By Colleen Tinker
Adventists in Nigeria have taken a cue from an existing public service program and created a new means of both serving and making Adventists. The newly-formed National Association of Adventist Corps (NAAC) is categorized as a “chaplaincy ministry” of the Nigerian Adventist organization. The NAAC is built upon the foundation of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme which already exists in Nigeria.
The Nigerian National Youth Service Corps Scheme is a program for young professionals (under 30) who have graduated from a university. Through this program, graduates give one year to “national service” in their areas of expertise before finding permanent employment or continuing school. Before starting their year of public service, they take a three-week training class that teaches them “paramilitary and leadership training”. When they’ve completed their three-week orientation, they are “deployed as teachers in public schools, agricultural extension workers, or medical service providers in public health facilities.” They do “community development and service activities” as well.
In the past, Adventist professionals who become members of the Youth Service Corps would often become isolated and would stop attending church because they were stationed so far from an Adventist congregation. Two sisters, Chanya Abbey and Victoria Hope Anama, one of whom had been an isolated Corps member who had nearly fallen away from Adventism during her service, launched an online WhatsApp group for dispersed Adventists corps members. This group’s purpose was to connect them with each other, to learn who was stationed where and what their needs were, to have people not in the corps open their homes to isolated Adventist corps members, and to mobilize them “for mission”.
Funmilayo Ogunleye, “a geology graduate from Ekiti State University”, was working as a Corp member on the island of Egbopuloama in Bayelsa State, Nigeria. Ogunleye was isolated and made contact through the WhatsApp group with other Adventists. Anama arranged for a group of 20 Adventist corps members to visit Egbopuloama Island and encourage Ogunleye. The village chiefs and Ogunleye and the Global Mission pioneer Japhet Ogbugo welcomed the visitors and spent Sabbath together.
After that initial visit, Anama said they organized a one-week mission trip to the remote island of Egbopuloama. The mission team included four doctors, a dentist, “50 volunteer Corps members” who “provided free medical care for over 150 persons,” conducted a vacation Bible school, and gave away clothes “and Christian literature”.
At the end of the week, “28 adults were baptized, and a new church planted in Egbopuloama. Follow-up activities by global mission pioneers have yielded 12 additional baptisms, including the island’s deputy chief.”
Of course, the Adventist administration is delighted with this project and the future mission trips already being planned. The director of the Eastern Nigerian evangelism and missions, Uzoma Nwosi, said “there are about 500 islands like Egbopuloama that need to be entered with the everlasting gospel and receive community support.”
Australian elders empowered to baptize
For over a year the South Pacific Division of the Adventist organization has been working with the General Conference to allow Australian Adventist elders to baptize new members. The normal practice in Adventism is that only credentialed or ordained pastors can baptize new members. The Church Manual does allow for local elders to baptize if the baptisms to be done are in remote locations and if the proposed baptisms have been approved by the local conferences.
Jorge Munoz, the president of the Adventist organization in Australia (AUC), said, “We’ve been working on this program for more than a year; the initiative has been tried successfully in the Inter-American Division, and the AUC is excited about trying it as a discipleship tool here in Australia.”
Now that the program has been approved for use in Australia within the next few months, local elders will be able to baptize twice a year: “on the last Sabbaths in July and November”. The baptizing elders, however, will have to go through a special training program to teach them to teach, to give Bible studies, and to follow up with prospects who show interest in Adventism.
Adventism is expert at launching new proselytizing methods that piggy-back on existing humanitarian programs and that bend their own rules for the purpose of making new members. The What’sApp group in Nigeria for college graduates giving a year of service to their country is facilitating Adventist health programs and proselytizing meetings in areas that would normally be “unentered”.
The “everlasting gospel” they claim to be bringing to the remote islands and other areas of the country is not the gospel at all. It is a false gospel that teaches keeping the law is the mark of the saved. In fact, Adventism teaches that Jesus’ death on the cross was for the purpose of paving the way for people to gain the supernatural power to enable them to keep the law and thus find God. It is completely inside-out from the new covenant gospel of the Lord Jesus’ completed work on our behalf!
The initiative to have elders baptize new members, on the other hand, is simply a pragmatic move. Allowing more people to baptize will simply increase membership.
Significantly, however, the details of this initiative reveal how far Adventism is from having a biblical understanding of elders. Of course, an organization that teaches a false gospel cannot be expected to have a biblical understanding of elders or even of baptism.
In Adventism, elders are not chosen primarily on the basis of their commitment to the Lord. Rather, they are chosen based on their involvement with their local Adventist churches, and often their standing in the community and their financial status influences their being selected.
Furthermore, baptism itself is not, in Scripture, a rite of membership in any organization. It is, rather, a public declaration of the internal reality of a person’s trusting the Lord Jesus, repenting from one’s sin, and being born again by hearing the gospel of the Lord Jesus’ finished work of dying for our sins, being buried, and rising again on the third day to give us eternal life through faith by His grace.
Adventism uses the Christian ceremony of baptism as its membership entrance rite. Now, by having local elders baptize twice a year, the Australian Adventist organization will be able to increase its new membership more quickly.
Adventism mimics Christianity, but its true nature has never changed. It still believes an unbiblical view of the nature of man, has an unbiblical view of sin which does not include our being born with original sin, and it still believes our law-keeping will mark us as worthy of salvation. It is still promulgating a false gospel as it has since its beginning.