What do Seventh-day Adventists Believe about the Church?

Seventh-day Adventists believe that the idea of The Church is an important biblical concept.

They see church as a community of believers who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. And they’re organized so that they pool their resources in order to be a blessing to each other and to others outside their community (Acts 2:40-47).

Here are five things you will learn about the church in this post:

Let’s start with a look at the official statement of the Adventist church on what ‘church’ is all about. It reads:

“The church is the community of believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

In continuity with the people of God in Old Testament times, we are called out from the world; and we join together for worship, for fellowship, for instruction in the Word, for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, for service to humanity, and for the worldwide proclamation of the gospel.

The church derives its authority from Christ, who is the incarnate Word revealed in the Scriptures. The church is God’s family; adopted by Him as children, its members live on the basis of the new covenant.

The church is the body of Christ, a community of faith of which Christ Himself is the Head. The church is the bride for whom Christ died that He might sanctify and cleanse her. At His return in triumph, He will present her to Himself a glorious church, the faithful of all the ages, the purchase of His blood, not having spot or wrinkle, but holy and without blemish.”

What is the Church According to the Bible?

Church members joining together in worship in an Adventist Church as we explore the meaning of Church in the BibleIn the Bible, the word ‘church’ comes from the Greek word ecclesia, which means a called out company or assembly.

And this Greek word is translated from the Hebrew word qahal in the Old Testament Septuagint. Qahal is also used to depict the descendants of Abraham and the nation of Israel (Genesis 35:11; 49:6; Exodus 12:6).

Every time it was used in the Bible, it always referred to people. Not a church building or denomination as we are used to it nowadays.

Here are some instances when this word is used:

  • Referring to a mob (Acts 19:30-41)
  • Referring to the children of Israel (Acts 7:38)
  • Referring to the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 5:25, 32)
    And as the body of Christ, the word again takes three definitions: 

    • A local congregation or small group of believers in Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1-2)
    • The body of individual living believers (1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13)
      All people in the world who have ever accepted Jesus throughout the ages (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:23-27)

So, we see that according to the Bible, the church is a word that refers to people who have believed in Jesus and are in unity of faith and belief.

Also, Bible writers used several illustrations to describe the church. They’re used to show how it functions, its mission and purpose, and its identity in relation to God and to unbelievers.

Let’s go through some of them:

The Church Functions as a Human Body

Paul illustrates how the church functions when he calls it a body. A body with different parts which play different but essential functions. He uses the various parts to illustrate the unique roles of each member of the church.

He writes:Man standing as we learn how Paul illustrates the Church functions by giving analogy of human body in 1 Corinthians 12

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body.
So it is with the body of Christ.

 

Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free.

 

But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

 

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part.

 

If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,’ would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

 

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it” (1 Corinthians 12: 12-18, NLT).

 

The idea is that just as hands, or eyes, or feet, or stomach cannot function at best without each other, the church, as a body, needs different people with different gifts to keep it functioning properly.

And this leads to a key biblical point of “fellowship,”—a close-knit body of believers working together for the common good.

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7,NKJV).

This fellowship with each other forms the heartbeat of the church and church life. Being part of a church makes you part of something so much greater than yourself.

You end up belonging to a body that can help you in times of need and that enables you to help others in their times of need.

The church is the building or temple of God

Building under construction, as we learn that Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone of the Church in Ephesians 2:19-22Though the church is not a physical building, believers are referred to as the building or temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:9-17; 1 Corinthians 6:19).

A church is just like a building that’s made of individual bricks or planks of wood. These are put together to make a structure.

In the same way, when individual believers in Jesus come together, they make a church.

And just as a building must have a Cornerstone to make it stand, we read that Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone of the church (Ephesians 2:19-22).

This is because Jesus is the Savior of the Church and its master. Without Christ, the church wouldn’t exist in the first place.

And in the same way that a house needs to be built on a firm foundation, the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.

This refers to the teachings, writings, and leadership of the prophets and apostles. They are the basis for doctrine and practice for the church.

The church is the bride of Christ

Bride, as we learn that the New Jerusalem coming from heaven in Revelation 21:2,9 is referred to as the bride of the LambThe Bible refers to the church as the bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-32).

