I Was Once a Church of God Clergyman

This is the first of a series of recitals to appear in THE MINISTRY from ministers and priests formerly of other faiths who are now preachers of the Advent message.

By ORRIS J. MILLS, Licensed Minister, Michigan Conference

This is the first of a series of recitals to appear in THE MINISTRY from ministers and priests formerly of other faiths who are now preachers of the Advent message. Others, who were once Baptist, Methodist, Church of God, Unitarian, Universalist, Assemblies of God, and even an Augustinian Friar and a Jesuit are now rejoicing in this message, and- will tell of their conversion to the remnant faith. Just as in the early church "a multitude of the priests believed," so will many of these sincere seekers for truth join us in the final phase of our witness to men. Brethren, we wel­come you! Let us Pray for these men, and pray also that many others may soon see the light of the third angel's message and join forces with us in our com­mon faith and cause.—EDITOR.

As Ezekiel watched the multiplicity of wheels running within each other, all ap­peared to be confusion and utter chaos. But in spite of the complexity of the vision be­fore him, there was an over-all pattern that gave purpose and order to the intricate mech­anism. Likewise, our lives may appear confused and purposeless, but the very complications may be the Lord's means of leading a soul into harmony with Him and into a purposeful ex­istence. I found this to be true in my own ex­perience.

I was blessed with a godly mother who dedi­cated me to the Lord's service, and a father who prayed for a minister in the family. Great was the consternation and anxiety of my par­ents as their son for a time fell victim to the lures of Satan; great the rejoicing when the wayward son was converted and began prepar­ing for the ministry of the Church of God faith.

I received my training at the Church of God Bible school for ministers, and was sent out with credentials to preach the gospel and bap­tize in the name of Christ. In my pastoral ex­perience I soon found that my training was in­adequate to meet the needs of the modern world. Various circumstances led me to choose the University of Michigan for further training. A major in speech and literature seemed to offer most for my purposes. My course, therefore, was planned to qualify me for a degree in these fields. As the stage had always made a tremen­dous bid for my soul, I chose dramatics as one of the major phases of my speech work.

At the time I enrolled at the university, and, in fact, from the time of my conversion, I was perplexed over the question of prophecy. I felt that it was important, not only because of the admonition of John in the Revelation, but also because it was so directly related to the doc­trine of the second coming of Christ in which I had implicit faith. I read everything I could find in an endeavor to understand Daniel and the Revelation. Nothing seemed to satisfy my thinking. So much was presumptuous and un­sound.

I had been taught that the Jews were God's chosen people, and that they were someday to return to Palestine to rebuild Jerusalem. But the more I saw of Jewish people, the more I found them to be godless, atheistic, and worldly, and the more confused I became. I could not see how a God of justice would bless this rebellious people above Gentiles. This teaching of God's partiality to the Jews was so deeply entrenched in my thinking that it colored all my reading of the Scriptures, and confusion began to give way to doubt.

Troubled with these thoughts, I one day heard a minister speak on the "lost tribes" of Israel. He pointed out how all the blessings promised to Israel were to be fulfilled in the "lost ten tribes," and not in the Jews, who had been rejected of God by their refusal to ac­cept Christ.

I thought this was perhaps the solution to my problem. I listened with intense interest, and as he brought forth an array of evidence to show that the "lost ten tribes" were found in the British Commonwealth and the United States, I was tremendously impressed. Why, of course, the English-speaking peoples are the most mis­sionary-minded, and the most benevolent and liberty loving of all people. Surely they were fulfilling God's wishes for Israel, I bought their books, studied their literature, and preached two sermons on my wonderful discovery, con­vinced I now had the message of the hour.

Then things began to happen. My thinking became more mature on the subject, and holes began to appear here and there in the various arguments. Unchristian articles appeared in the official organ of the Anglo-Israel Federation, the Destiny magazine. History revealed that England was not the saint she had been made to appear; America was not the unselfish bene­factor I wanted her to be. Garbled quotations appeared here and there in the literature I read. Scriptures were taken from their context; tra­dition and legends were used for facts. Gradu­ally the whole structure broke down before me, and I was left with a sort of empty feeling, wondering just where to turn.

At the same time Bible courses at the uni­versity were doing their utmost to unsettle me. Higher criticism was fastening its tentacles with greater firmness than I was willing to ad­mit or was even aware of. I began to com­promise. The devil became a mere force, an abstract principle; righteousness became a rela­tive matter ; and man became a product of his environment. Christianity became a good phi­losophy that men should try to obey. Christ be­came a wonderful example who paid the su­preme penalty.

At the time I did not realize I had gone so far. It is only from my present point of view that it is clear that I had. I tell this to give a bird's-eye view of the workings of the minds of various ministers who do not have the mes­sage we have. I was sincere, and would have gone to great length to defend my position if it were challenged. I was confused but did not realize it enough to admit it, although I had an intuitive yearning for something better.

In this unsettled condition I enrolled for my final semester at the university. I wanted to preach, but it was clear I had no positive mes­sage. I was not a modernist; neither was I a fundamentalist. I had a yearning for the stage, and at times almost decided to cast my lot with the theater. But an impelling urge to do some­thing more constructive prevented me from making that choice.

