The ease with which ideas can be expressed and distributed through various means of communication has contributed to a proliferation of independent ministries within the church. Some of these ministries support the message and mission of the church (supportive independent ministries), while others seek to undermine both (non-supportive independent ministries). We find materials in electronic or printed form prepared by the most liberal Adventists (promoting, for instance, homosexual behavior and evolutionism) and by extremeright groups (charging the church, for instance, with apostasy or with intentionally withholding the true message of salvation). Although many groups claim to represent pure Adventism, their voices contradict each other. When these divergent and controversial voices coexist within one congregation, they result in doctrinal division, conflicting loyalties, and a nightmare for pastors and church elders. This should immediately alert us to the fact that we are dealing with extreme views that do not contribute to the building up of the church.
Materials produced by non-supportive independent ministries have three main purposes. First, they are vehicles through which the personal views of their leaders are promoted and disseminated. These individuals neither represent the church nor speak for it. We should remember that God has given a particular message and mission to the world church and that groups at the fringes of the church do not deserve a hearing. Second, the materials produced by these groups aim to obtain financial support from church members. Such ministries become financial enterprises. We know very little about how their money is used. In some cases church members desecrate the holiness of tithe by giving it to these groups. God has an endtime church on this planet, and it is our privilege to align ourselves with Him in building it up with our tithes and offerings. Third, the materials produced by these independent ministries are usually sensationalist, critical of the church, or calling the church to become relevant in our society through liberalism. As we approach the coming of our Lord, such ministries distract church members from what is important: the proclamation of our message to the world.
There are several things we can do to help our church members. First, we should motivate members to have daily fellowship with our Lord and to obtain a deep knowledge of our message. These two should always be together. Such fellowship will assist us, through the Spirit, to gain a deeper understanding of our biblical message. A superficial or incomplete knowledge of it could easily result in our being deceived by false, self-appointed teachers who may describe themselves as reformers. Second, we must preach our distinctive doctrines from the pulpit and give seminars to church members on Adventist doctrines. As a leader, you should have a superior understanding of our message and be persuaded that it is biblically grounded. Third, inform church members about internal attacks against the church’s message and mission. (Materials about controversial topics may be found on various church Websites; refer to the list below.) Third, encourage church members to read the Bible, the Spirit of Prophecy, and the doctrinal studies produced by the church. This will strengthen their faith and help them to develop the gift of discernment—the capacity to distinguish between truth and error. Finally, encourage them to give their full support to the church’s global program as it seeks to fulfill the mission the Lord has entrusted to each one of us.
Ángel Manuel Rodríguez is director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.