This shows the very special and intimate relationship between Jesus and the church.

In fact, when Jesus said He is going to prepare a place for us in heaven, He was using the language that a groom used in the Jewish culture (John 14:1-3).

After a man proposed to a woman and they got engaged, he would then go to his father’s homestead and build an extension to his father’s house. And that would be the house that he would bring his bride to.

So when the house was ready, the wedding would be organized, and he would go for his wife.

That is why when the New Jerusalem comes from heaven in Revelation 21:2,9, it’s referred to as the bride of the Lamb. Because it will be the heavenly city that Jesus prepared for His bride (the redeemed). And all the redeemed church of God will live in it forever.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH?

It provides a context for spiritual growth of members

Butterfly growth steps from cocoon with pupa to butterfly, as we learn Seventh Day Adventist's belief about growing in ChristThe purpose of the church is to provide a setting where believers can grow together and be more like Jesus.

But how is that achieved?

In Ephesians 4:7-16, Paul says that believers have different spiritual gifts. And these gifts are to be exercised in the church setting for the benefit of the whole body of Christ.

As the members serve each other by exercising their gifts, we read that several things happen:

  • Equipping of the saints for ministry (service to God and fellow men).
  • Edification of the body of Christ
  • Unity in faith and knowledge of Jesus among the believers
  • Growth and maturity in the understanding of truth and in exercising Christ-like love toward others.
  • Believers grow to be “a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

So as we interact and serve each other through our unique gifts, each of us grows in our experience with God. And we are made more and more like Jesus our Lord.

And as we grow in our relationship with Jesus, we are transformed to be like Him. Then we become witnesses to the rest of the world of God’s love through our words and lifestyle.

The Church is the Light of the World

House on a hilltop, during sunrise, as Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16, "A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden"As Jesus told His followers, they become the light in a world filled with spiritual darkness. He says to the church:

“You are the light of the world.

A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.

Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16, NKJV).

So they are kind of ambassadors for the Kingdom of God.

They show the world what a life transformed by God’s love looks like, and help others find this same love.

The Church is the Salt of the Earth

Spoon of salt as Jesus said in Matthew 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth" referring to the preserving element in saltIn addition to being the light, Jesus also said that the church is the salt of the earth.

This referred to the influence of Christlike believers in a community and in society in general. He said:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matthew 5:13, NKJV).

Why did He call the church salt?

He was referring to the preserving element in salt. In those days, salt was valued as a preserving agent. In the same way that salt prevents perishable things like food from getting spoilt, the church was to influence the society in goodness. That means that whenever there are believers, the society cannot be completely written off as corrupt.

WHAT IS THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH?

Jesus made it clear that the mission of the church is to evangelize the world.

Just before going back to heaven, Jesus gave His church its primary commission:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19, NKJV).

Even today, the church is to witness to the world the wonderful news of the plan of salvation.

And as part of that witness, the Church is to work to alleviate human suffering to whatever degree possible.

That is why the Adventist church has various ministries that enable them to attend to the spiritual as well as temporal needs of the people.

Adventist Evangelist holding Bible and brown bag, going to share the truths of the Bible with someone else

Examples of these include:

  • The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) which does humanitarian work all over the world.
  • Over 8,000 educational institutes, from medical to primary schools
  • More than 200 hospitals and sanitariums
  • More than one 100 nursing homes
  • More than 400 medical clinics
  • 11 orphanages
  • 16 media centers

And it’s obvious that no one could do all of these, or any of these—alone.

That’s why God has organized the church, of which Christ is the head.

“And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18, NKJV).

And so with Christ as the head of the Church, the members seek to emulate their Lord Jesus in ministry (Matthew 25:40).

So, they are organized into a body in order to minister to a needy world as a group.

THE CHURCH IN THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT

Throughout the Bible, we find that God always has a special group of people that He reveals Himself to. And then He uses that group to reach the rest of the world.

This idea fits well into what we saw to be the definition of church, the purpose of the church, and its mission.

