May 4, 2009

Church Experiment #18: Clifton 7th-Day Adventist

Whoa … talk about seeing what your brain is conditioned to see.

I visited the Clifton Seventh-Day Adventist ( website at least three times to check on the church’s starting time. Each time my mind saw Sunday at 10:50 AM. I even went back and looked again after multiple people mentioned I would have to attend church on a Saturday.

“No, no,” I wrote, “this particular church meets Sunday at 10:50 AM.”

Friday night, I checked one more time, and there it was, plain as day—Saturdayat 10:50 AM. Half of me thought someone snuck in and changed the day to screw with me, and the other half thought we can be so conditioned to see what we are expecting to see that we miss out on what is actually in front of our faces. Could this be analogous to our lives? To our church experiences? To our perceptions of people who are different from us?

Channeling my inner Sarah Palin: You betcha. [Remember her?]

Either way, I luckily realized my mistake in time and attended Clifton Seventh-Day Adventist Church Saturday morning. And I’m glad I figured it out because it was a life-altering experience.

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.


Val said...

You have such a way with words. I'm really enjoying this series. I often laugh out loud(unusual for this cynical reader), but I'm also left with a message...Mucho coolness :)
Have a great week!

Alex Green said...

I grew up in the SDA church. Sabbath was something that was so forced that I never once enjoyed it. In the church I grew up in there was no television, radio, music that wasn't hymn-like, no eating dinner in a restaurant (because you're making someone else work), no getting gas, grocery shopping or going to the roller rink on Friday night until sundown on Saturday.

They also teach the writings of Ellen G. White more than they teach the Bible. She is their prophetess and she is why they're vegetarians. If you really get into the stuff she taught, some of it's scary and some of it's plagerism and some of it's really good. The whole dietary restriction brings up a funny point. I'm certain that cultures where the vegeterians actually harvest their own food from their own labor do have longer life-spans and better quality of life. Experiencing it here though, seems different.

I can't tell you how many girls gained the (high school) freshman 15 or 20 or 30 lbs when they were living off of dorm food because it was mostly cheese and bread. Also, I've had a handful of dear friends who just couldn't get out from under the thumb of Adventist legalism. They became drug addicts and rebels but don't dare tell them that there is Grace in Jesus and that you don't HAVE TO keep the Sabbath.

Never once, in 11 years of SDA church or two years of their school did I ever hear the gospel preached. They don't tell you Christ is enough. You live never knowing if you were good enough.

But Steve, it's really good to realize that they do actually have a point. Even for all my disdain for their doctrine they're largely good people with great hearts and at least some of them try to really spend a day in His presence every week. Thanks for the reminder and knocking me back down off of my high horse.

samarahuel said...

Great post this week! I'm sorry, but I will admit I was wary, knowing that you were visiting a church that doesn't hold to my beliefs. I would like to know more about what they taught, but your insights on rest were right on. So arrogant are we, and it's not just Midwesterners. In fact, I believe that people confuse entertainment with relaxation far too much. I see it a lot here amongst the Americans in Germany, and I think being from the Midwest gives me at least a little help with not getting caught up in it. (Pride check...that doesn't mean I don't have other struggles or am any better for it.) Like me, most of my acquaintances are only here for a few years or so, and they want to do and see as much of Europe as they can in their time here. That's totally understandable, but since I'm used to Iowa, where there is just not a lot to do, I'm more content with hanging out at home on most weekends, rather than taking every possible day- and weekend trip and going to every market and festival and whatnot that is available.

I like that you didn't use the computer on your day of rest, too. I'd like to try implementing a no computer day once a week, because although it can be used for recreation, as you mentioned, it can cause stress anyway, and it's nice to have a break from the noise and the glare and the habit of blog-checking or gaming or Facebook. Sometimes it's nice to notice the sky darken, listen to the wind pick up, and sit on the couch with a cup of tea, a blanket, and Jane Eyre while a rainstorm rolls through. Then, even though you stayed in bed 'til noon, a nice long nap is just perfect. That was some of my Sunday yesterday.

samarahuel said...

