The Spirit Behind the Numbers



“Numbers!” They have become society’s measurement of success. Bigger is better, especially when numbers drive profits.


Historically, accurate numbers have concerned the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA), especially at the SDA World Headquarters. In an article from the Adventist News Network entitled 15 Million Adventists, Who’s Counting?, the accuracy and integrity between official SDA membership counts and the actual number of members sitting in the pews is called into question. However, the issue may not be the head count or its accuracy being translated into success. It might be spiritual; it may be the truth.


Senior Pastor Charles White of Camelback Seventh-day Adventist Church in Phoenix, Arizona admitted that their church’s membership roster, which had not been updated in more than fifteen years, holds “…a lot of dead wood in the books.” At Phoenix Camelback, the membership roster topped one thousand, but “…the pews reveal an average Sabbath worship service draws only between three hundred and fifty and four hundred members.”


The global SDA officials estimate that only thirty to fifty percent of their church members “regularly attend services.” This is another way of saying that fifty to seventy percent are not regularly attending services. Yet, the people responsible for preparing the membership rosters end up in that most common of all places—between a rock and a hard place. Often numbers become a distraction or even the “goal,” when head counts are not the issue.


Numeric accuracy has organizational value but little or no spiritual importance. Whether there are millions, thousands, hundreds or just one single individual, the true concern and hope for eternal life is the issue.


A quick crusade may persuade those untaught in the Scriptures to join the Adventist cause, but they can’t keep their converts—why? “Conversion” is a conversion to the Law and the unique tenets of Ellen White, the Adventist false prophetess. An understanding of the work of God’s grace is missing. Grace is not a power to keep the Law; it is the kiss of bondage that slaps on the chains owning to perpetual slavery. Salvation is the free act of God that saves all who believe and frees them from the Law, especially laws made by man.


Grace is God’s pure, free, unmerited favor. It is a gift from Him without regard to our worthiness or merit—but His love. God gives all that we cannot earn; salvation gained when Christ died on the cross to pay in full every wage of sin, making us white as snow, delivered from the “investigative” judgment (John 5:24) under the Law, and making us partakers of Christ’s salvation.


Consider why God would demand more than the death of His only begotten Son as the price for salvation!


World church secretary, Matthew A. Bediako, says, “You expect that the secretaries’ reports are accurate, but when we looked closer, we found unreasonable statistics.” In recent years the church estimates that number reached fifteen million. That global membership figure was called “fairly accurate” by AST Director Bert Haloviak. From another source, even as the number of members grew, church officials “suspected the books might be padding the truth.” The former associate secretary of the world church in the Southern Asia-Pacific region, G. T. Ng, said, “If membership is bloated, who are we fooling? Ourselves?” Ng “believes the church is morally obligated to accurately report membership.”


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