I am gratified by the response these blogs have been receiving. My last blog generated a very good question: “How we can be one of the fastest growing protestant church in North America if it were not for the methods that have been proven over the 100 years of our existence.”
There are two or three parts to that question. First, I do not believe that manipulation and fear-mongering are part of our heritage, either as Christians or as Adventists.
Second, the simple fact is that the growth of the church in North America is largely because of immigrants. Please do not misunderstand me. God loves all his children, wherever they are born. I am delighted that immigrants still come to enrich the country and our church.
The problem is not that people from other countries come here. The problem is that we are not retaining our own children. And this is true without regard to ethnicity or national origin.
The church is growing rapidly among first-generation Hispanic immigrants. But second-generation Hispanics are leaving the church in droves. If you think this doesn’t concern me, let me tell you I have a grandson whose last name is Guerrero. It is my continual struggle to help there be an Adventist church he wants to belong to when he grows up.
Several years ago I spoke at the NAD youth summit in Dallas. I was approached by a Filipino pastor’s wife: their problem? They were losing their “young professionals.”
There are so many danger signals in all this that I could go on and on and on.And I have written in a number of places about the dire situation we face. No matter where you live around the globe, no matter the color of your skin or the language you speak, once you reach a certain level of affluence, education, and mobility–we’re losing you.
The indicators are all around us. In Iowa, where I live, one of the largest congregations is increasingly made up of African immigrants. Let me restate this: they are wonderful children of God. But of the generation my own children grew up with, but few remain in the church–anywhwere!
So the chances that we will retain the second generation African young people now growing up in that congregation are not promising.
Another indicator. Look at the roster of pastors in your conference. How many were born in North America? Again, I am not disparaging these foreign born pastors. I thank God for them! The shortage of pastors would be even greater than it is now.
A number of years ago, George Barna did a survey, and found that only 10% of those identifying themselves as Christians actually were born-again believers. He then pointed out that if this is true across North America, then this continent is something like the third largest mission field in the world!
That’s one thing the quantity of foreign born pastors makes clear: we once produced enough young workers that we could send missionaries around the world. Now we don’t have enough for our own churches, and the world is sending their missionaries here.
If you live in large Adventist center, you may notice little of this. But elsewhere, the dangers are increasingly obvious. One survey found that nearly one out of five congregations in North America had no children or teenagers. None.
We may be one of the fastest growing churches in North America. That only tells you how desperate it is in many other churches. And it is no consolation to me, if it means my children or grandchildren are lost, or losing their way.