The Ordinances and the Home Church

Inspired Counsel Regarding Communion and Baptism as It Relates to Home Churches

Editor’s Note: Has it been some time since the members in your home church participated in the communion service? Have you wondered exactly what counsel is given about who should perform the service and how it should be done? Who can baptize new converts that come into your church? In this article, we have compiled statements from the writings of Ellen White about the importance of these services and also about the details of the communion service, so that your home church can gain the blessing promised if we sincerely perform these services.

What purpose does foot washing serve?

“The Holy Watcher from heaven is present at this season to make it one of soul searching, of conviction of sin, and of the blessed assurance of sins forgiven. Christ in the fullness of His grace is there to change the current of the thoughts that have been running in selfish channels. The Holy Spirit quickens the sensibilities of those who follow the example of their Lord. As the Savior’s humiliation for us is remembered, thought links with thought; a chain of memories is called up, memories of God’s great goodness and of the favor and tenderness of earthly friends. Blessings forgotten, mercies abused, kindnesses slighted, are called to mind. Roots of bitterness that have crowded out the precious plant of love are made manifest. Defects of character, neglect of duties, ingratitude to God, coldness toward our brethren, are called to remembrance. Sin is seen in the light in which God views it. Our thoughts are not thoughts of self-complacency, but of severe self-censure and humiliation. The mind is energized to break down every barrier that has caused alienation. Evil thinking and evil-speaking are put away. Sins are confessed, they are forgiven. The subduing grace of Christ comes into the soul, and the love of Christ draws hearts together in a blessed unity.” The Desire of Ages, 650,651.

“This ordinance is Christ’s appointed preparation for the sacramental service. While pride, variance, and strife for supremacy are cherished, the heart cannot enter into fellowship with Christ. We are not prepared to receive the communion of His body and His blood. Therefore it was that Jesus appointed the memorial of His humiliation to be first observed.” The Desire of Ages, 650.

What is the purpose of the communion service?

“But the Communion service was not to be a season of sorrowing. This was not its purpose. As the Lord’s disciples gather about His table, they are not to remember and lament their shortcomings. They are not to dwell upon their past religious experience, whether that experience has been elevating or depressing. They are not to recall the differences between them and their brethren. The preparatory service [foot washing] has embraced all this. The self-examination, the confession of sin, the reconciling of differences, has all been done. Now they come to meet with Christ. They are not to stand in the shadow of the cross, but in its saving light. They are to open the soul to the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness. With hearts cleansed by Christ’s most precious blood, in full consciousness of His presence, although unseen, they are to hear His words, ‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.’ John 14:27.” The Desire of Ages, 659.

Should some be excluded from participating in the ordinances of the Lord’s supper?

“Christ’s example forbids exclusiveness at the Lord’s supper. It is true that open sin excludes the guilty. This the Holy Spirit plainly teaches. But beyond this none are to pass judgment. God has not left it with men to say who shall present themselves on these occasions. For who can read the heart? Who can distinguish the tares from the wheat?” Evangelism, 277.

“The object of this service is to call to mind the humility of our Lord, and the lessons He has given in washing the feet of His disciples. There is in man a disposition to esteem himself more highly than his brother, to work for himself, to serve himself, to seek the highest place; and often evil-surmisings and bitterness of spirit spring up over mere trifles. This ordinance preceding the Lord’s Supper is to clear away these misunderstandings, to bring man out of his selfishness, down from his stilts of self-exaltation, to the humility of spirit that will lead him to wash his brother’s feet. It is not in God’s plan that this should be deferred because some are considered unworthy to engage in it. The Lord washed the feet of Judas. He did not refuse him a place at the table, although He knew that he would leave that table to act his part in the betrayal of his Lord. It is not possible for human beings to tell who is worthy, and who is not. They can not read the secrets of the soul. It is not for them to say, I will not attend the ordinance if such a one is present to act a part. Nor has God left it to man to say who shall present themselves on these occasions.” Review and Herald, May 31, 1898.

When should the foot washing take place?

“This ordinance of feet washing was made a religious service.…It was given as something to test and prove the loyalty of the children of God. When modern Israel observes the sacramental ordinance, this ceremony should precede the partaking of the emblems of the Lord’s death.” The Faith I Live By, 299.

Should men and women be separate during the foot washing?

“Brethren and sisters have not always moved as judiciously as they should in washing feet, and confusion has been caused. It should be introduced into new places with carefulness and wisdom, especially where the people are not informed relative to the example and teachings of our Lord on this point, and where they have prejudice against it. Many honest souls, through the influence of former teachers in whom they had confidence, are much prejudiced against this plain duty, and the subject should be introduced to them in a proper time and manner.

“There is no example given in the Word for brethren to wash sisters’ feet;[* See Appendix.] but there is an example for sisters to wash the feet of brethren. Mary washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head. (See also 1 Timothy 5:10.) I saw that the Lord had moved upon sisters to wash the feet of brethren and that it was according to gospel order. All should move understandingly and not make the washing of feet a tedious ceremony.” Early Writings, 117.

What should be used during the communion service?

“The broken bread and pure juice of the grape are to represent the broken body and spilled blood of the Son of God. Bread that is leavened must not come on the communion table; unleavened bread is the only correct representation of the Lord’s Supper. Nothing fermented is to be used. Only the pure fruit of the vine and the unleavened bread are to be used.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1090.

How often should we perform communion?