More food for thought from across the pond: in Germany, by law stores close at 6pm and can't be open on Sundays (restaurants are an exception). And on May 1, everything was closed for some holiday, which was frustrating as I needed to get some things at the hardware store for a barbecue on Saturday. Personally, the Sunday thing I find odd since true Christianity is very scarce here, but it's nice. As a workaholic Midwesterner, the 6pm and holiday thing is just annoying and inconvenient, because most normal people work until 5 or 6, and how are they supposed to get errands done? Some places are also closed during the lunch hour, which goes along the same lines--so inconvenient! :) The service mentality is just not the same here as it is in the states. There has to be a balance, right? WORK HARD 6 days a week, and REST THOROUGHLY for 1?

DanThoms said...

a) LDS is a cult.
b) By definition the Sabbath is Saturday.
c) Points A and B are irrelevant when it comes to taking a day of rest. Rest is good no matter what day it's on. You may have come one step closer to resolving last weeks burn out question.

A Modern Ancient said...

Did you mean to say 'LDS' or 'SDA'?

LDS is Latter Day Saints... aka Mormon
SDA is Seventh Day Adventist... aka the church Steve visited this week.

And by definition, any religious group is a cult... some are just more controlling of the individual than others.

Anonymous said...

I love relaxing, and nothing is more relaxing to me than a good burger. When I'm not sure where to go for the best burger in town, I check in with the Cirque du Savory crew at . They really know their stuff. -Schlimpher

Anonymous said...

God never rested on the seventh day because He needed rest or was somehow tired. He simply rested because His work of creating the earth was finished. God didn't go to work again on the next day nor did He command Adam and Eve to observe a literal day. Instead, the Edenic Sabbath was unending or perpetual as is verified by the seventh day not being framed into a literal day as the other six days were. Of course, the Fall broke the perpetual Sabbath or daily communion Adam and Eve had with their Creator. Sin is cosmic treason and a crime. It inevitably separates us from God.

Adventists aren't even observing a shadow which the festal, weekly Sabbath is according to Colossians 2:16,17. They're honoring a literal day, not a shadow of the Cross, but as the reality itself. They have made a creation into a holy icon. Those who still insist upon observing any shadow pointing to the Cross are actually denying the reality of Christ.

Resting in Him,

Dennis Fischer

Steve Fuller said...



Days off are still pretty sweet.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dan . Great Post. I hope we have some Adventists stop over and post. ( like what happened when you visited the Quakers ) It is alwasy more enlightening to hear from both insiders and outsider of the church you visit

Anonymous said...

Sorry I meant Steve !!

Christopher Day said...

Well, I'm still trying to decipher and decode what Dennis wrote. But I think the idea that God rested on the sabbath is a wonderful thing. My bible says "...he rested on the sabbath from all his work which he had made." (Genesis 2:2) In other words, he took a break. And then blessed and sanctified that same day (verse 3) so that we should do the same. I'm not sure I understand Dennis' argument. Why not rest on the sabbath? Why not literally stop for 24 hours and rest? Why not do that on a literal day? Why not stop, listen, focus, regather, and rest? I highly doubt the Adventists are worshiping a day of the week. But rather using a certain day of the week to pause. Why are Christians so hyper-critical of how everyone else chooses to worship? If these Christians focused just half of that same critical energy on telling people about a Jesus, great things would be done. I always look at it like this. I am not the judge. If God doesn't care for the way Adventists worship, He will take that up with them when the time comes.

Nathan Brown said...

