Why are Millions Leaving the Seventh-day Adventist Church?


The April, 2019, issue of the SDA journal Ministry reported:

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is losing members at an alarming rate. Even though the evangelism in our churches is winning people, we lose about 49 of every 100 baptized. This hemorrhaging of our members cannot continue. It is expected to get worse... The statistics concerning people leaving the Seventh-day Adventist Church are alarming.1

In October, 2016, at the SDA General Conference annual council, G.T. Ng, executive secretary of the SDA Church reported:

Membership losses have grown over the past 15 years. In 2000, 43 of every 100 newly baptized members ended up leaving the church, he said, citing data from the world church's Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research. The latest figures indicate that 49 of every 100 new members eventually leave. This 49 percent apostasy rate is alarming and is a serious drain on the human and financial resources of the church...2

In October, 2015, at the SDA General Conference annual council, David Trim, director of the Office of Statistics for the SDA Church reported:

A lack of member retention, though, remains a serious concern. ?The losses undercut the many, many accessions we have... From 1965 to the end of 2014, the number of baptized members totaled over 33 million. Of those, over 13 million left the church--virtually four of every 10 members...3

In 2013, SDA leaders "revealed the denomination has lost one in three members over the last 50 years."4 Those losses are staggering! Furthermore, the evidence shows the trend is worsening dramatically:

  • 1995 - 24% left5
  • 2000 - 43% left
  • 2016 - 49% left

SDA minister Vance Ferrell describes the problem in his newsletter:

That is a very high loss. ... 70 percent of young people in developing nations drop out of the church. One missionary declared that, in his field, 'a third are dropped from the membership rolls; another third are on the rolls but no longer attend; and only a third are active members.' That one-third which remains on the rolls but no longer attends is significant. It is clear that membership totals are not a true indicator of the actual number of members in the world church.6

Why do so many people leave the SDA Church?

There are a myriad of reasons for why people leave the SDA Church, but in recent years, one reason has begun to stand out above all others: Knowledge. With easy access to the Internet, Adventist members have at their fingertips a wealth of research about the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Now anyone can see how SDA doctrines contradict Bible teachings. More and more, Adventists are "studying their way out" of Adventism.

Below are some of the Top Reasons cited by Adventists who study their way out of the SDA Church:

Citations

1. Kirk Thomas, "Nuture, Retention, Reclamation," Ministry, April, 2019. https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2019/04/Nurture-retention-reclamation.

2. G.T. Ng, in an e-mailed statement to the Adventist Review, reported by Andrew McChesney, "Every Adventist urged to help stem membership losses," Adventist Review, Oct. 10, 2016, https://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2016-10-10/every-adventist-urged-to-help-stem-membership-losses/.

3. Lauren Davis, "Church accounts for lost members," Adventist News Network, Oct. 13, 2015, https://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2015-10-13/church-accounts-for-lost-members/.

4. Kate Tracy, "Adventists Assess Why 1 in 3 Members Leave the Church," Christianity Today, Dec. 9, 2013. https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2013/december/seventh-day-adventists-assess-why-1-in-3-members-leave-sda.html.

5. Vance Ferrell, More WAYMARKS - from PILGRIMS REST, "The 2005 St. Louis Session: Items of Interest General Conference Sessions: WM1305, "2005 ST. LOUIS SESSION: ITEMS OF INTEREST Nov 05 Index: General Conference Sessions / St. Louis".

6. Ibid.

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