“Today quarterly meeting was held in the church. Willie spoke from Isaiah 50:10,11. In the afternoon the Lord’s supper was administered, preceded by the ordinance of feet washing. The celebration of these ordinances is the fulfilling of the command, ‘If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye ought also to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.’ What a place is this for hushing controversies, for forgiving those who have done us any injury. This is the time, if one has anything against his brother, to make it right, to settle every difficulty. Let there be mutual forgiveness. Let no strange flame be brought to the altar. Let no malice, no hatred, be cherished by those who meet round the communion table. Let high and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, meet together as those purchased by the blood of Christ.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 21,119.

“The salvation of men depends upon a continual application to their hearts of the cleansing blood of Christ. Therefore, the Lord’s Supper was not to be observed only occasionally or yearly, but more frequently than the annual passover. This solemn ordinance commemorates a far greater event than the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. That deliverance was typical of the great atonement which Christ made by the sacrifice of His own life for the final deliverance of His people.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1090.

What example do we have, from the early Advent movement, of who took care of church affairs when there was no pastor?

“At this time the Seventh-day Adventist Church was without pastors. The work was young, with 4,500 members; the needs of the 160 churches were cared for by local elders and deacons. The thirty-two ordained and nineteen licensed ministers were spread out over the seven conferences, carrying on the evangelistic thrust. The
Review and Herald, with its weekly visits to the homes of those who subscribed, served an important pastoral role.” The Progressive Years, by Arthur White, 266.


What should be considered when someone wants to be re-baptized?

“It is this baptism of the Holy Spirit that the churches need to-day. There are backslidden church-members and backslidden ministers who need re-converting, who need the softening, subduing influence of the baptism of the Spirit, that they may rise in newness of life and make thorough work for eternity. I have seen the irreligion and the self-sufficiency cherished, and I have heard the words spoken, ‘Except ye repent and be converted, ye shall never see the kingdom of heaven.’ There are many who will need re-baptizing, but let them never go down into the water until they are dead to sin, cured of selfishness and self-exaltation until they can come up out of the water to live a new life unto God. Faith and repentance are conditions, essential to the forgiveness of sin.” Bible Training School, April 1, 1906.

What should be considered when baptizing new members?

“There is need of a more thorough preparation on the part of candidates for baptism. They are in need of more faithful instruction than has usually been given them. The principles of the Christian life should be made plain to those who have newly come to the truth. None can depend upon their profession of faith as proof that they have a saving connection with Christ. We are not only to say, ‘I believe,’ but to practice the truth. It is by conformity to the will of God in our words, our deportment, our character, that we prove our connection with Him. Whenever one renounces sin, which is the transgression of the law, his life will be brought into conformity to the law, into perfect obedience. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. The light of the Word carefully studied, the voice of conscience, the strivings of the Spirit, produce in the heart genuine love for Christ, who gave Himself a whole sacrifice to redeem the whole person, body, soul, and spirit.” Evangelism, 308, 309.

“The test of discipleship is not brought to bear as closely as it should be upon those who present themselves for baptism. It should be understood whether they are simply taking the name of Seventh-day Adventists, or whether they are taking their stand on the Lord’s side, to come out from the world and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing. Before baptism there should be a thorough inquiry as to the experience of the candidates. Let this inquiry be made, not in a cold and distant way, but kindly, tenderly, pointing the new converts to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Bring the requirements of the gospel to bear upon the candidates for baptism.

“One of the points upon which those newly come to the faith will need instruction is the subject of dress. Let the new converts be faithfully dealt with. Are they vain in dress? Do they cherish pride of heart? The idolatry of dress is a moral disease. It must not be taken over into the new life. In most cases, submission to the gospel requirements will demand a decided change in the dress.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 95, 96.

Who is empowered to baptize?

“When one goes out as a physician, gospel teacher, and canvasser, he should be fully empowered to do the work of a minister. When under his labors souls accept the truth and give evidence of true conversion, he is to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And such workers should have the sympathy and cooperation of those who remain at home.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 13, 213.


Practical Tips on How to Organize a Local Church

Throughout his entire ministry, Paul, the great evangelist of the New Testament, was careful to institute proper organization in the churches he established. In fact, Paul thought organization was so important, that a short time after he had been stoned in Lystra, he returned to organize the churches. He saw that gospel order (which included the appointment of elders and deacons) was “an important factor in the spiritual growth of the new converts.” Acts of the Apostles, 185. It was a safeguard against error and fanaticism and promoted unity among the believers. In place after place, Paul diligently instructed and aided churches in the establishment of proper order.

Ellen White says that in Lycaonia and Pisidia, “churches were duly organized in all places…where there were believers. Officers were appointed in each church, and proper order and system were established….” Ibid., 185.

The church in Thessalonica was also “properly organized.” “Officers had been appointed to act as ministers and deacons.” Ibid., 261.

Regarding the work in Crete, Paul instructed Titus to “set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.” Titus 1:5.

Inspiration shows that the appointment of elders and deacons was an integral part—a fundamental element—of the gospel order that Paul established in his churches. A group of believers that simply gathers together for meetings, with no officers selected, as elders and deacons, is not a “properly organized” church.

Selection and Ordination of Leaders

To ordain an elder or deacon simply means to appoint a person to a position of authority and leadership, in the church of God. Through ordination, church members recognize a person’s spirituality and ability to serve the church in a leadership capacity.

In the selection of deacons, at the time of the early church, the apostles instructed the church to “look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the work.’ This advice was followed, and by prayer and the laying on of hands, seven chosen men were solemnly set apart for their duties as deacons.” Acts of the Apostles, 89.

We see that the apostles did not themselves alone choose the deacons, but the entire church recognized those, from among its membership, who were “of honest report and full of the Holy Ghost.” We are not told exactly how the process of the selection worked. Today, in some small churches, all the members are directly involved in the selection of officers. In other churches, members select a group of members, called a nominating committee. This committee selects, considers and prays about various potential candidates. When they are finished they recommend to the church at large their completed list of candidates. The church then votes to accept or reject the recommendations of the committee.

