Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Seventh-day Adventist Church: Fastest Growing?

Last year an article by USA Today reported that the Seventh-day Adventist church is the "...fastest growing U.S. church" as the headline read. This was heralded as one can imagine by many within Adventism. It was indeed good news at the very least it was a positive article in a well known newspaper.
The Loma Linda University Seventh-day Adventist church is the largest  Adventist church in the U.S. with approximately 6,500 members. 

Yet even within the article Dr. Clouzet who is the director of the North American Division Evangelism Institue at Andrews University (where the Adventist Seminary is located) is quoted saying,
"We don't feel that we're growing very much, and that is a source of concern, especially for North America"
The article goes on to quote Clouzet saying the ones really growing and essentially driving up Adventist membership are Adventist Hispanics. He says,
"the one group that is growing very well...If we didn't have that group, we would look even more dismal."
 When I was in college and in seminary (Dr. Clouzet was one of my professors in both places by the way) in more than one occasion I often heard how are church wasn't growing. So when this article came out I was glad in one sense but really wanted to find out more. Are Seventh-day Adventist the fastest growing church in America?

Now I'm no statistician! Along those same lines I'm just reporting some of what I've come across online so this is not an in-depth statistical study. Plus sometimes depending on the source and what time they're reported, things can shift. With that said let me explain why Adventist may not really be the fastest growing church in America and then give some observations.

First lets go directly to the Adventist statistics website. and allow me to give you some of the numbers that I garnered from the website. The Adventist church in America is known as the North American Division, it includes Canada but for the purposes of this post which deals with the U.S only I have not included Canada's number. No offense Canada we love you:-)

2010 Adventist numbers:
Beginning membership: 1,047,333
New membership (baptism/profession of faith): 38,109
Churches in U.S.-4,926
If we take the above numbers the average church in the U.S will bring in nearly 8 people per year.

Yet the Adventist church as best it can keeps a lot of numbers. So it includes those that have dropped membership are missing and deceased.  That total was: 20,621 in 2010.

So if we take all that into consideration the U.S. Adventist church membership in 2010 started with 1,047,333 and ened with 1,064,256 for a net growth of 16,923. This would actually give the U.S. Adventist church an average growth per church of 3.43.

Next report:
The National council of churches every year does do an in-depth, and my understanding well respected research on church membership. It's called, "Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches 2012" In the report (I have not bought the book but just read what they stated online, you can read it HERE) if I'm understanding it correctly it clearly shows that there several other denominations that have had stronger growth in the U.S. than Seventh-day Adventist, which it states being up 1.61% but here are several other denominations that are reported being up...well...higher.

Jehovah's Witness-up 1.85%
Pentecostal Assemblies of God-up 20%
Assemblies of God-up 3.99%
National Baptist Convention, U.S.A-up 3.95%
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints-up 1.62%

Now interestingly enough Adventist along with the above mentioned were the only churches of the top 25 that reported growth according to the report. Again though it doesn't show us as the fastest growing.

The Adventist Review also reported on this report you can read its summary HERE.

Now again if I've misunderstood something, read reports incorrectly please let me know!
But what does all this tell us? Here are a few observations, thoughts, that honestly aren't new.

1. With the numbers from the Adventist website alone and Clouzet's comments we should be concerned  Seventh-day Adventist as a whole. Certainly there are thriving, growing Adventist churches. Yet according to the numbers there is a lot more work that needs to be done.
2. We must be creative, innovative, but of course biblical as we try to reach those around us with the gospel.
3. Adventist must be intentional in getting involved with the community which they are in and at the same time remain faithful through God's grace to the gospel.
4. Public evangelistic meetings are great, we shouldn't stop doing them, but we must understand this is just one form of evangelism. It has been known in our circles as one of the best methods and it's still a great one. Every church has to evaluate what will work and not work when it comes to public evangelism.
5. Churches need to have areas where people can plug in and become active. For example small groups, outreach ministries such as helping people in the community that are in need.
6. One of the first things that people will see is our worship services. Regardless of 'worship style' it is important, that as best as each church can. Each church must plan, pray, and prepare its worship service(s) so they will be the best they can as we worship a God who deserves the best!
7. It's great to see the spanish work growing as it is. Although perhaps it would be interesting to see (not sure how) how many hispanics have migrated to the U.S and for whatever reason not been able to transfer their membership from the church of their home country so they are accepted by profession of faith.
8. As followers of Jesus, Seventh-day Adventist must live intentional, missional lives. Living out the gospel in their lives where ever they work and play.
9. Though I've put it down here last, this is of first importance. We've been talking numbers. Nothing wrong with that, yet we must remember that behind every number is a soul that needs Jesus.

I could say more, but would love to hear what you have to say. Do you believe the Seventh-day Adventist church is growing the way it should? Tell me why? I know there are people who read this blog of other faiths. Would love to hear what you have to say. Respond here, hit me up on twitter, or email me!


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