The Adventist Review recently put out an analysis looking into the attrition rate of the Church. You can find their article HERE. Though I’m curious as to why they seem to have chosen to leave out doctrinal disagreements from their survey, what stood out to me wasn’t so much their results but rather their solution to it.
Image Source: Adventist Review
I have no reason to doubt the results they are reporting, or to question their concern. What stands out to me is their proposed solutions to stem the loss. Below are the final two paragraphs of their analysis.
“For many Seventh-day Adventists, their local church did not prove a loving and supporting community. When they experienced conflict or difficulties, they stopped attending church—and often nobody noticed they had left.
We are not promised an easy road when we become Christians. Jesus is clear about this when He says, “The road is narrow.” However, what is our responsibility as members of the body of Christ in creating guardrails for our fellow members to keep them from drifting away? Knowing that about one quarter of those leaving the church perceived a lack of compassion for hurting people, what could we do to shift that perception? Further, what could be our part in helping someone who recognizes their failures to make the changes they need for reconciliation? How can we support those who are struggling morally or facing marital difficulties, ensuring that they are not isolated? What can be done to train our members to resolve conflicts in a Christ-like way? Let’s remember that Jesus came “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10) It should be our mission too.”
Notice above that the solution to what they believe to be apostasy is only more law. The Gospel is left out entirely. The death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ just doesn’t factor in as a solution whatsoever. Instead, they burden their current membership with shaping up and encouraging those around them to do the same.
I’m not saying that law doesn’t have a place in such things at all. Our culture today certainly needs to hear some law rightly preached in how we have all failed to meet Gods perfect standard. But if all you’re giving people is a watered down version of law that they can actually fulfill then the Gospel has no meaning even if you do preach it. In this case the writer for the Adventist Review has only given the former and left out the latter entirely.
One should find a Church that preaches the Law (Matt 5:48) and Gospel (Php 3:9) rightly. Even if membership at such a Church does decline that isn’t what’s important. The thing that matters is that those who are attending are transformed into Christians by the power of God’s Word. Simply entertaining goats with a false law and no gospel fails to be relevant even if it fills the pews.
I noticed that the only reported three reasons. Those three reasons they claim accounted for 72% of all possible reasons. That means there’s at least one other category that they didn’t mention. And I believe that one category is a very significant one. And I believe that that one category includes a very significant reason –bad theology. That’s right I mean A theology that does not heal The sin sick soul. Not only that, but I believe that this bad theology is a major contributor to the other three.. that means that the decline of Adventism is somewhat inevitable, and in today’s society and religious culture, irreversible.
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Excellent point! I don’t think their worldview will allow for that level of self reflection though.
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“…if all you’re giving people is a watered down version of law that they can actually fulfill then the Gospel has no meaning even if you do preach it.”
“Even if membership at such a Church does decline that isn’t what’s important. The thing that matters is that those who are attending are transformed into Christians by the power of God’s Word.”
Gold. Excellent points that I wish the church would recognize.
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You have forgotten the most important of all facts. This fact was as true for Jesus as it is for Adventism. Truth is always lacking for numbers. A decline in nimbers is ttuyh heaing in the right direction.
Those saved re the book of Jesus’ Revelation is referred to as a “remnant”.
Those lost referred to in the book 9f Jesus’ Revelation..”numberless as sand on the seashore..and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
Rule of thumb…identifiying with the majority is an appointment with hell fire.
Well then by your own reasoning SDA are not the remnant because overall their numbers are growing. They just have an astronomical attrition rate.
The two are not one and the same.
I have noticed again that Courtney’s arguments are a non sequitur. As far as trying to attribute good theology to an improper use of the law, and even that under the wrong covenant does not in anyway negate the point. It just shows that you run as fast from grace to the law, as the devil does running from the cross,-and for the same reasons.
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Being raised an Adventist near Battle Creek Michigan where it all started, I can say that though theology may play an important factor, I do agree that the lack of Christian love is their biggest problem. Though many wont admit it, the conservative elements in the church believe that ultimately there will be a sunday law passed, where those of us who go to church on Sunday will hunt down the Adventists because of their refusal to go to church on Sunday. It is my belief that this us against the world theology makes them very suspicious of people. Many Adventists live such sheltered and reclusive lifestyles that they just dont know how to deal with mainstream people. They have little in common with the average American, and dont really trust them. Many of them come off cold and unloving of all things except Ellen White. And even those who would try to reach out in the community are so weird that they cannot relate to people. Jesus met people where they were, and was criticized by the Adventists of his time for it. You cant show Jesus love when you dont trust or like anyone who doesnt think like you. Again I live in a region where some of the most radically conservatives Adventists are. Remnant Publications was founded in Coldwater Mi just 30 minutes away, and they believe they will somehow affect the timeline of Jesus return by teaching all of mankind about the significance of the sabbath. When you dont trust people, and dont know how to relate to them, it will be very difficult to help them in their time of need. This is they cant retain people, they lack empathy and Christian love.
***This is why they cant retain people I meant to say.