Over the past few weeks a couple of people have asked me what they should say to someone who asks them why they are a Seventh-day Adventist. Some would take no thought as to what they should say to this question they would simply list off in dogmatic fashion the 28 fundamental beliefs and assure the person that if they truly loved Jesus they would believe these things also. For some reason this seems to be considered by many Adventists to be the appropriate response.
However, this belief leads to a great deal of stress on an individual who is not theologically trained, leaving them reluctant to even come close to any type of spiritual conversation with someone else for fear that they might be asked this question. Truth be told the Sanctuary doctrine and the 2300 days can be difficult to explain if you are not familiar with them. (As a side note if you are an Adventist an not familiar with these topics you should strive to become so, they are fundamental to our doctrinal distinctiveness.) But an understanding of them is not necessary to answer the question at hand.
In the book Gospel Workers on page 119 -120 Ellen White shared some principles regarding how we should begin the process of sharing our faith with others. She wrote,
"In laboring in a new field, do not think it your duty to say at once to the people, We are Seventh-day Adventists; we believe that the seventh day is the Sabbath; we believe in the nonimmortality of the soul. This would often erect a formidable barrier between you and those you wish to reach. Speak to them, as you have opportunity, upon points of doctrine on which you can agree. Dwell on the necessity of practical godliness. Give them evidence that you are a Christian, desiring peace, and that you love their souls. Let them see that you are conscientious. Thus you will gain their confidence; and there will be time enough for doctrines. Let the heart be won, the soil prepared, and then sow the seed, presenting in love the truth as it is in Jesus."
When we begin to share our faith with others who are unfamiliar with the SDA church or "a new field" it is not our "duty" to share all the things that set us apart from the person we are speaking with. Rather we are instructed to find points where we can agree with them. This is not to say fabricate something, but rather look for those points where we believe the same. There will always be something, but it will be different depending on who your speaking with. There is a handy little book by Mark Finley called Studying Together which has detail about the beliefs of other denominations and religions, where we agree and where we disagree.
There is also a tendency in some to be so afraid to mention anything controversial that they too will not share their faith for fear of upsetting someone. We must not be afraid that someone will be offended but we must be mindful not to offend. Like with so many things in this Christian walk there is a balance which only the Spirit of God can truly maintain.
So what do you say then when faced with this Question, why are you a Seventh-day Adventist?
Most importantly remember that it is not your job to convince them of Truth. That is the role of the Holy Spirit. (John 16:5-10) Also, understand what they are asking and what they are not. What they are asking is for you to tell them your personal reasons, they are not asking for a bible study on doctrine. Don't be afraid to share in simple terms why you believe what you believe. (1 John 1:1-3) That's it Just share what you faith means to you.