The holiday season is upon us; wherever you look, you are reminded of Christmas. Perhaps it’s bright, twinkly lights and candles decorating every surface. Maybe it’s nativity scenes set up – either indoors or out. Or, sadly, it might be more secular symbols of Christmas, such as reindeer and elves.
The Christmas season provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on the ultimate gift that Jesus gave when he left the splendor of Heaven and came to earth as a helpless baby. It also is a time to renew our commitment to Christ as we prepare to enter into a new year.
In 2013, a survey of church members around the world was conducted under the direction of the General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research. The study was designed to assess the experiences and attitudes of church members regarding different aspects of their personal spiritual lives and their participation in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
One area researched was church members’ belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This may seem an area where Christians would have no doubt, but some early Seventh-day Adventists were Arians or subscribed to other anti-Trinitarian ideas, and their views have had a long influence in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Thus, the responses of church members are of great interest. Nearly 9 out of 10 respondents (86%) indicated that they embrace this belief wholeheartedly. Only a small percentages of respondents indicated that they have questions or doubts about this doctrine, or don’t accept it.
Interestingly, when examining each division individually, researchers found that:
- Church members in the North American Division (NAD) reported the highest numbers (98%) for embracing this idea wholeheartedly.
- Members in the Southern African-Indian Ocean Division (SID) (73%) and Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) (78%) reported the lowest numbers for embracing this concept whole-heartedly. Members in the SID also had the highest numbers (14%) for accepting the belief only because the church teaches it.
- It is among church members in the SSD that there are the highest proportion of doubts about the status of Jesus Christ as God’s son. More than 10% admit major doubts or do not accept that teaching at all. A possible explanation is that in SSD only 54% of survey respondents were born to Adventist parents and 62% of the sample were baptized before 15 years of age. More than three-quarters of members have not had any experience of Adventist education, at any level.
Overall, however, how wonderful that so many within the Seventh-day Adventist Church believe so strongly in Jesus as part of the Godhead! But what of those who question Jesus’s position as God’s son? Or those who consider themselves members of the Church, but only accept Jesus’ role as mediator and savior because the Church teaches it? Many times it is easy to assume that, because church attendees are members or are sitting in the pews every week, they must have a good grasp of the Church’s teachings. As this survey shows, however, this is not always the case. It seems that continuing education in Bible teachings is needed, especially in cultures in which other world religions predominate and when members are baptized at a young age.
As part of this same survey, church members were also asked to describe their commitment to Jesus.
- Overall, about 88% testified they were commited to Jesus Christ.
- Interestingly, nearly two out of five (39%) respondents shared that they have been committed to Christ since they were young and continue to be committed to Him now.
- Another 16% stated that their commitment to Christ came suddenly and they experienced a huge life change—the classic “conversion experience”.
- One third (33%) of those surveyed shared that their commitment has developed gradually over a time.
This Christmas season, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the health of your own relationship with Jesus. How committed are you to Christ as Son of God and as Savior? And how has your commitment to Him changed or developed over time? Maybe it’s been a long time since you really thought through Jesus’ role in your life. Or maybe you have gotten busy and have forgotten to daily commit yourself to Him. There’s no time like the present to reconnect with your Savior, Who is called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:6)!
Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry
Published by ASTR