More Than 1 Million Join Adventist Church
For Fifth Consecutive Year
Secretary, statistical reports reflect membership audits; missionaries increasingly diverse
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BY ANSEL OLIVER, Adventist News Network
or the fifth consecutive year, more than 1 million people have joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church worldwide, according to this year's church statistical report.
Church leaders said for the year ending June 30, on average about 2,800 people joined the church each day, bringing the world membership total to 15,780,719. There is now one Adventist for every 425 people on the planet. In 1980, the ratio was one in 1,268.
This year's report reflects a membership audit of the church's South America Division, which resulted in a more than 300,000-member decline. "While previous audits in other divisions were also intense, the more accurate membership totals suggest a positive look toward the future," said Bert Haloviak, director of the General Conference Archives and Statistics Department.
Reporting a "realistic membership" can set up a region to grow, church officials said.
Between 2003 and 2005, the Southern Asia-Pacific Division lost 400,000 members from membership audits, Haloviak said. But that region now has the second highest regional growth rate of 6.6 percent, the highest growth rate since the region organized in 1997 said Matthew Bediako, GC executive secretary.
Bediako said he hopes two more of the church's 13 world regions will conduct similar audits. Both Bediako and Haloviak presented their findings during reports to the world church's Annual Council business session in Manila, Philippines on October 12.
Church growth patterns indicate most church growth took place in non-western societies. About 89 percent of church growth occurred in six of the church's 13 world regions -- South America, Inter-America, East-Central Africa, South Africa-Indian Ocean, Southern Asia and Southern Asia-Pacific (See Table B).
Africa and Latin America are now home to about 70 percent of church membership. About 18 percent of members reside in Asia, seven percent in North America and five percent in Europe and Oceania, Haloviak reported to delegates.
Bediako said he was encouraged that missionaries are now coming from more countries and serving in more countries than ever before. More than 2,800 missionary volunteers now serve throughout all the church's world regions.
Other church leaders presented their evangelistic efforts as part of the church's Tell the World initiative, the theme for the quinquenium ending in 2010. Gary Krause, director of the church's Office of Adventist Mission reported the success of mission pioneers in countries where the church is developing.
Several leaders also mentioned the success of church planting for developing church growth. Krause pointed to a Fuller Theological study that said three people are needed to bring someone to Christ in a church that is one to three years old. That figure jumps to seven people needed in churches that are four to seven years old. Eighty-five people are needed in churches 10 years and older.
Leaders said church growth came from many initiatives, including media outreach, personal witness, schools and other institutions, and public evangelism.