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If you have any experience living in the country, one of the first things you may have noticed is that there never seems to be enough time in the day to achieve all of the tasks needed to maintain a thriving homestead.
Tasks ranging from setting up the infrastructure, gardening, managing livestock, cutting and stacking wood, to domestic duties the list goes on. Most would agree it is nice to have extra pair of hands around the homestead but finding that help can seem elusive.
... and even if you do seem to be able to manage the workload, there is always finances...
Balancing work in the office and work on the land is a struggle for most. While we have found ourselves in a new world where remote work opportunities are easier to find than ever before, many of these jobs require specialized skills along with our full attention.
Starting out with an entrepreneurial enterprise such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or eCommerce store can seem overwhelming without a guide to help you navigate the business space.
... and even if you do seem to be able to cover finances, how much time do you have for ministry?
It is easy to get caught up with all of the requirements for running a successful farm and a successful business where there is no time left for that personal relationship with God, let alone time for evangelism.
We are called to share the Gospel to the world (Matthew 28:19-20,Mark 16:15-16), we are also advised not to hide our lights (Matthew 5:15). So how do we reconcile the paradox of living in the country with being a witness?
What is the answer?
We should accept that we cannot do everything on our own.
“Let not one man feel that his gift alone is sufficient for the work of God…”
Evangelism (EV 104.1)
“One is strong on some essential point where another is weak.”
Manuscript 21, 1894
God gave us different abilities and preferences and we should embrace this.
“In all the Lord's arrangements, there is nothing more beautiful than His plan of giving to men and women a diversity of gifts.”
Letter 122, 1902
“One worker may be a ready speaker; another a ready writer; another may have the gift of sincere, earnest, fervent prayer; another the gift of singing; another may have special power to explain the Word of God with clearness. And each gift is to become a power for God, because He works with the laborer. To one God gives the word of wisdom, to another knowledge, to another faith; but all are to work under the same Head. The diversity of gifts leads to a diversity of operations...”
Testimonies For The Church (9T 144)
“To every man was given his work according to his several ability.”
Country Living (CL 26.1)
“Those who enter the ministry engage in a special work and should give themselves to prayer and to the speaking of the Word. Their minds should not be burdened with business matters.”
17LtMs, Ms 127, 1902, par. 14
Let those with the gift of business support those with the gift of ministry and community. Let those with a desire for gardening support the ministry and business minded workers. Consider an 80/20 rule where we spend 80% of our time in the primary gift God has given us and 20% of our time in the other areas as needed.
“God never designed that, as a rule, His servants should go out singly to labor.”
Evangelism (EV 73.1)
“The Lord desires His chosen servants to learn how to unite together in harmonious effort...”
Testimonies For The Church 9:144-146
We should seek out our community of like minded believers and work to support one another.
“God has not ordained that one worker should have a superabundance, while his fellow worker is so bound about by a lack of means that he cannot accomplish the work that should be done.”
—Letter 49, 1902
“In the great cities many agencies are to be set at work. Those who are so situated that they cannot act a part in personal labor, may interest themselves in bearing the expenses of a laborer who can go. Let not our brethren and sisters make excuses for not engaging in earnest work. No practical Christian lives to himself.”
Manuscript 128, 1901
If we want an image of what communities will look like during the full outpouring of the Latter Rain, we can look to what Paul tells us about the outpouring of the Early Rain.
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common... Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”
This is such a beautiful and other centered view of unity among believers. They recognized that all gifts are from God and they shared all that they owned.
When thinking of who should form the community, think of how Jesus answered when asked about who His family was...
“But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
“Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?.”
This foreshadows what the family dynamic will be when the shaking comes. There will be many people who suddenly find themselves alone in the world and will need a family of Christ to join. We must prepare by having additional rooms and houses for those who learn the Gospel in the end times with no place to go.
Even today, we have seen an erosion of the family unit and we must modernize our view of what an Advent family is.
The idea to come together as a community often gets pushback from out of context quotes about how families should not live together. In this video we explore the various related Spirit of Prophecy quotes and what it means to colonize.
With confession must come a desire for change, contained in the Gospel we find the ability to change, not on our own, but by believing that Jesus has a path out of this maze of sin.
