Do You Have to be Vegetarian to be Adventist?

Of course not. Membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church has never included any dietary requirements.

However, there might be some reasons people might think that. So many Adventists are vegetarians or even vegan, and a plant-based lifestyle has many health benefits.

(And if you know anyone who is a vegetarian or vegan, you’ve likely seen how easily and enthusiastically a discussion can emerge about recipes and substitutions!)

So let’s dig deeper and see why eating a plant-based diet is so popular among Adventists…and what the steps really are toward becoming an Adventist. We’ll explore:

Let’s get started by taking a look at why many Adventists are vegetarian.

Why many Adventists are vegetarian

All kinds of veggies, including carrots, bell pepper, zucchini, potatoes, and radishesIt’s estimated that somewhere between 40-50% of Adventists stick to a meat-free diet.1 This came from the emphasis of early church leaders (particularly church co-founder, Ellen G. White) who saw the importance of caring for the bodies God gives us (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). And since a lot of our overall health is determined by what we put into our bodies for nourishment, diet and lifestyle came into the spotlight.

And, because humans were originally created to eat no meat (Genesis 1:29), Adventists try to stick as close to this ideal diet as possible.

In addition to these things, during the early days of Adventism, a vegetarian diet was not common. And a lot of the food safety and health standards in place today had yet to be developed or widely publicized.2 So back then, a conscientious approach to nutrition could’ve meant the difference between the presence or absence of disease.

As time went on, much of the health-related counsel that circulated in the early days of Adventism was later shown to be well ahead of its time. Scientists now confirm the healthfulness of a plant-based diet3—and that wasn’t always the case.

But even though a lot of the Adventist health message was developed before we had better food safety knowledge and practices, the principles of whole-person health are timeless. So many Adventists embrace this health focus as a way to be good stewards of the bodies and minds God created for us.

Not to mention that there are significant benefits to living this way.

Health benefits of eating vegetarian

Feet on a white scaleYou’ve probably heard that vegetarianism can offer many health benefits. Here are just a few of the big ones:

  • It helps keep your heart healthy. A plant-based diet can help in reducing cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and lowering the risk of heart disease.4
  • It helps prevent type 2 diabetes. With a lower intake of cholesterol and fat (alongside an increased intake of fiber and vital nutrients), your body will be less prone to developing insulin resistance or other pre-diabetic conditions.5
  • It helps in weight management. Meat is often high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Eliminating this from your diet will benefit several aspects involved in weight loss.6
  • It helps prevent cancer. Many types of meat have been known to greatly increase the risk of certain cancers, such as colon, pancreatic, and stomach.7

For more info on a healthy diet, check out The Adventist Diet: One of Our Longevity Secrets.

What other health principles do Adventists uphold?

A table with mugs of coffee, a drink that many Adventists leave out of their diet because of its caffeine contentVegetarianism has always been popular within Adventism, but that’s only one slice of the holistic health pie. Adventists embrace health principles that nurture the whole person—mind, body, and spirit.

Here are a few examples of other health emphases common within the denomination:

  • Abstaining from alcohol. The Bible warns explicitly against drunkenness (Proverbs 23:20-21; Habakkuk 2:15; Ephesians 5:18). And with plenty of additional reasons to stay away from alcoholic beverages, Adventists tend to abstain.
  • Abstaining from tobacco. Even before smoking was found to be harmful, Ellen White and other early church leaders advised Adventists to steer clear of it. Today, scientific data clearly confirms the dangers of smoking, and many Adventist churches and ministries offer smoking cessation programs for their communities.
  • Abstaining from mind-altering and/or illegal drugs. The reasons behind this principle probably aren’t surprising. What might be new information, however, is that many Adventists include caffeine in this category. While caffeinated products are legal and common, there are still many health concerns worth considering.
  • Prioritizing rest. To Adventists, this means adequate nightly rest as well as the weekly Sabbath rest. Both are important for rejuvenating the mind and body.

You can probably recognize a pattern here. Adventists prioritize many health-related habits, but the motivation behind them is to help live life to the fullest. That’s why we also have hospitals and medical schools around the world.

Now you may run across some Adventists that seem extra zealous about holistic health. After all, it’s a subject many people around the world today discuss with fervor, no matter their religious beliefs.

But as for the official stance of the Adventist Church, the emphasis on health is simply for helping us take better care of ourselves and to help others that are in need of healing. We aim to reflect the healing ministry of Jesus.

What’s actually involved in becoming an Adventist

A person studying the Bible in preparation to join the Seventh-day Adventist ChurchSo we’ve established that health and wellness are important to Adventists. But when it comes to the process of becoming an Adventist, let’s look at what’s actually involved.

As with most churches, a person’s name gets officially entered in the church membership books after they’re baptized. (Though if someone is already baptized into another church but then joins an Adventist church, they become official through what’s called “profession of faith.”8)

So if a person is interested in baptism or wants to learn more about joining an Adventist Church, they can approach any church leader at a local congregation for more information. They can also call the church office or fill out a contact form on the local church’s website.

Then there will likely be a meeting set up with the church’s pastor, one of the church elders, or a Bible worker (trained Bible study leader). Then the pastor or leader can get to know the interested person and provide the information they need to take the next steps.

This usually includes an overview of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Fundamental Beliefs, making sure it’s clear what they all mean and where they can be found in the Bible. That way the person gets a first-hand explanation of the church they’re looking to join, and it gives them a chance to ask any questions they have.

When the interested person feels ready to be baptized, the church office works with them to get it scheduled. After their baptism, they’re given an official certificate and the church sends their information to be put in the records of the local conference, or regional administration office for Adventist churches in the area.

Then that’s it! Their membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is official.

Whether that person is a vegetarian or not…that may not have even come up in the conversations leading up to baptism. But the person probably was informed that if they visit church potluck or go out to lunch with some fellow church members, it’s likely they’ll be in the company of vegetarians.

But as you can guess, there’s a lot more to being an Adventist than what’s on the menu for dinner.

Healthy living is something we all strive toward in one way or another. But what binds us together as a faith community is our belief in Jesus Christ, our acceptance of Him as the world’s only Savior, and the hope we can all have that He’ll return for us at the Second Coming.

Curious what it’s like to attend an Adventist church?

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