What to expect from your Seventh-day Adventist neighbor, or, a few answers to frequently asked questions
It's 9:00 Saturday morning and your neighbors have just come out of their front door dressed as though they're going to a symphony concert. But two of them are carrying Bibles! Chances are your neighbors are Seventh-day Adventists on their way to Sabbath morning worship services at their church. That means you're in for a very special relationship, a friendship marked by kindness, openness, and honesty--one that could well enrich your life.
You will find your Adventist friends committed to some very specific beliefs about God and about God's relationships with people. They will be genuinely concerned about the needs of others and interested in bettering your community. If you observe them at their workplace, within their families, and at their church, they will be busily involved in many activities.
Watch your neighbors closely, and you'll probably notice (at least) the following:
You will soon discover that your neighbors genuinely like you and accept you as you are. They share their friendship across the back fence, in the marketplace, and at the bus stop. You'll see smiles that come from a depth of peace--in the midst of chaos. That's right, "chaos." Your Adventist neighbors are just like you. They experience the same stresses and disasters that strike everyone else in the neighborhood. Yet you'll notice a difference in how they respond to the challenges. They have a deep inner peace that allows them to look the enemy in the eye and smile. They are looking far beyond today's troubles to the certainties of the future. Because they already know the outcome, they are comfortable with final victory!
Peace, strong inner contentment, is a personal trait of committed Seventh-day Adventists. Many Allied pilots saw that peace in the lives of the Adventist Fiji Islanders who rescued them from the jungles during World War II. Residents of Florida, Iran, the Philippines, Somalia, and thousands of other places have seen that peace. It showed up in the lives of Adventist aid workers who helped them "dig out and start over" after earthquakes, tornadoes, fires, floods and other disasters.
Your neighborhood will see this peace in the lives of your Adventist friends, even when the well runs dry, a tree falls on the house, or the car is stolen from the parking lot. No, this peace is not a cavalier, "Oh, whatever!" attitude. It is the intense peace that comes from knowing God and that whatever happens here in this world is as "nothing" when compared to the joys of living forever in heaven with God.
Sadness? Yes, that's an Adventist emotion, but they believe God's love comforts the sorrowing.
Pain? Yes, Adventists experience pain. Their healthy lifestyle does allow them to live longer than others--as studies done on Adventists in the United States have shown. But Adventists still break limbs, contract cancer, fall off their bikes, and lose loved ones. Yet pain, even at its worst, is always accompanied by the healing love of God.
Anger? Yes. Even anger shows up in the lives of Adventists. Remember, they're normal people trying to live with God on a chaotic earth! But God is good enough to bring the calming power of His love into each angry situation. Even there the result is peace.
Praise, an intense eagerness to thank God for all He is doing in our lives, is another visible trait of Seventh-day Adventists. If you stop by your neighbors' home at breakfast time, you'll probably find someone praying and reading a thought for the day from a book or the Bible while the others eat their meal. Evenings often include a time of thankfulness to God for a good day, Bible reading, and prayer. Many Friday and Wednesday nights your neighbors will participate in Bible study classes, public lectures on religion, or special activities for youth and children at their church. Saturday morning the whole family will join other church members for Sabbath School and a corporate worship service. Don't be surprised if your neighbors invite you to join them at one or more of these activities.
Sabbath school is like Sunday school. It is a one-hour time praising God through music, prayers, mission stories, and small group Bible study. During the time there are separate classes for children grouped according to their ages and for adults with varied interests and understanding of the Bible. Music and fellowship are central to each Sabbath school program. You will find Sabbath school to be a "good time" with each other and with God.
The corporate worship service, or "church," is a more formal time of worship and praise. During this hour you will hear a practical, Bible-based sermon designed to help you see God more clearly and to provide you with strength to live as a Christian during the week. Church also includes worship music, public and personal prayers, and an opportunity to give tithe (10 percent of one's income) and thank offerings to God. During the prayer time, worship leaders will give you an opportunity to share your personal needs or requests so these can be included in the congregational prayer.
Seventh-day Adventist worship styles differ greatly. Some congregations conduct public worship very formally, often singing hymns and anthems accompanied by a pipe organ and piano. Worship in some other congregations is much more laid-back and features praise music led by guitars or even a small band. Still others reflect the cultural heritage of the congregation and may feature exuberant expressions of praise. Ask your neighbors to describe how their congregation worships so you'll know what to expect when you accept their invitation to join them. Whatever the worship style, all Adventist congregations are worshiping the same eternal God who gives us cause for praise!
Purpose, a deep commitment to accomplishing specific goals, is also a personal trait of Seventh-day Adventists. We are not here just to get up, go to work, and come home. We have accepted the challenge of Christ and so function as ambassadors of the Creator. Our purpose is to represent God so clearly that you will find His love irresistible!
You'll see that purpose when your Adventist friend talks about his son who is going abroad as a student missionary to help build a church. You'll see it on the many evenings your neighbors go to church rather than stay home and watch TV. You'll see it in their visible commitment to healthful living, to protecting life, to caring for the earth, and to building friendships with their neighbors. Adventists are a purposeful group of people, busy following a lifelong mission. That mission comes from the words of Jesus Christ Himself. "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19, 20 NIV).
Adventists believe that Jesus Christ is coming soon to take all of His followers home to an eternal heaven. Because Jesus has asked His followers to "go and teach," Adventists purposefully share the good news of Christ with everyone they can find--especially their neighbors!
Peace, praise, and purpose. All of these result in a unique power for living, an internal energy that comes from having yielded to Christ. You will see this as a power that flows from God through your Adventist neighbor to you. That is our greatest hope as Adventists.
We also hope that you will see in us the power, purpose, and peace that God offers to each human being. Even more, we hope you will find these to be so attractive that you will choose to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Won't you join us in this lifetime adventure called Christianity?