Why Home Churches, Part II

Why is there a home church movement worldwide in Adventism today?

In part one, it was seen that those who were the foremost in denouncing the message from God, in 1888, were those in positions of leadership. The message of righteousness by faith was treated with contempt by the president of the General Conference and by the editor of the Review and Herald. The administration of the General Conference did its best to commit the denomination to what was called “the old landmarks,” righteousness by works, and that spirit and element did not cease in 1888, as the 1888 Materials clearly document.

“The righteousness of Christ by faith has been ignored by some; for it is contrary to their spirit and their whole life experience. Rule, rule, has been their course of action. Satan has had an opportunity of representing himself. When one who professes to be a representative of Christ engages in sharp dealing and in pressing men into hard places, those who are thus oppressed will either break every fetter of restraint, or they will be led to regard God as a hard master. They cherish hard feelings against God, and the soul is alienated from Him, just as Satan planned it should be.

“This hard-heartedness, on the part of men who claim to believe the truth, Satan charges to the influence of the truth itself, and thus men become disgusted and turn from the truth. For this reason no man should have a responsible connection with our institutions who thinks it no important matter whether he has a heart of flesh or a heart of steel.” Testimonies to Ministers, 363.

“A strange thing has come into our churches. Men who are placed in positions of responsibility that they may be wise helpers to their fellow workers have come to suppose that they were set as kings and rulers in the churches, to say to one brother, Do this; to another, Do that; and to another, Be sure to labor in such and such a way. There have been places where the workers have been told that if they did not follow the instruction of these men of responsibility, their pay from the conference would be withheld.” Ibid., 477.

A big part of the problem that plagued the church both before and after 1888 (since the message was not accepted) was a rejection of the message of righteousness by faith. It was accepted, perhaps, theoretically. However, the church had lost sight of Jesus (Ibid., 93), and had been looking to man and expecting much from man. This resulted in looking to herself for authority, and in a compelling power used to control the members. (See above quotation.) The message of righteousness by faith was to set the church free from this compelling power and place it again under the direct control of divine agencies, where men and human leadership would be in an advisory and not a controlling capacity. Notice the way leadership is to operate from the following quotation: “Simple organization and church order are set forth in the New Testament Scriptures, and the Lord has ordained these for the unity and perfection of the church. The man who holds office in the church should stand as a leader, as an advisor and a counselor and helper in carrying the burdens of the work. He should be a leader in offering thanksgiving to God. But he is not appointed to order and command the Lord’s laborers. The Lord is over His heritage. He will lead His people if they will be led of the Lord in the place of assuming a power God has not given them. Let us study the twelfth and thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and the fifteenth chapter of Acts.” Paulson Collection, 298.

The Work of a Satanic Spirit

Sadly, the message in 1888 was rejected, and the weight of evidence shows that a large part of the reason for this was the reluctance and the actual refusal of those in positions of leadership to release control of the work so that the Holy Spirit could take control. The Holy Spirit was insulted, as we saw in part one, and a Satanic spirit took control: “Thus it was in the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus—all this had passed before me point by point. The Satanic spirit took control and moved with power upon the human hearts that had been opened to doubts and to bitterness, wrath and hatred. All this was prevailing in that meeting. I decided to leave the meeting, leave Minneapolis.” 1888 Materials, 308.

“I had been shown that in their special meetings but little good was accomplished because they did not have such a living connection with God that He could impress them by His Holy Spirit. When not under the control of the Spirit of God, another spirit had control of their thoughts, words, and actions, and in place of growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ they were becoming dwarfs in spiritual things.” Ibid., 358, 359.

“The spirit manifested is not of Christ. The outgrowth of this will be that some will turn away from light and others will come to a standstill in spiritual growth, because from this hour blindness of mind and self-righteousness will take the place in their experience of justice, mercy, and the love of God. The seeds of disaffection and disunion will be scattered broadcast, and all because men allow their own spirit to control them and make them unsympathetic and unimpressible, like moral icebergs, cold, sunless, dark, and forbidding. The result will be ruin to souls.” Ibid., 95. (See also Ibid., 1116.)

“He who trusts in man not only leans upon a broken reed, and gives Satan an opportunity to introduce himself, but he hurts the one in whom the trust is placed; he becomes lifted up in his estimation of himself, and loses the sense of his dependence upon God. Just as soon as man is placed where God should be, he loses his purity, his vigor, his confidence in God’s power. Moral confusion results, because his powers become unsanctified and perverted. He feels competent to judge his fellowmen, and he strives unlawfully to be a god over them.” Testimonies to Ministers, 376.

