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Emphasis on Sabbath-keeping
It comes as no surprise that Seventh-day Adventist congregations are twice as likely to put “a great deal” of emphasis on Sabbath-keeping as are other religious groups in America. But it may also come as a surprise that some Sunday churches also emphasize Sabbath-keeping on a different day and in different ways. And, Jewish synagogues (as well as other non-Christian religious groups) were included in this survey of American religion.

A total of 48% of Adventist local churches report that they “emphasize a great deal, keeping the Sabbath holy” in sermons, Sabbath School and other teaching opportunities such as mid-week meetings and Bible seminars. Just 24% of all religious congregations gave the same response.

Perhaps more surprising is that another 28% of Adventist churches say they place “quite a bit” of emphasis on Sabbath-keeping as compared to another 23% of all religions. One explanation is that the two segments represent quite different attitudes. The Adventist respondents may be reflecting a slightly more relaxed attitude about guarding the edges of the Sabbath or upholding strict, traditional standards about what is proper on the Sabbath, while the other religions may reflect the interest that many Protestant specialists on spiritual disciplines currently have in the topic of Sabbath-keeping.

Only 5% of Adventist congregations report only “a little” or no emphasis on Sabbath-keeping as compared to nearly a third (30%) of all religious groups. The few Adventist congregations are probably not “liberal churches” that ignore traditional standards but small, conservative congregations made of life-long Adventists who simply take for granted this topic and therefore have little need to talk about it.

Discussion Questions:

1. How much does our congregation, in its worship and education, emphasize keeping the Sabbath holy: a great deal, quite a bit, some, a little or not at all?

2. Should we give more or less emphasis to the topic of how to keep the Sabbath?

3. How can we do a better job of guiding/supporting our church members in understanding how to keep the Sabbath and the benefits of experiencing a true spiritual retreat on the Sabbath?

Sabbaths can be more enjoyable when they are shared with trusted friends. Many congregations are reinventing their Sabbath School classes to be a ministry-driven, fellowship-rich, redemptive environments. How to make that happen is outlined in the book and DVD resource Reinvent Your Sabbath School.

Paul Richardson
Executive Director
Center for Creative Ministry

Creative Pastor e-Newsletter, May 11, 2007, Center for Creative Ministry