Frequently Asked Questions about
Many Seventh-day Adventists adhere to specific lifestyle principles that can make them stand out from those in other Christian denominations. Whether it’s going to church services on Saturday or the popular Adventist entrée of “Haystacks.”
To give you a closer look at what it means to live like an Adventist, here are some answers to commonly-asked questions about this group of Christians. We hope this can give you a glimpse of the reasoning behind these distinctive lifestyle choices.
Here are some of the topics we’ll go through:
Why do Adventists go to Church on Saturday?
Since the first Sabbath was established and celebrated by God on the seventh day after He created the world (Genesis 2:1-3), and then revisited in the Ten Commandments, we believe an appropriate way to honor this holy day is to pause from our normal business (Exodus 20:10) and participate in corporate worship.
The seventh-day Sabbath was observed throughout the Bible as part of God’s Law, and nothing has ever changed the Law of God (Matthew 5:17-19).
But while Adventists go to church for formal worship service on Saturday morning, Sabbath actually begins on Friday evening at sunset—in the same way God marked the beginning and end of the days during Creation (Genesis 1:5).
Different from how we start a new day at midnight, though, right?
Let’s talk about why.
Why is Sabbath observed from sunset to sunset?
Adventists celebrate the Sabbath from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday because that’s how God instituted a day in the Bible.
In the beginning, it was all darkness. Then God created light and separated the light from the darkness.
So, the first day began in the evening—in the darkness.
God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day” (Genesis 1:5, ESV, emphasis added).
And God describes each creation day beginning with the evening, then the morning (Genesis 1: 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).
This means the seventh day described in Genesis 2:1-3 began in the evening, too.
He went on to be specific that all Sabbaths be observed “from evening to evening” (Leviticus 23:32).
And we know that evening began when the sun went down from texts like Nehemiah 13:19 and Mark 1:32.
So, Adventists welcome the Sabbath on Friday evening, at sunset. And since sunset times vary in different seasons and in different parts of the world, there is no precise time. It’s just following the signal God put into nature.
What is a “Vespers” service?
Adventists often gather on Friday evenings for a somewhat informal and relaxed worship to “open the Sabbath.” Sometimes we worship at people’s homes. Family members come together and may even invite friends. Sometimes there are larger gatherings for vespers in churches, or any other designated place.
Friday night vespers is a time to reflect on God’s leading and blessing throughout the past week. It’s a time to sing songs of praise and share testimonies of God’s faithfulness. And a time to enjoy fellowship with friends and family.
When these events are held at Adventist institutions like schools, the staff and students may also meet and discuss different spiritual topics or activities each week. They may include musical testimonies or congregational singing. And on occasions where groups have returned from mission trips, etc., a few might share testimonies about their experiences.
But the idea of vespers did not start with Adventists.
The word “vespers” comes from a Greek word, hespera, and a Latin word, vesper, meaning “evening.”
Anglicans use it to refer to evening prayer, or “evensong.” And the Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches use it to refer to evening prayer services. Oriental Orthodox and Protestant Christians observe it every day at 6 pm. And for the Indian and Syriac Christians, they pray at this hour while facing east.
For Adventists, vespers has a more specific meaning, as it refers to the opening of the Sabbath on Friday at sunset. And customarily, while it is a reverent occasion, it also carries a more relaxed atmosphere filled with varied activities.
How do Adventists Celebrate the Sabbath?
As we read Genesis 2:1-3, we’ll notice that God not only made the Sabbath, but He blessed it and asked us to keep it holy.
How do we keep it holy?
Here are a few activities that are ideal for Sabbath:
- Fellowship with believers (Sabbath school, church, lunches)
- Sing and worship together
- Spend time in nature (hiking, picnicking, camping, etc.)
- Family activities (crafts, puzzles, Bible charades, storytelling)
- Read/watch/listen to religious materials
- Serving others
- Visiting friends or family
Also, most homes, churches, and institutions have Sabbath traditions that make the day special. Some families have specific Sabbath meals or desserts. Or maybe they have a song they sing after vespers or at the close of Sabbath on Saturday night.
However you spend your sunset-to-sunset Sabbath, the idea is to spend it with God, whether alone or with others. By connecting with Him and keeping Him at the forefront of your thoughts, you’ll feel refreshed and ready for the upcoming week.
What is Sabbath School? Is it like Sunday School?
Sabbath School is usually the first part of the weekly church experience. Members and visitors gather in these classes on Sabbath to worship together and discuss biblical concepts with one another.
The Bible is the foundational book for Adventist churches, including Sabbath schools. And along with it, Adventists also use Sabbath school lesson books to guide conversation. These books are created and produced by the Adventist church.
