One would think that being part of a church family includes attending corporate church services with fellow Adventists. However, for some of those who consider themselves members of the Seventh-day Adventist church, this is not the case.
In 2013, a survey of church members around the world was conducted under the direction of the General Conference (GC) Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research. The study was designed to assess the experiences and attitudes of church members regarding different aspects of their personal spiritual lives and their participation in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This served as a basis for the world Church strategic plan for 2015-2020 (see Reach the World strategic plan).
Church members were asked how often they attend worship services at their church. Globally, nearly half (49.35%) reported that they attend church more than once a week, which implies that they attend prayer meetings or other ministries midweek. Nearly another one in three (31.27%) indicated that they attend about once a week. Only a small percentage (3.28%) responded that they attend only once every month or two, while 4.05% admitted that they only attend a few times a year or less. Thus, a clear majority (80.62%) of Adventist church members attend church regularly (at least once a week), but one in five (19.38%) do not.
When each division was examined individually:
- The Southern Asia-Pacific division had the most respondents (71.1%) indicating that they attend church more than once a week.
- The majority of survey respondents in the West-Central Africa Division (62.8%) and the South American Division (62.2%) also reported attending church more than once weekly.
- However, the South American Division also had the highest number (5.9%) of members who reported that they attend church only a few times a year. The ECD was close behind, with 5.4% of respondents admitting that they attend a few times or less yearly.
An important element of Christian life is fellowship and community with other believers. This time allows believers to encourage, uplift, and challenge each other; praying and worshipping together brings believers closer together in harmony, as well.
This important reasons are why a stress on regular church attendance is part of the world Church’s strategic plan for 2015-2020. Although not all congregations provide statistics on Sabbath School and divine service attendance, average figures for most fields can be found in recent Annual Statistical Reports.
Ellen White writes on the importance of attending church in her book Steps to Christ:
God does not mean that any of us should become hermits or monks and retire from the world in order to devote ourselves to acts of worship. The life must be like Christ’s life–between the mountain and the multitude… We sustain a loss when we neglect the privilege of associating together to strengthen and encourage one another in the service of God. The truths of His word lose their vividness and importance in our minds. Our hearts cease to be enlightened and aroused by their sanctifying influence, and we decline in spirituality. In our association as Christians we lose much by lack of sympathy with one another. He who shuts himself up to himself is not filling the position that God designed he should. The proper cultivation of the social elements in our nature brings us into sympathy with others and is a means of development and strength to us in the service of God. (p. 101)
It is easy for many to rationalize their lack of church attendance. “I read my Bible today,” they might say. “I prayed for an hour. I’m good to go!” They may even say, “I watch a worship service on Adventist television or streamed on the internet.” However, as Ellen White points out, only worshipping in solitude is not how God designed the worship experience to be. The Apostle Paul said: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25, NIV). We are stronger together, and when we work together with others in the Body of Christ, we are able to better serve our Lord.
Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.