Seventh-day Adventist churches are springing up around the world at the fastest rate in the denomination’s 152-year history, with a new building opening its doors to worshipers every 3.58 hours, according to newly released figures.
A record 2,446 new churches opened last year, helping fuel the largest single-year increase in membership and bringing total membership to nearly 18.5 million, according to the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research.
Gary Krause, director of Adventist Mission, whose missionaries play a key role in opening new churches, praised God for the impressive growth figures and called for the Adventist Church to push ahead boldly in its Revelation 14-inspired mission to proclaim Jesus’ soon coming.
“These statistics suggest that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is heading in the right direction in its mission and must keep that focus,” Krause said Monday.
“Countless studies show that church planting is the most effective form of sustained church growth — confirming the testimony of the book of Acts, the counsel of Ellen White, and the Adventist Church’s own history,” he said.
Ellen G. White, a co-founder of the Adventist Church, encouraged church planting as a means to spur church growth during her lifetime, and she repeatedly pointed to the example of the early Christian church in Acts as a model to emulate.
The ratio of one new Adventist church opening every 3.58 hours last year compares with one church opening every 4.25 hours in 2013 and the previous record of 3.71 hours in 2005.
A main way that the Adventist Church has sought to foster the growth of new churches is through the General Conference’s Office of Adventist Mission, which oversees six Global Mission centers and a Global Mission Pioneer movement with a mandate to start new groups of believers in new geographical areas and among new people groups.
The total of 2,446 new churches that opened last year is 381 higher than 2013 and tops the previous record of 2,416 churches in 2002, said David Trim, director of the Adventist Church’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research.
The Adventist Church ended 2014 — the 10
th consecutive year in which more than 2,000 churches were organized — with a total of 78,810 churches, compared with 57,850 a decade earlier in 2004, 38,779 churches in 1994, and 7,818 churches in 1934.
“The increase last year in local churches is the most new local churches ever organized in any calendar year,” Trim said. “This is partly a fruit of the church planting organized by the Office of Adventist Mission and involving Global Mission pioneers — generally unsung heroes.”
Trim said the growth in churches was, from all evidence, an important but often overlooked part of the explanation for the growth in overall church membership.
Newly compiled figures from his office indicate that a record 1,167,796 people joined the Adventist Church last year, surpassing the 1,091,222 people who joined in 2013 and the previous record of 1,139,000 in 2011.
That means 3,197 new members joined the church every day, or 133 every hour, and 2.22 every minute, giving the denomination a total membership of 18,479,257 at the end of 2014, according to a fact sheet called “Interesting Facts and Figures” from Trim’s office.
Today, one out of every 392 people in the global population of 7.238 billion is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, an uptick from one in 393 people in 2013 and one in 459 people a decade earlier in 2004.
The 2014 growth rate of 1.85 percent exceeded the 2013 rate of 1.47 percent but fell from 2.3 percent in 2012 and a decade high of 4.98 percent in 2006.
Some local church members have ambitious goals for opening new churches. Church leaders in the Dominican Republic, for example, are seeking to open at least 25 churches per year, said Libna Stevens, assistant communication director for the Inter-American Division.
Krause, whose Office of Adventist Mission traces its roots to the 1990 General Conference session in Indianapolis, urged church members to actively engage in church planting, noting that the Adventist Church began as a church-planting movement and has only continued to grow as it has focused on starting new groups of believers. Church members can support church planting financially at
“Where opportunities open up and if God calls you, get personally involved in starting new groups of believers,” Krause said.
“At the least, pray for and encourage those who are involved in planting new churches,” he said. “If people in the church you attend feel called to start a new congregation, support them. They’re not deserting the ship—they’re going as missionaries. God will bless mother churches for sending them.”