What was the catalyst that compelled you to quit your pastoral job?
The only God-induced response when one receives the gospel is faith. Simply put, God prompted me to leave my job to follow Him alone as my Savior and provision in faith. It was scary but the question I had to answer was whether I was going to trust Him or myself for all of my needs. This is the kind of faith that brings glory to God.
The other part of it though was to retain my integrity. I didn’t have huge savings and a mapped-out plan for my future. In practical terms this was not a smart move but, I believe, it is required for those who value their character. What kind of integrity would I demonstrate to my wife and future children (Lord willing) if I had stayed in a pulpit within a religion I believed was fundamentally in error? What kind of person would that make me? What kind of leader would that make me? I would never again be able to stand on my ethical two legs knowing that I was intentionally living outside of Christian orthodoxy (the gospel) and my convictions. Furthermore, not only would I be living a lie but I would be living in sin. Paul says, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Rom 14:23).
Trust me when I say, I know many SDA pastors who have fundamental theological differences with the Pillars of Adventism (Sabbath, Sanctuary-Investigative Judgment, Spirit of Prophecy, and State of the Dead). My counsel would be for them to value their character above all else. To do so honors God and prioritizes personal integrity over any perceived or real benefit of staying in the system.
Why didn’t you stay and try to make a difference?
Staying would have been impossible for several reasons. First of all, the problems with Seventh-day Adventism are theological at the root. It is my conviction that as long as Ellen White’s writings remain “a continuing and authoritative source of truth” (Fundamental Belief No. 18), the Seventh-day Adventist Church will never fundamentally change. Nevermind the fact that I wasn’t a staunch EGW believer. The fact remains that she is the interpretive lens by which the Seventh-day Adventist Church interprets Scripture. Practically, this means that she is either equal to Scripture, at best, or above it, at worst.
I also came to the conviction that I couldn’t be in fellowship with a religion that was outside of Christian orthodoxy. That is to say, I couldn’t be outside of the gospel of grace through faith in Jesus alone. How could I “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18) while being not under grace, but law? I firmly believed that in order to accept the gospel of Jesus, I had to leave.
Lastly, I believe God gets the most glory out of my life when I allow Him to form me into the person He created me to be. This is the transformational nature of the gospel which cannot be duplicated within the environment of “another” gospel. I had to follow God’s call out of Adventism.
Describe what it was like, emotionally, to leave?
There are no words to express how I felt in taking this journey. Leaving Adventism was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life. I cannot stress enough the emotional turmoil I went through making this decision. For me, I wasn’t primarily stressed over where we would go or how we would survive financially. I was more concerned with the disappointment it would cause my family and friends. In truth, it required me to face my greatest fear. Emotionally this was all-straining.
As God revealed to me the gospel and the unbiblical nature of Adventist theology, I soon realized I wasn’t just leaving a theological system but an entire culture. It’s not like leaving a Lutheran church for a Presbyterian one. Leaving Adventism is major, like death or divorce. It was jarring when I realized that the thing that once made up so much of my identity was now dead to me.
Adventism is an entire worldview. Only when I experienced the gospel of grace did I get a true sense of where I was in relation to it. This was all very emotionally taxing.
Leaving my congregation was also emotionally difficult. I had pastored these people for almost four years. I had built relationships, married couples, and performed the funerals of their loved ones. I loved them deeply and to leave them was heart-wrenching. Words cannot express how difficult all of this was.
How did your friends and family react when you shared that you were leaving your job and leaving Adventism?
As I mentioned above, I was very much afraid of these conversations. I had heard many terrible stories from others about their discussions with family. Surprisingly however, most of my loved ones were very supportive. They didn’t understand, of course, but they were still very supportive of me as a person. I appreciated that. I had those few people that thought I was going to hell or that God was taking me on my own journey only to bring me back to Adventism. Still, it was cool. I answered all the questions I was asked and left a standing invitation for continued dialogue. I’ve had some “interesting” conversations, but most of conversations have been out of love. God really graced me with this part of it.
So, here’s the question that everyone who leaves gets asked, over and over again… what about the Sabbath?
Stay tuned for the answer to this and other questions in our final installment. Click here to receive updates in your email box.