For new, small churches, we are given this extremely practical counsel in regards to choosing a leader for a church. “Such arrangements should be made for the little companies accepting the truth as shall secure the prosperity of the church. One man may be appointed to lead for a week or a month, then another for a few weeks; and thus different persons may be enlisted in the work, and after a suitable trial someone should be selected by the voice of the church to be the acknowledged leader, never, however, to be chosen for more than one year. Then another may be selected, or the same one may be re-elected, if his service has proved a blessing to the church.…Many fail to exercise proper discernment in these important matters where eternal interests are involved.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 619.

Consideration of whether a person meets the qualifications for an office is necessary. What are some of the questions that should be asked about a person being considered for a leadership position in the church? Please see the list of qualifications for elders and deacons along with reading the following inspired quotations:


“The family of the one suggested for office should be considered. Are they in subjection? Can the man rule his own house with honor? What character have his children? Will they do honor to the father’s influence? If he has not tact, wisdom, or power of godliness at home in managing his own family, it is safe to conclude that the same defects will be carried into the church, and the same unsanctified management will be seen there.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 618.

Lay Hands on No Man Suddenly

We are also instructed in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy to give a man due consideration and to pray much before placing him in office. We should not be in a hurry. “It will be far better to criticize the man before he is put into office than afterward, better to pray and counsel before taking the decisive step than to labor to correct the consequences of a wrong move.” Ibid.

Head Elders and Deacons

Is it right that there should be a head elder or deacon? In Story of Redemption we find that Stephen was chosen to stand at the head of the seven deacons. He was to lead them. He was thought the best qualified because of his multi-cultural ability in the midst of the tension between the Jews and Greeks.

Blessings from the Appointment of Officers and the Establishment of Church Order

There are great blessings to be gained from following God’s counsel. We have found that the establishment of church order:

  • Enables churches to successfully give the Three Angels’ Messages
  • Shields churches from fanaticism
  • Is an important factor in the spiritual growth of church members
  • Serves to unite in one body all believers in Christ (Acts of the Apostles, 89)
  • Enables ministers and elders to be able to work more effectively
  • Increases the number of believers (Acts 6)
  • Increases the strength of believers (Story of Redemption, 260; Act 6:7)

Some may ask: “With all the theological issues facing the church today, why should they be concerned with the appointment of church officers? Shouldn’t we just focus on spreading the Three Angels’ Messages?” Yes, we should focus on spreading the Three Angels’ Messages. The appointment of church officers and the establishment of church order will not only help us give the message but, according to inspiration, we must have order to be successful in giving the message. “I saw that there should be order in the church of God, and that system is needed in carrying forward successfully the last great message of mercy to the world.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 211.

Many Seventh-day Adventists have been told that they should not conduct evangelistic efforts. Why? Because they are no longer connected with the conference. They have been forced out or have left because error is continually taught. Many have not felt it safe to bring their Bible students to church and felt forced to meet in their homes or in a rented building. Then, should these faithful Adventists no longer take the Three Angels’ Messages to the world—because they are not connected with the conference? No, they should do everything they can to spread it. While exercising the same courtesy that Jesus and the apostles did, we should say with Peter, “We ought to obey God rather than man.” Acts 5:29. We cannot obey any man or woman, whatever their position, when he or she tells us not to evangelize. And we cannot obey man when we are told not to follow the counsel of having orderly churches. The gospel commission of Matthew 28 still stands. And, to effectively fulfill that commission, we must have organized churches.

Proper church order will also help squelch some of the rampant fanaticism existing today and promote unity among the brethren. “There is order in heaven; and there should be system and order upon the earth, that the work may move forward without confusion and fanaticism.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 601.

Proper organization also enables ministers and elders to center their attention on the spiritual welfare of the church. Throughout history we see that it is too much for one man or one group of men to be able to focus on both the spiritual and business matters of the church. In the Old Testament, Moses’ father-in-law instructed him to delegate some of the voluminous load he was carrying, of settling all the minute details of the business, in the camp of Israel. In the New Testament (Acts 6), the church appointed deacons to oversee the business of the church and assist the apostles in spiritual leadership. As a result of dividing the labor (appointing deacons), the number and strength of the believers increased.

Results From Not Following God’s Counsel

  • If God’s counsel is not followed what will be some of the results?
  • Satan will benefit
  • Minister’s spiritual discernment will be dimmed

“Order must be observed, and there must be union in maintaining order, or Satan will take the advantage.” Testimonies, vol.1, 211.

“Those whom God has called to minister in word and doctrine should have time for meditation, prayer and study of the Scriptures. Their clear spiritual discernment is dimmed by entering into the lesser details of business and dealing with the various temperaments of those who meet together in church capacity.” The Story of Redemption, 261. This is very solemn. An elder or minister’s spiritual discernment needs to be as clear and bright as the day.

Reasons for Lack of Organization Today

There appear to be many groups of Seventh-day Adventists that believe in the historic pillars of our faith (including the Spirit of Prophecy), that meet together every Sabbath, but do not recognize the importance of “proper organization.” There are probably many reasons for the lack of organization. Examples include:

  • Fear of starting a “new organization”
  • Belief that it is unnecessary
  • Lack of knowledge of inspired counsel
  • Desire to avoid local church struggles

For those afraid to organize, for fear they are starting a new organization, we would say the following: The church is the “pillar and ground of the truth.” (I Timothy 3:15) To knowingly cling to error is to leave God’s church. If you have left a “structure” church because error is being taught, do not think that you are leaving the true church and starting a new organization.

