Middletown Seventh-day Adventist Church

A safe environment… where people relationships become kingdom relationships.
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Marius Serban

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55: 8-9)

Marius Serban was born into a Seventh-day Adventist family which was planted in a tiny village roughly 60 miles North of Bucharest, Romania. Marius’ father was a carpenter and his mother a seamstress. A gleam lights his eye as he speaks about them and he proudly proclaims that they provided so wonderfully for him and his siblings. When asked about a poignant moment or tradition in his family that truly solidified his faith, Marius shares a very touching weekly ritual in which his family partook. “One thing that sticks in my mind is our family welcoming in the Sabbath. At the beginning of every Sabbath we would gather in a special room or around the kitchen table and begin to sing. We would sing at least one song, if not two or three. After singing, we would recite Bible verses. Then, we would pray. The youngest would start and we would each go until we had reached the oldest of us. Finally, Mom would pray and then Dad. We prayed on our knees together, worshiping God as a family. Once we finished praying, we stood up and said “Sabat Fericit” (Happy Sabbath) and hugged and kissed each other. We asked forgiveness from each other and expressed our love for one another.”

Now, years later, Marius is still welcoming in the Sabbath – this time, with his Middletown church family included. The purpose of the Pastor at Middletown Seventh-day Adventist Church is to “facilitate the spiritual growth of the people in the congregation. It is to bring people from the community to the church and, within the church it is to uplift them to a greater spiritual level. I am called, not [just] to preach but to reach” (Pastor Marius Serban). Pastor Serban emphasizes the importance of connecting with people. Without a serious connection, great words and amazing sermons will never go very far with those who may feel unsteady in their spiritual walk. Those with uncertainty lingering in their restless hearts will gain spiritual confidence and self-esteem if they feel as though they are worth the Pastor’s time. At Middletown, no one is a stranger. Pastor Serban leads the charge with his love of being with people, just like Jesus does. When asked what his favorite part about being a pastor is, he quickly said, “Oh, that’s easy. I love visiting with people – to be with them and serve them on behalf of God.”

It was not so easy for Pastor Serban as an Adventist growing up in Romania. During his formative years, Romania was under a Communist regime. Diligent faith and patience worthy of praise were some tools that assisted him in his walk with God. He was the only Adventist in his class of 27 and his Sundays were spent doing massive amounts of homework in order to make up for the day of class he missed each week, held on the Sabbath. “It was very difficult being an Adventist in a Communist school,” Serban confides. Grades were affected by behavior as well as academic work. His behavior grade was always lower simply because of his Christianity. School was not the only place these difficulties were felt. The worship environment was also impacted in intense ways that free societies may not completely identify with or comprehend. “Life in Romania as an Adventist was exciting and frightful at times” he remembers. The excitement boomed in a world of youth programs and Sabbath schools, organized choirs and positive community. The fright walked hand-in-hand with the Inspector of the Ministry of Cults who would pay “surprise” visits to different churches. Marius remembers, “We would go Christmas caroling even though it was prohibited.” That seemed to be the closest they got to evangelizing since that was also prohibited.

With the topic of Pastor Serban’s youth in play, we discussed what led him to ministry. He seems to have known since his early years that he was meant to perform some kind of leadership role in a church setting. He reminisces about when he was a little boy, “I played church with my brother. I would always play the choir director or the pastor,” he laughs. “Sometimes we played communion and we would find juice and make bread. I’ll tell you what, I’m a churchy guy. I like it so much; I like it as much as I did when I was a kid.” It seems he began to prepare for the seminary in Romania even though Bible access was limited at times and the Communists made it very difficult for Christians of all denominations. Maybe it solidified his resolve in Jesus. As seats were always very limited to study seminary – one year there were only four seats available for Adventist seminary in the whole country – Pastor Serban decided to go somewhere else to study. Making his way to France with a transit visa, he eventually made his way to Atlanta, Georgia and finally to Southern Adventist University (SAU) in Collegedale, Tennessee. When he first arrived in the United States, he did not know English. By the time he was finished with his studies he had acquired a Masters of Divinity, had performed excellently in Old Testament Studies, and was well-versed in Archeology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. He had learned English and had already begun pastoring on a stipend. He had also been married to his wife Dana for nearly six years and his son Calvin had been born. Pastor Serban had already been blessed in so many ways and had accomplished much at the start of his career in pastoring. He was committed to learning and scholarly study as well as connecting with people and forming new relationships. Now, he is committed to Middletown – a place that seems to have chosen him more than he initially chose it. God designed his coming here with an easy but efficient hand and he smiles as he thinks about how God led him to a place that so closely mirrors his own ideals. When asked about the future of his new-found “home”, he reveals, “I see the church as a growing, vibrant, community Seventh-day Adventist church.” Louisville’s Middletown Seventh-day Adventist Church acts as a bridge for those in the community to find a safe place to worship Jesus and to possibly transition into an Adventist lifestyle with ease and acceptance. Our pastor is doing all he can to make Middletown a church by the community, for the community. He wants anyone who wishes to be able to visit the “friendly church”!

When asked on what pillars he places his cored values, Pastor Serban says:

“To be a Christ-centered person of faith is to be honest with God and people. To love them. To understand I am a child of God for whom Christ died and that’s why I am valuable to God no matter where I am in my walk with Him. If I fall, I am filled with shame which can feed the lie that I am not worthy of God’s love. But if I serve God because I know I am valuable to Him, then my worthy is not based on anything except for the fact that God sent His Son to be sacrificed on my behalf.”