November 19, 2013


Jack and Marcia stand beside the shepherd at the sanctuary door, eyes alight with holy joy, hair still damp from the still waters of the baptistry. Erica, not quite 4 and resplendent in her favorite purple dress, dances around them excitedly, knowing only that something big is happening and that she and her parents are at the center of it.

The line of church members greeting the newly baptized couple at the exit is deliberately slow. This isn’t a moment to be rushed. The congregation hasn’t witnessed the baptism of an undivided family in six years, and there is—even though this is an Adventist church—an unmistakable mood of celebration.

* * * * * *

Jack and Marcia take the off-ramp from the interstate on their way to the Saturday “Price-Buster Day” at the Eastfield shopping mall. Erica, suddenly alert, points excitedly out the rear passenger window as the Camry passes within hailing distance of the modest brick church. “Are we going to Sabbath school, Daddy? Are we, are we?” she squeals in anticipated delight. “It’s been so long, Mommy. And I wonder if my favorite lamb is still there—you know, the one with the brown nose? Why don’t we go there anymore?”

* * * * * *

It is the least-acknowledged fact of our life together, the topic we would rather not discuss. Fully 25 percent of those who join our fellowship by baptism or profession of faith have disappeared within the first 12 months of membership, taking with them their hope, their joys, and gifts the Spirit intended us to have.6 1 0

“It’s just the price of doing the Lord’s business,” someone says in explanation. “You win some; you lose some. It’s that way in every human enterprise.”

“No church bats 1,000 percent,” another quickly adds. “It’s not our fault that they fell away from faith and stopped coming to church. They probably never really understood what they were doing in the first place. Being an Adventist isn’t always easy, you know.”

All of which seems remarkably clear-eyed and sensible, unless your name is Jack or Marcia—or Erica. So long as we continue to congratulate ourselves on the fact that most of the flock is still intact, we will not sorrow overmuch when some wander off and get lost; when wolves pick off the stragglers or the doctrinally unsure; when chairs go empty and woolly lambs remain unloved in the Kindergarten room. We did the best we could.


Among the ways of caring for the newest members of the church is a highly effective way of bringing all that Adventism has to offer to their mailboxes every week. For 15 years, thousands of generous Review readers have been sponsoring a one-year subscription—36 faith-filled, hope-inspiring issues—to those who have just joined this movement. Each edition shines with clarity and grace—with news, and Bible study, and stories of God’s everyday salvation.

The New Believer plan takes your $15 gift, matches it with gifts from other ministry partners, and helps thousands of the “youngest” members of the flock find their feet in those challenging first months. Those who experience that kind of steady, strong support through this magazine and from fellow members invariably stay. 

One hundred dollars blesses six; $500 blesses 33. One thousand dollars keeps the equivalent of a small church—67 new believers—safely in the fold.

Not those we win . . . but those we keep. That’s how the Shepherd counts His sheep.

Send your gift of any size in the attached envelope by Christmas, and we’ll send you a KEEP HIS SHEEP lapel pin to wear with joy—and commitment. Send a love gift of $100, and we’ll send you a copy of Bradley Booth’s new book, Showers of Grasshoppers and Other Miracle Stories From Africa, to thank you for your caring.

Are these new believers worth it?

Go ask Erica.