The Church in the Old Testament

We can trace God’s chosen people from Adam, to Abel, and Seth (Genesis 2:7; 4:4; 5:3).

Then all the way to Noah who was found righteous when the whole world became so corrupt that God had to destroy it with a flood (Genesis 6-8).

Then we get to Abraham who was called out from his pagan father’s house. Through Him, God wanted to raise up a nation that He could teach His ways. A nation that He could use as a channel of light and blessing to the rest of the world (Genesis 12)

So we have Abraham’s son Isaac. And then Jacob.

Jacob went ahead to have twelve sons. And from these twelve sons, God established the Hebrew nation as promised to Abraham.

And for the rest of the Old Testament, the Jews were God’s chosen people. They were the church of God. And they were called to bear witness to the world around them.

As God had promised Abraham, all the families of the earth were to be blessed through them (Genesis 12:3).

Anyone who heard about the God of Israel and accepted to follow Him was welcome to join them. He was welcomed into the church of God.

That’s why the prophet Isaiah wrote to the Jews saying:

“Do not let the son of the foreigner
Who has joined himself to the Lord speak saying,
“The Lord has utterly separated me from His people
…Also the sons of the foreigner
Who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him,
And to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants—
Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath,
And holds fast My covenant—
Even them I will bring to My holy mountain,
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
Will be accepted on My altar;
For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:3-7, NKJV).

A good example of foreigners who joined the Jews and accepted to worship the true God is Ruth (Ruth 1:16).

Israelites coming out of Egypt on camels on the eve of Passover going to the Promised land as God led them through MosesAs the nation left Egypt on their way to the promised land, this is what God told them through Moses:

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8, NKJV).

Unfortunately, the Jews did not remain faithful to God and in witnessing to those around them.

Instead of maintaining their uniqueness, they strove to be like all the nations around them. They even worshiped their idols and became very oppressive. Just see accounts like Psalm 78 for a record of their conduct.

But still, God worked with them.

He sent them prophets to warn them and disasters to correct them.

Many times, they saw their mistakes and repented. Though the repentance was often short lived.

But even when the nation sank into the deepest rebellion against God, there were always some people who had remained faithful to God through it all (1 Kings 19:18).

Finally, God sent Jesus among them. And though they had been waiting for Him for a long time as their promised Messiah, they didn’t accept Him.

They were expecting a pompous Messiah who would come to deliver them from their political enemies. Not a humble teacher who had come to save them from their sins.

So they persecuted Him and eventually handed Him over to the Romans to be killed by crucifixion.

But again, there were many who recognized Him as the Divine Teacher. And these accepted Him as the Savior of the world.

Like His disciples and other followers.

It’s this group that was mostly composed of Jews, that was God’s faithful church during the life and ministry of Jesus on earth.

The Church in the New Testament

Soon after the death of Jesus, Jesus’ followers came together and formed a body of believers. We see them praying together in an upper room as they waited for the day of Pentecost.

Luke records that they “all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1:14, NKJV).

They even chose Matthias as a replacement for Judas as one of the apostles who played key leadership roles (Acts 1:15-26).

And finally, “when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1, NKJV).

After receiving the Holy Spirit, they were fired up for the mission of the church.

This was a fulfillment of Jesus’ promise when He told them:

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NKJV).

Adventist Pastor performing baptism by immersion of a man who openly confesses his faith in Jesus Christ as his RedeemerAnd that very day, 3000 new believers were baptized and joined the church (Acts 2:41).

A new member was baptized before joining the church. This was following Jesus’ own example and His instruction to them in disciple making (Matthew 3:13-17; 28:19-20).

With rapid growth in numbers, they moved on in love, fellowship, and sharing of their resources to ensure every member’s comfort and wellbeing (Acts 2:42-47).

With increased membership came the need for a more structured church organization. So they elected deacons (Acts 6).

Then persecution broke out against them from the other Jews who had not accepted Christ. And Stephen became the first martyr of the apostolic church in 34 AD. He was one of the deacons and was stoned to death (Acts 7).

When this happened, the special calling that the corporate nation of Israel had enjoyed as God’s chosen people was withdrawn.