Testing and Proving

“The Lord was testing and proving His people who had had great light, whether they would walk in it or turn from it under temptation, for but few know what manner of spirit they are of until circumstances shall be of a character to test the spirit which prompts to action. In many the natural heart is a controlling power, and yet they do not suppose that pride and prejudice are entertained as cherished guests, and work in the words and actions against light and truth. Our brethren who have occupied leading positions in the work and the cause of God should have been so closely connected with the Source of all light that they would not call light darkness and darkness light.” Selected Messages, vol. 3, 176. (1888)

This testing and proving went on for thirteen years. In 1896, Ellen White wrote: “O if I could have the joyful news that the will and mind of those in Battle Creek who have stood professedly as leaders, were emancipated from the teachings and slavery of Satan, whose captives they have been for so long, I would be willing to cross the broad Pacific to see your faces once more. But I am not anxious to see you with enfeebled perceptions and clouded minds because you have chosen darkness rather than light.” 1888 Materials, 1497.

What were these teachings and the slavery of Satan she referred to in this statement? “Organizations, institutions, unless kept by the power of God, will work under Satan’s dictation to bring men under the control of men: and fraud and guile will bear the semblance of zeal for truth, and for the advancement of the kingdom of God. Whatever in our practice is not as open as the day, belongs to the methods of the prince of evil. His methods are practiced even among Seventh Day Adventists, who claim to have advanced truth.” Ibid., 1433.

People often think that reorganization attempts in 1897 and 1901 were made to change the outward church structure. Actually this was peripheral to the problem that was actually being addressed. These outward changes were made to end the reign of kingly power and to place the control of the work again under the Holy Spirit with all men in servant-brethren relationships.

Ellen White outlined the problem and the needed solution for coming into working order in the famous library speech in 1901. She stated that these changes should have been done years ago. “I feel a special interest in the movements and decisions that shall be made at this Conference regarding the things that should have been done years ago, and especially ten years ago, when we were assembled in Conference, and the Spirit and power of God came into our meeting, testifying that God was ready to work for this people if they would come into working order. The brethren assented to the light God had given, but there were those connected with our institutions, especially with the Review and Herald Office and the Conference, who brought in elements of unbelief, so that the light that was given was not acted upon. It was assented to, but no special change was made to bring about such a condition of things that the power of God could be revealed among His people.” Ibid., 1743.

Notice the following points from the above quotation:

  1. The power of God could not be revealed among His people until there were some changes.
  2. God was ready to work for us if we would come into working order.
  3. The work was not in working order when the statement was made.
  4. The changes which needed to be made had been made known years before and had been assented to but not acted upon.

Ellen White revealed that some needed to be separated from the work: “Why, I ask you, are men who have not brought self into subjection allowed to stand in important positions of truth and handle sacred things? They have grown to the stature of men, but they have brought with them their childish tendencies. God does not want any such thing. He has made provision for all to have in them the grace of Christ. No others will enter heaven. There has been one rebellion there, and there will not be another. We have been given an opportunity to get rid of every kind of rebellion.” Ibid., 1744.

“It only takes a word to fire up a man who has not made a practice of talking with God. This spirit is as contagious as the leprosy. One and another catch it, and thus dissension and strife and commotion are brought in. God is not in any of this work.

“O, my very soul is drawn out in these things! Men who have not learned to submit themselves to the control and discipline of God, are not competent to train the youth, to deal with human minds. It is just as much an impossibility for them to do this work as it could be for them to make a world. That these men should stand in a sacred place, to be as the voice of God to the people, as we once believed the General Conference to be,—that is past. What we want now is a reorganization. We want to begin at the foundation, and to build upon a different principle.” Ibid.

“Now I want to say, God has not put any kingly power in our ranks to control this or that branch of the work. The work has been greatly restricted by the efforts to control it in every line…. Let me tell you, if your heart is in the work, and you have faith in God, you need not depend upon the sanction of any minister or any people; if you go right to work in the name of the Lord, in a humble way doing what you can to teach the truth, God will vindicate you.” Ibid., 1746.

Self-Supporting Work Develops

In 1903, as we have documented in other articles, the progress made in 1901, which Ellen White said that the Lord endorsed, was reversed. The 1901 constitution was rejected and a new one, that allowed the same old problems to exist, was put in its place.*

Since we live in a moral universe, there are consequences to all actions. The result of the turn around in 1903, the very next year, the world-wide self-supporting movement had its beginnings, in the development of Madison.

Following are some inspired statements about the Madison School and these statements need to be read in addition to those mentioned earlier about all our schools being under the authority of the General Conference.

“In the work being done at the training school for home and foreign missionary teachers in Madison, Tennessee, and in the small schools established by the teachers who have gone forth from Madison, we have an illustration of a way in which the message should be carried.” Spaulding Magan, 420.

“The Lord has instructed me that, from the first, the work in Huntsville and Madison should have received adequate help. But instead of this help being rendered promptly there has been long delay. And in the matter of the Madison school, there has been a standing off from them because they were not under the ownership and control of some Conference. This is a question that should sometimes be considered, but it is not the Lord’s plan that means should be withheld from Madison, because they are not bound to the conference. The attitude which some of our brethren have assumed toward this enterprise shows that it is not wise for every working agency to be under the dictation of conference officers. There are some enterprises under certain conditions, that will produce better results if standing alone.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 8, 202.

