The Right to Worship
After striving so hard that our families shall have it
shall we remove it from others?
What are the
salvation doctrines? They are the beliefs which could cause you to lose out
on heaven if you incorrectly understood and practiced them.
One would be
obedience to the law of God by enabling faith in Jesus Christ.
Another would be
acceptance of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Master.
Would the Church
be a salvation doctrine? In one sense, it would not. We are told that many
will be saved who are in the fallen churches. They studied Gods Word,
accepted Christ as their Saviour, and lived up to all the light they had.
But, in another
sense, the Church could be a salvation issue. What if people were required,
for one reason or another, to attend a congregation where error was wont to
be taught and practiced. Yet, although they were attending, they were
convicted they should not do so. Why should they not do so? Because they
had become aware that they and their loved ones were being spiritually hurt
themselves, more than they were spiritually helping others at that local
In such a
situation, they would be compromising themselves and endangering their
children's future. It might, as a result, be possible for them, and/or
their children, to be lost. They recognized the danger, yet they continued
attending. In addition, they had the advanced light which many Seventh-day
As you know, the present writer speaks
out when others will not. He has nothing to lose, and there are no strings
attached. In this study, an important principle will be clarified, one you
need to be aware of. It could mean a better decision on your part, at some
future time, and the saving of a loved one.
DEFINITIONS OF CHURCH
Before going any
further, let us more accurately define a certain word: church.
a word that is inaccurate perceived, simply because it can mean too many
different things. Here are twelve of those meanings:
1 - The local
congregation. (This might be a denominational church or an independent
church; but, in this paper, we will limit it to a denominational church;
i.e., a church under the rule and authority of the conference, union, and
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.)
2 - A church
at home (a single family worshiping at home).
3 - A home
church (several families worshiping independently together in a home or
other location. An independent church could be the same, or it might
mean independent worship by a group in an actual church building).
4 - The local
5 - The conference
6 - All
higher-level church headquarters.
7 - The
General Conference officers.
8 - Church
leaders. The present writer has seen letters on official stationary, as
well as articles in official publications, which clearly indicate that our
leaders really believe they are the church [the reason why they alone are to
make all the decisions], and the church members are only members of the
church [which are to abide by those decisions]).
- The entire structure, including all its members, workers,
buildings, and equipment. This is the organization. It can also be called the
denomination. In this study, denomination will stand for the
main Seventh-day Adventist Church.
10 - Various
other churches Protestant, Catholic, etc.
11 - The true
church on earth, which is composed of the commandment-keeping people of
12 - The church
in heaven, composed of the angels and beings on other worlds.
In the Spirit of
Prophecy writings, the word, church, (by itself) often means #11. At
times, she also used the word for #1 and #9, and, of course, #10.
There are two major issues which are contested in regard to church relationship: (1) Should you belong to the Adventist denomination or should you leave it? (2) The other is less noticeable, but equally important: Does someone else have the right to command where you will worship?
We will briefly
consider the principles determining what each of us should do regarding the
first question. Then we will turn our attention to the second.
SHOULD YOU REMAIN IN THE DENOMINATIONAL CHURCH?
continue to attend the mainline church body or should you pull away? There
is an immense debate over this issue. One reason is because it is such an
emotional issue. Another is that there are both reasons for remaining and
reasons for leaving. A third factor is that situations vary in different
seem to be pulled in two directions. What should you do?
As we examine
the basic principles involved, and weigh their application in each local
situation, we find that, indeed, solutions do vary.
may be good reasons why you should continue attending a denominational
congregation near you:
(1) Every local
congregation is unique. Some are Celebrationists, others are quite liberal,
others are veering away from our historic beliefs and practices, while
others are still all right. No one can say that they all are bad, for that is not true. Local churches vary. (Frankly, they
even do among some of the independent local churches.)
(2) You may be
able to attend a local denominational congregation that is fairly good, and
you may be convicted that you should attend.
