Q&A with a pastor at the crossroads (REPOST)

Image: istockphotoWhen my resignation became public, I received a phone call from a pastor-friend encouraging me and telling me, in essence, “I’m next.” God used him to encourage me when others were trying to sew seeds of doubt. I’ve asked him to tell his story of pastoring at the crossroads. For obvious reasons, I am featuring his interview anonymously, but I invite you to pray for him during this transition.

Q. How long have you been a Seventh-day Adventist pastor?

A. I’ve been a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for 10 years.

Image: istockphotoQ. What made you start questioning the doctrines?

A. I made it a habit to read my Bible from cover to cover twice a year using different versions of the Bible. The more I read my Bible, the more I began to realize that many of the doctrinal teachings I learned when I became an Adventist did not harmonize with what I was reading in the Bible.

Q. What kind of tension has this created for you as an SDA pastor?

A. The tension it has created is in the area of evangelistic efforts.  Whereas I used to preach 4 week or more meetings teaching the doctrines of the church, I haven’t done so since I began questioning the doctrines.  I also refrain from preaching those particular doctrines whenever I preach as part of my weekly preaching schedule.  In my preaching, I stick to what I believe to be the central theme of the Bible and that is Christ and him crucified.

Q. What types of things do you do, unorthodox, to share the Gospel with your
members?

A. What I do to share the gospel with my members is preach the gospel.  I may not preach the Adventist doctrines in the traditional way that members are accustomed to hearing them, but my preaching is Christ-centered and gospel-centered.  My philosophy is I am never wrong for preaching Jesus and Jesus alone.  If my members are going to make accusations about my preaching then they are going to have to accuse me of preaching too much Jesus.  And if they feel I am preaching too much Jesus then it shows that they have the problem not me.  I am very upfront with my congregation and have let them know that they will hear Jesus preached from Sabbath to Sabbath and if they want to hear other stuff then this particular church is not for them at this time while I’m the pastor and they are welcome to find another church that will be more suitable to their spiritual needs.  Another way I share the gospel is through a weekly Bible study that I give where we study the Bible and the Bible only.  The Bible study provides the opportunity for the Bible to speak for itself concerning the centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Q. What are some of your fears about leaving?

A. I can’t say that I have any fears about leaving, but I do believe that timing is important.  God has allowed me to open the eyes of many of my members to the importance of the gospel.  With this in mind, I am constantly praying and asking God to move me to the next phase of my ministry outside of the Adventist church whenever he is ready.  He has not done so as of yet, but I do feel that the time is drawing nearer.   I believe he hasn’t done so yet because those who I have been sharing the gospel with are still not ready to handle it on their own yet.  They need a little bit more time and teaching and then I believe my work will be done with them and the Lord will move me on and out of the Adventist ministry.

Q. How does your wife feel about leaving the SDA Church?

A. I shared with my wife what the Lord revealed to me as I read my Bible over and over again.  She was in full agreement and has supported me in my decision to leave when the Lord says it’s time.  She is looking forward to us doing ministry in a setting that she feels will bring us greater blessings from the Lord.

Q. Have you discussed these issues with anyone? Do you feel free to? Who can you talk to?

A. I have discussed my position with other pastors, but not in full detail.  Unfortunately, it’s difficult to discuss this type of thing in full detail without there being some type of backlash.  I drop a few seeds here and there, but even that gets you labeled as having a rebellious mind.

Q. What is keeping you in the SDA ministry right now?

A. My work is not quite done so until that time I will remain in the Adventist church.

Q. What are some things you do to stay sane and avoid having to teach doctrines you don’t believe in?

A. If there is a doctrine that I don’t believe in that has to be preached or taught I usually bring in a speaker who will teach the doctrine so that I don’t have to preach or teach what I don’t believe.  This approach has not been a problem for me as of yet.

Q. Describe the emotional tension that you live with.

A. Emotionally it saddens me when I hear the work-based approach that many of my members subscribe to. I wish that I could show them the difference between the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Adventist message, but I know that if I start to expose the SDA message then the gospel won’t be received in the right spirit.

Q. What are you looking forward to (beyond Adventism)?

A. I’m looking forward to pastoring a congregation where I can preach and teach the pure and undefiled gospel of Jesus Christ without having to worry about it coming back to haunt me or being labeled as rebellious by others.  I am looking forward to leading people who feel free to express their love for Jesus during the weekly worship service.  I look at my congregation from week to week and they have no joy in Jesus.  They look like they are in bondage and the truth is they are in bondage to what Paul calls ANOTHER gospel.

Q. How do you think friends, family, ministry supervisors, colleagues and congregation will receive your resignation?

A. I think it will be a shock to those in the Adventist community because it’s hard for SDA’s to believe that anybody would leave because of the message.  The message seems so solid so it can’t be the message, it has to be something more than that.

Q. Do you feel pressure from anyone to leave or stay?

A. I don’t feel any pressure to leave or stay.  I have a wonderful congregation and I feel bad that I will eventually leave them, but hopefully I will have sowed enough of the gospel seed before I leave that it will take root and sprout in my absence and those who I have taught the true gospel message will continue the work.