It is unfortunate—more than unfortunate, it is a tragedy, that so many Seventh-day Adventists do not feel safe to worship in their local conference church. Surely it brings great pain to the heart of God and should to our hearts also. It should cause us to weep. But it should not cause us to disregard inspired counsel. The New Testament instruction, of Paul, Luke and Peter, is that the local church is not complete without the appointment and service of elders and deacons.

Many Seventh-day Adventists who are worshipping separately from the conference are told that they should not organize the group of historic believers with whom they are worshipping. Opponents quote a Spirit of Prophecy statement that says we should enter into no new organization and go on to say that if a church organizes separately from the conference that they are not following the Spirit of Prophecy.

Friends, the only way to avoid starting a “new organization” is to adopt New Testament church order. A candid look at inspired counsel reveals that Seventh-day Adventists, in and out of the conference, are not following the Lord’s instruction when it comes to church organization. (See previous articles by Neil Livingston, “The Mark of An Image,” parts one and two about the 1901 and 1903 General Conference Sessions.) The conferences that we are familiar with are not following God’s counsel regarding church organization. They already have entered a new form of organization and are not following the instructions clearly outlined in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. Neither are most historic Seventh-day Adventists. It is past time that, along with following the counsel about health reform, dress reform and Christ-likeness of character, we also follow the counsel about New Testament church organization.

We cry about the departure of God’s professed people from following His counsel. And well we should. When a person cares about God’s work they will, like the apostle Paul, mourn at the pain we have caused to the heart of God and the reproach that has been brought upon His name. “The position which the Jews as God’s professed people occupied before an unbelieving world, caused the apostle intense anguish of spirit.” Acts of Apostles, 412. But let us do more than mourn. Let us look to see that we, like Paul, are individually doing all we can to promote conformity to the divine plan of order and organization among God’s people.

To those who believe organization to be unnecessary we would say, that, as children of God, we are not in a situation to be telling God what is and is not necessary. Surely our Creator, our Chief Shepherd, knows what is best for His churches. Whenever a church disregards the counsel of God, it is in a weakened position spiritually.

It seems that there are always some that are against proper church organization. There were some in the church at Thessalonica that were “self-willed, and impetuous, who refused to be subordinate to those who held positions of authority in the church. They claimed not only the right of private judgment, but that of publicly urging their views upon the church. In view of this, Paul called the attention of the Thessalonians to the respect and deference due to those who had been chosen to occupy positions of authority in the church.” Ibid., 261–262.


In both the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy we are given counsel about the character and qualifications of deacons. Please see the shaded box.

Of the first seven deacons, in the early church, we are told that, “These officers gave careful consideration to individual needs as well as to the general financial interests of the church, and by their prudent management and their godly example they were an important aid to their fellow officers in binding together the various interests of the church into a united whole.” Acts of the Apostles, 89.

Interestingly enough, Ellen White does not limit the responsibility of attending to the business of the church to men alone. She says that women could also attend to this. “There is a wide field in which our sisters may do good service for the Master in the various branches of the work connected with His cause. Through missionary labor they can reach a class that our ministers cannot. . . . There is work neglected or done imperfectly that could be thoroughly accomplished by the help that sisters can give. There are so many kinds of work too laborious for women, which our brethren are called to engage in, that many branches of missionary work are neglected. Many things connected with different churches are left undone that women, if properly instructed, could attend to. Our sisters might serve as church clerks, and the church business would not be so sadly neglected. There are many other offices connected with the cause of God which our sisters are better qualified to fill than our brethren, and in which they might do efficient service.” Welfare Ministry, 147. This should be good news to many small churches. The workforce may be bigger than many at first thought it could be.

Ministers and Elders

The inspired instruction we are given regarding the character and qualifications of elders is both detailed and broad. Please see shaded box.

An elder’s duty encompasses more than merely preaching a good sermon. It means offering personal, unselfish effort for church members and non-church members.

“Those who occupy the position of undershepherds are to exercise a watchful diligence over the Lord’s flock. This is not to be a dictatorial vigilance, but one that tends to encourage and strengthen and uplift. Ministry means more than sermonizing: it means earnest, personal labor.” Acts of the Apostles, 526.

“The greatest help that can be given to our people is to teach them to work for God, and to depend on Him, not on the ministers. Let them learn to work as Christ worked.…Just as soon as a church is organized, let the minister set the members at work. They will need to be taught how to labor successfully. Let the minister devote more of his time to educating than to preaching.” Testimonies, vol. 7, 19–20.

“Let the neglected tithes be now brought in.…Elders of the churches, do your duty. Labor from home to home, that the flock of God shall not be remiss in this great matter, which involves such a blessing or such a curse.” Testimonies to Ministers, 306.

“But My Church is Very Small”

Some will make the plea, “But my church is so small. We do not have enough members to establish true gospel order.” Paul was careful throughout his ministry to organize even small groups of believers. “Those who in any place were by his labor led to accept Christ as the Savior were at the proper time organized into a church. Even when the believers were but few in number, this was done. The Christians were thus taught to help one another, remembering the promise, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.’ Matthew 18:20.” Acts of the Apostles, 185–186.

What Can Small Churches Do to Support Missions?

We are told in Gospel Workers, 466–467, that several small churches can unite to support a foreign missionary. What about two or three small home churches supporting a minister? Remember the widow with the two mites. She thought that her contribution was so small and insignificant. But how many, upon hearing the story, have given their small bit? And all those small bits added together have provided millions and millions of dollars for the advancement of the Lord’s work on earth. You may not be able to support a foreign missionary in your church, but, as we are told, you can unite with another church or several other churches and together support the local or foreign mission field.

