A Relationship with Christ: Global Trends 2013 vs. 2018

Blog March 3, 2020

Into my heart,
Into my heart,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
Come in today.
Come in always.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.

Do you remember singing this song when you were little? Or perhaps your little ones sang it when they were in Sabbath School. This song is so simple–it’s just a chorus, really. But in these few words is an invitation that opens the door to life beyond compare: a relationship with Jesus Christ.

As part of the past two Global Church Member Studies (GCMS), church members were asked if they believe in a personal God who seeks a relationship with human beings. An overwhelming majority (84.4%) of respondents in the 2013 survey strongly agreed with this idea, while adding those who agree more than they disagree gives 95% who agree. Only one respondent in twenty disagreed. 

When the same statement was posed to respondents in the 2017-2018 survey, findings were similar; 94% agreed that they believe in a personal God who seeks a relationship with human beings. Only a small percentage stated they weren’t sure (2.9%) or disagreed to one extent or another (3.1%). 

Overall, the data from both the 2013 and 2017-2018 surveys show that a vast majority of Adventists understand that God wants to have a personal relationship with them. This is good news! However, one can note that there is a 10 percentage point decrease in those who responded that they “strongly agree”. This is troubling. 

Both the 2013 and 2017-2018 GCMS also asked if members around the world feel that they are saved the moment they believe in and accept what Jesus did for them. The 2013 data revealed that four out of five (79.3%) strongly believe that this is true, and another 13.2% agree more than they disagree. Less than one in ten (7.5%) disagreed to one extent or another.

When the same question was posed to respondents of the 2017-18 GCMS, however, two-thirds of respondents strongly agreed with this statement and nearly another quarter (agreed. The totals of the two responses is 90% as opposed to 92.5% in 2013, but those who strongly agree fell by 13 percentage points. “Consequently, the proportion of members who do not agree with the statement rose and together now total 10%. Although these results are encouraging because it shows that church members around the world widely understand that salvation comes only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; when we compare the results of two surveys we cannot but be concerned. In responding to both these questions, while the total who agreed remained roughly the same, there were significant decreases in those who strongly agreed. Is this an emerging trend? Or evidence of the arising need to bring a better understanding of what Jesus has done for us? Could this mean that struggle with questions related to our salvation (see our previous blog) hinders members’ strong assurance in Jesus’ saving grace?  

God wants a relationship with us. He is eager to reveal Himself to us through anything that will get our attention: primarily the Scriptures, but also through people, challenges and miracles. He wants to be noticed by us, so He can help us. He wants to take our burdens away and give us joy. He wants to save us from the ultimate consequence of our sins because He loves us so very much. Jesus wants us to believe in Him and invite Him into our hearts. He desires to have personal relationships with us, to know us, and to be known. He wants us to be assured that what He has done is enough for our salvation if we accept it. He said: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28, NIV). What a privilege it is that our God and Savior desires to know us so intimately and makes Himself accessible to be known in return!

More data regarding the GCMS 2018 can be found here in the Meta-Analysis Report

Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry