It’s been 201 years since William Miller quietly became convicted from Scripture that Jesus Christ would soon return to earth. That’s a long time, especially when you consider it’s been 502 years since Martin Luther not-so-quietly nailed his own convictions onto a church door. (How is it possible that the Adventist reformation has lived two fifths of the Protestant Reformation? And that the Protestant Reformation has now stretched to more than 70 sevens?)
It’s been 175 years this month since the Great Disappointment. Jesus did not break through the clouds, leaving the first Adventists weeping and weeping until the day dawned. One hundred seventy-five years is a long time. Raise your hand if you were an Adventist living in October 1844 who thought we’d still be here in October 2019. That’s what I thought.
We must retrace the same journey as our spiritual ancestors: entering into the scriptures for ourselves.
It would be understandable for some Adventists to struggle with apathy today (even as Adventists today are probably glad they got the opportunity to be born). While our denomination continues to be one of the fastest growing on earth, these recent statistics from North America are sobering:
What’s happening? How are we doing? And what’s the antidote to apathy?
A global crisis? Certainly, if there were worldwide or even nationwide devastation, people would be driven to their Bibles and to their faith communities, as they were after September 11.
Many have experienced smaller-scale crises of faith, resulting in a stronger faith. (Indeed, when Adventists leave the church, then return, the leading reason, at 90 percent, is biblical preaching.)
But it shouldn’t have to take a crisis, nor should we wish for one. There is a better way to renew our faith.
First, we must clear out the bad stuff, even some of the good stuff, from our lives. “The first step in spiritual renewal,” writes Jim Cymbala, “is demolition.” If we find that we have no hunger for God and His Word, we might be too filled with everything else.
Second, we must retrace the same journey as our spiritual ancestors: entering into the Scriptures for ourselves. Many years ago as a young adult, I had gotten apathetic and frustrated with the Adventist Church. I knew all the Adventist beliefs; what I didn’t know well enough was the foundation of those beliefs, the Word of God itself. Taking a friend’s advice, I read through the Bible in a month . . . and never really stopped. My apathy melted away, replaced by an unshakable confidence in God’s Word.
This is the simple experience of the earliest Christians, the earliest Protestants, the earliest Adventists. It can be our experience, too—in October 2019—as Jesus prepares to break through the clouds.
*From presentations given by Lee Venden at Glacier View Ranch, January 6-9, 2019.
Andy Nash ([email protected]) is an Adventist pastor and author. He leads a biblical study tour to Israel each summer.