In today’s GC secretariat report G.T. Ng presented a summary of the past five years with a characteristic bit of humor added to what could have been a dry set of numbers. “Statistics are not ends in themselves—they must be placed in the context of mission…and mission is the reason for the existence of the church,” he said.
Church Growth Milestones
For 10 consecutive years the Seventh-day Adventist Church has baptized over one million people each year, making it one of the fastest growing churches in the world. The statistical report presented today clearly showed that the story of the Adventist Church in the past few years is one of relentless growth, from 14 million members in 2005, to 17 million in 2010, to 18.5 million in 2014. This progress of the Adventist Church would have been unimaginable to our pioneers in 1863 when the General Conference was organized with just 3,500 members.
Growth in South vs Decline in North
One of the most significant factors in regard to current church growth is the major shift in global membership totals from north to south.
In 1960 just over 50 percent of membership was in the Southern hemisphere. Today 91 percent of membership is in Africa, Asia and Latin America. “This significant membership shift from north to south has fundamentally changed the landscape of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” said Ng, secretary of the world church since 2010.
Looking at this picture of growth is not complete, however, without reviewing attrition. In the five-year period 2010 through 2014 the net loss rate for the quinquennium was 60 lost per 100 converts. “This terribly high percentage is partly due to membership audits, a process that identifies and removes from membership totals people who have left the church over the years,” said Ng, world church secretary since 2010.
“Even looking at the past 15 years pre-dating the recent round of thorough audits, however, the equivalent losses are 48 per hundred gained. Whether those losses are individuals who have left in this quinquennium, or their absence was only acknowledged in this quinquennium, these are tragic figures that the church cannot afford.”
Dr. David Trim, director of the Office of Archives, Statistics and Research, explained the categories of attrition, including death, missing members and those requesting their membership to be dropped.”The sheer magnitude of the losses…undercuts the growth,” he said. He also pointed out that we are not in a membership crisis. “We are feeling the effects of a statistical correction.”
Following the report a number of delegates spoke from the floor regarding the topic of member attrition.
Adventists By the Numbers
The following stats are from adventist.org as of Nov. 6, 2013:
Countries with established work 216
Union Conferences/Missions 132
Local Conferences/Missions 633
Publishing houses 63
Orphanages/children’s homes 34
Photo Credit: Steve Norman III