An 86-year-old widow at the time, Ellen White invited Arthur Whitefield Spalding—a Seventh-day Adventist educator and author doing some editorial work for her—to engage in a serious exchange at her home in Elmshaven, near Saint Helena, California. It was 1913, just two years ahead of her death, when she soberly championed a pressing issue on her heart by stating: “I want to talk with you,” she said, “about the importance of the work to be done for the parents of the church.” She continued, “The work of parents underlies every other.” Then she concluded by emphatically stating: “It is the very most important work before us as a people, and we have not begun to touch it with the tips of our fingers.”1
A few years later, on October 8, 1919—the first year after the end of World War I; the same year of the Paris Peace Conference at the Palace of Versailles, the year in which Mahatma Gandhi declared an All India Strike against the Rowlatt Act and in which a law providing for full women’s suffrage in the Netherlands and the United States was introduced—the General Conference Committee voted to create the Home Commission, which became operative in 1922 with Arthur Whitefield Spalding as the leader. Spalding worked in this capacity with his wife Maud until 1941. Spalding produced literature for the education of the entire family. A series of pamphlets was developed, whose content dealt with the various stages of family life, titled The Christian Home Series. Arthur Spalding wrote the lessons, and Maud Spalding scored them.
This is the reason we are celebrating 100 years of deliberate ministry to fami-lies in the Seventh-day Adventist Church this year. And while we may have gone beyond just touching this most important of ministries with the tips of our fingers, it is still “the very most important work before us as a people” to ensure a viable church in the days ahead, capable of fulfilling the great commission of making disciples for the kingdom of God. It is, indeed, the heart of the Elijah message of restoration that has been entrusted to us.
On this very point, Ellen White declares: “The restoration and uplifting of humanity begins in the home. The work of parents underlies every other. Society is composed of families, and is what the heads of families make it. Out of the heart are the ‘issues of life’; and the heart of the community, of the church, and of the nation is the household. The well-being of society, the success of the church, the prosperity of the nation, depend upon home influences.”2
So, we resolutely believe the future of the church and the world is predicated on the intersection of family life and spirituality. To be sure, the family circle is the social location where children are nurtured and learn the values of the kingdom of God. These are the ideals inspired by God and postulated by the apostle Paul that proclaim: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22, 23).3 This is truly the crux of the matter.
We proffer that if the Adventist Church is to remain the relevant revelation to the world of a God who is love, full of grace, and committed to saving a planet that has lost its compass and all hope, then fostering healthier marriages and families will be the deliberate and sustained strategic focus of our existence. This type of intentionality is what will make operational in our global family the inspired assertion, “One well-ordered, well-disciplined family tells more in behalf of Christianity than all the sermons that can be preached.”4 This culture of warmth and regard for each other advanced in our families—despite our imperfections—will bring out the central creed of the gospel in the words of Jesus, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
It is our longing that this edition of Ministry will not only mark 100 years of Family Ministries in the Seventh-day Adventist Church but will also be a clarion call to our collective ministerial family to boldly proclaim the salvific gospel of healthy family relations, embracing afresh the prophetic revelation, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents” (Mal. 4:5, 6a, NIV).
May this become a reality in our lifetimes is our prayer.
- Arthur W. Spalding, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, vol. 3 (Washington, DC:Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1962), 201, 202.
- Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1942), 349.
- Scripture references are from the English Standard Version, except where noted.
- Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1980), 32.