Number of baptisms still slightly less than the number of people who left the church or died.
Despite the challenges amid the ongoing pandemic, a recent South American Division (SAD) mission report for January-March 2021 revealed some significant data, Adventist leaders in the eight southernmost South American countries said. According to the information provided by the SAD Personal Ministries department, 130,793 Bible instructors gave Bible studies to 168,985 people during the first quarter of 2021.
Church leaders explained that current data are based on the record of mission activities registered in the ACMS system, used across the region, and coordinated by the Secretariat of the Adventist Church in the SAD. “Every regional church secretary is responsible for feeding and updating the system periodically,” area leaders said.
Negative Net Growth
According to the same data, from January to March 2021, the accession of 39,468 new Seventh-day Adventist members was registered, primarily through baptisms and profession of faith. Data show that despite ongoing COVID-19-related restrictions and public health challenges, baptismal ceremonies went ahead as much as the local situations allowed. Profession of faith, on the other hand, are reserved for people already baptized by immersion, usually in another Christian denomination, or in cases where a membership transfer from another region is not feasible for various reasons.
Church leaders also reported that 39,677 church member records were removed from the membership database during the same period. These losses include people who died or who left the church for various reasons. “Data shows that the actual church growth of members was 0.01 percent negative,” they acknowledged.
SAD Personal Ministries director Herbert Boger Jr. acknowledged that recent and current data shows the church faces challenges. At the same time, he said, data showed that “the intensity of the pandemic has made us act even more decidedly for following Christ’s methods” of reaching out to other people. “Faith and mission have overcome the crisis, so we can celebrate the surprising results of the first quarter. They are nothing but miracles of God through His church,” Boger said.
SAD evangelism director Luís Gonçalves agreed. “Even in the face of the pandemic and its many resulting restrictions, we can see that our church is praying more, asking for the power of the Holy Spirit, and seeking new ways to share the good news.”
According to Gonçalves, creativity has been the hallmark of a responsible, committed church. “It is something that has allowed the Adventist Church in South America to keep its evangelizing role alive, even after a long period of restrictions.”
Gonçalves said outreach must go on by any means possible. Among other initiatives, “digital schools of evangelism, drive-in services, and online Bible classes will keep the mission alive,” he said.