From the VAULT
It’s been almost 2 months since we attended our the New Member class at our new church. It’s a Baptist church. To become members, we didn’t have to raise our right hand and take a vow. We didn’t have to sign anything saying that we’re now Baptists. And we don’t even have to get baptized again (unless we choose to be).
If you’re SDA, it’s probably hard to understand that you can be “just a Christian” and attend any Christian church. Other denominations don’t require you to take an oath that you believe in their distinctives in order to become a member or be baptized.
There are several reasons why we decided on our particular church, and I’ll blog about those specifics at another time. But the main thing we love about our church is the exegetical, verse-by-verse preaching of the Bible. And that’s a major reason why we are where we are.
Adventist evangelist, Mark Finley, teaches that Adventism takes the “gems of truth” from all denominations and puts it in one denomination, SDA. No matter what you think about Mark Finley, or traditional SDA evangelism, this is something that most SDAs believe.
As an Adventist, it boggled my mind how my best friend’s mother, who grew up Episcopalian, ended up raising Caroline in a Baptist church. One day I asked how they ended up being members of that church for 20+ years. Her answer? “Because it was right down the street.” Back then, I didn’t understand how you could switch denominations like that. I thought every denomination was as different from each other as Adventism is from, say, Baptists. It was unthinkable to choose membership in a different denomination’s church on the basis of proximity.
So, after Ben resigned from his position as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and we left the Adventist church, we set out on the quest to join a local church. But we didn’t get on a quest to examine every denomination’s version of the 28 Fundamental Beliefs (as if every denomination had one).
We realized that we could be could be simply, “Christian” and worship at a Christian church, regardless of denomination. We could be part of the capital C church–the Body of Christ. Though previously we thought that as Adventists we held the basic beliefs of Christianity in common with other denominations, the more we studied, the more we realized that the gospel preached and proclaimed by the Adventist church is another gospel. The worldview of an Adventist is not a biblical worldview. Plain and simple.
Among the core, foundational beliefs that are central to Christianity and not found in Adventism:
- the Bible is the inspired, infallible, authoratative and inerrant Word of God and is the final authority of matters of faith and practice.
- Salvation comes through Christ alone (the receiving and the keeping of it)
- Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross was complete and enough to save us and keep us saved
Evangelical Christian churches (regardless of denomination) believe in these tenets. It’s why, as Christ-followers, we have the freedom to attend any of these Bible-preaching churches, whether it’s a Baptist, Evangelical Free, Presbyterian, Bible or non-denominational church. As an Adventist, I totally didn’t get this.
The differences in denominations (and even within denominations) are of secondary importance. Things like eschatology, predestination and free will. It’s not over issues that divide “the Body.” To join a church, you don’t have to agree with everything. My friend, Colleen Tinker (editor of Proclamation magazine) explains it this way:“As long as the church holds to an orthodox statement of faith: the Trinity, the centrality of the cross, and the inerrancy and necessity of Scripture as the source of teaching and spiritual growth. If those are there, we can have fellowship, and we can learn to live by the Spirit as we rub shoulders [with those with whom we disagree with on the secondary issues].”
There is belief propagated in Adventism that all of these different denominations are claiming to be the “one true church” or that they are all in competition with each other. The reality is that these different Christian denominations consider each other to all be part of the body of Christ and consider it their shared mission to share the Gospel with the world, love and serve.
As a matter of fact, when we first arrived to Texas, we visited a Bible Church. The pastors and their wives and the members were extremely welcoming and gracious and hospitable. We enjoyed the service and the people we met. Everything was right, except we preferred to be in a church that had a more formal curriculum for children under 4. This particular church had a different philosophy about how to teach young children. We shared our concerns and one of the pastors recommended that we try the Baptist church in town because their approach to Sunday school sounded like what we were looking for. A Bible church referred potential members to a Baptist church. Did you catch that?
Many of our friends have asked, “So, what are you now?”
“Christian,” I answer. We are Christ-followers who have found a fellowship of believers in a Baptist church where we can worship together and grow in the Word. It’s that simple.