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Numbers and Evangelism

Am I missing something here?

Today, the Adventist Review just sent out their newsletter with a subject line heralding that the North American Division “Membership Tops 1 Million.”

The news:

Continuing the trend of the past few years, more than 1 million people are baptized members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, said G. Alexander Bryant, secretary of the world church division.

Back in 2004 the Adventist Review News reported that:

North American Division membership has passed the one million mark-1,001,872 as of October 21, 2004.

Apparently the news is that we’re continuing to top one million. Hmm?

According to the most recent numbers helpfully available for us lay folk through the church’s, in 2006 the NAD recorded 1,041,715 members.

I applaud the focus on weeding out the excess on the books, but if, as the secretary states, the NAD grew at a 2% rate over the last five years (including losses) than we should be just hovering around 1,100,000. (The 2003 membership was 992,046.) Four years later, the news is that the NAD tops 1 million?

What’s missing from the most recent Annual Council report in the Adventist Review is the actual 2007 number. Why?

Also not included in the report: the amount of money invested by the division, unions, conferences, local churches and individuals in public evangelism during 2007.


Interestingly, in the same news report we are told that the the North American Division has set a goal of adding 100,000 new members in 2009.

The method:

an evangelistic outreach called ‘Share The Hope’ which will launch Jan. 3 with a day of prayer and include ‘reaping‘ meetings in April and September.

The effort will involve local church meetings, weekly television and satellite broadcasts, and a broad-based evangelistic effort. The General Conference previously set 2009 as a global ‘Year of Evangelism.’

Italics mine.

Broad? In the era of narrowcasting and individualized email communications – that sounds like a whole lotta out-of-date public evangelism. But don’t take my word for it.

As a supporter of effective Seventh-day Adventist® evangelism, I’m eager to see how the NAD will deploy membership resources to quintuple its growth rate in a year.

But are we really ready to be aggressive enough with our truth in the marketplace of ideas?

Then what does the fact that seven whole people (before I post this) have watched this almost month old It is Written YouTube video tell us?

This message fights every day with exactly the sorts of messages present in every North American’s life. If folks don’t listen to it from the comfort of their own homes, why for example, is the Southern California Conference spending significant parts of their stated 1 million dollar budget on the hope that these same people will drive to hear it at the Shrine Expo Center?

Do church leaders even pay attention to what each other actually say. Rich DuBose, director of Church Support Services for the Pacific Union Conference, writes:

Public evangelism has its place, but it should never be looked to as the primary definition of what evangelism is. I’m saying that when members hear the word, evangelism, instead of thinking of a 4-6 week series of meetings, they should think of the many incredible opportunities that surround them every day to touch people’s lives for God.

Okay, I’m ready. Is leadership? Are they putting our money where their mouth is?

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