For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
– Isaiah 41:13 (NIV)
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
– Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)
Throughout the Bible, we see that our God is a personal God. He desires a close, intimate relationship with His people, but how do people respond to a personal God? And how does this impact their commitment level to Him and to His Church? You may have wondered, looking at the map, whether church members around the globe hold the same beliefs. In today’s blog, we will examine survey responses from Adventists living in Oceania, down under. We will see how understanding the theology of a personal God, Christ as the Head of the Church, and grasping the power of Jesus’s name impacts the faith of church members in the South Pacific Division.
The 2017–18 Global Church Member Survey (2017–18 GCMS), conducted on behalf of the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, collected data from the thirteen world Divisions of the Adventist Church. Data was collected from the South Pacific Division (SPD) of Seventh-day Adventists by Dr. Peter Beamish and Dr. David Tasker, along with their team. This Division includes the countries of Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu, French Polynesia, Samoa, Kiribati, Tonga, Wallis and Futuna, Niue, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Tuvalu, Nauru, Tokelau, and Pitcairn. Populated island territories include Christmas Island, Norfolk Island, Cocos, and the Coral Sea Islands. A total of 3,304 church members were surveyed in the four Unions. The majority of respondents were males (52%).
Members in the SPD were asked if they believed that they would remain members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for the rest of their lives. A vast majority (97%) of respondents indicated that they intended to be lifelong Adventists, with 90% of them saying it would be very likely. Only 1.5% said it would be somewhat or very unlikely. The SPD was one of three world Divisions, along with the West-Central Africa (WAD) and the East-Central Africa (ECD) Divisions, where “very likely” responses on this question scored 90% or more. What an inspiration this level of commitment should be to other members of the World Church!
A Personal God
Much of this commitment is likely linked to the SPD members’ understanding of God through Adventist theology. When 2017–18 GCMS participants were asked if they agreed with the statement, “I believe in a personal God who seeks a relationship with human beings,” almost all (97%) agreed to one degree or another. Again, only a very small group (1%) disagreed. Obviously, having a personal, intimate relationship with God has led the SPD members to grow spiritually and develop deep roots within the Adventist faith.
The Head of the Church
Members were also asked if they believed that Christ is the head of the Church. This time the agreement was even higher. Almost all (98%) of respondents agreed with this statement. With 89% having “strongly agree” responses, the SPD was again in the group of three Divisions (along with the WAD and the Euro-Asia Division) that took a lead in strong agreement regarding Jesus’ role as the founder and ruler of the Church. By understanding the role of Christ in relation to the Church, members are better able to understand their sinful position and the enormity of the gift of grace—so freely given! Again, this is likely a contributor to the reason that SPD members are so committed to their faith and to the Church.
The Power of Jesus’s Name
The SPD is comprised of countries with different religious backgrounds. Ancestor worship or worship of sea spirits or other gods is not a strange thing there. Thus, it was very important to ask members what kind of understanding they had of the power Jesus’ name. When asked if they believed that “prayer in the name of Jesus is the only way to defeat evil powers and demonic spirits,” 95% of respondents agreed. This time, the SPD was with the ECD and the Inter-American Division in a group of top three Divisions regarding “strongly agree” responses. The SPD survey participants indicated a strong understanding of the power that Jesus has against dark forces. However, compared with the responses to the questions presented above, slightly more people were unsure or disagreed (5%). This could be an indication of the influence of their previous religion that still had some power over their lives.
Based on the 2017–18 GCMS, members in the SPD demonstrated a strong understanding of Adventist theology and beliefs in a personal God, Christ as the head of the Church, and Jesus’ power over dark forces. This understanding has led them to a high level of commitment to the Church. In addition, the research findings showed that a majority of them also said that they were fully committed to Christ Himself. What an encouragement the example of members living down under can—and should!—be to Adventists worldwide. Jesus said: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17 KJV). What is your view on these questions?
To learn more about the SPD, visit their website: https://adventistchurch.com
To access the full SPD 2017–2018 GCMS, click here.
For more research findings on the total sample please see the Meta-Analysis report.
Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry
Published by ASTR on 12-8-2021