(3) Your local
denominational congregation may be veering off, yet you are convinced that
you may able to help others by remaining and urging right beliefs and
standards. This especially applies if you have no underage children still at
(4) There are
definite instances in which a new pastor has brought division, compromise,
and modernism into a local church. But, later, he was replaced by a godly,
historic pastor who raised the standards and brought the flock back to
Gods Word. At such times, historic believers have returned.
Second, you may find it best, part or all of the time, to worship separate from a denominational congregation.
(1) Your open
stand for what is right may have resulted in your being disfellowshipped or
so crowded into a corner that you cannot do otherwise.
children may be seriously at risk, if you remain in that congregation.
Depending on conditions in the local church, this can be a serious aspect of
personal study of Gods Word may have convinced you that, in view of
conditions which you find utterly abhorrent, you must separate. Although a
sorrowful decision, you may be convinced that this is necessary.
congregation is different, so are historic believers. Some of the faithful
do best remaining inside and resisting the apostasy, while others find it
best to leave.
What is the
effect on the children? This is a very important aspect of the problem.
On one hand, it
is urgent that we instruct our little ones in sound doctrine and standards,
and warn them to avoid the errors of modernism. We must not be quiet about
the matter, lest they will grow up ignorant of the issues. If that happens,
we are bound to be sorry later.
We are told that
apostasy helps the faithful study and strengthens their faith.
But, on the
other hand, too much exposure to it is not good, either for our little
ones or ourselves. Could you maintain your Christian experience if you
attended a Celebration church week after week? I doubt it. Soon you would be
a dissipated Christian, just like all the rest.
In addition, it
is not well to constantly be so embroiled in turmoil that our little ones
come to dislike religious topics.
you do, carry your children with you! Keep them at your side. Do not fight
the battle against error, while they merely stand on the sidelines and
wonder what is going on. The best way to approach this is to maintain daily
(morning and evening) worship periods in your own home! Sing, pray, and
study Gods Word. Teach the truth, practice the truth, and warn against
error. Worship sessions do not have to be long, but they should be
worthwhile. And they should reach the heart.
SHOULD NOT EVERYONE STAY OR LEAVE?
Now we are
approaching the heart of our discussion in this paper. No one has been given
the authority to require that all must remain in the denomination or leave
discussed many reasons why each local situation varies. People must be left
free to move as, through His Word, God guides them.
attendance is remarkably like tithe paying, so let us compare the two: No
one is to insist that your tithe is to be paid to a certain place. The Watson
Letter and other Inspired statements make that clear. (If you do not
have a copy, write for our two-part Spirit of Prophecy tract study: The
Likewise, no one
is authorized by Heaven to require that you worship at a certain place.
there is a move on foot in the denomination to demand that both tithe and
worship are denominational property.
worship, it is strongly urged that members are to be disciplined, if they
attend any independent meeting. Yet they can go to a movie house and even
mention it next Sabbath during the worship service and no one will reprove
conferences are becoming stricter on enforcing payment of all tithe to the
local congregation or members will be stripped of offices and perhaps
On the tithe,
Gods Word is clear that tithe may be paid outside the regular
channels to do a work which is not being done, which should be
done. Read the Watson Letter. The points are clearly made, and those
who choose to exercise this freedom are commended by the prophet. No one is
to tell you where you are to pay your tithe.
On freedom of
worship, the Word of God maintains that all are to be free to worship God
according to the dictates of conscience. Read Great Controversy, 289-296;
the principle is clearly stated. No one is to tell you where you are to
THE RIGHT TO WORSHIP
You have an
inviolate right to worship God in accordance with the open Scriptures and
the dictates of your own conscience. No one else is to attempt to override
this, and force you to worship where you believe you should not be or in a
manner you conscientiously reject.
It is dangerous
for a person to go counter to his enlightened conscience. Luther said, Here
I stand; I can do no other. Live like Luther.
BEWARE OF THOSE WHO WOULD COERCE THAT RIGHT
As you know,
there is a controversy going on in our denomination and in the independent
ministries over whether or not anyone should belong to the denomination,
or even attend its churches.