Classes are organized by age groups—children, young adults, and adults. And if the church is large, there could be multiple classes within each age group so as to keep the class size small enough for comfortable discussion.
Through prayer and discussion, we can reason together and build each other up.
What is the 13th Sabbath Offering?
The 13th Sabbath offering is one dedicated to “growing the church in tangible ways,” like building Adventist churches and schools around the world. This offering is heavily mission-focused, meaning it goes to mission-based projects that further spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is different from regular tithes and offerings.
Tithing is the practice of returning 10% of our earnings to God. Adventists believe all we have is from God, so giving back is a joy. The money paid for tithe goes to further God’s mission through His people: pastors, evangelists, and other ministries.
Offerings are based on freewill, meaning there’s no amount specified to be given. What is contributed to freewill offerings is up to the giver. It’s through honest prayer that people learn what is a reasonable amount for their offerings.
Why do Adventists Participate in Foot Washing and Communion?
Adventists turn to the Bible to learn how to live—especially to Jesus’ example. The Bible records Jesus establishing foot washing and communion as a practice His followers should participate in. So, Adventists continue these acts today.
Before communion, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. This was usually done by a servant, yet Jesus stooped to do it. Why?
He was teaching them what humility looked like and how they should treat others with humility and servanthood. Today, Adventists do the same and refer to this act as the “Ordinance of Humility.”
After hearts are aligned in humility, Adventists participate in communion—one that’s known as “open communion.” This means anyone can participate, Adventist or otherwise.
For most Adventist churches, this special kind of service is typically celebrated once every three months. Refer to your local church for exact dates.
Who is Ellen G. White?
Her writings are often paired with biblical study, though they don’t hold the same authority as the Bible.
Adventists believe her writings are important to our faith, but we also know and acknowledge—along with White herself—that her writings are the “lesser light,” as compared to the Bible.
However, Adventists have found that White’s writings can contribute to our understanding of the world around us and the God we serve, which can help strengthen our relationships with God and others.
Do Seventh-day Adventists believe in medical treatment?
Yes, Adventists believe in medical treatment. In fact, the church has a well established network of health centers, sanitariums, hospitals, etc. all over the world.
Adventists value good health because we believe our lives, bodies, and health come from God. And in such a belief, it is our duty to care for them.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Adventists follow a set of health principles meant to enhance our quality of life.
And though Adventists have standards of health widely accepted by the church, what you do with your health is your choice. Adhering to those standards is a choice each person—through prayer and research—must make for themselves.
What is the Adventist Health Study?
There have been multiple Adventist Health Studies since 1958, all with different, specific goals. Overall, these studies were conducted by Adventists to examine how the Adventist lifestyle relates to health, especially the relationship between diet and diseases, etc.
These studies have found that Adventists who follow the Adventist lifestyle have lower risks of diseases and conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and high blood sugar. This translates into a lower mortality among Adventists.
Another study that involved Adventists and how their diet and general lifestyle choices contribute to good health is the Blue Zone Studies. This one was conducted by Dan Buetner and the National Geographic organization.
The Blue Zone Studies found that there are five places in the world with high concentrations of people who lived to be 100+ years. And these individuals had grown old without diseases like diabetes and cancer.
One of these places is Loma Linda, California. A place with the highest concentration of Adventists in America. Loma Linda Adventists live up to a decade longer than the average American, which is primarily attributed to their diet and lifestyle.
Do I Have to be a Vegetarian to be an Adventist?
One of the principles of Adventist health is nutrition, meaning many Adventists value a holistic, well-balanced diet. But that doesn’t mean all Adventists are vegan/vegetarian.
And new members don’t have to be either in order to join the church.
What Adventists choose to eat is deeply personal and should be based on their personal beliefs along with biblical study and research.
In the Bible, God gave Adam and Eve (the first humans) a simple, plant-based diet. But when sin corrupted the world, their diet changed, and humanity began eating meat and dairy.
Some Adventists stick to the plant-based diet from the Garden of Eden. Others are vegan, some are vegetarian, and some eat meat.
Though it’s been proven that a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle contributes to longer life expectancy, this lifestyle isn’t a requirement of Adventism. And it definitely doesn’t affect someone’s salvation.
What are Haystacks?
Haystacks is a popular Adventist meal—especially with large gatherings. This is because haystacks are made from a variety of toppings with the base of corn chips, beans, or rice.
They are quite similar to taco salads, but the name “haystacks” is specific to Adventism.
When churches, schools, clubs, or communities gather together, out come the haystacks. They’re popular because they can be made in a multitude of ways, which means everyone is bound to make one they’ll enjoy.
Don’t like tomatoes? Skip past them and go for celery. Vegan? Forgo the sour cream and cheese. Or just don’t like vegetables? Make a nacho-inspired haystack.