An Important Requirement

Much more could be written about church order and organization. At the end of this article there is a list of recommended reading material for further study of the topic. However, there is one requirement to the establishment of proper church organization that we thought so key that we saved it until the end.

In speaking of the Jews and of Christians today, Ellen White said: “The order and prosperity of the church depended upon the good order and thorough discipline of families.…These injunctions which God laid upon the Jews with so much solemnity, rest with equal weight upon Christian parents.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 294.

In order to have orderly and organized churches, we must have orderly homes and disciplined families. And it does not happen overnight. Everyday we must take up the battle for order and discipline anew. Everyday we must humble ourselves before the throne of grace, pleading with God for a new heart, for wisdom to deal in a loving but firm way with our children and for a sense of our complete dependence upon Him. Only God can make our homes like heaven. In learning the secrets of how to have a happy, disciplined family and an orderly home, we will learn how to have happy, organized churches. It takes much effort, planning and prayer. But God will help you. We know He will. He has helped us. He works with all of us as we put forth earnest effort.

Today, God would have us to study—to be wide-awake to the times in which we live. The counsel is clear. God has instructed us to be organized because we need to be organized to help finish His work of salvation in our homes and our churches. He is calling us to come into line. It may not be easy. A person who has lost his job, because of keeping the Sabbath, would not call Sabbath-keeping easy. In fact, it could seem not only to be hard, but also down right awkward for several weeks; because it is new. But week after week it will become easier and more natural. The same is true with church order. It may be difficult and awkward at first, but, if we persist, God has promised a blessing.

“Choose ye this day whom you will serve.…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15.

Deacons Qualifications

  • Reverent
  • Not double-tongued
  • Not given to much wine
  • Not greedy for money
  • Possess a pure conscience
  • An experienced Christian
  • Involved only in a monogamous relationship, if married
  • Able to rule their homes well
  • Possess calm judgment and discretion
  • Able to deal with difficult cases of trial including murmuring and jealousy


  • Attend to the general financial interests of the church
  • See that a faithful tithe is brought into the treasury (Testimonies to Ministers, 305)
  • Care for individual needs of the widows, orphans and worthy poor
  • Teach the faith (example: Stephen)
  • Take difficult temporal matters to the minister or elders

Elders Qualifications

  • Blameless
  • Converted
  • Earnest
  • Elevated
  • Ennobled
  • Gentle
  • Hospitable
  • Refined
  • Sober
  • Tactful
  • Unselfish
  • Vigilant
  • A hearer
  • A learner
  • Self-governed
  • Of good repute
  • Competent
  • Able to present Bible subjects
  • Familiar with the Scriptures
  • Full of zeal
  • An effective ruler of household
  • Able to educate church members to be workers
  • Possessor of judgment
  • Possessor of a fresh experience
  • Involved only in a monogamous relationship, if married
  • An experienced Christian

See 1 Timothy 3; Testimonies, vol. 4, 406–407; and Testimonies, vol. 5, 617–618.


  •  Laboring earnestly and personally for souls, inside and outside of the church
  •  Educating church members about how to work for souls
  •  Providing church members work to do in God’s vineyard
  •  Encouraging faithfulness in the return of the tithe
  •  Preaching the Word

Why Home Churches, Part 1

In this article, we will begin to answer the following question: Why is there a worldwide home church movement in Adventism today?

In the New Testament church there were many home churches as there have been among God’s people ever since. It should not be a surprise then, that there is a growing number of home churches in Adventism, worldwide, today. The fact that there are a growing number of home churches, however, is not the main point. The point of contention is not that there are home churches, or even that there are constantly increasing numbers of the same. The point of contention is that there are increasing numbers of home churches in Adventism which are not under conference control. These churches are not affiliated with conferences or missions, but rather are cooperating with other home churches, which are in similar circumstances.

It has been claimed, far and near, that such a development is contrary to the writings of Ellen White. The quotations commonly used, in an attempt to prove this, are from the Stanton articles, written by Ellen White in 1893, and other statements about the necessity of church organization and about the church not fragmenting into separate atoms.

Is there any foundation in these claims? Are home churches unnecessary and unwarranted? We will answer these questions by looking at the broader question, Why has the development of home churches, not under conference control, taken place?

(This actually is a very involved question related to the Christian experience of millions of people in very diverse circumstances over many decades, in fact, for over 100 years.)

The Divisions of the Work

To understand how and why this has happened, we must first look at the divisions of operations within Adventism and see how the present phenomenon developed in these various divisions.

Anyone who has read the nine volume set of Testimonies for the Church, written by Ellen White, can discern that the major divisions of Adventist work for the world can be divided into the following:

  1. Publishing Work
  2. Medical missionary operations
  3. Educational Work
  4. Ministerial and evangelistic work. (There are other smaller divisions but these four are the major ones.) All four of the divisions involve the organization of the church.

There was a time when little, if any, work in any of these four areas was done outside of the church organization. Independent work outside of the church organization was definitely not the plan for Adventist work, for the world, that God had in mind. Consider, for instance, the following forceful testimonies by Ellen White:

Concerning independent medical missionary work: “Medical missionary work is not to be drawn apart and made separate from church organization. The medical students are not to receive the idea that they may regard themselves as amenable only to the leaders in the medical work.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 164.

“Special light has been given me that you are in danger of losing sight of the work for this time. You are erecting barriers to separate your work and those you are educating from the church. This must not be. Those who are receiving instruction in medical missionary lines should be led to realize that their education is to fit them to do better work in connection with the ministers of God. You are to remember, my brother, that the Lord has a people upon the earth whom He respects.” Ibid., 519.