First, I want to
tell you that the question of whether or not you should attend a
denominational church's your business. It is your decision, no one
Second, I want
to tell you that, as an adult, you should be wary of anyone or any group who
demands that you or anyone else conform to their wishes on the matter.
not force others to worship their way! It is a non sequitur
[illogical inference] to think they should! They are to counsel, plead, and
pray, but they are not to step beyond that and demand.
It is not
necessary that you obtain permission from the conference, your local pastor,
or your employer to attend a worship service somewhere. That is a decision
between you and God.
By now you have
read that Great Controversy passage. Must we build another Mayflower
and sail away in search of freedom of worship?
We fully agree
that the matter of church attendance is a serious one, but the decision has
to be yours. Others can only give counsel, as I have done in this paper.
VIOLATING THE RIGHT TO WORSHIP
Not only in the
denomination, but in the Independent Ministries, the idea is strengthening
that worship must only be done in certain places. This may seem incredible,
but it is none-the-less true.
In one well-known Independent Ministry, anyone who interviews for employment will be told that they cannot attend any denominational church service or they will be fired.
well-acquainted with a very mature family, whose children are also mature
and in their late teens. This family, who are solid in their beliefs, choose
to continue attending local denominational churches in order to help the
members resist the inroads of apostasy. Who is to say they are not to do
that? Yet their employing organization, whose papers you regularly receive
in the mail, made such a demand. They left that Independent ministry.
We have recently learned that another, equally well-known Independent Ministry has for the past two years required its workers to attend denominational churches or worship at home alone.
working there, managed to find one
denominational church quite some distance away. They would drive
there each Sabbath for church service and arrived home exhausted. Yet,
even in that local congregation, apostasy was gradually taking over. But
they did not want to stay home alone.
desperation for Christian fellowship on Sabbath mornings, they got together
with a couple other worker families and started a home church.
But when the
leaders of their employing organization learned of this, the families were
called in and summarily told they must either attend a denominational
church or stay home and worship alone. No home churches! they were
At a subsequent
board meeting, it was noted, We must make sure we don't get any more
home church people in here.
Independent Ministry is being supported by tithe sent in by people who are
worshiping in home churches, and look to it to send speakers to speak in
their home churches! Yet, back at headquarters, it forbids home churches!
there several years, this family (the father was for several years on the
board of directors of that ministry) turned in their resignations and moved
have protested, the situation continues unabated at that ministry. Families
are pressured to continue attending local denominational churches, when they
believe that, to continue doing so, will endanger their children's
This is wrong!
Those parents should not be pressured into doing what they do not believe
they should do.
Why is such
pressure being applied? The leadership is tired of resisting heavy
conference and union opposition. Yet if reconciliation is their decision,
they should publicly tell everyone, as Ty Gibson did. He came out openly and
declared that he had met with conference officials, was making peace with
them, and was returning funds to them.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
It is simple
enough. First, make your own decision as to where you will worship,
and let no man tell you what you are to do.
if you decide to consider applying for a position as a worker at an
Independent Ministry, ask them up front: If I work for you, will I and my
family be free to attend any church we want denominational, home church,
or worship at home alone?
consider the answer you receive. The question, Are your workers free to
worship anywhere they wish? touches on a fundamental right.
if you are on the board of an Independent Ministry, you should study the
Bible and Spirit of Prophecy, and make sure your organization is not trying
to coerce the religious rights of your workers. You want the religious
freedom to worship as you wish; why try to deny that same right to others?
Are we so quickly come out of one coercive organization, that we must
form another? Will we ever learn?