Another unique perspective of the Adventist haystack is the biblical symbolism that can be drawn from them, and it’s best explained in this Adventist Review article:
“We believe the symbol of the haystack represents something significant to help us convey the message of The Haystack: that each person can bring something to the table,” adds Tatarchuk. “Everyone has something to contribute, and each person can bring an ingredient; and yet we can create our own individual [and tasty] haystack. It’s a great illustration of how we can be as a church.”
And believe it or not, there’s actually a world record for a haystack. The World Record Haystack was about 31ft tall with a diameter of 55ft! Can you imagine?!
Do Adventists Own Personal Bibles?
Most Adventists have their own Bible, and strongly encourage self study. Adventists believe reading and studying the Bible is key to growing our relationships with God. Though the Bible has a special purpose in the lives of Christians, owning one and reading it is not a salvation issue.
Adventists believe in the Bible and the Bible alone. It explains itself, so through prayer and study God will reveal Himself through the Bible.
But only reading the Bible will not save us.
We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3;16, ESV).
Whoever believes in Jesus is saved. And through reading the Bible, we learn more about Jesus, which only strengthens our faith.
Adventists encourage readers to get a Bible—any Christian Bible they like—and read it.
While some may prefer some versions over others, one version isn’t officially recommended or promoted. In general, Adventists advise one another to find a Bible you enjoy reading, and read it!
Do Adventists celebrate Birthdays and holidays?
Yes, many Adventists like to celebrate birthdays and holidays. We enjoy celebrating people’s lives and milestones, and giving to others during the holidays.
These times are wonderful opportunities to serve others. And our focus during these celebrations should always be on Christ and His many blessings.
Birthday celebrations uplift God’s children to make them feel loved and special. Holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas make the perfect time for families and loved ones to come together, give to one another, and go serve those in need.
In general, there aren’t many reasons not to celebrate holidays. The only potential drawback—like anything else that’s enjoyed or celebrated—is when sin and selfishness creeps in, and the “celebration” becomes more about doing things for ourselves at the expense of others.
But when we celebrate these holidays with the love of God as the center, selfishness has no place.
Is Adventism its own lifestyle?
Beliefs, values, and customs often shape the way we go about our day, and what we prioritize in our lives. So yes, Seventh-day Adventists do often exhibit a distinct lifestyle as our beliefs are meant to encompass each part of our lives.
The goal of Adventists, however, is not just to be different for the sake of being different. Or, to use a term from the King James Bible, “peculiar” (1 Peter 2:9, KJV).
The whole idea of a distinctive lifestyle is that by putting Jesus as the first priority, by living according to His example and applying biblical principles to relationships, health, possessions, etc. … this will naturally stand out from those who aren’t currently looking to Christ as their Savior and example.
It is true that Seventh-day Adventism seeks to apply biblical principles more specifically into parts of our daily lives, in order to help people experience the “abundant life” Jesus wants for us (John 10:10).
And this abundant life is available to anyone who wants it—anyone who desires to live each part of their lives according to the Bible.
To learn more about our beliefs, check out the Adventist core beliefs page.
ADVENTIST YOUTH PROGRAMS
What do Seventh-day Adventists offer for Youth?
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a department specifically for Youth Ministries, focusing on those among high-school age.
Adventists recognize the importance of supporting and ministering to this age group, as they make many formative decisions during this time. This is a crucial period of identity development, and we want every young person to know they are a child of God, they are loved, and they are valuable in ways they can only imagine.
The goals for ministering to youth focus on three essential values:
- Identity in Christ
- How they can be a part of the mission of sharing the gospel around the world, even while they’re young
- Service and leadership in their communities and local Church
The Youth Ministries department also provides activities and curriculum for the young generation that helps them grow in their faith.
There are also different clubs for different age groups that allow interest-based learning and to help reinforce the above values. These clubs are similar to Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, but with a focus on Christian values and motivations.
Let’s briefly look at some of the clubs.
What is the Adventurer Club?
They get to enjoy weekly activities tuned to strengthening parent-child relationships and learning about God and the Bible as they apply to daily life.
Activities include games, nature exploration, family camping, field trips, and community service projects.
There’s even a five-level, age-specific curriculum with about 80 specialized awards in areas like crafts, nature, recreation, spiritual development, and home arts.
All these are meant to lead both parents and children to a deeper relationship with God and each other.
What is the Pathfinder Club
Once boys and girls reach 10 years of age, they can move from Adventurers to join the Pathfinder Club. Pathfinders is aimed at enlarging the young people’s view of the world and helping them build a relationship with God.
