Our Pioneers

Remember who we are...

The creators of the largest protestant hospital system in the world.1 Innovators who revolutionized American breakfast and gym equipment.2 Founders of the biggest protestant Christian school system globally.3 Men and women who sacrificed everything for a greater purpose. Who put it all on the line for the sake of the gospel. Who wrote, traveled, hustled, and preached day and night, year after year. Here’s to the pioneers of the Adventist movement — missional entrepreneurs and innovators who changed the world.

How it all started

It all started with a man named William Miller. His grandfather owned a beautiful farm.4 William, just like his father and grandfather, grew up with this family business. When he married at 21, he moved to his wife’s hometown and started another farm.5 He could purchase a home, a new piece of land, and two horses (one would rest while the other would work).6 Later in his life, after returning from the army, he moved to new place and established a farm there. When Miller started to preach publicly about the soon return of Jesus, his prosperous business allowed him to travel and speak at hundreds of locations. Three years went by before he became unable to personally accept all requests and invitations. So he decided to publish a 64-page tract about his calculations.7

The marketing genius of our movement

Tracts, articles, and publications played a crucial role in the Millerite movement. Up until the fall of 1844, eight million copies of various publications had been distributed.8 How did the Advent believers do that, 115 years before the first copying machine was invented?9 God used a man named Joshua Himes — a Christian leader, publisher, and marketing genius. He was an event organizer, personal travel agent for Mr. Miller, editor, public speaker, and ordained pastor.10 This man used top-notch communication technologies and marketing strategies to orchestrate “an unprecedented media blitz.”11 Millions of people heard about Jesus and His soon return. After the Great Disappointment, Ellen G. White got called to start her first “business,” a publishing house. It was a house in its truest sense. The founders lived and worked together in a rented home in Rochester, New York.12 Uriah Smith, another missional entrepreneur who had just recommitted his life to God, turned down a lucrative job offer to join Ellen and James White’s startup.13 The team didn’t have enough money to buy a paper cutter, so Uriah trimmed the edges of magazines with his penknife.14 What an MVP (minimum viable product) this first magazine was! Under Smith’s leadership, the publishing house soon became a global player, publishing in six different languages, keeping the early church connected, and employing hundreds of people at their new location in Washington, D.C. This man also had eight patents which earned him thousands of dollars over the course of his life.15
James White, his business partner, co-founded the Seventh-day Adventist church and played a crucial role in formally organizing the denomination. He was the financial brain that kept the church and many of its enterprises away from bankruptcy. Some falsely accused him of being too business-minded, even though his financial acumen saved many institutions, including Battle Creek Sanitarium, from closing.16

The entrepreneurial doctor

One of the students at Battle Creek was John Harvey Kellogg, a brilliant innovator, teacher, entrepreneur, and soon-to-be doctor. The Whites paid his tuition, and just one year after graduating from college, he started to work at the new hospital. Kellogg pushed the board to enlarge the facilities yearly (although this incurred more debt) and bought several farms with 400 acres to add income to the business by selling milk, eggs, fruits, and vegetables.17 His expansion plans were risky and faced continuous opposition. Still, Kellogg took this business from eight paying patients (who had to bathe in water previously used by others) to a national enterprise of 700 customers and 1,000 employees.18 He was deeply interested in every single patient and visited each one as often as possible. No matter how busy his schedule was, Kellogg always made them feel like their case was the only thing that mattered to him at the moment. He hoped to see them all restored to perfect health.

Dr. Kellogg was on an unstoppable quest to improve people’s health. This made him invent a wide variety of food products, surgical tools, and treatment devices. The most famous ones are probably his cornflakes, a new form of peanut butter, gym equipment, and a chair that helped people regain proper posture. He wrote more than fifty books; one sold half a million times.19 Although his dominant personality, heated temper, and strange beliefs caused him to clash with the Bible and church administrators, he permanently changed America’s eating habits with his flaked cereal and peanut butter.20

Reaching the world

The Three Angels’ Messages spread throughout the United States, yet our pioneers wanted more. They knew God called them to share His love with every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.21 On August 14, 1874, the General Conference voted to send John Nevin Andrews to Switzerland, announcing to the pioneers overseas that they would receive “the ablest man in our ranks.” He and his family chose to only eat the bare minimum of white bread, potatoes and cabbage in order to have more money for the printing press. They committed to only speaking French at home to learn the new language as fast as possible.22

When Anna Knight, an inquisitive black girl from Mississippi, learned about God and the Sabbath, she decided to get baptized — but the nearest Adventist church was 400 miles away from her home. So she used the revenue from selling a bale of cotton to pay for her train ride all the way to Graysville, Tennessee.23 Nine years later, at the General Conference Session at Battle Creek, she accepted a call to go to India — as Adventism’s first African-American female missionary and the first ever black female missionary in India.24 During her entire life, Anna faced immense oppression because of racial segregation, but that didn’t keep her from opening multiple schools, educating hundreds of teachers, founding a sanitarium in Atlanta and entering unentered area as a pioneering missionary.

