The other day, as I sat thinking about what kind of an Adventist I am, it suddenly occurred to me that one of the elemental questions for all believers in Jesus is: What kind of Christian am I? How do I behave? How do I respond to my spouse, my children, my friends, my pastor, my church? Am I joyful? Am I bored? Am I committed? Do I attend church regularly? Am I active? How do I relate to the church of my choice?
As a retired employee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which I served for nearly forty years in various roles (pastor, educator, editor, and a director in many countries of the church’s community development program, ADRA), I came in contact with a wide spread of Adventist believers and their behaviors. For the large part, I was greatly pleased with what and whom I encountered. But in some cases, I was not so pleased; although as a dedicated Christian, I loved them anyway.
What did I see? Let us start with “Sadventists.” These are people who seem to be doubting. Unsure of their faith and unsure of the Church’s doctrines, though they are usually faithful attendees, they have questions about the veracity of the Church as God’s chosen endtime vessel to bring the final, true, Bible-based message to a dying world. They cannot quite make the satisfactory mark of complete trust. I like what Arthur G. Daniells says about doubt and disappointment:
The student of Scripture will readily recognize that in the past God’s people have repeatedly been disappointed in their expectations,—just because they have misunderstood God’s providences. Many times they have been perplexed and discouraged, and often have passed through strange experiences,—all because of the failure of some hope based upon faulty understanding of the prophetic word. Some have even been perplexed by the direct word of the Lord.1
What do Sadventists need? Maybe a deeper study of the Word; a more profound trust in the Church’s theological scholars; a stronger belief in Ellen G. White and her wonderful writings; and, more importantly, a closer walk with Jesus. The evidence from these men and women of trust gives assurance of who we are.
Moving on, we come to “Tadventists.” These members are somewhat similar to the Sadventists. The difference is they attend church sporadically—a tad now and a tad then—partly as a result of their questions about the veracity of the Church. Or they may be more interested in financial prosperity, which keeps them busy on their farm or with their business on the Sabbath—not always, but when it seems necessary. They allow non-Adventist friends, who unexpectedly visit them on Sabbath morning, to turn them away from attendance. They may have a slight cold or just feel sleepy after a bad night in bed. It is easy to skip under these circumstances. But, is skipping Sabbath services correct?
During my pastoral ministry, I learned five things that Sabbath services bring to the soul: The first is the lesson and inspiration we learn from the sermon. A good sermon will bring new determination to follow the Lord more closely. It will give us new insights into a broad range of subjects that ennoble us. Then there is the lesson study. Here we learn more about many important themes of the Bible—how to live a better Christian life, how to witness, and how to know more about heaven and what it holds for us. We also gain a clearer understanding of the prophecies, which tell us where we are in earth’s history, and, perhaps more importantly, what God wants us to do with our life. The music is also uplifting. It brings rejoicing to our soul. And so is the fellowship with our brothers and sisters in church. Socializing with one another enriches us. And finally, there is prayer, a spiritual exercise that deepens our commitment to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Then we have “Madventists.” They are unhappy about how they have been treated by some member in the church, disgusted by the behavior of the pastor, and insulted by sermons dealing with specific problems in their own lives. They have a hard time understanding that we are judged by our own actions, and not by those of others. God will judge those we think have offended us; it is His responsibility, not ours. Our loyalty is to God and to His Church. David has the solution: “Vindicate me, Lord, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered. Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind” (Ps 26:1–2).
Next are the “Fadventists.” These are the people who follow every trend of style—a hairdo, the length of the skirt or dress, the color of the shoes, the way they wear their shirt, or the type of suit currently in fashion— never mind if it offends others or fellow church members. To dress contrary would be an embarrassment. They are somehow driven to follow every trend, even when it may be contrary to Christian principles. In today’s society, just about any type of dress is okay, so why be offended if you dress modestly, in keeping with Christian standards? Unless you have your dress dragging on the floor or your pants hiked up above your belly button, you should not be a spectacle. Remember: we are witnesses to the Lord. One of the best ways to do that is to dress in a way that honors God.
Then there are the “Gadventists.” The Gadventists have no compunctions about where to go or when. Back when I was a boy, we called them gadabouts. They just loved to always be on the move, going here and there, visiting friends or going shopping, with no real purpose or agenda—basically wasting time, when those moments could be spent on something noble for the church or the Lord and their salvation. Perhaps the worse manifestation of the Gadventists is the tendency to move from church to church, to visit one church after another. There is no settling down in one congregation where they can be useful in some way or another. Gadventists miss the fellowship, since good fellowship is built on permanent friends (and some new ones). And the elevating experience that results from the lesson study is often lost since many Gadventists skip the lesson study when cruising from church to church. Permanency in a single church is enriching as fellowship with one another and the pastor deepens, as involvement in church activities grows.
Next are the “Badventists.” The Badventists are always making trouble in the church—gossiping, slandering, condemning, challenging, and arguing. Oh yes, a Badventist is a faithful church attendee who regularly participates in the communion service, pays an accurate tithe and gives a generous offering, likes to sing, belongs to some church activity, believes in all the doctrines, and claims to love Jesus. But the Badventist has hurt more than one fellow church member, and has more than once told the pastor something negative about the sermon. Yes, the Badventist is a problem. What he or she needs is a true conversion, and a softening of the heart.
Perhaps worst of these types are the “Hadventists.” These are the ones who have left the Adventist Church, usually for good. It might have been due to some snub they received by a fellow member, or because they believed one of the doctrines was theologically untenable, or perhaps because they were incensed by a problem with some leader in the church. What they need to understand is that for those who offend, the problem is theirs; they must give account to God, and let Him deal with them in His own way. The firm Adventist believes unequivocally that church attendance is a demonstration of one’s loyalty to God. Abandoning the Church sometimes leads to a worldly lifestyle, or nonattendance to any church, or, as is the case in many situations, an unhappy life. Permanent absenteeism is a disappointment to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Thankfully, there are many “Gladventists.” The Gladventist loves the church, is genuinely happy to belong to the remnant church, loves the doctrines, loves all the church members—even the ones who haven’t always treated him or her very nicely—and loves Jesus. The Gladventist goes about with a smile, always thinking positively, is a great supporter of the various church activities, and is warm and friendly to everyone, even the adversaries. Yes, even in the face of some adversity, the Gladventist never gets discouraged. A wonderful upshot of this behavior is the inspiration it brings to many other church attendees— often even to those who are discouraged, who may be Sadventists and Badventists. The Gladventist is a wonderful testimony of the love of Jesus in our lives.
Finally, there are the “Gradventists.” These are the Adventists who share their faith at every opportunity. In other words, they have taken a step beyond being Gladventists; they are graduates—postgraduates, if you please—who feel inspired to share their Lord and their beliefs with everyone possible. These are the ones who bring growth to the church, and their hearts are filled with deep satisfaction and peace. Some of these become leaders in their local church. They may even become formal church employees, or establish a lay-operated organization that helps spread the gospel. Gradventists are to be congratulated, given thanks, and lifted up. These happy members are a testimony and encouragement to all. Oh that the church were filled with a vast number of these wonderful members!
So who are you? Are you a Sadventist, a Tadventist, a Madventist, a Fadventist, a Gadventist, a Badventist, or a Hadventist? I trust you are none of these. What God wants of you is to be a Gladventist—and better yet, a Gradventist!
1 Arthur Grosvenor Daniells, “Gift Renewed in the Remnant Church,” in Abiding Gift of Prophecy (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1936), 254.
Lamar Phillips is a retired minister and church administrator who served for thirty-nine years in six world divisions.