“I was instructed by the Lord that your temptation would be to make your medical missionary work stand independent of the conference. But this plan was not right. I saw that you could not plan as you had been doing, or carry out your ideas, without injury to yourself and to the cause of God.” Ibid., 187.

Concerning independent publishing work: “As I consider the matter I see that at this time, when so much is being said against organization, we must be careful not to work for disorganization. We must not get out of line. I am fearful regarding any plan that would take the work out of our publishing houses; for this might lessen the confidence of our brethren in these important agencies for the dissemination of present truth.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, 169.

Concerning independent educational work: “Our schools are under the supervision of the General Conference. This body decides as to the advisability of establishing new schools, as to how much means it is wise to invest, and also as to the educational force to be employed. Our medical institutions should stand in the same relation to the General Conference and the great whole. The establishment of a health institution is too important a matter to be left to the independent management of a few interested individuals. If the enterprise is under control of the General Conference, the way is open for deliberate counsel and a careful consideration of the matter, and if it is undertaken, there will be a united force to give it influence and standing, and this will contribute largely to its success. Under such management, a class of workers could be enlisted that otherwise could not be secured, and thus the enterprise would prosper when it would prove a failure in ordinary hands. And furthermore, there must be an authority to guard such an institution, so that persons who are not qualified shall not be allowed to grasp responsibility through selfish ambition in their professional line as physicians.” General Conference Bulletin, January 30, 1893.

It is plainly evident, in the above quoted testimonies, what God’s plan was. It was that all of His remnant people should work together in concert, in harmony and unity with representative and deliberate counsel so as to avoid mistakes and serious pitfalls which would certainly occur if a few individuals, however talented, were to strike out on their own without counsel from their brethren or support from their church, and in such an independent way establish schools, sanitariums and publishing houses.

If this was God’s plan then how did we get to where we are now? To understand how this came to be we must go back to that watershed event in Adventist history, the General Conference, in Minneapolis, in 1888.

Changes in 1888

Many people today seem to believe that this conference, in 1888, had mainly to do with the doctrine of righteousness by faith. The 1888 Materials by Ellen White reveal that such a conclusion is very far from the truth. Ellen White describes the controversy over the law in Galatians as follows: “He stretched out his arms toward Dr. Waggoner, and to you, Elder Butler, and said in substance as follows: ‘Neither have all the light upon the law, neither position is perfect.’ ‘Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.’ Psalms 97:11. There are hundreds that know not why they believe the doctrines they do.” 1888 Messages, 93.

“The different views in regard to the law in Galatians need not have produced any such exhibitions. I have not the slightest burden upon that subject. God has not inspired all this intense feeling over that subject. I have not a particle of burden on that subject. My only trouble is the position of those ministers who were at that conference who manifested so little of the spirit of Christ and possessed more largely the spirit which controlled the scribes and Pharisees which planned the betrayal and acted a prominent part in the trial of Christ, in false statements, in accusing of Christ and making Him appear before the people in the worst possible light.” Ibid., 295.

Notice that Ellen White had not a particle of burden on the law in Galatians—that was not the major issue. What then was the real issue in 1888? And why did Ellen White, over and over again, accuse us of being like the Jews (or the Pharisees) in the 1888 General Conference? (She makes this accusation at least twenty times just in volume one of the 1888 Materials.) For example: “I want to tell you, brethren, whoever you are, I want to tell you, that you are just going over the very same ground that they went over in the days of Christ. You have had their experience: But God deliver us from having the come-out of it as they had. But notwithstanding you have heard my testimony, notwithstanding it was the testimony of the Spirit of God, you have braced yourselves,—a few of you, strong men of determined will,—to carry it out on your line, to fight it out on your line. May God have mercy upon your souls, because you need it. You have stood right in the way of God. The earth is to be lighted with His glory, and if you stand where you stand today, you might just as quick say that the Spirit of God was the spirit of the devil. You have said it now in your actions, in your attitudes, that it is the spirit of the devil. You have said it thus, and you will say it when the crisis will come.” Ibid., 593, 594.

Notice that the real nature of the opposition was the rejection of the Holy Spirit both in the messages of Jones and Waggoner and the testimony of Ellen White. The outcome of this is prophesied: “The Third Angel’s Message will not be comprehended, the light which will lighten the earth with its glory will be called a false light, by those who refuse to walk in its advancing glory. The work that might have been done, will be left undone by the rejecters of truth, because of their unbelief.” Ibid., 673.

The Problems in 1888

To understand how this awful condition of things came to be, in 1888, let us first look at how Ellen White described the problem in Adventism in the years just prior to 1888. “The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones.…Many had lost sight of Jesus.… Now, it has been Satan’s determined purpose to eclipse the view of Jesus and lead men to look to man, and trust to man, and be educated to expect help from man. For years the church has been looking to man and expecting much from man, but not looking to Jesus, in whom our hopes of eternal life are centered. Therefore God gave to His servants a testimony that presented the truth as it is in Jesus, which is the Third Angel’s Message, in clear, distinct lines.” Testimonies to Ministers, 91–93.

Notice what the problem was—“For years the church has been looking to man and expecting much from man, but not looking to Jesus.” Ibid. Now the question needs to be asked, What men do you think Ellen White is talking about that the church had been looking to and expecting much help from? And what would the response of these men be if the church began to look to someone else for help and not looking to them so much?

