Quotes from Early Adventist Church Leaders
These pages are included specifically for those studying Christian church history in North America or members of Seventh-day Adventist Churches who are interested in learning more about the evolution of the denomination.
The Adventist denomination began using the New Testament Church model where the full-time clergy planted churches and trained members to do the work of ministry. For the first 55 years of its history, the Adventist church operated with the members doing the ministry. As the church moved into the twentieth century, change in the job description of the pastor was on the horizon. Those who understood clearly the unique Biblical role of clergy warned of dire consequences should the denomination copy the Protestant Middle Ages model of Pastors [over every congregation doing the work of ministry].
As late as 1912, Adventists still operated on the New Testament model of the church. However, documents from that time suggest that a few churches had already been given settled pastors, and movements were underway to extend the practice to smaller congregations. There does not seem to be any definitive action that switches the missional model of the early Adventist church to the Middle Ages model of modern Adventism. Instead, it seems to have been a gradual shift over several decades. Slowly, Adventist pastors were given regular care of a district of churches, yet were still expected to perform their evangelistic function. The district assignment plan was fully in place by the 1950s. In the ‘60s and ‘70s the church continued to add pastors to churches, until most churches of any size had their own pastor. Only smaller churches shared a pastor with one to two others.
With financial difficulties in the late 1980s and early 1990s, local conferences took a step back from the continual adding of pastors and instead began to increase the size of districts. Some conferences now have districts of five or six churches.
The pages linked below contain quotes from the early period of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They help shed light on the original church planters’ vision of the new Testament Church Model:
Operating Without Settled Clergy
“Well, in the first place,” replied the Elder, “we have no settled pastors. Our churches are taught to take care of themselves, while nearly all of our ministers work as evangelists in new fields.
Resisting the Change to Settled Clergy
Original church planting leader E. G. White Resisted the Movement to Change the Mission Organization to a Nurture Organization by Putting Pastors Over Churches
The Role of Adventist Clergy
Clergy’s Work With Churches Should be in the Trainer/Equipper Model, Not as the Primary Care-giver. “Let the minister devote more of his time to educating than to preaching. Let him teach the people how to give to others the knowledge they have received.
The Role of Healthy Members
“Forgetting that strength to resist evil is best gained by aggressive service, they began to think that they had no work so important as that of shielding the church in Jerusalem from the attacks of the enemy. Instead of educating the new converts to carry the gospel to those who had not heard it, they were in danger of taking a course that would lead all to be satisfied with what had been accomplished. To scatter His representatives abroad, where they could work for others, God permitted persecution to come upon them. Driven from Jerusalem, the believers ‘went everywhere preaching the Word.’”