Q: There is a growing concern about ecumenism in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, such as non-Adventists preaching in Adventist churches, performing at Adventist youth events, and Adventist choirs participating in Sunday church services. Does the church have clear guidelines on this? — Aurélio, from Brazil
A: As Seventh-day Adventists, we recognize that there are many Christians in other denominations who love the Lord and seek to serve Him. Nevertheless, when it comes to preaching, teaching, instructing, and sharing the Word in our pulpits, or giving presentations at church gatherings such as ministerial conventions, departmental training seminars, evangelism rallies, church planning sessions, youth events, and many other general church meetings, it is very important that those who “feed the flock” embrace our biblical world view—including the authority of Scripture, the reality of the great controversy, and the vital last-day message to the world as given by the three angels of Revelation 14.
It seems as though there are some fields and leaders who seem to lean towards inviting non-members to make special presentations, instruct pastors and church members, or provide spiritual guidance to Seventh-day Adventist church groups. In general, we should invite qualified, faithful, humble, and dedicated Seventh-day Adventist presenters recognizing that God has blessed His people with insights that encompass “The Great Controversy Theme” using the Bible as our foundation and the Spirit of Prophecy as a strong assistance.
I would urge our church leaders to use Seventh-day Adventist presenters rather than non-member presenters. God has given this church many gifted pastors and presenters who should be used since they have a strong understanding of our prophetic role in the last days of earth’s history……a role based on Revelation 12:17 as God’s remnant people who understand the unique message of the three angels of Revelation 14 and the fourth angel of Revelation 18.
Of course, we can learn many things from a great variety of people, but special priority should be given to those who have the full “Great Controversy Theme” understanding since they can more fully identify with the prophetic message God is asking His people to proclaim with Holy Spirit power.
This is why the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual (voted by the world church in session, and applicable to all Seventh-day Adventist churches worldwide) has a number of important statements regarding who may address Adventist congregations, what should/should not be presented, and how worship services should be conducted. Here are some statements from the Church Manual: (download your own copy of the Church Manual here)
- “The pulpit must be reserved for the preaching of the truths of the Divine Word and the presentation of denominational plans and policies for the advancement of the work of God, not personal views and opinions” (p. 120).
- “The Church confers no right to any pastor, elder, or other person to make the pulpit a forum for advocating disputed points of doctrine or church procedure” (p. 118).
- “‘We are not to receive the words of those who come with a message that contradicts the special points of our faith. They gather together a mass of Scripture, and pile it as proof around their asserted theories. … And while the Scriptures are God’s Word, and are to be respected, the application of them, if such application moves one pillar from the foundation that God has sustained … is a great mistake. He who makes such an application knows not the wonderful demonstration of the Holy Spirit that gave power and force to the past messages that have come to the people of God.’” (p. 119, quoting from “Counsels to Writers and Editors,” p. 32).
- “Under no circumstances should a pastor, elder, or other officer invite strangers or any unauthorized persons to conduct services. Individuals who have been removed from the ministry or who have been removed from membership in other places, or designing persons who have no authority from the church, should not be given access to the pulpit. Those worthy of confidence will be able to identify themselves by producing proper credentials. At times it is acceptable for government officials or civic leaders to address a congregation, but all others should be excluded from the pulpit unless permission is granted by the conference. Every pastor, elder, and conference president must enforce this rule” (p. 119).
- “The Sabbath worship service is the most important church meeting. Here members gather weekly to unite in worshipping God in a spirit of praise and thanksgiving, to hear the Word of God, to gather strength and grace to fight the battles of life, and to learn God’s will for them in soul-winning service. Reverence, simplicity, and promptness should characterize the service” (p. 121).
Regarding Seventh-day Adventist choirs (and other groups) participating in the church services of other denominations, the guiding principle should be mission-oriented outreach. If the purpose is to share our faith through music, word, and fellowship, this can be helpful in reaching the community and breaking down possible prejudice. But I would urge that the focus should always be Adventist mission-oriented and faith building. To read about how some young people are sharing their faith, see “Students Share Faith on a Secular Campus.”