Now, God placed it on the New Testament church. And this church was composed of both Jews and Gentiles who believed in Jesus.

In other words, this calling was no longer national, or political, or ethnic. It was no longer as it had been for the many centuries that ancient Israel existed as the covenant community (Deuteronomy 29:9).

But from then on, the one thing that mattered was faith in Jesus. As Paul wrote:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NKJV).

And with the aggressive missionary efforts of Paul and the other apostles and believers, Christianity permeated every part of the known world then. It was truly said of them that they “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6, NKJV).

In the end, the church was composed of men and women from all races, nationalities, and ethnic backgrounds. All were welcome to be part of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19).

And the early Christians met in all kinds of places for worship on Sabbath and for other gatherings:

  • In homes (Acts 1:46)
  • In the temple (Acts 1:46)
  • In synagogues (Acts 17:2)
  • By the river side (Acts 16:13)
  • In public halls (Acts 19:9)

Now, let’s take a quick look at how the church progressed from the time of the apostles to God’s church today.

HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH

God’s people in this time after the Early church were called the church in the wilderness. This concept is drawn from Revelation 12:14, 6, where the church is portrayed as a woman fleeing persecution and going into the wilderness.

How did this come to happen?

Corrupt Doctrines Enter the Church

Well, right from the time of the apostles, false teachings began to enter the church and corrupted its purity. And this continued for many centuries after.

It’s what Peter was referred to when he said:

“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction [a]does not slumber” 2 Peter 2:1-3, NKJV).

And Paul also had warned the Thesalonians that a “falling away” would come to the church (2 Thesallonians 2:3).

While the church faced persecution, it remained pure to a great extent.

Statue of Constantine, who made Christianity widely accepted & state religion of the Roman empire in the 3rd centery ADBut then in the 3rd century AD, Constantine made Christianity more accepted. And this led to its later declaration as the state religion of the Roman emperor. That’s when things began to change.

Pagans were welcomed to join the church as long as they claimed to accept the faith. But they brought with them their pagan worship practices. Practices such as:

  • Idol worship in the form of images of saints against the second commandment
  • Pagan rites such as sprinkling of water on children instead of baptism of adults
  • Change of the day of worship to Sunday instead of the Biblical seventh-day Sabbath on Saturday
  • Temples of pagan gods were converted to cathedrals and churches

While some of the believers remained faithful to the teachings handed to them from the apostles, others began to compromise.

Thus, two groups began to emerge in the church: those faithful to the original doctrines, and those who flexed to accommodate the new systems.

And those who compromised gained the favor of the emperors and became strong. They then formed the Roman Catholic Church, which reigned across Europe.

The Bible was outlawed for the common people. And what followed was spiritual darkness that covered the land and its people for about thirteen long centuries.

The Pure Church In Obscurity

On the other hand, those who remained faithful were few. There were groups like the Waldenses and the Celtic church who stuck with the Bible as their only authority.

They were unpopular and persecuted by the mainstream mother church. Historians record they were literally “hunted like wild beasts” by their persecutors. Edicts were often given by the papal authorities to kill them like in the case of the Waldensian and Albigensian massacres.

But even with this great difficulty, they upheld the purpose and mission of the church.

There were Celtic missionary giants like Patric, Columba, Aidan, Colman, Dinooth, and Columbanus who evangelized Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, and Italy . They planted churches, copied the Bible, built libraries, and established missionary training schools all over Europe.

And there were the Waldensian missionaries who went out of their mountain fortresses to spread the Gospel throughout Europe as students or as workers. They also wrote copies of the Bible and secretly passed them out to those who showed genuine interest.

Statue of John Wycliffe, who translated Bible from Latin to English & is also referred as the Morning Star of the ReformationThen came John Wycliffe in the thirteenth century.

He translated the Bible from Latin (which was the language of the elite and the clergy) to the language of the common people in England. And as the people read God’s word, the spiritual darkness began to lift.

Just as the Bible says “The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130, NKJV).

He set the ball rolling for the protestant reformation that broke out in Europe about a century later. That’s why Wycliffe is often referred to as “The Morning Star of the Reformation.”

The writings of Wycliffe circulated widely.

