July 2, 2015

Adventist Membership Surges in San Antonio Despite Daunting Rain

Seventh-day Adventist Church membership in San Antonio, Texas, is on track to grow by 20 percent as the result of a major evangelistic initiative that for many weeks was threatened by record rainfall.

More than 700 baptisms are expected by August 2015, the one-year anniversary of the start of the multi-faceted evangelistic initiative led by veteran evangelist Mark Finley. The initiative was timed to move into its most public phase just before the opening of the denomination’s quinquennial General Conference session, slated for the Alamodome on July 2 to 12.

“What’s significant about that number of baptisms is that we have only about 3,500 church members in San Antonio, with only about 2,000 to 2,200 attending church regularly,” Finley said. “So if you take the 3,500 figure and you add 700 new persons, that’s 20 percent of the existing membership!”

Speakers at the evangelistic meetings in May and June also included South American evangelist Alejandro Bullón, Breath of Life television ministry speaker Carlton Byrd, and young adult evangelist José Rojas.

The U.S. region was inundated with 14.9 inches (37.8 centimeters) of rain in May and June, nearly double the annual average for those months, and causing flooding that made international headlines. Finley said the bad weather, which arrived just as the evangelistic initiative culminated with a series of meetings in May and June, posed a serious challenge to the effort but people still attended the meetings.

“On a number of nights the rain just poured down,” he said. “It was very difficult for people to get there. Yet even on those low nights we would have a significant audience with us, no lower than 350 to 450. That would be on our bad nights with terrible, terrible rain pouring down.”

Finley, who praised God for the turnout, said many people who are joining the church first came into contact with Adventists through health and wellness programs conducted at local churches since August 2014 and a three-day clinic that provided more than $20 million in free healthcare to 6,192 people at the Alamodome stadium in April.

One such person is Patty.

“We were at the Alamodome for three days, and Patty came all three days,” Finley said. “She was impressed with the joy on people’s faces, the peace in their hearts.”

The free clinic ended on a Friday, and Patty walked into the Laurel Heights Adventist Church the next morning, on Sabbath, he said. At the church, she signed up for programs such as “Reversing Diabetes” and “Natural Lifestyle Cooking.”

“She was so excited about what she was receiving and the changes in her life,” Finley said.

When Finley’s nightly meetings, titled “Ancient Discoveries,” began at the Shrine Auditorium on San Antonio’s north side in May, Patty rode an Adventist Church-provided bus to the venue daily. She will be baptized on the evening of July 3, the first Friday of the General Conference session in the Alamodome.

San Antonio’s north side, an area with little historic Adventist presence, is an affluent community with multiple evangelical mega-churches. “Ancient Discoveries” attracted more than 1,100 non-member guests in two months. 

“The attendees are quickly embracing Christ's love with commitment and passion,” said Mark Lien, pastor of the newly formed Northern Adventist Fellowship, a new congregation being planted as a result of the “Ancient Discoveries” series. “It’s an awesome thing to be a part of.”

Seventh-day Adventist General Conference president Ted N.C. Wilson participated in the last week of the “Ancient Discoveries” series, offering encouragement to pastors and volunteers and preaching twice in the final week of the campaign about the book of Revelation.

“How exciting to see what God is doing in the lives of people when they hear the full prophetic messages preached in Seventh-day Adventist evangelistic meetings,” Wilson said. “We all become re-converted as we thrill to the accuracy and depth of God’s Bible truth and His plans for His people as we anticipate Christ’s soon coming.”

Finley said San Antonio’s results could be replicated anywhere.

“Our intent is to share with the Adventist world field that you can take a city like San Antonio with a population of 1.2 million and make a significant impact if you develop a biblical, Christ-centered, comprehensive strategy that focuses on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of people,” he said.