“We are to respect the light that led Brethren Magan and Sutherland to purchase property and establish the school at Madison. Let no one speak words that would tend to demerit their work, or to divert students from the school. I do not charge any one with an intention to do wrong, but from the light I have received, I can say that there is danger that some will criticize unjustly the work of our brethren and sisters connected with the school at Madison. Let every encouragement possible be given to those who are engaged in an effort to give to children and youth an education in the knowledge of God and of His law.” The Madison School, 17.

“When my advice was asked in reference to the Madison school, I said, Remain as you are. There is danger in binding every working agency under the dictation of the conference. The Lord did not design that this should be. The circumstances were such that the burden bearers in the Madison school could not bind up their work with the conference. I knew their situation, and when many of the leading men in our conferences ignored them, because they did not place their school under conference dictation, I was shown that they would not be helped by making themselves amenable to the conference. They had better remain as led by God, amenable to Him, to work out His plans. But this matter need not be blazed abroad.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 8, 202, 203.

“The school at Madison not only educates in a knowledge of the Scriptures, but it gives a practical training that fits the student to go forth as a self-supporting missionary to the field to which he is called. In his student days he is taught how to build simply and substantially, how to cultivate the land, and to care for the stock. To this is added the knowledge of how to treat the sick and care for the injured. This training for medical-missionary work is one of the grandest objects for which any school can be established. There are many suffering from disease and injury, who, when relieved of pain, will be prepared to listen to the truth. Our Saviour was a mighty Healer. In His name there may be many miracles wrought in the South and in other fields through the instrumentality of the trained medical missionary. Therefore it is essential that there shall be a sanitarium connected with the Madison school. The educational work at the school and the sanitarium can go forward hand in hand. The instruction given at the school will benefit the patients, and the instruction given to the sanitarium patients will be a blessing to the school.” Ibid., 192, 193.

“The Lord does not set limits about His workers in some lines as men are wont to set. In their work, Brethren Magan and Sutherland have been hindered unnecessarily. Means have been withheld from them because in the organization and management of the Madison school, it was not placed under the control of the conference. But the reasons why this school was not owned and controlled by the conference have not been duly considered.…The Lord does not require that the educational work at Madison shall be changed all about before it can receive the hearty support of our people. The work that has been done there is approved of God, and He forbids that this line of work shall be broken up. The Lord will continue to bless and sustain the workers so long as they follow His counsel.

“Brethren Sutherland and Magan are as verily set to do the work of the Lord at Madison as other workers are appointed to do their part in the cause of present truth.

“The Lord’s money is to sustain them in their labors. They have a right to share the means given to the cause. They should be given a proportionate share of the means that comes in for the furtherance of the cause.

“God forbids you to put yokes on the necks of His servants. Brethren Sutherland and Magan have a right to solicit means for the support of the Madison school. This wonderful burden to restrict their work, which some suppose God has bestowed upon them with their official position, has never been laid upon them. If they were standing free on the high platform of truth, they would never accept the responsibility of framing rules and regulations that will hinder and cramp the laborers in their work for this time. When they learn the lesson that ‘All ye are brethren,’ and realize that their fel-low workers sometimes know just as well as they do how to use in the wisest way the talents and capabilities entrusted to them, they will remove the yokes that they are now binding upon them, and will give them credit for love for souls and a desire to labor unselfishly to promote the interests of the cause.” Manuscript Releases,
vol. 20, 103.

“Some have entertained the idea that because the school at Madison is not owned by a conference organization, those who are in charge of the school should not be permitted to call upon our people for the means that is greatly heeded to carry on their work. This idea needs to be corrected. In the distribution of the money that comes into the Lord’s treasury, you are entitled to portion just as verily as are those connected with other needy enterprises that are carried forward in harmony with the Lord’s instruction.” Spaulding Magan, 411.

We conclude from these statements that:

  1. It was not God’s will for all of His work to be under the control of the conferences and the reasons for this have been amply documented.
  2. God approved and authorized the setting up of Adventist work for the world, independent from the conference, as Madison.
  3. This work that was independent from the conference was just as much Adventist work as conference work, just as much a part of the last great work of the second Advent movement for the world as conference work. In fact,
  4. Self-supporting work was to have a significant part in the closing work for the world.
  5. God forbid for this kind of work to be broken up.
  6. The first part of the work to be organized in this way was educational work but other kinds of work were also authorized including food factories, sanitariums, etc. The question is, could there be a self-supporting church body anywhere in the world as there were schools, sanitariums and publishing houses and food factories?

—To be continued…

* In regard to claims made by many that the voice of the General Conference in session is the voice of God, it needs to be asked, since the 1901 decision and the 1903 decision were opposite and contrary to each other, which one was the voice of God? Obviously the General Conference in session is not necessarily the voice of God, for He never changes. (Malachi 3:6.)