30 October 2022 | As with the General Conference-led Annual Council a few weeks ago, the (Oct 27 – Nov 1) North American Division (NAD) Year-End Meetings have an emphasis on mission refocus and mission revaluation. NAD president G. Alexander Bryant suggests we should do this through “media, multiply, and mentorship.” He would like to raise 10,000 digital missionaries to influence social media and expand media collaboration across the division. This would be a creative outlet for the youth and young people to lead the church. To grow exponentially, all conference presidents have agreed to lead a public evangelism opportunity within their conference and encourage lay people to engage in more outreach efforts. As the leaders of the church reach retirement, it is important the younger generations are intentionally grown into leadership positions.
NAD eAdventist Membership Services Director Brian Ford demonstrated eAdventist, which is a free, new way for local churches to streamline church records, an email database, and a messaging service which will allow pastors and members to stay better connected. Adventist Learning Center presented their goals for continuing education and resources for teachers, pastors, and lay people. These include the stunning Bible study series A Picture of God.
One of the main points of Elder Bryant’s report was “centers of influence.” Twenty cities in the United States contain 50% of the population. It is the goal of the NAD to expand an Adventist presence in these cities. North America increases its population by 1.5 million per year; however, the church only grows by 35,000 per year (on average). The division would like to see this number increase to 50,000.
As Executive Secretary, Kyoshin Ahn explained during his report that much work remains to be done. While the church is continuing to increase more than it is decreasing, the overall trend, even pre-COVID, has been a decreasing growth rate, from 1.77 in 2012 to 0.46 in 2021. (This shows a small increase over the pre-COVID number in 2019.) Baptisms are way up in the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2022, which is promising. This year, there have been nearly 10,000 baptisms, which is triple the number during the same period in 2021, and nearly double the numbers in 2020. Professions of faith are also recovering to pre-COVID numbers. Sadly, death, likely as a result of COVID, has spiked by the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022. In 2021 alone, we lost 10,000 members. These lives are not just numbers to the 5,662 churches and 902 companies represented.
In a series of alarming statistics, Secretary Ahn illustrated the urgent need for mentors to raise up the next generation of leaders. Of the 1,271,642 Adventists in the NAD (at the end of 2021), 68% of them are under the age of 60. However, 32% of NAD presidents are over the age of retirement, and over 50% are over the age of 60. This trend continues throughout all levels of leadership. According to the Adventist retirement study nine years ago, of the 4,000 pastors employed by the church, 50% will have reached retirement by next year. In the 13 division universities, there are a total of 97 theology majors currently enrolled.
Image: Screenshot of the NAD Livestream of G. Alexander Bryant