Beating Back the Enemy: Enthusiasm in Early Adventist Worship

Speaker: Categories: Mar 07, 1992


[59min, 56sec / 26min, 29sec]


The timing for this topic is particularly appropriate. Just four weeks ago, the February Forum meeting addressed the question of "celebration-type" worship services as presented by Pastors Dan Simpson and Steve Bottroff of the Celebration Center in Colton. This month Forum attenders have opportunity to learn more about Adventist roots, what those early Adventist services were really like, how they were accepted (or not accepted) by the local communities, and just how orderly and dignified those hardy pioneers who forged a denomination truly were. It will be interesting to learn when, how, and why the present mode of "typical" Adventist worship services came into being.

"Tread softly, tread softly" and "keep silence before him" -- undoubtedly many San Diego Forum participants recall words such as these, giving explicit direction as to how one should conduct him/herself in the "house of the Lord." Reverence, in the context of contemporary or recent Adventist culture, seems equated with quietness -- the quieter the more reverent!

In contrast Dr. Graybill observes, "Early Adventist worship was characterized by fervent enthusiasm. Adventists were the heirs of the "shouting Methodist" tradition with all the fervor that that implied. In the early days of the movement, particularly in Maine, their worship services were frequently punctuated by shouting, swooning, and visionary manifestations."

"Cultural, personal, and psychological factors," he contends, "influence how a visitation of the Holy 'Spirit manifests itself in the experience of any particular individual or group. When those factors change, the reaction to the Holy Spirit changes."

"'Dissociative' experiences are still observed in our contemporary culture, and in themselves are value-neutral," our March speaker has noted. "They may serve either destructive or constructive purposes."


Ron Graybill, a 1966 graduate of La Sierra University, earned his master’s (1978) and doctoral (1983) degrees in American History at John Hopkins University. He has served as pastor in California (1968-70), as Assistant and Associate Director of Ellen G. White Estate, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (1970-83), teacher and course writer, Home Study International (1984-88), and as a member of the History and Religion Department, La Sierra University (1986- ). He has numerous publications which deal primarily with Ellen G. White.

He and his wife, Gerte, a physical therapist, have two daughters: N. Torsten, a junior at UCLA; Lela, a senior at La Sierra Academy.

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