As a suggestive
guideline for any group looking for a practical pattern, I will mention the
one we have followed here for over a decade: We specifically tell
prospective workers, up front, that they can attend any church they wish
(denominational or home), or not attend at all if they choose. But we do set
down two related requirements: If they are to work here, (1) they are not to
demand that others do as they do, and (2) only those itinerant speakers will
speak on campus, which are teaching things which we believe are in agreement
with the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. However, they are free to attend any
meetings off campus that they wish. And, in on-campus home churches, they
are free to discuss whatever
they wish as they see best.
guideline has been quite adequate to insure personal religious liberty for
WILL THIS CAUSE HARDSHIP OR INCONVENIENCE?
conscience, enlightened by the Inspired Writings, is more important than all
else. It is better that you starve out on the street, than that you violate
your right to worship as you see best.
Will asking for
your worship rights from employers prove to be a hardship to them? Far from
it, they have no right, in the first place, to control how you worship God!
assurance in advance that your worship rights will be held inviolate, you
help keep them from moving in the direction of popery. You are helping them
keep on track. In addition, you are avoiding for yourself a hurtful
separation experience later on. Find out to start with, what the place is
What should you
do if your present employer limits where you and your family can worship?
Pray about it earnestly, and act on your convictions. You did not compromise
earlier to hold a job, why start now?
The older ones
among us will recall the Norman Rockwell painting, entitled The Four
Freedoms, reprints of which hung in post offices and stores all over
America during World War II. As I recall, the four were Freedom of
Worship, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of the Press, and
Freedom of Speech.
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees you the right to worship as
you please. Let no church, employer, or preacher take it away from you.
SIGHING AND CRYING
this study, keep in mind the strong statements which appear in 5
Testimonies, 212-216 and 472-475. Read both chapters
We are to sigh
and cry over the increasing apostasy in the churches of Adventism. Indeed,
we are told that those only who do this will receive the seal of God!
Pilgrims Rest is
sighing and crying. We are pointing out errors and wrongdoing, and pleading
for changes. But all need to do so.
It is urgent
that, those of us who leave the church because of apostasy, continue
sighing and crying to it!
That is the
clear-cut position given in those two Testimony chapters. We are not
to run away from the denomination and turn our backs on it. We are to
continue to seek to counsel, warn, and instruct church members in the right
way, as outlined in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. In addition, we are to
do missionary work, and share missionary literature with those out in the
You may be one
of those who have found that, to save your family, you must worship apart
from the mainline church. Yet you can still speak to church members and/or
mail them tracts and papers that they need. And you can keep praying for
president that I worked under, when I was in the Adventist ministry, was a
man who tried to force people on a variety of matters, such as church
worship. For such reasons, I left the ministry.
Later, I moved
my family to Sacramento, California, and learned we were (at that time)
close to the North American headquarters of both branches of the German
Reform Church (they call themselves the Seventh-day Adventist Reform
in that area, we made
friends with many present and former German Reform members, who told us
stories about the cruel, repressive tactics used by that organization to
control the minds and worship of its members.
In later years,
we also continued to see the sorry results of harsh measures of repression
by the mainline church.
have the Inspired Writings. They contain principles which are clear and
which, in the strength of Christ, all can follow.
Let us practice
liberty of worship; let us grant it to those around us.
upon her service was required by law, and unauthorized assemblies for
religious worship were prohibited. Great Controversy, 290.
to the requirements of Heaven will keep man from apostasy. God has bestowed
upon man great light and many blessings; but unless this light and these
blessings are accepted, they are no security against disobedience and
apostasy. When those whom God has exalted to positions of high trust turn
from Him to human wisdom, their light becomes darkness. Their entrusted
capabilities become a snare. Prophets and Kings, 83.
Christian is a standard-bearer of righteous principles. Let there be no
lowering of the standard, no countenancing of wrong movements. It was while
men slept that the enemy sowed tares among the wheat. It is the unwatchful,
sleeping condition of Gods servants that implicates them with their
associates in guilt. The only way to escape being an unfaithful watchman is
to watch and not allow to continue the evils that can be checked. To sustain
by silence a work that God cannot approve is to abet Satan's work, and
this results in the loss of souls. No one should be at ease until he has
done all that it is possible for him to do to counterwork evil. 16
Manuscript Releases, 3.