For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.(Romans 12:4-5, ESV)
In the New Testament, we are reminded over and over that the church functions like a body (1 Cor. 12:12-31, Rom. 12:4-5, Eph. 4:16). Just as each body part has its own function and purpose, each member of a church has a role, playing an important role in the overall function and health of the church. The church needs people to fill each role; without each member, the church cannot reach its full potential.
It is important to think, then, about one’s commitment to the Adventist Church. Each member within the church plays an important role, but are these members dedicated to remaining Adventists for the rest of their lives? Will they continue to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus?
As part of the 2018 Global Church Member Survey (GCMS), members worldwide were asked, “How likely is it that you will be attending the Seventh-day Adventist Church for the rest of your life?” (Q36). Four out of five (81.6%) respondents believe it is very likely that they will remain a part of the Adventist Church for life; another 10.8% believe it is somewhat likely. Only a small percentage (3.9%) were neutral on the topic or felt that it was somewhat unlikely (1.3%)/very unlikely (2.3%) that this would be the case.
It is greatly encouraging that most (82%) members feel a strong sense of commitment and attachment to the Adventist Church! These numbers indicate that the Adventist Church has a strong future ahead of it.
However, although we see Adventists appear to be committed to the Church overall, how satisfied are they with their local congregations?
The 2013 GCMS asked members to rate their satisfaction with their church on a scale from 1-10 (1 being very dissatisfied and 10 being very satisfied). In the North American Division, 78% of church members rated their satisfaction with the church as a 7 or above (70th percentile or above).
Members in other divisions, including the Trans-European Division, indicated their satisfaction on a different scale: very dissatisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, neutral, somewhat satisfied, and very satisfied. In the TED, 22% of respondents shared that they are very satisfied, with another 52.7% indicating that they are satisfied. Only a small percentage (7.8%) indicated they were dissatisfied, and 3.25% indicated that they were very dissatisfied. Although a majority in these divisions (as well as other divisions surveyed in the 2013 study) are very satisfied or satisfied with their local churches, it is alarming to have about one fifth or a quarter of members not satisfied with their local congregations or neutral on this issue.
The 2018 GCMS asked members the same question (Q35). Globally, almost half (48.3%) of members responded that they are very satisfied with their local church; another 25.9% indicated that they are somewhat satisfied. Interestingly, 15.3% of respondents felt neutral about their church. Also, 4.8% percent of respondents indicated that they are somewhat dissatisfied with their local church, while a similar number (5.7%) admitted that they are very dissatisfied.
There appears to be a disconnect between satisfaction with local congregations and members’ overall commitment to the Adventist Church as a whole. This is something that leaders on a local, union, and conference level need to examine and ultimately address.
Obviously, church administration does not want members to simply be committed (but miserable) in their local churches. This does not promote a vital, Christ-like atmosphere; this is not a healthy body. It is possible that church life at the local level needs to be examined in a different way and adapted to better reflect members’ needs. Ultimately, such actions might increase members’ satisfaction with their local churches and increase the overall health of the body of Christ, as well as enhance their commitment to the Adventist Church overall.
For more data on 2013 GCMS, you can find the Church Member Research Reports by Division here.
For more data on the 2018 GCMS look at the following presentation by Dr. David Trim from the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research:
2018 Annual Council – Global Church Member Survey Data Report | [Watch Video]
Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.