When You Are Asked, “What Do Seventh-Day Adventists Believe?”

How Would You Respond?

Ramon Canals is the director of Sabbath School and Personal Ministries of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, USA.

You may have heard the story of the man who was asked, “What do you believe?” He replied, “Well, I believe what my church believes.”

“And what does your church believe?”

“Well, my church believes what my pastor believes.”

“And what do your pastor, your church, and you believe?”

“Oh, that is very simple. You see, my pastor, my church, and I all believe the same thing.”

Although we may chuckle at this, it is not a laughing matter. Suppose someone asked you, “What do Seventh-day Adventists believe?” How would you respond? The response to this question may impact someone’s eternal destiny.

The apostle Paul tells us that we must always know how to answer that question: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col 4:5–6, ESV). Here Paul is saying that what you answer is not as important as how you answer. Your response can focus on sharing church doctrines or on sharing the love of Jesus.

Consider Angelina, a faithful church member. She was so in love with Jesus that her passion for Him overflowed to everyone she met. One hot summer day, she met Denise, a young woman who had suffered abuse since she was a child and lived on the streets. Because of her experiences, Denise did not trust anyone. She had given up on life, erroneously concluding that nobody cared for her and all people wanted was to take advantage of her. Nonetheless,

Angelina started helping Denise. She invited her for lunch. She bought her new clothes. She kept looking after her. Despite Angelina’s best intentions, Denise was suspicious. She knew Angelina was a religious person and began to suspect that Angelina was only being nice in order to lure her to church.

One day she asked Angelina what church she attended. Angelina replied, “I’m a Seventh-day Adventist.” When Denise asked, “And what is that?” Angelina responded, “I am a Christian, a disciple of Jesus. I love the Lord and I love people.”

Denise thought for a moment and said, “Oh, I see. If you’re doing all these things for me to lure me to your church, you can forget about it. I am never going to visit your church. Christians are a bunch of hypocrites.” Angelina calmly said with a smile, “Denise, I help you because I love you. You are a child of God, and I sincerely want to help you.”

Angelina kept showing the love of Christ to Denise in tangible ways until one day Denise asked, “Can you please take me to your church?” Once Denise realized that her friend wanted to help her selflessly, she saw in Angelina a reflection of Jesus’ character. She decided to give her life to the Lord Jesus and was baptized.

You see, people can argue about doctrine. But nobody can resist the power of love.

We must never forget that a critical part of Christian witness involves how we relate to people. When people sense the love of Jesus flowing from our lives to theirs like a sweet aroma, they will be powerfully impacted. “When the love of Christ is enshrined in the heart, like sweet fragrance it cannot be hidden. Its holy influence will be felt by all with whom we come in contact.”1

So, how do we answer the question? How we answer is not about strategy or methodology. It’s about love! Someone may ask the question out of curiosity, in which case any answer will do. However, they may ask the question because they saw something in you that they like—something they want to emulate—in which case you cannot just answer the question and move on. Instead, take time to look at them the way God looks at them. How does God see people? God sees every person on the planet as a candidate for heaven. He wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:3–4).

Let’s be clear: while we search in love for ways to connect with people, we must never hide who we are or what we believe. We are a prophetic movement called to preach Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross before the world. However, that does not dismiss the foundational truths of the three angels’ messages. On the contrary, they are to be proclaimed together to fill the earth with the everlasting gospel.

The apostle Paul says that we are the aroma of Christ. When we are with Christ, everyone we meet will be impacted by the sweet smell of the presence of Christ in us. “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor 2:14–15, ESV).

Christ’s method alone will give real success in reaching people. And Christ’s method is how Angelina answered the question! Instead of sharing the church’s propositional tenets, she began by showing the love of Jesus. She befriended Denise by communicating sympathy, ministering to her needs, and winning her confidence. Then, the love of Jesus compelled Denise to follow Him. We can do likewise. “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15, ESV).


1 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1892), 77.

Ramon Canals is the director of Sabbath School and Personal Ministries of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, USA.