God wants to use us

Was God using a group of geniuses to start the Adventist movement? Were they superior to 21st-century church members? Did they surpass the average Adventist intellectually, financially, and morally? Not at all. Our co-founder, Ellen White, just went to school sporadically until she was twelve.25 Her husband earned 50 cents per day, had barely enough to eat, and still invested everything into publishing tracts.26 His friend lost his left leg before turning thirteen.27 The boy who would later revolutionize American breakfast was constantly sick, suffered tuberculosis repeatedly, and had a variety of disorders. His parents thought he would never make it to adulthood.28

And yet, amid all incapabilities, perplexities and infirmities, God used these people to start the Seventh-day Adventist church. He calls us today to take their place and continue their legacy. He needs able men and women — sacrificial, humble, and willing to be used. He needs missional entrepreneurs and calls all members of the body of Christ to use their skills and opportunities to advance His work. Because this great work, dear friends, “can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers.”29

More articles


  1. Shrieves, Linda (July 30, 2010). “Are non profit hospitals truly not for profit?”. Orlando Sentinel. Last accessed July 21, 2022.
  2. James L. Hayward: John Harvey Kellogg (2020), paragraph “Writer”
  3. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a total of 6,709 educational institutions operating in over 100 countries around the world with over 1.2 million students worldwide. The North American Division Office of Education oversees 1,049 schools with 65,000 students in the United States, Canada, and Bermuda. See “Adventist Education” on nadeducation.org, February 18, 2013. Last accessed August 27, 2016.
  4. Sylvester Bliss: “Memoirs of William Miller” (1971), page 1.
  5. Ibid., page 19.
  6. “Such was the amount of his business that he kept two horses, one of which he drove, while the other was kept up to rest, week by week, alternately.” — Ibid., page 23.
  7. This tract had the title: “Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ, about the Year 1844: Exhibited in a Course of Lectures.” More details here.
  8. Everett Newfon Dick describes in “William Miller and the Advent Crisis” on page 76 that Joshua Himes publicly announced in May of 1844 that 5 million pieces of literature had been handed out. By the end of the summer of 1844, the number rose to 8 million, according to Wilmar Hirle, Associate Director for Publishing Ministries (GC).
  9. The first automatic office copier in the world was the Xeros 914, produced by Haloid Xerox in September 1959. But even this machine wasn’t very fast, compared to today’s standards. It could copy 7 pages per minute. It also was prone to catch fire very quickly, due to overheating.
  10. His motto was “what we do must be done quickly” (see also “Millennial Fever and the End of the World: A Study of Millerite Adventism” (1994) by George Knight, page 74). It is widely accepted that Joshua Himes was the man who transformed William Miller’s regional revival into a national movement.
  11. In the words of Nathan O. Hatch, a leading scholar of American religious history. Hatch’s observation in The Democratization of American Christianity (1989) is quoted in George Knight’s Millennial Fever, page 77. More details about Joshua Himes’ impact here.
  12. Article by the General Conference of SDA: “Publishing work was central to early Adventist Church”, last accessed on September 15, 2022.
  13. Lineage Journey, Season 2, episode 19: “Uriah Smith: A Life of Service”
  14. Article by the General Conference of SDA: “Publishing work was central to early Adventist Church”, last accessed on September 15, 2022.
  15. Lineage Journey, Season 2, episode 19: “Uriah Smith: A Life of Service”
  16. When the Battle Creek Sanitarium went through financial difficulties in its attempt to expand, James White devised a strategy to train more medical professionals because the sanitarium was already too big, and doctors were missing. He wrote a letter to Gerald Butler on July 13, 1874, saying they needed to “hustle young men off to some doctor mill, and get ready. Our institute buildings are already larger than our doctors.” Cited in Dores Robinson’s The Story of our Health Message (1965), page 205.
  17. For a more detailed version of Kellogg’s story, we recommend this article here.
  18. This unusual employee to patient ratio was only possible because of low employee wages and Dr. Kellogg’s personal subsidies. See also Richard William Schwarz, “John Harvey Kellogg: American Health Reformer” (1964), pages 183-185. 
  19. James L. Hayward: John Harvey Kellogg (2020), paragraph “Writer”
  20. Ibid., paragraph “Legacy”
  21. Revelation 14:12
  22. Lineage Journey, Season 2, episode 27: “J.N. Andrews: The Ablest Man in Our Ranks”
  23. Dorothy Knight Marsh: “Knight, Rachel ‘Anna’” (2020), paragraph “Baptism and Education”
  24. Ibid., paragraph “Pioneering Missionary to India”
  25. Ellen White tried to continue her education multiple times after her initial accident at the age of 9, but she wasn’t able to. See also Testimonies for the Church, Vol. I, Chapter 1 “My Childhood”
  26. Lineage Journey, Season 2, Episode 15: “Henry White’s Death” at 2m00s
  27. Lineage Journey, Season 2, episode 19: “Uriah Smith: A Life of Service”
  28. James L. Hayward: John Harvey Kellogg (2020), paragraph “Childhood”
  29. Ellen White: Gospel Workers (1915), page 351