As so many today are blind-sided by secular politics, world markets, social media, and a daily dose of negative news, we find a sect of people going against the tide. The events which have impacted our world for the past 5 to 10 years are so immense that it is difficult to appreciate their import.
The congestion of information in regards to world markets and the economy have subdued real issues that need to be consumed and digested by the 21st-century Christian. Pulpits today tend to give a soft message in regards to prophecy. Even some conservative and traditional churches have changed positions on some key points. The voice of Protestantism has been muted, as many mainline and other churches have lowered their banners and extended a hand to grasp that which was loathed by their founding fathers.
What then should the church which has prophetically claimed to be last of the last (the remnant), do to represent the true religion of Jesus Christ on earth? Tragically, there have been forces within our own church in recent decades that have sought to marginalize, dilute, and even avoid the deeper, more pointed aspects of our message which distinguish us as a people.
As the darkness in the world becomes more dense, light is to shine more aggressively, giving harbor to those that seek refuge. The message that has to be carried by the remnant church has to be revived, but with this revival must come some major reforms.
"And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down" (1 Kings 18:30).
Reforms in Evangelism
Before we revive the true spirit of evangelism, we must bring it back into harmony with how the Lord designs that it be done. Numerical goals can’t be our primary focus. Heart-searching, the spirit of true conversion, and reforms in our own lives and in that of the church must be paramount before large numbers can be brought into our ranks.
"Time is passing, and the Lord calls upon the labourers in all departments of his work to lift up their eyes and behold the fields all ripe for the harvest. Our workers are not branching out as they should in their efforts. Our leading men are not awake to the work that must be accomplished. When I think of the cities in which so little work has been done, in which there are so many thousands to be warned of the soon coming of the Saviour, I feel an intensity of desire to see men and women going forth to the work in the power of the Spirit, filled with Christ's love for perishing souls. Those in our cities—living within the shadow of our doors—have been strangely neglected...New methods must be introduced. God's people must awake to the necessities of the time in which they are living. God has men whom he will call into his service,—men who will not carry forward the work in the lifeless way in which it has been carried forward in the past" (RH Sept. 30, 1902).
God cares for souls more than goals; self-sacrifice and heeding His instructions must be the guiding hedge every day in His vineyard. God has many children who need to be reached and brought home, but only by His way.
Everyone—the young, the not-so-young, the professionals, the business people—all have a work to do in bringing revival and reformation to the church, and in reaching the world for Christ. This is not a work solely for the paid ministry. All must be mobilized to do it.
I don’t believe the church needs to invent some worldly programs for the youth, or for new members who are coming in. We need to stick by the old landmarks in evangelism as well as church life, and communicate God’s standards to every generation (Psalm 100:5).
“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jeremiah 6:16).
Reforms in Adventist Living
There are those in recent times who have compromised the landmarks of Adventism. In my community, Adventism was once known for serious Bible study, focusing on Bible prophecy, community service, the promotion of vegetarianism and other health issues, modest dress, and so much more. Now, sadly, things have come to the point where only a few Adventists are identified by these practices.
Many of our principles and fundamentals have seen scrutiny from within and without. Adventism is now publicly identified with a plant-based diets, the promotion of vegetarianism, and a generally healthy lifestyle. From the time the message was given to Ellen White (the vision of June 6, 1863), it was clear God wanted a distinct people to live a healthful lifestyle to carry out His work and be an example to the world.
According to Dr. Josh Axe's website on the Blue Zones, “Researchers estimate that in the U.S. today, the average adult life expectancy is about 77.8 years but likely to plummet due to high rates of chronic diseases—many of which are preventable with certain simple lifestyle changes." Loma Linda, of course, was one of the Blue Zones identified by National Geographic Magazine as one of the places on earth with the highest per capita number of centenarians.
Many of us have admired and delighted in the fact that Adventism is publicly identified by the pursuit of a lifestyle the world now recognizes as healthy. But something I have found puzzling is that many within the church don’t rigorously teach the benefits of such lifestyle choices as vegetarianism.
I have come across a wonderful book on health and nutrition, "The China Study" by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell. It states some fascinating characteristics of animal-based foods:
“Furthermore, a pattern was beginning to emerge: nutrients from animal-based foods increased tumour development while nutrients from plant-based foods decreased tumour development” (The China Study, 66).
Many Adventists now suffering from chronic diseases need to hear the truth this book contains. But then, why aren’t we paying attention to the instruction in such books as Ministry of Healing, Counsels on Diet and Foods, Counsels on Health, and so many more?
At some point, Ellen and James White had to devise a way to get the health message to Seventh-day Adventists, using five pamphlets (later increased to six) of sixty-four pages each (1). This was very much necessary, as at that point many present truth believers didn’t practice the health principles of which we are aware today, even though their preaching on other subjects was Bible-based and powerful. Many today, even among those who preach in the pulpit, fail to carry out the Lord’s counsel regarding many of these issues.
Reforms in Prophecy Studies
I have watched and listened to several prophecy presentations by highly regarded presenters in the church. We are indeed a prophetic church, and that, without question, gives us that power of distinctiveness from other churches and religions. But this sense of difference has in recent years been fading, and is not recognized by a growing number of our people. The counsel of the Lord is clear on this point:
"When the books of Daniel and Revelation are better understood, believers will have an entirely different religious experience. They will be given such glimpses of the open gates of heaven that heart and mind will be impressed with the character that all must develop in order to realize the blessedness which is to be the reward of the pure in heart" (TM 114).
"Ministers should present the sure word of prophecy as the foundation of the faith of Seventh-day Adventists. The prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation should be carefully studied, and in connection with them the words, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Ev 196).
So the critical step for any revival in our church today is the work for the Elijahs of our time—to repair the old broken altar. Why should we be ashamed of this gospel which shall save many? As Elijah stood on Mt Carmel he understood that before the manifestation of God's power, there should be repairing first.
The time is now for the Elijahs of the church to stand for real Adventism and seek reform.
Gillmour Tunhira is an elder at Hillside Seventh-day Adventist Church in Harare, Zimbabwe.
1. Ellen G White: The Progressive Years: 1862-1876 Vol. 2