Classes for the semester began, and I was on the last lap of my undergraduate work. Enter­ing the radio class, the training which I wanted very much, I learned that there were eight more enrolled in the course than the class limit, and that I was among the ten who had enrolled late. My chances of getting in the course were there­fore slim.

By the grace of God I was admitted. I did not know why at the time, but today I am cer­tain the overruling hand of divine Providence intervened. A contact in that class resulted in the most momentous experience of my career, and was responsible for an almost complete change in my approach to the Scriptures, in my philosophy of life, and in my hope for the fu­ture.

In the process of time those in the class began to get acquainted. It was soon learned that there were three ministers in the class, and we did our part to prove the old proverb true, "Birds of a feather flock together." Soon I came to know that one was a Seventh-day Ad­ventist. Although I had never had contact with Adventists, I understood that we were agreed on the state of the dead. At once I offered my hand and said, "We have something in common; I agree with you on the state of the dead."

This truth was a bond that bound our hearts together, and we became fast friends. In the hustle and hurry of busy days at the university we were not permitted to spend much time to­gether at any one occasion, but he always made the most of the opportunity when we could. We found ourselves eating most of our meals to­gether, and he, all the while, was doing his ut­most in our discussions to talk upon that which we were agreed, until I began to think Advent­ists would do well to join my church.

The weeks passed until we counted the time before graduation by a few days. I had ex­pressed to Elder Vandeman a desire to attend some school which was scholastically sound, and which had a profound respect for the Bible. I confessed I knew of none, and that, therefore, I was going on to the University of Minnesota for my M.A. before re-entering the ministry. He cautiously took advantage of this lead and began paving the way for me to attend Emman­uel Missionary College. His tactful and sincere manner gradually won my heart, and at the close of school he made arrangements for me to visit in his home at Berrien Springs, Michigan, sometime in August, after I had finished with my summer's work as chaplain at one of Wayne University's summer camps.

The week after camp closed I spent the week end with Brother Vandeman. That visit proved valuable, for I decided to enroll in this little college, beautiful for situation, that offered ex­actly what I wanted in Bible.

As I attended classes day after day, I was profoundly impressed by the attitude of those around me toward the Bible. Why, they be­lieved everything it said ! It seemed they knew more about it than anyone I had ever met be­fore. Passages that seemed obscure were made so clear that I marveled at their learning and consecration. Gradually I found myself giving way to new concepts and ideas. I again began to get the thrill of former days from reading the Old Book. I began studying the prophecies from the setting of history. How clear they were ! How could I have failed to see this be­fore?

Then came the Sabbath. This had never been any real problem to me. I knew the law was obligatory upon Christians, but I thought it made no particular difference what day we kept. But with what force it struck me when I saw the history of Sunday. Quickly I began keeping Sabbath, but that was only the beginning of sorrows. Now I was confused. Up until then I could still preach for the Church of God. Now I was troubled, for there were doctrines which Adventists held that I felt I could never be­lieve. I thought seriously about starting a church to straighten out the world, including Adventists. As I studied and prayed, fighting against prejudice, preconceived ideas, pride, and selfishness, the Lord, with the loving help of my teachers, gradually led me out of dark­ness into the glorious light of His message.

As I look back over the path I have trod, I wonder why the Lord was so good to lead me where He did. This message is so wonderful that I cannot praise the Lord enough for bring­ing me to it. Every time I open my Bible I offer a prayer of thanks for the illumination that has come to its pages. I will ever be grateful that a Seventh-day Adventist minister was not afraid to work for a minister of another faith, and without antagonizing "him.

After joining the remnant church it was my privilege to assist Brother Vandeman in bringing the truth of God's Word to many souls in the Jackson, Michigan, effort in the summer of 1946. After this great work I at­tended the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary where my feet were placed on solid rock, and my Lord became a closer friend to me. This was followed by practical experience in the re­cent Detroit effort conducted by the Shuler evangelistic company.

Since joining the remnant people of God, I have seen one of my old friends, a fellow min­ister, also formerly in the Church of God, come out and join us in the proclamation of the ever­lasting gospel in its current setting. He is des­tined to be a leader among us. He has already won a talented brother, who is studying for the ministry, and a sister, and has interested scores more, In a recent letter he writes, "I have always wanted to be an Adventist, but did not know it before. I am happy that God has seen fit to show me this way."

The burden has been laid on my heart to bring this message to the consideration of the leaders in the various denominations. May we all work with a determination to allay prejudice among the leadership of other churches by letting our light shine before them. May we never fail to take advantage of an opportunity to know the fellow ministers in our field of labor, that they may know us, too. I am well aware qf the bitter opposition that confronts us from time to time, but let us never forget that ignorance begets prejudice. The word itself means a biased opinion before knowledge. Most of the opposi­tion against us is due to ignorance of our mes­sage.

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By ORRIS J. MILLS, Licensed Minister, Michigan Conference

May 1948

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