27 June 2022  |

Dear Aunt Sevvy,

All my life I’ve been urged to witness to my friends and neighbors about Adventist beliefs. But I just don’t feel like my good Christian next-door neighbor needs to be convinced of all the things Adventists believe to be loved by God.

So, sorry, Aunty, in spite of what my pastor urges, I won’t be going over there to give her a copy of The Great Controversy. I’m not sure I even want her to see that scary book. 

Furthermore, my congregation has nearly criticized me out the door a few times—and I grew up in this church. Why should I expect they’ll accept my neighbor, who doesn’t know how to adapt to critical opinionated Adventists? 

I’d be happy to take someone to church with me who really wanted to go, but I won’t twist arms. Am I wrong?

Signed, Backing Off the Witnessing

Dear Backing Off,

Witnessing to those outside the church has always been uncomfortable for Aunty, too, for many of these same reasons. The truth is that most people already know about Jesus. They have a church, or know where to find a church if they want one. Nearly all Adventist adult conversions are from other Christian denominations—often, people who are in some kind of crisis and are vulnerable to our mysterious apocalyptic teachings. 

But it should be Jesus that draws people, not scary eschatology. If your neighbor seems interested in learning about Jesus, share from your heart what you love about Him. If your church attendance comes up naturally, you can surely tell them about what you love about your church, too. But share with the goal of getting to know your neighbor, not to change them; people know when you have ulterior motives. 

Just be aware that it’s pretty rare for people to join our church who were just happily living their lives until they met a neighbor who convinced them that the end is just around the corner and the answer is to worship on Saturday and quit eating bacon. 

There is so much advertising from religious groups that many people flee doctrinal salesmanship. Do you carefully study the tracts that the Jehovah’s Witnesses leave at your door, in hopes that you’ll find a new truth and a new church home? Why should we expect that people will immerse themselves in a 500-page 19th-century eschatological tome and expect to find joy and peace there? 

(And don’t even get me started on “friendship evangelism,” which is a manipulative trap to fool lonely people.)

By the way, if your congregation isn’t a safe place—and many aren’t—we shouldn’t expect people to join us. Adventist congregations tend to be closed groups, dominated by those of us who were born, raised, and educated in the church. We find it hard to incorporate new people. Which is why most people brought into the church by big evangelistic efforts disappear after a few weeks. 

In spite of what you’ve been told about “the only true church,” no one has to be an Adventist to be saved. So Aunty thinks the best way to witness is to tell people about your enthusiasm for Jesus—which is way better than giving them a copy of The Great Controversy to convince them how bad the pope is.

Aunt Sevvy

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