A Statement from Northwest Adventist Church Leaders
A recent statement from the Carolina Conference officers regarding concerns about “spiritual formation” in Adventist churches and institutions has been adopted by North Pacific Union Conference officers and the presidents of the Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Upper Columbia and Washington conferences. This represents an active call for appropriate spiritual discipleship and growth among Northwest churches and an appeal to some well-meaning members to cease their promotion of unfounded rumors.
By now most of us have heard about spiritual formation. This term has become a buzzword for various, questionable attempts to gain a meaningful experience with God by using such methods as centering prayer, emptying your mind, repeating mantras and other forms of mysticism.
Without question, these are all practices that are unbiblical, are dangerous and should have no place in the Christian life. Indeed, these practices should rightfully concern us.
Now, while we understand it is possible that some Adventists are, or have been, involved in some of these unbiblical spiritual practices, we believe this likely applies to only a very small percentage of those in God’s church. We also feel it important to clearly state that our church leadership within the North Pacific Union Conference does NOT condone such practices, nor any related part of this emerging church movement. We believe such things are a threat to our spiritual lives.
Do you know what else concerns us? We are concerned we do not hear enough about true, biblical methods of forming and growing our spiritual lives. Philippians 4:8 addresses the biblical meditation we all desperately need to pursue: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.” Some other biblical counsel in this area advises us: “I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of your deeds” (Psalm 77:12) and “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).
God’s acceptable methods of meditation do not involve emptying your mind, but filling it with positive, true and uplifting thoughts of God from His Word. In our fast-track world, we desperately need to spend more time with God to discern His will. In Desire of Ages, we read:
“In all who are under the training of God is to be revealed a life that is not in harmony with the world, its customs, or its practices; and everyone needs to have a personal experience in obtaining a knowledge of the will of God. We must individually hear Him speaking to the heart. When every other voice is hushed, and in quietness we wait before Him, the silence of the soul makes more distinct the voice of God. He bids us, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ Ps. 46:10. Here alone can true rest be found. And this is the effectual preparation for all who labor for God. Amid the hurrying throng, and the strain of life’s intense activities, the soul that is thus refreshed will be surrounded with an atmosphere of light and peace. The life will breathe out fragrance, and will reveal a divine power that will reach men’s hearts” (p. 363).
Yes, we should be concerned that some Adventists may be dabbling in the dangerous, unbiblical practices some term spiritual formation. We should be concerned we are perhaps not taught enough of the Bible’s counsel about how to grow our spiritual lives. These things do concern us. But do you know what may be the most dangerous element in all this?
We find the most dangerous and destructive element is the time and energy some folks put into studying and warning others about these errors. We believe this is distracting them and others from spending time in the truth. Our sincere prayer is that we don’t fall into Satan’s trap of feeling we need to know all the details of the errors out there. Experts on counterfeit money spend their time studying the genuine. Knowing the real thing is the best way to spot a fake. In reality, if we spend all our time chasing the devil’s rabbits, we will not have time left to savor the Savior! Satan has a plan to keep us distracted. Study the truth, and you will not stray from it.
Focusing on the dangers of the nonbiblical forms of spiritual growth may just scare us away from a true, growing, saving relationship with God. We recently heard of a young lady who proclaimed she had stopped praying to God because she was afraid the devil would take control of her. What was her focus? Her focus was on the dangers of false prayer, and it turned her away from the truth and the comfort and peace the Holy Spirit can give us through prayer. We can become entrapped in fear and become paranoid to the point that our faith can be challenged.
Yes, Ephesians 5:11 tells us to have “no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather, expose them.” We are to expose error, not meditate on it. Nowhere in the Bible does it say we are to meditate on the errors and works of the enemy. Instead we are to meditate on the truth and beautiful character of our God.
So the question we need to ask ourselves is: What captivates our time and attention more — truth or error? Is the majority of our reading and listening focused on the Bible and truth or the devil’s deceptions? Would it not be better for us to become experts on our Deliverer, rather than the devil?
If we commit and focus on the truth of God’s Word, spend quality time in prayer, meditate on His Word and will, and share it with others, we will each grow spiritually and God’s kingdom will grow exponentially.
In our estimation, we should be most careful to find the beautiful path of balance and harmony that Christ desires to see in His church. There are really two ditches along this path — one ditch is a focus and obsession about conspiracy theories in the church where we view ourselves as the guardians of the church and virtually see a demon behind every bush, while the other ditch is to dismiss the warning lights provided to us by God’s messenger, throw caution to the wind and be “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14, NASB).
The Lord has provided us with a beautiful, balanced path of truth that is centered in Christ. The prayer of our hearts is that His remnant church will stay that course.
Please join us in earnestly praying for the church to be ready when Jesus comes.
— Leadership of the North Pacific Union, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Upper Columbia and Washington conferences