This is the exact problem that the chosen people of God faced when Jesus was here, and this problem, in Jesus’ day, resulted in the crucifixion of Christ. This is also the exact problem which developed in the Roman church. “Some who think that they preach the gospel are preaching other men’s ideas. Through some means they have come to the decision that it is no part of a minister’s calling or duty to think diligently and prayerfully. He accepts what other men have taught without asserting his individuality. This doctrine, taught by the church of Rome, is entire dependence upon the leaders. The individual’s conscience is not his own. Judgment must be controlled by other men’s ideas. His intelligence is to go no farther than that of those who are leaders.” 1888 Messages, 834.

Opposition to God’s Message

The response of the leaders in Adventism, to the message that God sent in 1888, has been discussed and debated since that time. Their opposition has been well documented by many writers and will not be reviewed here except to ask the question, What really was the nature of their opposition? What was behind their opposition?

The following statements will reveal the nature of the opposition and what was behind it. “Those whom God has sent with a message are only men, but what is the character of the message which they bear? Will you dare to turn from, or make light of, the warnings, because God did not consult you as to what would be preferred? God calls men who will speak, who will cry aloud and spare not. God has raised up His messengers to do His work for this time. Some have turned from the message of the righteousness of Christ to criticize the men and their imperfections, because they do not speak the message of truth with all the grace and polish desirable. They have too much zeal, are too much in earnest, speak with too much positiveness, and the message that would bring healing and life and comfort to many weary and oppressed souls, is, in a measure, excluded; for just in proportion as men of influence close their own hearts and set up their own wills in opposition to what God has said, will they seek to take away the ray of light from those who have been longing and praying for light and for vivifying power. Christ has registered all the hard, proud, sneering speeches spoken against His servants as against Himself.” Ibid., 673.

Character assassination never occurs without a motive or purpose. As human beings we cannot read the motive or purpose behind actions, but the Spirit of Prophecy, the testimony of Jesus, can do this. The Spirit of God can discern what is in the spirit of any and all men. What did the Spirit testify? “There was a spirit coming in taking possession of the churches, that if permitted would separate them from God as verily as the churches who refused light that God sent them in messages of warning and of light that they might advance in regard to His second coming to our world.…I was told this spirit had been gathering strength for years and the leavening influence was at work and spiritual life was going out of the churches.” Ibid., 296, 297. [All emphasis supplied throughout.]

“I could but have a vivid picture in my mind from day to day of the way reformers were treated, how slight difference of opinion seemed to create a frenzy of feeling. 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.” Ibid., 309.

“The Spirit of God is departing from many among our people. Many have entered into dark, secret paths, and some will never return. They will continue to stumble to their ruin. They have tempted God, they have rejected light. All the evidence that will ever be given them they have received, and have not heeded. They have chosen darkness rather than light, and have defiled their souls. No man or church can associate with a pleasure-loving class, and reveal that they appreciate the rich current of truth which the Lord has sent to those who have simple faith in His word. The world is polluted, corrupted, as was the world in the days of Noah. The only remedy is belief in the truth, acceptance of the light. Yet many have listened to the truth spoken in demonstration of the Spirit, and they have not only refused to accept the message, but they have hated the light. These men are parties to the ruin of souls. They have interposed themselves between the heaven-sent light and the people. They have trampled upon the Word of God, and are doing despite to His Holy Spirit.” Ibid., 1335, 1336.

“While at Minneapolis many things were opened before me in regard to the propositions made by A.R. Henry and others. These plans were not inspired by the Spirit of God. If you had then stood in the love of God, you would have been able to distinguish between righteousness and unrighteousness. Plans were formed regarding the anagement of the work which could not bear the light of day; for the signature of heaven was not upon them. Those who made these propositions had no idea of where their plans and imaginations would carry them. They did not realize that they would be led to subvert right principles, to obtain control of facilities that they might manage matters according to their own ideas, to build up what they pleased and to bind about what they pleased. This planning and devising was not carried on in a frank open way, but in a way which caused God to write opposite their names, they have dissembled. They have falsified. They have worked according to the deceptive practices of Satan, in order to establish a confederacy.” Ibid., 1684.

“God would have the church roll away her reproach, but as long as men who have felt fully competent to work without accepting counsel of God are kept in office year after year, this cannot be done. This state of things is leavening every branch of the work, because men do not feel their need of the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When men feel competent to pronounce judgment and condemn the Holy Spirit, they do a work for themselves which will be difficult to counteract. The whole head becomes sick and the discernment so weak that it is apt to judge unrighteously. The Spirit still calls, but they do not hear nor heed the call of God.” Ibid., 1292, 1293.

From the above statements (similar ones could be greatly multiplied) the following conclusions can be drawn:

  1. Men of influence (leaders) were engaged in character assassination of the messengers. A wrong spirit was in control. A Satanic spirit and a slight difference of opinion created a frenzy of feeling.
  2. The Spirit of God departed from many who had interposed themselves between the light and the people.
  3. One of the main factors involved in the rejection of the light was that certain leaders were making plans regarding the management of the work which would allow them to obtain control of facilities and manage matters according to their own ideas to build up what they pleased and bind about what they pleased.
  4. And these leaders were kept in office year after year, without accepting counsel of God, and this was leavening every branch of the work.

