Satan's purpose is, through his devices, to make of none effect the testimonies of the Spirit of God. If he can lead the minds of the people of God to see things in a perverted light, they will lose confidence in the messages God sends through His servants; then he can the more readily deceive, and not be detected.  12MR 201

(This quote was written many years ago and has now come to pass.) 


The Celebration

Exploring The Fact

And The Reasons

     Quite by accident, earlier this year we learned about a strange new local church, Dan Simpson, a Southeastern California Conference pastor was nearly discharged from the ministry when he attempted to start something new at the Azure Hills SDA Church.  But then the Southeastern California Conference president, Steve Gifford, suddenly transferred him to a new location and gave him full approval to push it as hard as he could.

     The name Simpson gave to it was “Celebration Church,” We did a full write-up on it several months ago.  Standing, waving, swaying, singing to the beat of drums and the strum of electronically-amplified guitars; this may be sound old sound for Pentecostalism, but it is something new for Seventh-day Adventists.

     Since writing that article, gradually we have received disturbing information from other locations in America.  Item: The president of the Arizona Conference was sending specially-selected pastors to go to Oregon to learn how to dramatically modify their local church program.  Item: Pastors in the Midwest are being sent to some place in Oregon to learn how to improve on their Sabbath morning worship services.  Item: A Central California church in San Juaquin Valley near Fresno was recently new-modeled, after close counseling with a church pastor just south of Portland, Oregon.  Item: Certain conference presidents on the east coast are starting to send pastors to some Oregon church “to learn how to do it right.”

     What is going on?

     Then we learned that there is a certain new-modeled church in Northwestern Oregon, in the Portland area, in which the pastor stood up recently and showed his congregation a Spirit Of Prophecy book, mad a disapproving comment or two, and then threw it into a trash can by the podium.  He then held up another (the Counsels to Parents and Teachers and Testimonies type of books), said, “We don’t need this kind of thing,” and threw it into the trash can.  The he held up a couple more and did the same.

     What is going on?

     Then someone told us more about the situation:  There are three new-modeled churches in Oregon: the Milwaulkie SDA Church on the south side of Portland was the pioneer; the Gresham Church in Portland followed soon after; and the Springfield SDA Church in Springfield is getting started.

     Then we receive a second phone call from an irate Adventist about some church near Portland, where the pastor took a trash can, set it beside the speaker’s desk in front of the church, and threw Spirit Of Prophecy books into it in full sight of the congregation with the comment, “We don’t need this!”  The congregation seemed to approve of the action.  Then the pastor preached a sermon on “love.”

     Another person called to tell us about the largest Seventh-day Adventist church in Oregon.  He said it was going like wildfire, and church officials all over the country are excited about it.  Over a thousand people were attending it weekly.

     About that time, another friend from Central Oregon telephoned, and I asked him to go up and visit the church.  He said he would.  His later report was to the effect that they had a band and, like the Celebration church in Redlands, California, which we wrote about recently, emphasized music, happy feelings, and no attention with or concern about doctrine or standards.

     Then a telephone call came from New York State.  The faithful believer on the line almost wept as he told of conditions at the Buffalo, New York, SDA Church, where the pastor has brought in a set of drums and the congregation loves it.  The caller also told about Herkimer, New York, SDA Church, where they have hand clapping, and the pastor publicly calls himself a “Pentecostal Adventist.”  The puzzled caller then added, “A lot of stuff seems to be coming from Oregon, from what we can learn.” He was puzzled because he could not figure out how the Adventist congregations in New York State could be so dramatically affected by happenings way out in Oregon.

     If he only knew.  Workers are being sent out there by the carloads to learn how to implement the new Adventism.

     Item:  A junior camp in Oregon, where they had swinging, swaying to music, doing the twist, yelling, and more besides.

     Germany in the early 1930s used the same method: start them early.

     Item:  We are told that one of our churches in Phoenix Arizona, area had its pastor sent through an Arizona Conference-paid Milwaukie training program, and is now going full steam at his Phoenix church.

     It is possible that some of the above-mentioned local churches have not modernized to the extent which we are told.  If they have not done so, they can prove it by faithful adherence, week by week, to our historical beliefs, standards and patterns.  But this is the report that I now bring to you.  It is a concerned report, and it tells of brush fires—Pentecostal fires—starting up here and there across America.

     Have you ever seen men start brush fires?  They rush back and forth with faggots, setting them afire in the main flames, and then running rapidly here and there, reaching down and starting new blazes.

     The fires are being started.  Are you ready for them?  Will you stand true when they come to your area?  It is a matter between you and God, and no one can prepare for you.

     I ponder all this.  What could it mean?  Have our leaders gone crazy?  Then the answer dawned.  A key word is “backsliders.” Let me explain.

