ore than one million people joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the 12 months ending June 30, world church executive secretary Pastor Matthew A. Bediako (pictured above) told leaders of the movement in a report delivered October 14 during the church’s 95th
World church membership stands at 15,433,470 as of June 30, Bediako said, with the church having added 2,859 people daily during the reporting period.
Bediako reported there is now one Seventh-day Adventist for every 429 people on Earth.
The Adventist Church, Bediako noted, has "never been in such a favorable position to witness for the truth." But, he added, "This should not lead us into an attitude of complacency and contentment. This is the time to be more alert and active than ever."
“For the past five consecutive years, over one million individuals have joined the [Seventh-day Adventist] Church every year,” Bediako told the gathering. “During the period under review, July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007, 1,044,315 [people] were added to the Church through baptism and profession of faith. Although this is [a] 48,774 decrease from last year, we praise God for these precious souls.”
The membership figures showed a net increase 681,448 people, after accounting for 362,867 whose names were removed from church membership rolls. In 2006, church leaders said some of these adjustments resulted from audits of local church membership, as well as from reports of members who have passed away. In the five year period ending in 2006, according to a review of statistics provided by the church and reported by Adventist News Network last year, deaths have accounted for approximately 10 percent to 12 percent of annual membership losses.
At the same time, the attrition rate seems to be turning around, Bediako said.
“While we were reporting a ratio of accessions to losses around 45.03 percent,” he said, “our records this year show a healthy figure of 24.21 percent. This is a remarkable change and we praise God for that.”
Bediako said that while “we are happy to see a new trend, but we cannot sing the doxology until we eliminate from our chart the loss and missing column. To achieve this goal, we need to exhibit in every church, institution, and on all levels of Church administration, an unconditional love for one another. Let every individual who enters our church and institution feel welcome. We need to respect and accept one another.”
And Bert Haloviak, director of the church's Office of Archives and Statistics said this year's membership growth rate -- 4.62 percent -- is the highest since the 2002-03 year when the results of membership audits first showed up in the church’s books.
On the missionary front, Bediako reported that 96 new missionaries were sent out on full-term appointments in 2007, and 624 others returned to their assignments after furloughs and annual leaves. A total of 979 missionaries, “coming from everywhere and going to everywhere” are in the field today, augmented by more than 1,600 Adventist Volunteers on 12- and 24-month commitments.
Reports from Bediako and Vernon Parmenter, director of Adventist Volunteer Center, also emphasized the impact of lay member and pastoral outreach in many areas. Evangelistic campaigns in Africa, the Ukraine, Tartarstan, Indonesia, the Inter-America church region and South America are all credited with adding to church membership rolls.
“I fully believe that the greatest days of accomplishment are still before us,” Bediako said. “Soon we shall see an increasing acceleration of the work on all fronts in the days to come. As a people, we have never been in such a favorable position to witness for the truth.”
He added, “our Church has gained a larger measure of respect than ever before. The publicity that has been given to the Church’s worldwide activities has led many to ask what Adventists stand for. Many organizations, other religious denominations, and people in both high and low places of responsibility are ready to listen to our teachings and to follow the truth. It is, for all of us, a day of opportunity.”
Seventh-day Adventists are active in 203 of the world’s 207 nations and territories. Between 25 and 30 million people attend Adventist worship services weekly, a number larger than baptized membership because, as in many Protestant churches, the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not baptize infants.
-- Adventist News Network staff contributed to this story.