The Seventh-day Adventist Church is working to overcome the challenges of COVID-19 and reach people for Christ.
“Over the past 18 months, the Church has suffered but faced it head-on, reinvented itself and, by the grace of God, overcame its challenges,” said Erton Kohler, Adventist Church secretary of the newly elected seventh day.
So began Kohler’s Secretariat’s first report to the Executive Committee at the 2021 Annual Council held on October 10 in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Annual Council was a hybrid between virtual and in-person participation.
During the Secretariat’s report, Kohler gave many examples of the incredible work the Adventist Church has done around the world during the 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Adventist Church, Kohler says, has worked through communication channels – digital ministries, publishing and Hope Channel ministries, hospitals, clinics, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, schools and missionaries to bring people into a personal relationship with Christ and bring them life. give help.
“What a challenge we have! A challenge that will only get more and more complex in the future, ”says Kohler. “But our eyes should not be focused on crises, but on Him who is greater than crises, always believing that our greatest challenges precede His greatest miracles.”
“It is time to move forward, relying fully on prayer and our biblical identity, accepting the commitment to be a positive influence in this world and renewing our focus on virtual and in-person mission. through the method of Christ, ”concluded Kohler.
Impact of COVID-19 on World Church Membership
David Trim, director of the Adventist Church’s Archives, Statistics, and Research Department, told attendees that there can only be one topic: “The impact on the church of the pandemic of COVID-19 – what happened; and what the statistics suggest could happen in the near future.
Trim noted that the COVID-19 pandemic’s most distinct impact on the Church can be found by looking at memberships or the number of people entering the Adventist Church. For the first time since 2004, memberships fell below 1 million. From 1.3 million in 2019 to just over 800,000 in 2020.
This drop in membership would most certainly be due to the decrease in public evangelistic meetings. But, as Trim suggests, it could also be due to a decline in personal witnessing, or what he calls, “the critical importance of people-to-people contact.”
Speaking of losses, or those who left or moved away from the church, Trim notes that the decline doesn’t stand out as much as the memberships. The 564,000 casualties in 2020 was a median of the past 15 years. While this number may be due to the fact that the pace of audits declined during the pandemic, it may also be that due to the pandemic, pastors have paid more attention to the well-being of their congregations.
While talking about memberships and losses during a pandemic, the report also focused on deaths. Trim noted that even though the death numbers in 2020 were relatively low, he warned that we still may not have a full understanding of the losses due to deaths over the past 2 years. Trim suggests that congregations cannot meet and that records are not always kept up to date during the pandemic, the deaths may not have been recorded by the local church at the time they were occurring, and therefore the deaths of 2020 are now added to the 2021 deaths.
What is the Adventist Church’s position on membership attrition after 2020? Trim notes that we now have 56 years of well-detailed membership gains and losses statistics, including 2020. Since 1965, 42,225,021 people have been members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. At the same time, at least 16.8 million people have left or moved away. This leaves our net loss rate at 4 in 10, or 41%. An aspect in which, notes Trim, the Church must do better.
Concluding his portion of the Secretariat’s report, Trim notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the church in terms of memberships, losses, deaths, church planting and donations to the mission. Yet we have a lot to be thankful for and we must strive to achieve a lot. Trim concluded by saying: “As global conditions begin, as we hope, to ease, there is still a lot to do, and a lot of things that we need to renew, a lot that we have to undertake with effort. renewed, as we look to our blessed hope of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
Missionaries continue to serve:
Even during the pandemic, the Adventist Church continued to train and send missionaries, including international service workers (ISEs) and Adventist volunteers around the world. While methods have been updated due to the pandemic, Adventists around the world are still responding to the “I Will Go” call.
Since March 2020, 40 new missionary families have reached their places of welcome. Currently, there are 373 ISE families around the world, at all levels of administration, education, medical outreach, Adventist Development and Relief Agency and more.
ISEs have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with 4 succumbing to COVID-19. During her presentation, Associate Secretary Karen Porter honored and thanked the ISEs who serve and paid tribute to those we have lost.
VividFaith, an initiative that connects people with mission-driven service opportunities, launched in June 2020. Fylvia Fowler Kline, director of VividFaith, reported that in the first fifteen months, 80 organizations have signed up to use as a recruiting tool. But, due to the challenges of the pandemic, such as travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, there is only an average of 60 missions available at any given time. However, Kline notes that there is no shortage of people willing to serve. Over 850 new “VividFriends” have signed up and are looking for mission opportunities. As Kline notes, “They’re ready. They say “I’m going to go” – despite the circumstances. ”
By addressing the disparity between available missions and VividFriends, VividFaith is no longer just a recruiting tool and focuses on ways of serving beyond traditional methods.
In partnership with the Institute of World Mission and other organizations, VividFaith will provide training and resources for those awaiting a mission.
Adventist Volunteer Services (AVS) also continued to hire volunteers and services. AVS launched a new website and online course “Passport to Mission” which was updated in collaboration with the Institute of World Mission. There was also growth in mission schools around the world, with over 6,000 new students.
Investing in systematic volunteering, the concept of everyone volunteering where they are and according to their abilities, has also led to an expansion of the One Year in Mission project to include the community where the volunteer is located. Now anyone can serve in their local church, with local community projects. This allows everyone to be a volunteer on a mission, wherever they are.
Adventist mission reaches people through global mission:
“We pray for a mission that is stronger than crises, and we have seen over the past year through the pandemic that Adventist mission has continued to move forward with people willing to say” j ‘go, “” said Gary Krause, director of the Adventist Mission Office, during the final part of the 2021 Secretariat report.
Global mission pioneers are frontline workers planting churches in new areas and among unreached groups of people. Last year, during the pandemic, a new church was established every 5 hours. This means that by 2020, 1,736 new Adventist churches were organized around the world.
The mission priority system now works to help prioritize mission plans based on the mission challenge and unreached people. Krause announced a new, upcoming mission dashboard for church leaders to see the global mission status for their region.
Along with the Total Employment tent-making program, urban centers of influence are finding new and innovative ways to reach people using the method of the ministry of Christ. During the pandemic, the six global mission centers continued to help divisions reach large groups of non-Christian people in their territories through innovative methods, materials and models.
“When we look at the various aspects of world mission,” Krause explains, “you can see that they all have one thing in common, and that is to help us start new groups of believers. ”
Krause concluded her report by speaking about Mission Awareness and the communication channels Adventist Mission uses to share how mission offerings are “like a river flowing around the globe, bringing life and energy to the mission.”