They reached John Huss through Jerome. Together, Huss and Jerome went on to be huge advocates for reform in Prague, Czech Republic, which was called Bohemia then. They were burned to death as martyrs for their faith under the fury of the Roman church.

And in the mid-thirteenth century, the Gutenberg press was invented, making it possible for many Bibles to be printed.

The Protestant Reformation

Statue of Martin Luther, who nailed 95 theses on the door of the chapel at Wittenberg & protested against the indulgencesThen entered Martin Luther in Germany.

He discovered the Bible while at university and it became his favorite book. And later when he became a catholic monk, he learned the truths about righteousness by faith. Eventually, he separated from the Roman catholic church.

Then the German reformation launched when he nailed his 95 theses on the door of the chapel at Wittenberg. He protested against the corruptions in the Roman church especially the indulgences.

Indulgences involved paying money in order to secure forgiveness of sins, both past or future sins. And even for dead relatives who were believed to be in a place of suffering called purgatory.

This act was like the spark that lit the flames of the protestant reformation.

For the next couple centuries, the light of God’s word spread steadily across Europe. God raised other reformers like:

The reformed church of England grew strong.

The king of England even authorized the writing of the King James Bible in the English language for the common people in England in 1611. This was more accurate than the latin vulgate used by the Roman church.

The Church in America- The Pilgrim Fathers

Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine as Puritans crossed the Atlantic to America in search of religious freedomBut as reformed as it was, this church wasn’t perfect. It still maintained many of the practices of the Roman church. And the most disturbing was that everyone was required by law to attend the parish church.

So, anyone in England was still bound to follow the Roman rites in the English church.

But there were some who desired that the church would return to its purity of doctrines that is seen in the apostolic church. The simplicity of the Biblical principles recorded in the Bibles that they now had. These were called the Puritans.

And sadly, the English church again began to persecute them because they were not willing to conform.

Since the Puritans valued religious freedom, they crossed the Atlantic to America.

Here, they found a land where they could practice what they learned from the Bible according to their convictions without interference of state law.

And Roger Williams strongly advocated for religious liberty and freedom of conscience in his little state of Rhode Island. In fact, he became so prosperous in his principles of governance that ensure religious freedom and civil freedom. And these two principles formed the foundations of the American Republic.

Meanwhile in Europe, the French Revolution brought an end to the Papal Supremacy at the end of the sixteenth century.

And the light of God and the Bible spread to the rest of the world, through Bible and mission societies.

The Great Awakening and the Millerite Movement

For a while, the church seemed to be lulled with the freedom from persecution and abundant peace it enjoyed.

But then, a Great Religious Awakening broke out when people studied Bible prophecy and were convicted of the nearness of Jesus’ Second Coming.

Preachers like Joseph Wolff spread the message of the Second Advent starting in Germany to many lands abroad. There were other travelling preachers who proclaimed the message in other parts of Europe.

But the center of this awakening was in America with William Miller as the leader.

Those who believed in this Second Advent teaching were called Adventists.

They firmly believed in Jesus’ soon return. And also that there was not going to be a temporary millennium of prosperity for the church before the Second Advent.

These beliefs did set them at odds with their churches, and most of them were disfellowshipped from their previous denominations.

So, they joined together and formed the Millerite Movement.

Miller’s studies of Daniel 8:14 led him to announce that Jesus would return in October 1844.
And when Jesus did not come on the said date, many were greatly disappointed and many left the movement.

Millerites studying Scripture after the Great Disappointment of October 22nd, 1844 when Jesus didn't return to earthBut a number went back to the study of Scriptures.

They found that they had made a mistake. They had originally thought that the cleansing of the sanctuary, written about in Daniel 8:14, meant the Second Coming of Christ and the cleansing of the earth with fire.

But after careful study, they discovered that it actually pointed to the start of the antitypical day of atonement in the sanctuary in heaven.

So, for the next 19 years, they were known as the Advent Movement. As they studied further, they discovered other forgotten Bible truths:

These teachings distinguished them from the other denominations.

So in 1863, they decided to organize themselves into a Christian denomination.

