Origin of Adventism
In the thirties and fourties of the nineteenth century an extensive revival took place in the Protestant churches in the Northeast of the United States. This was accompanied with a deep interest in the prophetic passages of the Bible.
The Advent Movement in the years 1830-40 was a result from that. William Miller played a crucial role in that movement around 1832. He was increasingly convinced that Christ would return to this earth in 1843 or 1844. That prediction, as many of that kind, remained unfulfilled. One of the groups that remained after this movement (which consisted of believers from different churches), after the prediction miserably failed, decided to continue with a thorough study of the Bible. In their midst could the founders of Seventh-day Adventism be found.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church
The small group, which remained out of the Advent Movement of William Miller, grew slowly but surely en this led to the formal foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
At first the growth was limited to the Northeast of the United States. But this changed soon. In 1874 the first adventist ‘missionaries’ went to Europe. Before the end of nineteenth century there were small numbers of Adventists in most of the European countries. At the beginning of the twentieth century a quick expansion to other parts of the world followed.
While the church was growing in numbers and slowly a solid organisation emerged, a theological vision also developed. Besides the soon return of Jesus and the celebration of the day of rest on the seventh day of the week, other Biblical foundations received attention.
The worldwide growth was quickly accompanied with the founding of a network of schools, health institutions and publishing and printing houses. Now the church is presen in almost all the countries of the world. The total amount of baptised members are more than 18 million.
A Christian Church
De Adventist Church is a christian church. Every church community has specific characteristics en that is the same for the Adventist church. You can find those on this website. But it is important to state first that Adventists are Christians in the full sense of the word. With everything they do and believe, Jesus Christ is the foundation. Together with all different Christians, Seventh-day Adventists believe that God has revealed himself in the historic figure of Jesus. And that this Jesus is the Christ, based on his supernatural origin, his live on earth, his death and ressurection, and based on the fact that he is salvation.
The Adventist Church is a Christian Church. Sometimes quite rightly the distinction is made between ‘churches’ and ‘sects’. ‘Sects’ are usually defined as groups that have made side issues into main issues where a human leader is at the center of it all. Adventists in Belgium and Luxembourg are a small community, yet they are a church in every single way.
A Protestant Church
Unfortunately in the course of the centuries, Christendom has become deeply divided. One of the major divisions took place in the sixteenth century, when protestantism emerged out of the church which was led from Rome. Men like Luther, Calvin and Zwingli (and many before and after them) protested (hence the word ‘protestant‘) against many ideas and practices that found their way into the church and against the lifestyles of many church leaders. Unfortunately the ‘reformers’ did not agree on all points with each other and so many different Protestant movements started.
Adventist see themselves as heirs of this ‘reformation’ of the church. In their fundamental beliefs and their way of being church one can find many ‘lutheran’ and ‘calvinistic’ elements. Also the movement of the Anabaptists (who re-introduced the baptism through immersion) provided inspiration. This is also true for the other Protestant groups who were important in the nineteenth century environment in which Adventism emerged.
A Unique Church
As a Christian Church with a Protestant signature we have much in common with other Christians. In Belgium the Adventist Church is closely associated with the EPUB or VPBK, the United Protestant Church of Belgium.
But the Adventist Church has its own unique identity. Which is off course first and foremost that what Adventists believe. Within the Christian confession the Adventist church has some particular emphases, which they gladly want to share. At the same time it should be emphasised that a Church identity not only depends on its particular doctrines, but also the way one experiences its faith and the specific culture that has developped in its own faith community. You can talk with each other about it, but you can really only encounter it by actually experiencing it.
A Diverse Church
Seventh-day Adventist form a worldwide church community. According to the lastest statistics the Adventist church is officially organised in 215 of the 237 countries officially recognised by the United Nations. In the first phase of the history of the Adventist Church, most Adventists could be found in North America. Now only 8% of the more than 18 million members live in that part of the world and has the church become a real world church. The diversity in nationalities and ethnicities can be seen in the mnay international meetings of the church.
But also in the countries themselves the diversity is reflected, especially as a result from many different immigration waves. In Belgium the Adventist church does not only consist of Flemish and Wallonians, but also significant groups of Spanish and Portugues, Africans who speak English or French, Russians and Romanians. The same for the small Adventist community in Luxembourg.