Reform us again

Jeffrey O. Brown, PhD, is the associate editor of Ministry and an associate ministerial secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States

The year 1863 is significant. Slavery in America officially ended. The Seventh-day Adventist Church officially began. And William Mackay penned the rousing hymn “Revive Us Again.1

As Protestants, our church pioneers recognized that we were heirs of the Reformation. With biblical justification, they suggested that reformation was a prerequisite for the outpouring of the latter rain. “Reform ye, therefore, and turn back, for your sins being blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19, YLT). “So change the way you think and act, and turn to God to have your sins removed” (v. 19, GW). This led to a definition and a departure.

A definition

Ellen White stated, “Revival and reformation are two different things. Revival signifies a renewal of spiritual life, a quickening of the powers of mind and heart, a resurrection from spiritual death. Reformation signifies a reorganization, a change in ideas and theories, habits and practices.2

While the Seventh-day Adventist Church has consistently placed great emphasis on revival,3 its 2020-2025 strategic plan, I Will Go, encourages a corresponding emphasis on reformation. One of the plan’s objectives—“To enhance the transparency, accountability, and credibility of denominational organization, operations, and mission initiatives”4—parallels Mark Finley’s statement that, “Heaven’s call to reformation is a call to reevaluate every personal and corporate practice in the blazing light of God’s Word.”5

Our church pioneers humbly acknowledged that the unflattering letter to the church in Laodicea was describing God’s last-day church (Rev. 3:17). They saw spiritual blindness as both a legacy and a label—a label describing the church and a legacy describing Israel. “The minds of the Jews had become narrowed by their unreasoning bigotry.”6

A departure

The Spirit of God left Israel because of her unwillingness to reform. Ellen White almost left the Seventh-day Adventist Church for a similar reason.

“I was confirmed in all I had stated in Minneapolis, that a reformation must go through the churches. Reforms must be made, for spiritual weakness and blindness were upon the people who had been blessed with great light and precious opportunities and privileges. . . . We hoped that there would not be the necessity for another coming out. While we will endeavor to keep the ‘unity of the Spirit’ in the bonds of peace, we will not with pen or voice cease to protest against bigotry.”7

For I Will Go to be successful, courageous reformation is needed.8 Mark Finley says, “The spirit of revival and reformation will lead every institutional leader and administrative committee to reevaluate the practices of the institution they lead in the light of biblical principles and the counsels of the Spirit of Prophecy. They will ask, Does the institution I administer genuinely reflect the God-given principles and values of the Seventh-day Adventist Church?”9 I say, “ ‘Hallelujah, Thine the glory! Hallelujah, Amen! Hallelujah, Thine the glory!’ Reform us again.”

  1. William P. Mackay, “Revive Us Again,” 1867.
  2. Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, bk. 1 (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958), 128; emphasis added.
  3. See this issue, p. 13.
  4. I Will Go Strategic Focus 2020-2025, p. 19. https://iwillgo2020.org/.
  5. Mark A. Finley, “Is ‘Reformation’ a Confusing Term?” Adventist Review, May 17, 2011, 6.
  6. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), 242.
  7. The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials (Silver Spring, MD: Ellen G. White Estate, 1987), 356, 357. The editors state: “This is the only known statement from the pen of Ellen White indicating that she might have lost confidence in the Seventh-day Adventist Church organization. The doubt which she expressed here was never repeated during the remaining twenty-six years of her life.”
  8. Cf. www.adventist.org/articles/one-humanity-a-human-relations-statement-addressing-racism-casteism-tribalism-and-ethnocentrism. General Conference Administrative Committee, September 15, 2020.
  9. Finley, “Is ‘Reformation’ a Confusing Term?”

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