If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the present landscape of Adventism, you’ve noticed that there are various movements vying for our attention – especially the attention of our youth. These movements present their own version of what Adventism looks like at its best. There is much about these movements that can be commended – not the least of which is because they have all seemed to instill a deeper belief that Adventism can be better than its current iteration.
And yet, I want more for my church. Instead of – to use a C.S. Lewis analogy – settling for making mud pies in the slums (which can be fun), I want to enjoy a holiday at sea.
Adventism doesn’t need this conference or that conference, this project or that project; we don’t need to become more conservative or less conservative; we don’t need to become more liberal or less liberal; we don’t need more interpretive dancing or less interpretive dancing; we don’t need more Spiritual Formation or less Spiritual Formation.
The solution to what ails us is very simple.
What Adventism needs is another 1888 – the standard against which all other movements within Adventistism should be judged; the standard that, according to Ellen White, was the “loud cry” message of Revelation that was to go to every church and the whole world; a standard that has not been equaled in the last 125 years.
Sadly, I have discovered that most Adventists don’t have the slightest clue about what is meant by “1888” – and those who do have some sense have been misinformed. To put it simply, according to Ellen White, back in 1888,
The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. (Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91, 92)
Ellen White said that “this is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.” And, indeed, anywhere this message was given an audience over the next few years, it was attended with great power – to the point that, on one occasion, Ellen White said “we seemed to breathe in the very atmosphere of heaven” (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 268).
Unfortunately, the movement was not to last. Writing in 1896, Ellen White tragically commented how the “light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world” (Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 235).
Though many would eagerly label me a simpleton, I am completely at ease with saying that everything since then within Adventism has been merely a footnote.
It thus behoves us to saturate ourselves in this “most precious message,” since it is the solution to what ails Adventism and what ails the world. And our eternal success will be in proportion to the degree that we emulate the blueprint that Ellen White, A.T. Jones, and E.J. Waggoner set forth in 1888 and the few years that followed.
And to the extent that any or all of these current movements within Adventism are passionately and singularly pursuing this goal, we can and must applaud them.
And, if so, I say: keep moving forward!
If you want to acquaint yourself with this “most precious message,” (which, in my opinion, isn’t optional) there are a few resources I would suggest. First is an article my dad and I wrote for the Adventist Review recently, which you can access here. I also highly recommend this dynamite sermon by my good friend, Ty Gibson, at the 2012 General Conference Annual Council meetings.
For a more in-depth – yet important – explanation of this subject, I highly recommend The Return of the Latter Rain, by Ron Duffield, which you can find here.