SDA Church Growth 1863 to the Present

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an Historical Statistics Analysis
  2012, no. 2  Adventist Church Growth and Mission Since 1863: An Historical–Statistical Analysis 1 D. J. B. TRIM At the 1905 General Conference Session the then president, Arthur G. Daniells—a former missionary, and among the most mission minded of all GC presidents—set out what was in eect a strategic vision for world - wide mission. In it, he called the “great Second Advent Movement” to action. 2 Who can tell why seven hundred and twenty of our ministers should  be located in America among one-twentieth of the world’s popula-tion while only two hundred and forty of our ministers are sent forth to work for the other nineteen-twentieths? What good reason can be given for spending annually $536,302.76 tithes among seventy-ve millions, and only $155,516.57 among fourteen hundred millions of the world’s perishing? We rejoice that we are able to name so many lands in which we have opened missions; but we deeply regret that in many of them our laborers are so few, and our eorts are so feeble. We should materially strengthen our missions in Nyassaland [ sic ], Rho -desia, China, Korea, Ceylon, Turkey, and Egypt. We should not delay longer to enter such lands as the Philippines, Madagascar, Greece, Uganda, and Persia. All that started this movement at the beginning, and has urged it onward to its present position, urges us with increas-ing emphasis to press on until this gospel of the kingdom shall be pro-claimed in all the world for a witness unto all nations. Then, and not till then, will the end come, for which we so earnestly long. (1905:9) Daniells’s clarion call could still be repeated today about Egypt, Greece, Iran, and Turkey, yet in large part his vision for thriving, dynamic, global Adventist mission has been realized. Nevertheless, 150 years after the Sabbatarian Adventists united as the Seventh-day Adventist Church 1Trim: Adventist Church Growth and Mission Since 1863: An Historical–StaPublished by Digital Commons @ Andrews University, 2012  52 Journal of Adventist Mission Studies with the creation of the General Conference, and over twenty years after the world church established the global mission initiative, the worldwide distribution of Seventh-day Adventists is uneven with large areas that are still eectively unreached. Daniells’s call not only could, it needs to be, repeated for the area of the world that represents the greatest challenge to Adventists (indeed, to all Christians): the so-called 10/40 Window.This article is a statistical overview of Seventh-day Adventist history and especially of its missions. It both brings out successes, which deserve to be celebrated, as well as aspects of Adventist historical statistics that are cause for more concern than celebration. First, the article highlights that the world church has enjoyed fteen decades of sustained, even extraor - dinary, growth. Second, however, it shows that key indicators suggest a decline in the denomination’s mission project over the last forty years—there has been a decrease both in the numbers of cross-cultural missionar-ies in long-term service and in the annual giving to world-wide missions  by church-members. Third, the article examines Adventist statistics in the 10/40 Window. It shows that the denomination has enjoyed some success since the establishment of global mission strategies in 1990. Yet key metrics suggest that resources commied to the region by the global Seventh-day Adventist Church qua  Church are not presently proportionate to the chal-lenge still facing Adventist mission in that region. The article concludes by arguing that the reality of the recent history of Adventist mission brings out the urgent need for a renewed commitment to global mission. Dynamic Global Growth In many ways, the historical statistics of Seventh-day Adventists tell a success story. What once was a North American sect is now a worldwide mission church. Whereas, in the last year of the twentieth century, ve of every six Seventh-day Adventists lived in North America, 110 years later, it was 6.6 of every hundred. 3  In the half-century 1960-2010, the shift in membership from America, and to a lesser extent Europe and Australasia, to the rest of the world has been even more marked (see G. T. Ng’s ar- ticle in this issue). This reects the geographical expansion of the denomi - nation but it also reects a remarkable increase in numbers. Our overall growth since we began with 3,500 members in 1863 has been so great that it is dicult to show in graphical form, for any chart has to show both the tiny beginning membership and today’s global church. Table 1, however,  brings out the dramatic growth. 2  Journal of Adventist Mission Studies, Vol. 8 [2012], No. 2, Art. 5  53 2012, no. 2  Table 1. Reported Seventh-day Adventist Global Membership and Esti-mated Global Population December 31, 1863 to June 30, 2012  YearReported Seventh-day Adventist Global Membership Estimated Global Population End 1863  3,500 1,306,000,000 End 1870 5,440 1,360,000,000 End 1880 15,570 1,443,000,000End 1890 29,711 1,532,000,000End 1900  75,767 1,628,000,000 End 1910  104,526 1,740,000,000 End 1920  185,450 1,861,000,000 End 1930  314,253 2,070,000,000End 1940 504,752 2,296,000,000End 1950  756,812 2,520,000,000End 1960  1,245,125 3,022,000,000 End 1970 2,051,864 3,698,000,000End 1980 3,480,518 4,414,000,000 End 1990  6,694,880 5,321,000,000End 2000  11,687,239 6,067,000,000 End 2010 16,923,239 6,892,000,000  June 30, 2012  17,594,723 7,023,324,899 Table 1 shows not only reported total Adventist membership but also estimated global population. 4  (All estimates of global population are, of course, just that—estimates, but both here and throughout we are looking for general trends and orders of magnitude, rather than precise data.) It is essential that we consider our own growth in the context of the world’s population. After all, if we were growing by 2.5 percent per annum, but humanity at 3.5 percent, then we would not even be running to stand still—it would be as though we were walking up a down escalator. 3Trim: Adventist Church Growth and Mission Since 1863: An Historical–StaPublished by Digital Commons @ Andrews University, 2012  54 Journal of Adventist Mission Studies What the table does not bring out clearly is that Adventist growth has always been greater than that of the world’s population. It is, again, dicult to show in graphic form both Adventist growth and that of the population at large, reecting two points about the 150 years of ocial Seventh-day Adventist history. First, the total global population has been measured in billions, whereas the Adventist population was measured rst in thousands and now in millions. Second, Adventist membership has grown nearly 1,000 times as much as global population—as table 1 reveals, the world’s population has grown since 1863 at around 537 per - cent, but Adventist membership has grown by 502,700 percent. To com -  bine these sorts of gures in a chart is very dicult. Almost the only way to show the growth in both membership and total population over the denomination’s history is to show the former in thousands and the laer in millions, as in gure 1. For our rst eighty years, our total membership grew steadily, but remains in the boom section of the chart—yet since then we are gradually scaling the heights, so to speak. Now, it is the case that we know, both from close analysis of our statis-tics and from the results of membership audits (where they have been car-ried out), that our reported membership is overstated. 5  Again, however, in the analyses in this article, we are looking at broad trends; so even though we are not certain of our precise membership, we know the broad trend and can measure it against the broad trends in global population at large. And there is good news when we do so. 4  Journal of Adventist Mission Studies, Vol. 8 [2012], No. 2, Art. 5
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