Organizing for Mission and Growth
Organizing for Mission and Growth
By George R. Knight

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The founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church believed church organization was of the devil.

But eventually the pressing need for a credentialed ministry, the need to maintain doctrinal unity, and the need to own property resulted in the formal organization of the church in 1863.

Near the turn of the century a new set of challenges arose; the denomination was heavily in debt and near bankruptcy, and the 1863 structures were inadequate for governing a worldwide church with a strong mission. The 1901-1903 reorganization maintained a strong central structure against the protests of those who advocated a radical individualism that tended toward Congregationalism.

The twentieth century brought new problems: racial conflict that led to the establishment of regional conferences and the call for Black unions, and congregational rumblings that continue to the present. As the church contemplates a third cycle of restructuring, the author wonders whether it will be flexible enough to change again.


1. Organization Is the Devil Gospel Liberty Versus Organization, Church Organization as "Babylon": The Millerite Experience, Post-Disappointment Resistance to Organization

2. Redefining Babylon (1844-1859) The "Gathering Time" and Connectionist Forms of Organization, Problems in the Camp and the Call for "Gospel Order," Ongoing Discussion Amid Growing Tensions, Time for Action and the Redefinition of Babylon

3. Organizing for Mission (1860-1863) Legally Holding Church Property and Choosing a Name, 1860, Forming Local Conferences, 1861Establishing the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1862-1863, Perspectives on Organization

4. Tensions Within a Growing System (1864-1900) The Extent of the Authority of the General Conference, Denominational Expansion and Organizational Experimentation, Reinventing Babylon: An Alternative Model of Church Organization

5. Reorganizing for Mission (1901-1909) Moving Toward Disaster, Restructuring the Church, 1901, A Developing Power Struggle, 1901-1903, Climactic Showdown, 1903, Reactions: Congregationalism Versus Centralization, 1903-1909Perspectives on Reorganization

6. Redefining the System The Development of Divisions, Attempts at Consolidation and Term Limitation, The Move Toward Regional Conferences, Organizational Issues From the 1960s Through the 1990s, Resurrecting Babylon: Another Look at Congregationalism, Struggling Beneath the Burden: Too Much of a Good Thing

7. Will Organization Beat the Mission? Organizational Identity Crisis, Factors to Consider in Restructuring, Toward a Modest Proposal