May 24, 2016

Local Church Sees Attendance Quadruple in 9 Months in South Africa

Can you imagine seeing your church quadruple in size in just nine months?

That’s what happened to the Sandton Seventh-day Church in the leafy Johannesburg suburb of Sunninghill, South Africa.

Local church leaders, whose blueprints for a new church building can’t keep up with growth, says the secret is simple: Each member is encouraged to be actively involved in church life and evangelism, and to bring at least one person to Jesus every year.

“There is a huge hunger for the Lord, and our members are excited to share their faith with their friends, colleagues, and the community,” church elder Tulani Sithole said.

The Sandton church’s experience is not unheard of in the Adventist Church’s Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, where church members are encouraged to bring one person to Christ every year as part of its “One Member, One Soul” program. But few churches share Sandton’s goal of opening one new church a year — and the results have been stunning.

Over the past two years, the Sandton church has planted two additional churches nearby. But pastor Robert Hall, together with the elders and church members, decided that the mother church also needed a larger sanctuary, and drew up plans to start construction on a new 600-seat church in 2016.

“Our humble 200-seat sanctuary was so full,” Hall said. “There were often people seated outside in the open air.”

But by the time construction began on the new building a few weeks ago, it was apparent that even the new church building would not be big enough to contain the growing number of church members and Sabbath visitors. More than 1,020 people now attend Sabbath services every week.

Construction of the new church building began on April 5, and worship services were moved into a large, 460-seat tent raised as a temporary sanctuary on church-owned land. Two services are held every Sabbath in an attempt to accommodate all the worshippers. In addition, a children’s church with space for 100 children has been opened in the former sanctuary. But it’s still not enough.

“Members have to sit outside of the tent for each of the two services, too,” Hall said.

Two or more new churches may need to be opened nearby this year.

Hall said the Sandton church will press ahead with its outreach programs and goal to transplant new churches. The church also tries to make visitors feel particularly welcome by registering them before divine services and following up with new contacts during the week.

“There are so many more that need to hear the good news of Jesus,” Hall said. “All praise and glory to God.”