithful, commandment
people of God, will; but what about the organization? Let us review the
as noted, above, we find no indication, even a hint, that the people of
God will be in a centralized—or even decentralized—organization,
from the beginning of the National Sunday Law crisis onward.
we instead find that they will be standing alone or in very small
we find that they will be doing their missionary work as individuals or,
possibly, in two-by-two teams.
we find no indication that any denominational institution will still be
in operation after the crisis begins—with the sole exception of the
publishing work . No hospitals, no conferences or union offices,—and no conferences or unions!
the people of God, during the final crisis, and beyond, are going
through a special experience that is marked by their having to rely upon
Christ alone. No longer are others doing their Christian work for them,
or telling them what to do.
we are all well acquainted with the concept in Testimonies to
Ministers, page 300, which stipulates that God will directly and
personally guide each of His people in the Final Crisis. At that time,
there will be no leaders to organize the work and tell people what to
do. That time will be past.
most complete collection of Spirit of Prophecy statements on final
events is to be found in our End Time Booklet Series on last-day
events. Read them through,
and see if you can find any quotations which run contrary to the above
points; that is, that indicate there will be an Adventist denomination
after the crisis begins.
is no doubt that God desires that His people be organized. There is
thorough organization in heaven, and there ought to be among His people
on earth. The leaders, fully dedicated to Gods glory, should lead,
and the people, cheerfully willing, should gladly give themselves to the
work. Yet, due to human imperfections, it appears that, in the final
great crisis, the Lord will take the work personally in His hands. We
can be thankful for that.
how we wish we had a perfect organization now! Oh, how we wish we could
yield ourselves fully as cogs working in that organized work. But
Gods plan at this time is to fit us to carry on through to the end.
Because of apostasy in standards and beliefs, He is having to fit a
people individually for the Final Crisis, which is soon to break upon us
all. Day by day, He is having to prepare us to draw warmth from the
coldness of others, to trust in Him when others around us fail.
are very special to your God. He has a special plan for your life, and
He is gradually working it out.
that He wants you for His own! Rejoice that he wants to use you to help
earnestly that He will show you your duty, individually.
may I add, beware of the itinerant preachers who travel about denouncing
Adventists, still in the denomination, as Babylon; who preach strange
new theories; who get angry when you show them clear Bible/Spirit of
Prophecy reasons why they are wrong.
ever there was a time when we needed to study Gods Word, it is now.
Do not war
against faithful believers in the church or out of the church. They are
not your enemies. The problem are those who are compromising their
faith, disobeying Gods Word, lowering their standards and trying to
import strange, new doctrines.