The activities of this club challenge them to stretch their abilities and develop their talents. Activities such as community service, missions at home and abroad, nature and environmental conservation studies, and camping are common in Pathfinders.
The major highlights of a pathfinder’s experience is the annual Pathfinders Day, and camporees. And every five years, Pathfinders from around the world meet at an international camporee, which is typically held in the U.S.
Pathfindering is based on a six level, age-specific curriculum with about 350 specialized skill development topics and awards. These topics cover Bible study and spiritual development, arts and crafts, aquatics, nature, household arts, recreation, health, and vocational training. These often act as launch pads for lifetime careers or hobbies for the participants.
Pathfinders (and Adventurers) accept any young person from any religious affiliation into the club, so long as they accept to abide by the Pathfinders law and pledge. And like the Adventurers, they also have a Pathfinder song.
Many Adventist churches have a Pathfinder club. Contact your local church to learn more.
Do Adventists have their own school system?
Yes. To provide an educational option that offers quality education with biblical principles woven throughout the curriculum, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has an official education program. This includes a network of private schools around the world, ranging from preschools to higher learning institutions.
ADVENTIST INITIATIVES AND RESOURCES
What do Adventists do for Young Adults?
Those between the ages of 22-30 are considered Young Adults. This is the age range in which many are going through transitions, such as graduating college, starting new jobs, getting married, having children, moving to new locations, etc.
The objective of this ministry category is to help provide relevant resources to equip them for active service in the world as they begin new stages of their lives.
Adventist Young Adult Ministries provides them with a context to grow spiritually through Bible studies and prayer groups. Then, they get to share what they’ve learned and discover true joy and meaning through service. This group serves:
- Other youth
- Their church
- Members of society, like at work, in college, etc.
It’s here that they are trained to enter into service as laborers for God. Most youth groups also sing together in choirs and music ministry. They go for mission trips to different parts of the world to preach the Gospel and serve others. They also organize literature evangelism, and with today’s technology, they’ve even ventured into digital evangelism.
And since most of them are getting established in various careers as workers or students in training during this time, they can take part in ministries in which they can serve others in their specific areas of training. This could include doctors giving health lectures or teachers working with children.
In this way, they do their part in fulfilling the gospel commission (Matthew 28:16-20, ESV).
What is ASI?
Adventist-laymen’s Services & Industries (ASI) is a ministry that aims at “Sharing Christ in the Marketplace.” It was designed to help people represent Christ using their talents, careers, businesses, ministries, and more.
It’s made up of:
- Supporting ministries of the SDA church
- Businesses owned by Adventists that support the mission of the Adventist church
- Adventist professionals who are actively sharing Christ’s love and hope in their everyday work and activities
In short, ASI members are Adventists from every walk of life who are committed to supporting the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its various outreach programs.
They do this through:
- Fostering honesty and integrity in business principles and practices
- Participation in the various ministries of the Church
- Positive support of Adventist Church leadership
- Providing for the needy in the church and in the community in terms of finances, materials or services, both in person or virtually
- Giving a proper representation of what a follower of Jesus looks like in the context of the marketplace
- Having special projects and mission activities around the world
They also hold the ASI international convention annually. Members and anyone interested come from around the world to share testimonies, give reports on various projects, and enjoy a Sabbath together on the final day of the convention.
What is the Adventist Book Center (ABC)?
There’s a wide selection of books and Bibles available at the ABC, but that’s not all. Magazines, media, and Sabbath school materials are also available.
In addition to religious materials, local ABCs sell vegetarian food products.
But if there’s no ABC near you, the Bookmobile—the mobile storefront—may still come by your town.
The Bookmobile brings books and other materials to towns without a local store. People also made orders to receive special vegetarian products. To learn more about the Bookmobile and to make orders, contact your local church or conference.
What does Religious Liberty mean, according to Adventists?
The Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church strongly believes in religious freedom for all people. That means people are free to worship as they choose according to their conscience, and the government shouldn’t meddle with that choice.
This is so important to Adventists because we believe God made us all with the gift of making free choices (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19).
Yet as we look back in history, we see the problems that the church faced when the state had the power to control its citizens’ religious views and practices. Or when the church uses political power to force people to worship in a certain way. And even today, there are many places around the world where people aren’t allowed to worship freely.
So, Adventists seek to advocate for religious liberty based on the provisions made in the law. For example, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Adventists advocate for this through a department in our church called Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL). We campaign for people’s religious rights to governments and religious and international organizations.
This department also sponsors the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA). This is a non-sectarian organization supporting religious freedom around the world that works with all religions to support religious liberty.
All in all, the Adventist Church strives to help all people, of all ages and all walks of life, learn to use their God-given gifts to represent Christ wherever they are.
Got more questions about Adventists? Let us know!
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