When Satan Rules

An acceptance of the message in 1888 would have made it impossible for #4 and #5 above to be carried out. But Ellen White said: “To-day, as in Christ’s day, Satan rules the minds of many. O that his terrible, fearful work could be discerned and resisted. Selfishness has perverted principles, selfishness has confused the senses and clouded the judgment. It seems so strange that notwithstanding all the light that is shining from God’s blessed word, there should be such strange ideas held, such a departure from the spirit and practice of the truth. The desire to grasp large wages, with a determination to deprive others of their God-given rights, has its origin in Satan’s mind; and by their obedience to his will and way men place themselves under his banner. Little dependence can be placed in these that have been taken in this snare, unless they are thoroughly converted and renovated; for they have been leavened by wrong principles, which they could not perceive were deleterious in their effect. . . . If men would only give up their spirit of resistance to the Holy Spirit, the spirit which has long been leaving their religious experience, God’s Spirit would address itself to their hearts. It would convince of sin. What a work! But the Holy Spirit has been insulted and light has been rejected. Is it possible for those who for years have been so blind to see? Is it possible that in this late stage of their resistance their eyes will be anointed? Will the voice of the Spirit of God be distinguished from the deceiving voice of the enemy?

“There are men who will soon evidence which banner they are standing under, the banner of the Prince of life, or the banner of the prince of darkness. If they could only see these matters as they are presented to me, if they could only see that, as far as their souls are concerned, they are as men standing on the brink of a precipice, ready to slide over to the depths below.” Ibid., 1493, 1494.

Could it really be? Could it be that leading men in Adventism were under the control of Satan and had insulted the Holy Spirit and were on the brink of a precipice? Could it be that the leaders in the Second Advent Movement who had dedicated their lives to spreading the Third Angel’s Message were actually standing under the banner of Satan and not under the banner of the Lord? Can you believe it? According to the Spirit of Prophecy this was the situation.

The question now is not just what should you do as a church member in a situation like this. The question is not just what should you do if you were one of the leaders in this situation. The question is not just what should a prophet do in a situation like this. The question is, What will God do in a situation like this? We know that, “Our divine Lord is equal to any emergency. With Him nothing is impossible.” Signs of the Times, January 3, 1906.

Because of what happened in Minneapolis, in 1888, Seventh-day Adventists were to learn the same bitter lesson that ancient Israel experienced in the wilderness when the Lord said to them, “ye shall feel My breach of promise.” Numbers 14:34. (Geneva Bible).

After this, no longer could they hope that of “the company present at the Conference” (in 1856) some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 131, 132. No longer could they imply assume that everything would progress with no change until the Second Coming of Jesus. Big changes, in the way God was going to finish the work, were on the horizon because they would not accept correction in 1888. Big changes were far less than twenty years away.

To be continued …

Editorial — A Special Testimony

On March 14, 1897, Ellen White sent a special testimony from her home in Cooranbong, Australia, to the Oakland and Battle Creek Churches. This Special Testimony has much counsel on several different subjects that are just as relevant today as they were 100 years ago. Since this testimony is unavailable to many of our readers, we are going to give some excerpts from it in this editorial page.

Use of Tithe

“Ministers have just as much right to their wages as have the workers employed in the Review and Herald Office, and the laborers in the Pacific Publishing House. A great robbery has been practiced in the meager wages paid to some of the workers. If they give their time, and thought, and labor to the service of the Master, they should have wages enough to supply their family with food and clothing.

“The light which the Lord has given me on this subject is that the means in the treasury for the support of the ministers in the different fields is not to be used for any other purpose. If an honest tithe were paid, and the money coming into the treasury were carefully guarded, the ministers would receive a just wage. The auditing committee has often been composed of men who were farmers. These could dress in coarse clothing appropriate for the work they were doing. They raised all they needed as a family to subsist upon, and they knew not what the outlay of a minister must necessarily be when he goes into a new field to labor for perishing souls. The outlook is often hard and discouraging. Some fields when the work is first opened up, are encouraging; but there are other fields that are not so. Both must receive the truth. The minister must labor and pray. He must visit the different families. Frequently he finds the people so poor that they have little to eat and no room in which to sleep. Often means have to be given to the very needy to supply their hunger and cover their nakedness.

Extravagance in Dress

“Let those who take such delight in devoting so largely of their means to clothing their bodies, consider that they are using God’s money, that might be invested in bearing the truth to those that are perishing in their sins.

“The Lord will not serve with the selfish indulgence of these men and women. Had they clothed themselves with modest apparel, as the Holy Spirit has specified they should do, they would have the blessing of God. The atmosphere surrounding their souls would not be as spiritual malaria to others who newly come into the faith. Such examples of show and of the love of dress, of following the fashions of this degenerate age, this leaven of pride and extravagance, is gathering to itself, until the whole lump will be leavened.

Impending Judgments

“The church without living godliness is like the fig tree to which Christ, hungering for food, came and searched for fruit, and found nothing but leaves. This is as it is with many who profess religion; and our position, having as we have great light, great opportunities, great privileges, will bring the curse that came upon the fig tree upon all who have a name to live and are fruitless.

“The Lord is coming speedily, yet, notwithstanding His professed people read the signs of the times,—of famines, of thousands being swept away by earthquakes and floods, by fire, by calamities by sea and land, by plague, by war and bloodshed,—the love of self so deadens the spiritual sense that the day of the Lord will come upon them as a thief in the night, and He declares, ‘They shall not escape.’ The Lord is to judge both quick and dead at His appearing and His kingdom. Will these stand in their pride and self-glorification before that tribunal, when the judgment will sit, and the books will be opened, and every man shall be judged according as his works have been?

“Christ declares, ‘I know thy works.’ Does the Lord seem to be too far away, too indistinct, to produce any appreciable effect on the conduct of the human agent? Shall the hellish shadow of Satan ever be penetrated by living faith? Christ is a personal, present Savior, one who is ordering all things for His own glory. He is accessible at all times if we will come to Him in contrition of soul. I would urge upon all in Battle Creek to wake from your spiritual death-like slumber. Unless you do, it will pass into the slumber of eternal death.”

To be continued…