     For decades we, as a church, have played down standards, and type church in order to grasp the meaning of the change.  All types of Adventists come on Sabbath morning to worship together in the celebration church;  please grasp the significance of that fact.  This is a potential power keg.  A very pluralistic society comprises the membership of such a congregation.

     The solution to the problem is (1) the standing rule that the celebration church is never to discuss “Bible” (i.e., standards or doctrine: not to mention Spirit of Prophecy) in Sabbath morning services, and (2) have mid-week small-group meetings, at which time “Bible” can be discussed.  Each group is supposed to contain from 5 to 15 people.

     Why only a small group?  Because in the same way, the various types of Adventists, Protestants, worldlings, perverts, or whatever else is regularly fellowshipping at the Sabbath morning services,--can get together with like-minded friends at mid-week gatherings and visit together.  They can socialize and expound on their ideas of Scripture, Ellen White, current events, or what all.

     The result is that they all can remain bound in the bundle of the local celebration church.  There will be no apparent arguments or splits in the main body, for it never broaches any controversial topic together.

     Seriously now: can you imagine a church without the Bible!  Well, here it is; I present it to you: the celebration church.  Its members call themselves Adventists.  Not one time do they gather on Sabbath mornings to study and discuss the Bible together.  Never do they hear a Spirit of Prophecy quotation on Sabbath morning. 

     The pastor may open to a soothing passage and may make soothing applications, but that happens in Episcopalian churches also.  The congregation may rock and they may roll, and they may swing and they may sway, as in Pentecostal churches.  But the celebration church will not open the Word of God and discuss it together, as in regular Seventh-day Adventist congregations.

     Yet it is producing numerical success, and that is what thrills certain of our leaders.  At the convention, Pastor David Snyder explained how he brought his “celebration-type worship service” at Milwaulkie Church from 135 members to over 1,000, and Pastor Don James told how the Gresham church originally had 200 attending and 500 on the books, and now 7-800 regularly attend weekly.  Don Jacobson, President of the Oregon Conference, told the assemble delegates that he was looking forward to the day when every Seventh-day Adventist congregation would be a celebration church.

     But please understand, part of the presentation at the gathering of the NACBLCSG was very worthwhile.  An outstanding example was the presentations made by the pastor of the Norwalk Spanish SDA Church, who is using small group bands in his congregation in the pattern urged by the Spirit of prophecy: to study God’s Word, learn how to give studies, and go out and win souls.  The Norwalk Spanish Church is not a celebration church; it is a soul-winning church!

     Please do not think that it is wrong to study God’s Word at home or in little groups!  This is very much needed.  The problem is when it is done in order to insure success of a Sabbath morning celebration church, where every one fears to offend the sinners by telling them they must put away any of their sins!

     Aside from the Norwalk presentation, most of the other presentations were by pastors and leaders urging those in attendance to use the bands to help bring backsliders back into the church “and help them heal.”

     In summary then, the message of the NACBLCSG was this:  “Small groups for Bible study and nurturing, and Sabbath for fellowship and celebration.”

     The latest development is an entire issue of the Adventist Review.  Undated but in fine print it is the November 2, 1989 issue) and in color, this issue is meant for educating the church and sharing with backsliders.  Article titles include “Won’t You Come Home?” “Homecoming,” “A Listening Ear,” “Can I Come Back, and “Are Your Hurting?”  How thankful we can be for opportunities to bring back our missing members, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters.  But we must do more that bring them back into the church; we must also bring them back to the faith.

    One article entitles,  “We need your differences,” focuses on the need for many types of people in the church.  As it says, some “don’t have much time for church work since they are so busy with the symphony, the art gallery, the museum.  Yet they have made some remarkable contacts for the church in the community and, on occasion, have been known to be quite generous in supporting worthy projects.” (p.17)

     We are told that in the church there are and needs to be “a quadrant of four basic types: a double conservative, a double liberal, and two types that are half-and-half.  The church urgently needs all four perspectives—and can make excellent use of all the variations in between.”  (p. 17)

     On page 7 we find the half-page full-color picture of Pastor David Snyder of the Milwaukie Church, along with the words we quoted earlier, summarizing his numerical success story.

     And at the heart of it, that is our problem.  Some of us want numerical success more than we want conformity to the Word of the living God.  The right quantity of numbers apparently means that we are doing okay.  The numbers bring assurance, help church executives hold onto their jobs, and gives them courage to press on toward higher positions in the denomination.  Upward mobility is based on faithfulness in working well with numbers.

     With the celebration churches, Adventist pluralism is coming of age.  Some of our members have the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy, others have wine with their meals.  Some have heartfelt sighing and crying for the sins in the church, others have pay-as-you-go restaurant meals after church and the theater or opera afterward.

     Instead of returning to God, men are hardening themselves in their worldliness, while calling it “their healing process.”

     It is time for the faithful to pray all the more earnestly.

Pilgrim’s Rest