Throughout Scripture, various characteristics of God (both as each Member individually and as the Trinity as a whole) are revealed.
Belief in a Personal God
God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, could have made us all like robots, programmed to love and obey Him without any choice. However, the Triune God created mankind with the freedom to choose; His desire was that we choose to come into a relationship with Him and get to know Him personally as our gracious, loving, and communal God (see Paul’s benediction in 2 Cor. 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”).
As Adventists, we believe that the 28 Fundamental Belief 1 point us towards God and help us understand better His loving, gracious nature. By choosing to believe and abide by these teachings, members will develop an intimate relationship with their Savior.
As part of the 2017-2018 Global Church Member Survey (GCMS) conducted by the Institute of Church Ministry on behalf of the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, data was collected from different divisions around the world. In this blog, we will examine data from three different divisions.
- Euro-Asia Division (ESD) – A total of 2,251 surveys were used from all 9 ESD unions. Nearly two thirds (63%) of the respondents were female and the remaining 37% were male. The average (mean) age of respondents was 50 years of age.
- Inter-European Division (EUD) – Researchers in the EUD collected 3,865 surveys from 11 unions. Over half (54%) of the respondents were female, and 45% were male (missing data = 1%). The average age of respondents was 51.53 years of age.
- Trans-European Division (TED) – A total of 1,331 surveys were used from all 11 TED unions. Approximately half (52%) of the respondents were female and 48% were male. the average age of all participants was 49.4 years of age.
As part of the 2017-18 GCMS, members worldwide were asked if they believed that “the Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Beliefs as a whole reflect the loving and gracious character of God.” Overwhelmingly, respondents in all three divisisons did see the Adventist Church’s Fundamental Beliefs in that way. Almost all the respondents from ESD (99%), EUD (98%) and TED (98%) agreed with the idea that the Fundamental Beliefs collectively reflect a loving, gracious God who seeks relationships with human beings.
Additional research showed that Czechs, followed by Swiss, and then church members in North Germany have the lowest proportions of strong agreement with this idea. Wider opinion survey research by a range of research groups shows that these are the least religious regions in the EUD division; thus the data are, in a sense, not surprising. Conversely, Portugal, Romania, and Bulgaria are traditionally very religious regions; in these regions, there were much higher proportions who strongly agreed with the statement.
Although the ESD includes countries with different religious contexts, the majority of its members are in its European territories; overall, it represents a very religious (Orthodox) region. In contrast, TED and EUD as a whole are both post-Christian. It may be that in the more secular parts of these divisions, Adventist values/teachings are less often perceived as being in harmony with God’s character, because people in general are more suspicious of institutional religious teachings. In such regions, even Adventist church members may be slightly more critical.
Christ: The Head of the Church
One of the 28 Fundamental Beliefs states, “The church is the body of Christ, a community of faith of which Christ Himself is the Head” (Seventh-day Adventist Church, 2020, Belief #12). How widely do members of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church hold this Adventist cornerstone?
Overall, members around the world seemed to be confident with the concept of Christ as the Head of the Church. All respondents in the TED agreed with this statement, with 90% strongly agreeing. Respondents from the EUD similarly seemed to agree with this statement, as 91% strongly agreed. Almost all (99%) of respondents from the ESD agreed with this statement, with 87% strongly agreeing. Interestingly enough, members in the TED and EUD had a slightly higher rate in “Strongly agree” responses than members in the ESD.
It appears, then, that this foundational belief is both well-taught and widely accepted among members in Europe in a variety of their locations and contexts.
While members within these three divisions seem, overall, to have a strong belief in a gracious, loving, and communal God, local cultures and traditions seem to be having an effect on Seventh-day Adventist church members’ beliefs. Adventist leaders at all levels of the church structure, from local church to division headquarters, need to be aware of the impact of wider culture and to promote a fuller understanding by church members of Adventist doctrines as a whole, in contrast to their appreciation of the unique headship of Christ. At the same time, this begs a question: having such a high view of the Church’s doctrines and the character of God who seeks personal relationships with people and is the Head of the Church, how do these members express their faith in their personal life and ministry? To know more, visit our page with the GCMS division reports and the overall Meta-Analysis Report.
This article created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Mission at Andrews University.
- Seventh-day Adventist Church. (2020). Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved from https://www.adventistarchives.org/sdafundamentalbeliefs