As a Seventh-day Adventist, I apologise for how we have too often misrepresented the gift of the Sabbath.
Sabbath is a celebration of salvation, grace and creation—all the good things of life that God gives to us. One of my favourite descriptions of Sabbath comes from Wayne Muller's book, Sabbath:
"The old, wise Sabbath says, Stop now. As the sun touches the horizon take the hand off the plough, put down the phone, let the pen rest on the paper, turn off the computer, leave the mop in the bucket and the car in the drive. There is no room for negotiation, no time to be seduced by the urgency of our responsibilities. We stop because there are forces larger than we that take care of the universe, and while our efforts are important, necessary and useful, they are not (nor are we) indispensable. The galaxy will somehow manage without us for this hour, this day, so we are invited—nay, commanded—to relax and enjoy our relative unimportance, our humble place at a table in a very large world. The deep wisdom embedded in creation will take care of things for a while."

hamburgler said...

i never used to know where to eat hamburgers. then i found

ellen g. white would've hated them, but i love the crew of burger prophets who selflessly point the way to burger-heaven.

Ruby Red Slippers said...

I think you are hitting on an important point about over-stressing, over-working...I do try to take Sunday off of everything (unfortunately that doesn't include diapers...) and just read, play with the kids, and relax. Yesterday was one of those days here-and we all enjoyed the day. So needed.
I had friends that were SDA, and many did rebel when they were older. Interesting that someone else mentioned that-

DanThoms said...

@ Modern Ancient - sorry a typo on my part

samarahuel said...

I think it's important to remember that we observe a Sabbath (whether Saturday or Sunday or any other day) because it is a reminder that the work of salvation is finished. That work ended not on the Old Testament Sabbath, but on a Sunday, when some Jewish ladies visited a tomb of the recently deceased Jesus and found that he had in fact conquered death. I don't know why the Sabbath was officially changed to Sunday, but I've always thought that had something to do with it. We don't rest all the time, because then we wouldn't recognize the stark difference and the symbolism would be much less effective. We ought to rest from our work, not out of legalism as Alex Green described, but because we remember that our striving to keep the law for our salvation is over. We can rest because Jesus did the work, and he did it completely. His sacrifice was enough to end all sacrifices. I also like the quote that Nathan Brown shared on the SDA view of the Sabbath, and while I agree with those sentiments and I don't have any problems with when SDA's choose to observe the Sabbath, I am concerned that they do it for the right reasons and with the right things in mind. Yes, we need to remember that we are frail humans and humble ourselves by letting God take care of things without our input for just one day, but primarily, we MUST remember that God took care of the most important thing, he (Christ) lived a perfect life that we cannot, and he completed the work of salvation so that we can rest from our striving to keep the law perfectly, including how we keep the Sabbath. His grace is sufficient.

Teresa Johns said...

Life got crazy about a year ago, and Billy and I made a point to rest on Sundays.

No house work (we just bought a fixer-upper), no work-work, no running around with a million "important" things to do - just enjoy each other, family, sleep, nature, life, etc. It was really hard at first, but I think we're getting the hang of it!

It's amazing how one day of rest can affect the following week in such a good way. Glad you're gonna try it :)

Anonymous said...

Funny, I used that Bueller quote along side my senior yearbook picture in high school. 10 years later I still feel the same, but need to make a point to "stop and look around" more often. Thanks for the reminder. :)

Steve Fuller said...


Good thoughts.

Alex Green said...


I just wanted to clarify, without taking away from the lovely things that you said, the Sabbath wasn't ever changed to Sunday. At least, as far as I've studied it and making the trek out of the SDA church took a lot of study and was about as comfortable as leaving any extremist, Biblical sect. Sabbath keeping is a salvation issue in that church, at least for the people who are alive when Christ returns. When I left, I had to be pretty damn certain that I understood why I wasn't going to hell for it.

Anonymous said...

Check out this book:
breathe - creating space for God in a hectic life by Keri wyatt kent. Although it is geared towards women it gives examples of creating a simpler life(that is different for everyone) and how keeping the Sabbath might fit into that. The framework for this book is Matthew 11:28-30.
It is worth the read.

samarahuel said...

Hi Alex, by the Sabbath being changed to Sunday, I just meant that most Christian churches take Sunday as their worship and resting day, but I honestly have not studied why or when that came about. I am curious, when you say that Sabbath keeping is a salvation issue, do you mean that SDA believe that you must keep the Sabbath to attain salvation? If so, that is exactly where my concern lies, because I believe that the Bible makes it clear that only by the blood of Christ are we reconciled to God. I'm pretty sure you understand that though, it seems you have an excellent and sincere understanding of the gospel, which is wonderful! I really appreciated the things you said about what the SDA church can be like and the areas where they are misled; it was good to hear that from someone who experienced it firsthand.

