History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church
How did the Seventh-day Adventist Church Begin?
The Seventh-day Adventist Church arose out of the great international Adventist revival of the early to middle nineteenth century. The revival was witnessed most strongly in the United States and centred upon the belief that the return of Christ to redeem His saints was imminent.
The most notable of the Advent preachers was William Miller, a licensed Baptist minister of New York State. However, the great religious awakening of the period was not confined to one religious denomination. Its influence was witnessed within the ranks of almost all Protestant groups and in all continents.
Miller, using Biblical prophecy as his guide, preached that the return of Christ was to take place in 1844 setting his final date at October 22nd of that year. Many thousands looked earnestly and confidently to this day and with enthusiasm spread the gospel of Christ's soon return. The failure of Christ to return on the specified date led to great confusion among the Advent believers. Some, with shattered faith, divorced themselves from Christian fellowship thereafter, others returned to the churches from which many of them had been disfellowshipped. However, some sought to re-examine the prophecy, which had led to their hopes, in the conviction that their interpretation had been wrong. Attention was centred especially upon the prophecy of Daniel 8:14 and the meaning of "the cleansing of the Sanctuary" which the Millerites had thought to be the Second Coming of Christ. As careful and prayerful study was engaged upon, it became clear to these believers that Miller had been wrong in concluding that the cleansing of Sanctuary referred to the return of Christ to claim His faithful and to destroy the Earth. Rather the prophecy was seen to refer to the great work of investigation in the heavenly sanctuary and that the great work of God's people was to proclaim this message to the world prior to the second coming of Christ.
As further investigation of Scripture took place, especially of the Book of Revelation, the importance of the Seventh-day Sabbath became evident as the believers found no Biblical basis for Sunday sacredness. They saw as their divinely appointed task the heralding of the return of Christ, the re-establishment of a Bible-centred faith and the restoration of the sanctity of God's holy day - the seventh.
It was not until 1863 that this group, mainly centred in the New England states of America, formed themselves into a formal Church organisation. However the name "Seventh-day Adventist" had been adopted three years earlier to indicate two of the most vital beliefs of the adherents.
Convinced that theirs was a message to be taken to all the world, these early believers had an ardent missionary zeal which has led to a vigorous evangelistic emphasis so that the 3,500 members in 125 churches of the United States, in 1863 had grown to 1,661,657 members in 14,980 churches in 1966 throughout the world.
The first non-Protestant Christian country entered was Russia, where an Adventist minister went in 1886. On October 20, 1890, the schooner Pitcairn was launched at San Francisco and was soon engaged in carrying missionaries to the Pacific Islands. Seventh-day Adventist workers first entered non Christian countries in 1894 Gold Coast (Ghana), West Africa, and Matabeleland, South Africa. The same year saw missionaries entering South America, and in 1896 there were representatives in Japan. The Church now has established work in 209 countries.
While there had been some earlier contact with Adventist teaching, the first official church representatives, S. N. Haskell, J.O. Corliss, W. E. M. C. Israel, H. L. Scott and W. E. Arnold, arrived in Australia in 1885. By 1967 there were 38,184 church members in 374 churches throughout Australia and New Zealand. That adherents would be considerably in excess of the figures quoted can be judged by the fact that only adult baptised members are included in the figures.
It is not surprising that a body with such zeal and purpose should seek to utilise every avenue to forward the gospel and to train its children and youth for service. It was with this vision, that the educational work was commenced so that in 1966 there were 5,139 schools, colleges and universities throughout the world with 380,444 students.
Today the Seventh-day Adventist church is organised on a worldwide basis with headquarters in Washington D. C. The General Conference, as the world field is called, is divided into thirteen divisions of which the South Pacific Division including Australia, New Zealand and almost all of the South Pacific area, is one. Each Division in turn is divided into Union Conferences and the Union Conferences into local conferences. The local conferences are made up of the churches within their boundaries. Each Division, Union, Local Conference and Church has autonomy, although each seeks to cooperate within the framework of the General Conference policy.
At each level, the education departments and boards are responsible to the executive committees of the organisation and must function consistently with their policies. The executive committee responsible must ratify any major decision.
Seventh-day Adventists are one of the fastest growing Christian churches in the world today adding one new member by baptism every 38 seconds of every day and passed the 10 million mark in 1998 with an average of 2,100+ people baptised each day.
Today there are approximately 10,163,414 baptised Adventists around the world. In Australia there are 48,767 baptised Adventists. The entire South Pacific area has a membership of 296,021 in 1,679 churches. This includes Australia and New Zealand.
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