Annual Council Report: Apostasy in the Church

At Annual Council, business meetings began on Monday morning with the Secretary’s Report, by Secretary G.T. Ng.

Ng began by sharing the apostasy rate of newly baptized members in the Adventist church.

Quoting statistics by the General Conference Offices of Archives, Research, and Statistics, Ng said that over the past half-century, 42% of newly baptized members did not return to church.

Ng said that out of 32 million people baptized in the last half century, 13 million did not return to church.

Recent analysis during the last five years showed a “more serious problem,” said Ng. 49 out of 100 people left during these years, a 49% attrition rate and an increase of 7%. Out of 18 million baptized then, 9 million did not return.

Ng said that as this was a, “serious hemmorhage,” it was cause for alarm and serious action.

“When individuals do not return, is that the end of it?” asked Ng.  To illustrate the answer, Ng referred the council to three parables in Luke 15—the sheep, the coin, and the son.

Calculating percentages, Ng said 1 sheep out of 100 was a 1% loss, while 1 coin out of 10 was a 10% loss, and 1 son out of 2 was a 50% loss.  The loss percentage of the prodigal son was almost same as the church’s missing members, he pointed out.

Ng showed that ASTR asked missing members what happened when they stopped attending church and their responses: 40% said that no one had contacted them, 19% said that a church member contacted them, 17% said that they were visited by a local elder, and 15% said they were contacted by a local church member by phone.

Citing research, Ng said, “If members were contacted after they’ve stopped attending church, the chances of them returning are much greater.” He contrasted the shepherd looking for the sheep with, “turning a blind eye.”  “If they have been visited, if enough attention was paid to them,” many missing members can reconnect with the church, he said.

Citing corelation of visitation and former members being willing to come back to church, Ng said, “If we pay attention to visit them, to reconnect with them, they will come back.”

Cautioning that if the fruits of seeking lost members are not apparent immediately, “dropouts who are visited will be more likely to . . . reconnect.”  Be patient.

Quoting from Christ’s Object Lessons, Ng said, “Wherever there is even one soul converted on earth, there is a response of joy circulated through-heaven” (196).  He pointed the audience to Jesus’ sacrifice to see the value of the soul.

“One such soul saved is of more value than worlds. Gold and earthly treasure can bear no comparison to the salvation of even one poor soul” (1T 512.3).

Ng quoted again from Christ’s Object Lessons: “Angels pity these wandering ones.  Angels weep, while human eyes are dry and hearts are closed to pity,” noting, “49% of us have been lost and yet our eyes are dry.”

Ng next proposed a seven point strategy to prevent loss:

  1.      Nurture is part of discipleship.
  2.      Nurture and evangelism are two sides of the same coin.
  3.      Nurture should become part of church culture.
  4.      Nurture is the responsibility of every member.
  5.      Nurture must be intentional.
  6.      Nurture is best handled by small group ministry.
  7.      Nurture requires a team approach.

The Secretary Report closed with the moving story of Desmond Doss.  Ng appealed to the audience to say like Doss did while saving scores of lives in Okinawa, “Lord, while time shall last, let me save one more.”

Stay tuned.