Religiously inclined individuals of various denominations are bewailing the recent trends that scores of people are leaving the church and Christianity. Hardly a week passes without various media networks reporting on individuals leaving Christianity, their assessments and what can be done to solve it. Here a few recent headlines: “How do you explain why church members left?”1 “10 reasons people give for leaving the church.”2 “Why millennials are really leaving religion (it’s not just politics, folks).”3 “Millennials leaving church in droves, study finds.”4 “3500 People Leave the Church Every Day.”5
What is sad is that similar trends are found in the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination, which should not be so considering that the gift of prophecy and the special truths for the last days have been so graciously bequeathed to the church. At the North American Division’s year-end meeting, the executive secretary gave his report wherein the membership growth and losses numbers were given. “Executive Secretary G. Alexander Bryant followed with his Secretary’s Report…The overall accession rate for North America has been declining, from 3.41% in 2012 to 2.66% in 2018. But, Bryant added, the accession rates for all of the other mainline denominations (Baptists, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, etc.), have been negative for the last seven years, with the exception of the Mormons whose rates have been positive. Bryant then turned to the membership losses…’These are the numbers that always break my heart,’ he began. The total losses for the years 2013-2018 stand at 123,593…while the total baptisms and professions of faith stand at 214,621, leaving the net gain at the just over the 91,000 mentioned previously. Unfortunately, added Bryant, the net gain has been getting smaller and smaller each year and if current trends continue, the rate of membership losses will soon match the gains.”6
The number of losses and the projection for the future should cause conscientious Seventh-day Adventists much sadness and reflection. Of course Bible prophecy does foretell of the shaking, wherein many individuals who have once professed the truth will abandon their position and join the ranks of Satan. Furthermore, it must be stated that a person’s holding membership in the denomination does not guarantee his/her salvation. “Let church members bear in mind that the fact that their names are registered on the church books will not save them.”7 Additionally, persons faithful to the historic Seventh-day Adventist message and mission that are keeping God’s Commandments and the testimony of Jesus, who are carrying forward self-supporting ministry, not connected with the conference, are not by default cut off from salvation as some assert. Notwithstanding, as we assess the situation of individuals leaving the doctrines and messages of Seventh-day Adventism, we must ascertain the causes. Certainly, we cannot make a blanket statement for every person that has left, as each case is unique; however the denominational leadership cannot be absolved from culpability for the existing conditions. “Those who have too little courage to reprove wrong, or who through indolence or lack of interest make no earnest effort to purify the family or the church of God, are held accountable for the evil that may result from their neglect of duty. We are just as responsible for evils that we might have checked in others by exercise of parental or pastoral authority as if the acts had been our own.”8
NAD Report 2019. A Church of Angry, Mad Prodigals. Sown the Wind now Reap the Whirlwind. Consider Your Ways. I’m not Worthy
We cannot here exhaust all of the causative factors of the recent trends in Seventh-day Adventism, but we will mention a few and then refer you to the embedded video for more information. One would be the official General Conference vote in 2005 that demoted the writings of Ellen White as optional and unable to define the faith and practice of Seventh-day Adventists.9 It doesn’t begin here though. We could even go back to the year 1957 when the Seventh-day Adventist Church published the book Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine in order to be accepted by the Evangelical community, which denied Seventh-day Adventism’s most fundamental doctrines and central pillar. We could also talk about the lowering of the standards in the local churches in the area of diet, food, dress and worship without any repercussions. We could talk about the lowering of the standards in the schools, teaching from infidel authors and the overall worldly curriculum and environment, the acceptance of LGBT clubs on the campuses, the list could go on and on. What is happening today, is a result of lowering God’s standards to secure and keep converts, but now it is backfiring and just as people flowed in, some are going out, while others are remaining in the building but are declining spiritually. The same principle described in The Great Controversy pages 384 and 385 can be applied to the various denominations, not excluding one, that are now reaping the whirlwind of that which they have sown.
“What was the origin of the great apostasy? How did the church first depart from the simplicity of the gospel? By conforming to the practices of paganism, to facilitate the acceptance of Christianity by the heathen…To secure converts, the exalted standard of the Christian faith was lowered, and as the result ‘a pagan flood, flowing into the church, carried with it its customs, practices, and idols…’ Has not the same process been repeated in nearly every church calling itself Protestant? As the founders, those who possessed the true spirit of reform, pass away, their descendants come forward and ‘new-model the cause.’ While blindly clinging to the creed of their fathers and refusing to accept any truth in advance of what they saw, the children of the reformers depart widely from their example of humility, self-denial, and renunciation of the world. Thus "the first simplicity disappears.’ A worldly flood, flowing into the church, carries ‘with it its customs, practices, and idols.’"10
Please see the embedded video.
White, Ellen. Testimonies for the Church, Volume 9 (1909), page 48
White, Ellen. Patriarchs and Prophets (1890), page 578
White, Ellen. Patriarchs and Prophets (1911), page 384 and 385