Does your spiritual life integrate the health of mind, body, and soul?
Are you filled with a desire to be found with an active faith, one that is directed toward serving others?
Do you believe that the curtain is being closed on this world and that Jesus is returning very, very soon?
If you answered yes to each of these, odds are you're a Seventh Day Adventist.
The Seventh Day Adventist Church began in the mid 1800s and emerged out of the Millerite movement. William Miller was a New England preacher who believed he had found the date for the Second Advent of Jesus (sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844). While Jesus did not appear in 1844 (the Great Disappointment), Miller's followers still believe Jesus' second coming is near at hand. Out of this movement emerged the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which from its founding in 1863 has grown to a global religion of over 16 million people. Today it is one of the largest and fastest growing Christian denominations. While the SDA Church began in the US, today the US is home to only 1 million SDAs, most live in Africa and South America.
Seventh Day Adventists' central belief is that Jesus is coming back really soon, like tomorrow, or maybe even today. When Jesus comes he will resurrect the saved from the dead, and along with the living saved will spend the next 1,000 years in heaven investigating the lives of the lost. During this time Satan and his devils will run around Earth. Then Jesus and the saved will head back to Earth and Jesus will resurrect the unrighteous from the dead so they may witness their final destructions. PAUSE: Adventists believe the dead do not experience anything until the dead are resurrected (the fancy term for this is Christian Mortalism). Also a loving God will not damn anyone to eternal Hell, instead God will simply wipe the lost, and all evil, out of existence. Back to the story, Jesus returns to Earth along with the saved, the unrighteous are resurrected, everyone witnesses God's judgement, the lost, Satan, devils, and evil itself are destroyed, and God's reign of peace begins.
I generally prefer to discuss actions and practices more than the beliefs which inspire them, and since I don't want my words to misrepresent Adventist beliefs, I encourage you to read what the Seventh Day Adventist Church has to say about its own beliefs. They are unique and fascinating.
The service I attended was not unlike other Christian services, besides the fact that the service was on a Saturday instead of Sunday. This practice comes from a literal interpretation of Exodus 20:8-10 "Remember the Sabbath day . . . on [the seventh day] you shall not do any work." We sang hymns and songs of praise (louder and more passionately than my Catholic church for sure), we listened to a reading from the Gospel of Mark (the one about Jesus curing the paralytic after his friends lower him through a roof), we passed the sign of peace (while the band played the church's fellowship song), and we listened to a sermon (be found with an active faith).
We did not celebrate communion, however Adventists only do so four times a year. Unlike most Christian groups who share a ritual meal of bread and wine, SDAs wash each other's feet as a remembrance of Jesus' call to service given at the Last Supper in John's Gospel. (Aside: all four canonical Gospels include the Last Supper story. While the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke involve the bread and wine story, in John's Gospel, Jesus does not break bread and share wine, instead he washes his disciples feet. I dunno, John is the weird Gospel... go read your Bible, you'll see what I mean.)
The simplicity of the church interior was striking. The windows were plain, there was no art, not even a cross.
Overall the service was characterized by a passion for Jesus, and the mood was similar to a Baptist service. Unlike Baptists, however, the SDAs didn't talk about Jesus as a companion along the way who will pick you up when times get hard, instead Jesus was more of a judge before whom we must be found worthy and filled with an active faith. The SDA Church definitely has the active part down. Adventists are involved in a bazillion service projects worldwide, run lots of schools, and are leaders in relief and humanitarian work. The church bulletin I was handed listed outreach and service events like blanket drives, free meals, etc. along with worship services and the sunset times for the next Sabbath. From what I have seen, Adventists seem drawn to serving others, yet don't seek to create a more just world order. There was no call to build the Kingdom of God here on Earth. Perhaps this is because there simply isn't enough time before Jesus brings about the perfect order?
Anyway... the congregation was incredibly welcoming, and I was offered a free meal afterwards. By meal, I mean a full all-you-can-eat buffet. The meal was vegetarian, which was cool, because I gave up meat for Lent. Adventists keep the Kosher laws (it's in the Bible after all), and many are vegetarian in accordance with their church's guidelines on health (this also makes keeping Kosher easy). Adventists stress how the health of body and mind are related to spiritual health. Healthy eating and avoidance of tobacco, alcohol, and, less often, caffeine are common for SDAs. This healthy lifestyle has its benefits, a community of Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Prieta, CA lives an average of 4-7 years longer than the average American. And regardless of whether you believe this lifestyle pays off in the next life, it certainly has inspired millions of people to lead rich lives dedicated to serving others.