While the Adventist Church does not mandate a specific diet as a requirement for members, it does encourage a healthy diet. In fact, one of the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Adventist Church, states: “Along with adequate exercise and rest, we are to adopt the most healthful diet possible and abstain from the unclean foods identified in the Scriptures” (28 Fundamental Beliefs, 2015).1
So, to what extent do Adventist church members accept this standard? One of the questions in the 2013 Global Church Member Survey (2013 GCMS) conducted under the direction of the General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research asked church members around the world to respond to the Adventist standards regarding healthful living: the goal was to find out to what degree the global church embraces these standards. With a total of 24,593 respondents for this question, a clear majority of them (74.5%) said they embrace these health standards wholeheartedly. Those who accept the teaching only because the Church teaches it comprise 12.4% of the sample, and those that have some questions about it (it is assumed they accept it regardless), 5.1%. There is also a small number with major doubts on the matter (2.3%) and a slightly higher number (2.9%) of church members who just don’t accept these standards.
One of the questions that remained unanswered after the 2013 survey results came in was: for the percentage of church members who embrace and practice these health standards, why do they do it?
In the 2018 version of this same survey (2018 GCMS) a few different questions regarding the Health Message were added to understand what motivates church members to adopt a healthy lifestyle. One of the questions asked respondents to state whether they thought that following the Adventist Health Message would increase their probability of living longer: the results indicated that the majority (92%) of respondents strongly agreed or agreed with the statement. Overall, there is a strong consensus that following it will result in a longer life.
However, some people reported that they believe following the Health Message will ensure their salvation. A second question asking church members to disclose what they believe the relationship between salvation and the Health Message is, revealed that about 47% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “Following the Health Message ensures my salvation.”
Some of the respondents (15%) were confused by the statement and answered, “I’m not sure.” The rest of the respondents (38%) agreed or strongly disagreed with the idea that following the Health Message ensures salvation. It is unclear what the source of confusion is regarding this matter, but pastors and church leaders worldwide should pay more attention to clarifying what the relationship is between salvation and, amongst other things, the Health Message.
To be clear, the Adventist Church does not support the belief that following the Health Message—to any degree—ensures salvation. Salvation is a gift from God. The Adventist Health Message emphasizes physical health, mental health, emotional well-being, social support, and relationships as a part of spiritual growth. For extra measure, the preceding statement was also added in the 2018 GCMS and respondents were asked to indicate the degree to which they agree with it.
Most respondents (92%) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: a small number (6%) weren’t sure of it, and 2% either disagreed or strongly disagreed with it. These figures mean that the ultimate purpose of the Health Message—optimizing spiritual growth—is understood worldwide. There is, however, still room for improvement in educating church members about the Health Message and clearing up some confusion about its relationship to personal salvation.
On a practical level: How many Adventist church members worldwide have adopted the recommendations of the Health Message regarding diet? Stay tuned for our next blog to find out!
For more data on both 2013 and 2018 GCMS look at the following presentations by Dr. David Trim from the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research:
Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.
- To learn about the 28 Fundamental Beliefs, click here: https://www.adventist.org/en/beliefs/, or to view the PDF version of all 28 beliefs, click here: https://www.adventist.org/fileadmin/adventist.org/files/articles/official-statements/28Beliefs-Web.pdf