Adventist Church Tops 19 Million Members
By Andrew McChesney
The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s official membership has topped 19 million for the first time, and the number of local churches has doubled worldwide to more than 80,000 in just two decades, according to newly released figures.
The Adventist Church had 19,126,447 members as of December 31, 2015, a net increase of 647,144 people, or 3.5 percent, from the previous year, the church’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research said. In another statistical milestone, the church has 81,551 local churches plus 69,909 companies, it said.
“The 2,741 new churches organized in 2015 are the most in any year in our history, surpassing the 2,446 in 2014, which was the previous record year for new local churches,” said David Trim, director of the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research. “We passed 40,000 churches only in 1995.”
The growth comes even as the church, founded in 1863 with only 3,500 members, undergoes a comprehensive membership audit to ensure that reported statistics reflect the reality on the ground.
“Praise God for the wonderful growth,” said Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church. “It tells me that even with the appropriate and careful auditing of membership records worldwide that Secretariat has initiated in the last few years, God’s Word is going forward in a marvelous way through the power of the Holy Spirit, and God’s work is expanding.”
G. T. Ng, executive secretary of the Adventist world church, whose Secretariat office initiated the audit, echoed Wilson’s joy about the figures showing church growth. “The rapid church growth is a testament to the promise in 2 Chronicles 20:20: ‘Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper,’ ” he said. “The church has prospered because we have been faithfully following God’s instructions in Matthew 24:14 to evangelize the world.”
The Adventist Church, which is organized into 13 world divisions and two attached fields, saw its fastest growth last year in the West-Central Africa Division, where membership rose 7.6 percent to 683,318 people.
The two divisions with the most net accessions were the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division and the South American Division. In Africa, Zambia saw its membership pass 1 million in 2015, while evangelistic meetings in Zimbabwe led to 30,000 baptisms in May 2015. Part of the South American Division’s growth, meanwhile, came from a program to reclaim former members. Adventist Review reported in April 2015 that 15 percent of South American baptisms were of former members.
But the engine—the lifeblood—of church growth is the opening of new churches, said Gary Krause, who oversees church planting as director of the Office of Adventist Mission. He said he was heartened to see that last year a new church was established every 3.2 hours, in addition to many more groups and companies. “I encourage every church not only to focus on growing their existing church, but to pray and plan on ways to start new groups of believers,” Krause said.