A Sunday church service called “Surge Church” was launched by the First Seventh-day Adventist Church in Huntsville, Ala., Feb. 8 to an audience of about 250 people in hopes it would reach those who felt more comfortable worshipping on Sunday.
"Why not create a forum where the truth can be taught on a Sunday morning in a context where people are used to coming to church,” said First SDA Church Senior Pastor Debleaire Snell in an interview with PELC Power Tools Podcast. “[Why not] use it as an evangelistic tool to help people come to a greater knowledge of the truth?”
Snell declined a phone interview with ADvindicate and said he would like questions emailed to him, but then also declined to answer any questions regarding his Sunday service. He offered to submit a written statement, but changed his mind.
South Central Conference President Dana Edmond and his wife Jill attended this Sunday service, but he could not be reached for comment.
Pastor Snell said in the podcast interview over 20 visitors attended the service and about seven accepted Christ as their savior.
A few months prior to the church moving to its new location, Snell said he and church members would visit the new church to paint or do yard work and people from the neighborhood would see cars in the parking lot, thinking there was a meeting, and would show up with Bibles in hand. This gave Snell the idea for a Sunday service.
News of First SDA Church's Sunday services quickly spread across social media, and three days later a phone interview with legendary Adventist preacher C.D. Brooks was posted on YouTube. Brooks expressed caution with holding services on Sunday. The original recording was pulled Thursday morning, but by then it had been downloaded and reposted by multiple YouTube channels.
When Snell was asked in the podcast interview if starting Sunday services would set Adventists up to accept the mark of the beast, he said, "Saying that worshipping on Sunday is the mark of the beast is maybe a little bit too narrow of a way to look at it. I think the issue with the mark of the beast is actually lawlessness and rebellion against God."
A cursory perusal of comments on social media indicates a distinct divide amongst Adventists about whether holding church services on Sunday is a wise evangelistic tool. News that the services were only intended to last eight weeks began to pop up on Facebook, which appeared to alleviate concerns that Snell's service was just an Adventist version of Sunday church. However, Snell would not comment if this “eight week” theory was indeed accurate, or if the services would be held long term.
Pastor Cryston Josiah of the Beacon Light Seventh-day Adventist Church reposted a comment from Myron Edmonds that said he had spoken with C.D. Brooks Feb. 12 for about 30 minutes.
"[Brooks] was not given the full story that First Church is doing an 8 week evangelistic series on Sunday morning,” Josiah said.
However, the “full story” doesn't seem to be published anywhere, except on First SDA Church’s Facebook page, where Snell said, "The service will actually be dedicated to preaching distinctive Adventist truths weekly. As opposed to evangelism that is done in events 3-4 week stretches, we look to do it all year long in an organic way."
Snell's comment appears to have been removed.
In an interview with AL.com, Snell described the service as a "first point of contact for the unchurched in the community and for people who, for whatever reason - beliefs, work - can't come on Saturday."
Perhaps the blowback from Snell's Sunday services caused him to change his plans from running the services all year to only an eight-week trial, but from his Facebook comment, it appears his original intent was to have Sunday services all year.
Time will tell whether Snell's church will become another Alex Bryan cautionary tale or if he will be successful in converting Sunday keepers to Sabbath keepers by imparting truths to them on Sunday.
Correction: The article stated Pastor Cryston Josiah said on his Facebook profile he spoke with C.D. Brooks. However, Pastor Cryston Josiah reposted a comment made by Myron Edmonds, who said he had talked to CD Brooks. We regret this misunderstanding.