Do we find any guidance from the Spirit of Prophecy which instructs us to how many families should form a community?
“In our day the Lord desires that His people shall be dispersed throughout the earth. They are not to colonize. Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15. When the disciples followed their inclination to remain in large numbers in Jerusalem, persecution was permitted to come upon them, and they were scattered to all parts of the inhabited world.”
Testimonies for the Church (8T 215.2)
So this quote regarding colonization is not referring to micro-colonization but instead macro-colonization as the early church did in Jerusalem.
“It is not the purpose of God that His people should colonize or settle together in large communities. The disciples of Christ are His representatives upon the earth, and God designs that they shall be scattered all over the country, in the towns, cities, and villages, as lights amidst the darkness of the world. They are to be missionaries for God, by their faith and works testifying to the near approach of the coming Saviour.”
Testimonies for the Church (8T 245.1)
This again makes it clear that we should not only live in Adventist hotspots but be representatives all over the country.
“It is always the case that when an institution is established in a place, there are many families who desire to settle near it. Thus it has been in Battle Creek and in Oakland, and, to some extent, in almost every place where we have a school or a sanitarium.”
The Review and Herald (RH June 2, 1904, par. 14)
We read that there is a desire for Adventists to gather where there is momentum. But E.G. White goes on to counsel that if there are big trees (e.g. strong leaders and pastors) the smaller trees will not grow in their shadow.
If we go back to the original question of how many families should gather in one community, we can use Battle Creek as the reference for what is too big.
“Do not crowd into one place, making the same mistake that has been made in Battle Creek. There are hundreds of places that need the light God has given you.”
19LtMs, Ms 40, 1904, par. 17
As a point of reference, how many Adventist families were in Battle Creek?
Historical records show there were in total:
A communication written December 22, 1893, in response to a letter from a leading worker in Battle Creek, informing Mrs. White that in response to the admonition that our people should move out of Battle Creek:
“...between one and two hundred [were preparing to leave] as soon as possible...”
Selected Messages (2SM 361)
We need to put into context it is referring to hundreds or thousands of Adventists living together in a community. This is against God's plan for spreading the gospel to the world.
If you ask this question to most Adventists, the answer typically is "I haven't researched it myself, but I think I heard that EG White said only 3 or 4 families"... What instruction are we actually given?
Under the heading of "Perplexities of a Family Community" we read:
“It is not the best policy for children of one, two, or three families that are connected by marriage to settle within a few miles of one another. ”
Fundamentals of Christian Education, 495 (1904)
So large families who are relatives should have space... never once we are instructed to be miles from our nearest neighbor. This would be hiding our light.
The other time that E.G. White mentions a specific number of families is in a letter under the heading "Lay Members to Go Forth" where we read:
“The lay members of our churches can accomplish a work which, as yet, they have scarcely begun. None should move into new places merely for the sake of worldly advantage; but where there is an opening to obtain a livelihood, let families that are well grounded in the truth enter, one or two families in a place, to work as missionaries. They should feel a love for souls, a burden of labor for them, and should make it a study how to bring them into the truth. They can distribute our publications, hold meetings in their homes, become acquainted with their neighbors, and invite them to come to these meetings. Thus they can let their light shine in good works.”
Testimonies for the Church (8T 245.1)
The context here is around leaving your home to do missionary work. It is not a maximum but minimum directive.
The other thing to point out is if you research the average family size in the mid 1800's they had 7 to 8 children on average plus grandparents and grandchildren often lived with the families.
So while E.G. White does not give us a specific number of families, even if we used the folk lore of 3 families, that is a far different head count than it would be with the modern families.
Moreover, we should not be so attached to homesteading:
“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”
“Let them not think, because a number of our brethren are called here to connect with the publishing work, that this is a place for large numbers of our people to settle with their families. And let everyone connected with the office hold himself in readiness to leave, if God shall call him to some new place.”
Manuscript 148, 1905
Bottom line, earth is not our home. If we have a large family with young children, in part, this should be your missionary work. If you are single or do not have kids, it is impractical to hide away. Ultimately we must be ready to go where God calls us.