And they chose the name “Seventh-day Adventist.”

The name affirmed the core beliefs that distinguished them: the belief in the soon coming Savior, and their worship on the Seventh day of the week which is Saturday.

HOW IS THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH ORGANIZED?

Today, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is a Christian denomination with over 92,000 established congregations around the world.

Its members are part of a global faith community. The Adventist family comes together to worship, fellowship, and support each other, just like we saw the apostolic church did.

Though as you may expect, they are well adapted into the twenty-first century in terms of their services and general operations.

The Organizational Structure of the World Church

Globe as Seventh Day Adventist with its worldwide membership of more than 21 million in 2020, is found in about every countryThe Seventh-day Adventist church is found in about every country on the globe. As of 2020, it had a total membership of more than 21 million people worldwide.

Despite this amazing diversity of nations, cultures, political and economic environments, the SDA Church is highly organized.

First, there is the church’s General Conference world headquarters located in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The leaders at the General Conference (GC) include an elected executive committee and president. It’s the administrative hub of the Adventist denomination. And it works to put together policies and doctrine within the Adventist Church.

The General Conference oversees 13 divisions with offices in their region:

These manage their respective parts of the world under a Division President.

A division may cover a whole continent or some countries in a continent. Like the NAD covers the whole of North America and Canada.

The 13 division presidents also serve as vice presidents of the General Conference.

And a division is made up of several unions which may administer a whole country or several states/provinces in a country.

Then, there’s what is known as the Local Conferences or Local Missions which is made of several local churches in an area.

Organizational Structure of a Local church

Adventist Pastor preaching in Church on Sabbath morning as we explore the organization of a local Adventist ChurchA local church has the local pastor as its leader.

In many cases, you’ll find that a single pastor takes care of two or three churches. Together, these churches that are under the same pastor are usually referred to as a district.

A pastor is assisted by elders.

The elders (also called bishops in the Bible) are mature members of good reputation who help the pastor to oversee church business.
And the church is administered by the church board.

This is a team of elected church officials; usually the pastor, elders, church treasurer, church clerk, and heads of various departments. They often have church board meetings to make various decisions. Decisions that have to do with church or departmental projects, memberships, church building or property etc.

But major decisions are always made by the church as a whole in what is referred to as church business meetings.

And just like the apostolic church, there are deacons and deaconesses. These help with:

Some examples of departments and ministries in a local church include:

  • Sabbath School Department
  • Deaconry department
  • Adventist Women’s ministry
  • Adventist Men’s ministry
  • Children and youth ministry
  • Media and Publishing ministries
  • Treasury
  • Welfare ministries

Also, members are often organized according to their home locations into home cells.

These provide a smaller unit where members can visit each other at home. Or have home fellowships to pray and study together, or for support in time of need.

And you might have seen or heard of the Adventist choirs.

Or evangelistic teams.

Or children dressed up in uniforms according to their age groups. They call themselves Adventurers, Pathfinders, or Master Guides.

All these are units organized to train church members to be useful members of the community. And most importantly, to be evangelists for the Kingdom of God.

In all, the Adventist church structure is tailored to enable it to efficiently fulfil what has always been God’s purpose and mission for His church.

As one of the founders of Seventh-day Adventism, Ellen White wrote:

“The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world.”

As we’ve seen in the Bible, the church is simply a body of believers in Christ. Believers who are called out to share the truths of God’s word with the world.

And we’ve seen how God has led and preserved His church as we traced the history of God’s people.

Finally, we’ve seen how the Adventist church traces its lineage from God’s church throughout the ages. And how its doctrines were formed through deep Bible study.

That even through their intricate church structure, Adventists strive to be a community that matches the basic Bible definitions of a “church.” It’s all about being a loving, encouraging, nurturing community that supports one another in their spiritual journeys. It’s also about working together in mission to share the love of Jesus wherever we can.

You may be getting curious about church and wanting to check one out.

If that’s the case, feel free to search for an Adventist church near you.

Here is a manual of what to expect when you visit for a Sabbath morning worship service.

You will be welcomed by a church family who will be so glad you stopped by. And you will be glad you did too!

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