Seventh-day Adventism is a particular faith. When formalizing the organization of the church in 1863, the Adventist pioneers chose to put that peculiarity and particularity in the name of the new denomination. Particularity is important, but sometimes zooming in close can cause us to miss some of the bigger picture.

When we can see the brushstrokes, we experience a painting in one way. When we see the painting from the other side of the room, the brush strokes are still vital elements of the artwork, but we might also see, respond to, and understand the painting in a different and larger way. This longer vantage point might also be a way to better appreciate the individual textures and brush strokes in their proper context.

Seventh-day Adventist Church is a particular way of describing our faith. But if we step back for a wider view, we might appreciate the unique elements of our faith differently. Provisionally describing ourselves as “Sabbath Hope Grace-people” seems an experiment worth trying—that could offer a greater and more practical authenticity when we return to the particularity of what we believe.


The seventh day is an important particular of Adventist faith. It is not any Sabbath—we insist—but the seventh- day Sabbath. For much of our history, we have put a lot of effort into arguing against other Sabbaths. We might have won some arguments, but we have often lost the larger battles as increasingly our society has turned away from any kind of Sabbath-keeping. Now we like to claim to be one of the largest Sabbath-keeping faith communities in the world, which ignores the reality of the general disregard of Sabbath in most consumer cultures, where our particular claim is cause only for incomprehension for most people.

There has been some renewed interest in Sabbath in recent years. But our insistence on particularity has meant that such interest is suspect among many Adventists, we have created barriers to contributing to these conversations, and others have been hesitant to engage with our presentations of Sabbath. For example, most of the best books on the topic of Sabbath have not been written by Seventh-day Adventists1 and even those worthwhile books that have been written by Adventist scholars and authors2 have not received wide readership or acceptance, either within or beyond Adventism.

As important as it might be, Sabbath as Saturday is nowhere near as interesting or inviting as Sabbath as rest, delight, and liberation. While we continue to insist on the importance of Sabbath as a particular day commanded by God, we need to take that step back to rediscover these other components of Sabbath and its practice. After we do this work, we might then be able to share how the particularity of the seventh day can actually enhance these more meaningful aspects of Sabbath. That we rest when Sabbath comes to us, rather than when it suits us, gives rest more reliability and sustainability. That we delight in Sabbath means we begin to look forward to it more and to order the rest of our week in its light. That Sabbath comes to all, not only to us, means that we seek ways to share Sabbath with others in ways that benefit their lives, even if it costs or inconveniences us. We will be more authentically Seventh-dayers only after we are more fully Sabbathers.


When we talk “Adventist,” our particularity directs to thinking about, anticipating, and perhaps even “getting ready” for the second coming of Jesus. Of course, this is important and holds an overwhelmingly significant place in the identity, purpose, and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is the fundamental impulse and perpetual longing of Christian history, but has flowered anew in the Adventist movements of the past two centuries. It is also the as-yet disappointed expectation of our earliest pioneers and the focus of sometimes frantic attempts at prophetic interpretations among many misguided date-setters and preachers since.

Taking a small step back for that larger view, we can observe that Adventist describes the full story of Jesus, including His incarnation, which necessarily grounds His promises to return. A second coming does not happen without a first—and if we don’t know Jesus, news of His second coming is most likely unnerving. So a more authentic Adventism devotes more attention to Jesus, His life and teachings, death and resurrection, as key elements in any and all hope of His return.

The next step back for a bigger perspective takes us to the concept and practice of hope. As it is often used today, hope is a slippery and somewhat ephemeral word, more akin to wishful thinking. But we must insist on a more substantial understanding of hope.

Meaningful hope is not merely some distant beacon, but a future-oriented practice of present transformation based on past experience. What we believe about the future is based on what we believe about the past, which—most importantly—shapes us, our lives and our world today. The formula in Hebrews 6 includes the promises God has given to us in the past plus our present and enduring faithfulness leading to a future inheritance. This formula also insists that our present hope-shaped lives play a role in creating that future: Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true (Hebrews 6:11).

When we reframe our anticipation of the Second Coming in the story of Jesus and the daily practice of hope, sharing Bible prophecy will sound less like the conspiracy-mongering that some have made it into and more like a truly blessed hope (see Titus 2:13). It will also be an increasingly transformative influence in our attitudes to the world around us, undermining evil and injustice and motivating us to make a difference with those who are most disadvantaged and marginalized. We will be more authentically Adventist when we are more hope-filled, hope-shaped and hope-motivated.


There are so many assumptions and images that leap into our minds with mention of the word church—and so many of them are less than what it ought to be. A few years ago, I was making a brief presentation to one of the “highest” denominational committees in our region, and I had the temerity to point out that, for all its church leaders and representatives, this executive committee was not the church. At best, it could offer only an administrative support structure for the actual church that lives, works, and worships together in so many local communities across the region in so many everyday ways.

Taking a step back from the particularity of church—in this case the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a worldwide organizational structure or even any of its more regional or localized constituent components—we might observe a community of grace, people drawn together from many different backgrounds and stories by little more than their common following of Jesus. They bring their large and small experiences of transformation and hope into common gatherings for worship, encouragement and service, primarily because somehow, He invited them individually together.

Such a community is welcoming and includes and invites people who might not otherwise interact, but for grace, as well as those who are not yet there. We are called out of the world, but not away from the world (see John 17:14–16). Church that makes sense is always about people, both those within the community of faith and those around it. Any church organization, institution, or policy is only useful to the degree that it supports, encourages, and enhances these communities of grace.

We will be more authentically church when we recognize our highest expression in the gathering of a few local followers of Jesus, perhaps with a few more who are trying to follow Him or are even quite uncertain about following Him, seeking to share their lives, encourage each other, and serve their wider community together.

Sabbath Hope Grace-people

The particularity that we know as the Seventh-day Adventist Church must not be allowed to eclipse the bigger meaning that the particular elements of the name rely upon. These wider perspectives must inform our understanding of the particulars. We cannot be an authentic Seventh-day Adventist Church without a better appreciation of Sabbath and hope practiced together by people in communities of grace.

Particularity is important, but our faith draws us into a broader view and a larger world. Sometimes we need to step away from the canvas. While admiring their precision or flourish, if we get lost in the brush strokes, we might miss the larger beauty of which they are a part and for which those brush strokes were created.

Nathan Brown is a writer and editor at Signs Publishing in Warburton, Victoria, Australia. Nathan recently launched Thinking Faith, a collection of his articles in Mountain Views over the past few years, as well as being co-editor of A House on Fire: How Adventist Faith Responds to Race and Racism. Email him at: [email protected]

1 For example, The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel (1951), Sabbath by Wayne Muller (2000), Sabbath As Resistance by Walter Brueggemann (2014), and The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer (2019).

2 For example, The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day by Sigve Tonstad (2009).