As the Seventh-day Adventist Church prepares to mark 150 years of the denomination's name on October 1, leaders are urging members to reflect both on the name's significance and the impact they've made in their local community.
It was in 1860 that pioneers meeting in Battle Creek, Michigan chose the name for a movement that had about 2,500 adherents in Northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. Today, that movement has more than 16 million adult baptized members and operates the largest Protestant network of schools and hospitals worldwide.
Regarding the name selection, Adventist Church co-founder Ellen White later wrote, "The name Seventh-day Adventist carries the true features of our faith in front, and will convict the inquiring mind."
"Seventh-day" refers to the denomination's day of worship, taken from the Fourth Commandment in the book of Exodus. "Adventist" refers to the Second Advent of Jesus, or the Second Coming.
"I think the name has been used through the years in a very positive way because its members have decided to make a difference here and now in anticipation of the Second Coming," said Jim Nix, board chair of Adventist Heritage Ministry, a church corporation that preserves denominational historical sites.
Nix, who is organizing the anniversary commemoration, said he hopes members will spend time on Sabbath, October 2 reflecting what it means to continue the legacy of the name leaders took in 1860. Additionally, he is urging members to consider what difference the name is making in their community.
"I'm afraid that if some Adventist churches closed, nobody would notice," Nix said. "Some people may not like that conclusion, but if that's the case maybe they can think about what they can do to make a real difference in their local area."
Though the name came to describe the church, it was originally chosen for the early movement's publishing work. In 1860, leaders called a general meeting, which brought together 25 ministers, with church co-founder James White urging the formation of an organization that could legally own a publishing house. Without a legal name, however, it could accomplish little.
Many favored "Church of God," including White, but some soon found the name presumptuous. Besides, other movements were already employing the name.
David Hewitt, a Battle Creek resident, then introduced and formally proposed the name "Seventh-day Adventist," which would come to brand not only the publishing work, but the movement itself.
Nix says he is proud to belong to the 150-year-old movement. "You go to a family reunion and you're all Jones or a Smith and you feel a sense of pride. We're all Seventh-day Adventists, and that's my spiritual family name," he said.
"This church has done some great things over the past 150 years. Let's use this anniversary to think about how we can do more," Nix said.
For more information, visit adventist.org/150.