Nathan Brown said...

Like other Christians, Seventh-day Adventist believe in salvation by grace through faith and Sabbath keeping—like other acts of discipleship—is a response to God loves for us, His gift of salvation and His acts in our lives and in our world. The Adventist church does not believe that Sabbath is a salvation issue, instead it is a gift from God and a sign of our acceptance of His gifts to us.
Sadly, many Sabbath-keepers have understood and taught others that Sabbath is a salvation issue. Most of us tend to emphasise the things that set us apart from everyone else and that can distort the way we practise and share it. As I commented above, I am sorry for how some have misrepresented the grace of Sabbath.
Yes, Sabbath-keeping changed/was changed to Sunday-keeping as part of the development of Christian empire with Constantine and the like back in the fourth century. And many people see this as part of a significant falling away from the heart of what Christianity should be. (Check out "Jesus Wants to Save Christians" by Rob Bell, "Jesus for President" By Shane Claiborne or "Peculiar People" by Rodney Clapp for more on the colonisation of Christianity by empires and how we might better respond to this today.) Rediscovering the Sabbath of the Bible is one way to reclaim some of the Jewish heritage of Christianity and the early Christian church, as well as to practise the faith of Jesus.
When we accept what God has done for us in Jesus, we want to live the best we can in the way of Jesus and Sabbath is one spiritual discipline that can help us do that.

Alex Green said...

I got into a tear-filled arguement with two teachers (at the SDA school where I attended) about the Sabbath keeping = saved, thing. They explained to me that Sabbath keeping would be a way for us to determine who was going to heaven or hell. I asked if they really thought Mother Theresa was going to hell for not keeping the Sabbath. They told me only people in the end times, those alive when Christ returned would have to pay for that.

Sabbath keeping is great. I still struggle with all of it because I believe that after Christ died, we have more required of us, not less. Daily entering into His presence with Purpose. It's all the extra stuff that's a problem. Don't wear a necklace, but sure, flash that bling-y brooch. Ellen G. was always represented (to me, maybe not where you are but the regional conference around here was on board) as a higher authority than Christ, just not in so many words. Grace + anything takes away the power of Christ to save. However, yes, when we enter into a relationship with Christ, we do want to live right.

Nathan Brown said...

Dear Alex,

I'm sorry.

And I think we agree: Jesus + nothing = everything.

The rest is just trying to find the best way to follow Jesus in our time and place.

I believe Sabbath is one way to do that. But Sabbath should be "a delight," a day for reprioritising our lives and a day for sharing with others.

God loves you.

Alex Green said...

Thank you, Nathan. And we do agree on that. And we could discuss this forever but I'll just say it's nice to meet someone in my generation(ish) with a seemingly healthy grasp on grace.

Jeba Moses said...

Hello Steve:

I am the pastor of the Adventist Church you visited in Cincinnati, Ohio. Thank you very much for worshiping with us that day in May.

Yes, it was a special service, with our pathfinders leading out in a significant part of our worship experience. Sometimes kids do things impromptu in a service that an adult might not be accustomed to, but we think God smiles when one of His kids stands and leads in worship. And, as you saw, kids and youth are an integral part of our Church 'family'.

The guest speaker that day was a physician from California; he ran the marathon the next day, along with several of us from Church. It was fun!

I enjoy being an Adventist. To me, it's all about Jesus. My tight relationship with Him helps me tag along with Him through this life, as I look forward to His eternal Kingdom.

And I pray that you'll rediscover the incredible love God has for you, made plain on a Roman Cross for the entire universe to see.

Bless you, Steve! The next time you're in Cincinnati, let me know! I'll take you for a run, and treat you at the restaurant of your choice!!

Jeba Moses