Recent participation in four MINISTRY Professional Growth Seminars in North and South Dakota again highlighted the need to inform you, our readers, as to why we are sending our journal to nearly a quarter of a million clergy of all faiths.
To answer the above frequently asked questions let's begin with the in-house label we have given this project PREACH is an acronym composed of the first letters of the words Project for Reaching Every Active Clergyman at Home. Naturally it is a rather expensive plan for the church. But we have a large number of dedicated Seventh-day Adventist laymen and pastors who give their tithes and offerings on a regular basis, and out of these funds the church allocates a certain portion for special projects. PREACH benefits from these funds. In addition, we receive donations through the mail from clergy of various faiths who are appreciative of the service we are offering. As you can imagine, it's no easy task to maintain a financial base for PREACH. It is a struggle. But as someone has said: "Every good and excellent thing stands moment by moment on the razor's edge of danger and must be fought for." In spite of a world recession, and in spite of the pressing demands for funds in a multitude of other projects, we pledge our selves to keeping the PREACH project operating.
What's the catch?
Why do we do this? I shall mention two major reasons for sharing MINISTRY with clergy of all faiths. First of all, we have a special burden to encourage and strengthen those precious few individuals who have committed their time and talents to the ministry of healing and of reconciliation through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only God sees the enormity of the world's needs. Burdened with disasters, heartaches, fear, disease, and guilt, mankind knows so little of what our Lord has to offer. If the contents of our journal can aid religious leaders of all communions in meeting these needs, we shall feel rewarded.
Our second reason for this outreach could be called self-serving. Seventh-day Adventists are perhaps among the most misunderstood religious movements in modern history. We are constantly being confused with religious organizations whose somewhat strange doctrinal beliefs cannot be supported by Scripture. Add to this a misunderstanding relative to some of the beliefs that we hold. Recently a leading theologian confessed that he erroneously thought that the name Seventh-day Adventist meant that we believed Christ's second advent would occur on the seventh-day Sabbath. We were mildly shocked to hear this, of course. Obviously our church name emphasizes two major doctrines in our system of beliefs. But they have nothing to do with Christ's coming on the seventh day. We do observe the seventh-day Sabbath as commanded by God in the fourth law of the Decalogue. And we fervently believe in the literal, visible, and personal return of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, we believe, is imminent.
Another illustration of a gross misunderstanding centers in a question asked by a seminar attendee a few weeks ago: "Do you believe in the doctrine of the atonement?" My emphatic reply was "Absolutely!" We affirm this in number 9 of our Fundamental Beliefs, which in part states, "In Christ's life of perfect obedience to God's will, His suffering, death, and resurrection, God provided the only means of atonement for human sin, so that those who by faith accept this atonement may have eternal life, and the whole creation may better under stand the infinite and holy love of the Creator. This perfect atonement vindicates the righteousness of God's law and the graciousness of His character; for it both condemns our sin and provides for our forgiveness. The death of Christ is substitutionary and expiatory, reconciling and transforming." —Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 1981, p. 35.
Another major misunderstanding is related to date-setting for the second coming of Christ. Our church has never set a date for His coming. True, our roots are traceable to the Millerite movement of the early 1800s, and it was William Miller who believed the Advent would occur in the mid-1840s. But remember this great advent movement was com posed of ministers and laypeople of many denominations, such as Methodists, Congregationalists, Baptists, et cetera.
It was not until after this movement dissipated that a small group organized itself into a church known as the Seventh-day Adventists. We have never set a date for Christ's return and we never shall.
Input from readers
We are thrilled that thousands of ministers have been in attendance at our MINISTRY Professional Growth Seminars. The fellowship has been delightful (see the ad on page 31).
We are also grateful for the responses via letter from clergy of all faiths who read and appreciate our magazine. One of our readers expresses how his attitude toward Adventists has changed since he has been receiving MINISTRY magazine. He writes, "In my seminary days, and early in my ministry, I had numerous reasons for classifying Adventists as something less than completely 'orthodox' Christians. But [now] I thank God for a better understanding of the ministry of those we call 'Adventists.'"
In conclusion, we urge readers to please send us names of any clergy who are full-time pastor-evangelists, semi nary teachers, rabbis, et cetera, so that we can put them on the mailing list. It is our privilege to bring you opportunities for interfaith fellowship and professional growth experience. —J.R.S.