Chapter 13 Aa

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From 1844 to Eternity Chapter 13

God’s Plan Still Works Today

“In places where the standard of truth has never been lifted, more souls will be converted as a result of the same amount of work than ever before. The Lord Jesus has all power in heaven and in earth. If you will draw upon it, combining the strength of Heaven with your own, precious souls will be converted. The presence of the Holy Spirit is vouchsafed to all. Christ, our Mediator, renews our strength by the power of his presence. Every agency is to be set in operation, not to work for the churches, but to work for those who are in the darkness of error. When souls are converted, set them to work at once. . . . Teach the newly converted that they are to enter into fellowship with Christ, to be his witnesses, and to make him known unto the world.”1

The Seventh-day Adventist denomination is a worldwide movement. The church has divided the earth into 14 major world divisions, plus one separate mission field. Each world division, consisting of a number of different nations, is further divided into unions and conferences. In this chapter, we will be comparing the increase of both new members and new congregations in four world divisions. The statistics cover a 12 year period from the end of 2003 through the end of 2015.

The comparisons will show the differences in growth rates between two kinds of divisions:

  1. In two divisions, the ministers are assigned to care for specific churches in church districts. This is the most common method in use by the church today.
  2. In two other divisions, the ministers are not assigned to care for churches. Instead, they are assigned to geographic territories where they are responsible for evangelizing and/or planting of new congregations. The existing churches are overseen and cared for by the locally elected elders of the churches.

In the western hemisphere, we will be comparing the Inter-American Division with the South American Division. These two divisions are adjacent to each other (neighbors) and are demographically similar. They have similar politics, cultures, and similar economics. In the Inter-American Division, the ministers are assigned to oversee groups of specific churches. In the South American Division, instead of being assigned to church districts, the ministers are assigned to geographic territories, to evangelize and plant new churches among unreached populations.

We will do the same kind of comparison for two adjacent and demographically similar world divisions on the African continent – the East Central Africa Division and the South Africa/Indian Ocean Division. In the East Central Africa Division, ministers are assigned to oversee groups of specific churches. In the South Africa/Indian Ocean Division, ministers are assigned to evangelize unreached populations in geographic territories. Locally elected elders care for the churches. This is similar to the method used by the South American Division.

By comparing divisions that are geographically adjacent and demographically similar, we can evaluate the effectiveness of the two methods of ministry. We can make conclusions about the methods of ministerial assignment, without the confusion of demographic bias. The territory method, a Biblical method like the method used by the apostles and the early Adventist ministers, is compared with the method of assigning ministers to pastor specific churches, like the method used by most other Protestant churches.

In the graphics which follow, there are terms which must be explained. The term “accessions” refers to baptisms and professions of faith. The “increase in congregations” is the number of churches and companies added to the divisions during the 12-year period. “Minister salaries for the 12-year period” represents the number of ministers on the payroll each year, added together for the 12 years. “Members per accession” is the number of existing church members per each baptism or profession of faith. If a church of 100 members has 10 baptisms after an evangelistic campaign, that would be 10 members per each accession. Rows in yellow are world divisions where minister’s assignments are based upon territories in which they are responsible for evangelizing and planting new churches. The pastoral care of the existing churches is given to the elders and other lay leaders. The other divisions assign ministers to take care of groups of churches. For a map showing the locations of the different world divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, go to You can also access much useful statistical information on that site.

Western Hemisphere Comparison of World Divisions

Division Increase In Congregations During 12 year period Minister Salaries per Each New Congregation Added Total Accessions During 12 year period Minister Salaries for 12 year period Members per Accession
South American (SAD) 9,303 4.6 2,711,155 43,215 10.2
Inter-American (IAD) 5,638 6.6 2,278,030 37,137 16.7

The South American Division is demographically similar to the Inter-American Division. The South American Division, however, assigns ministers to evangelize and plant new churches, in geographic territories where churches are needed. The ministers are not primarily responsible for taking care of the existing churches. The existing local churches are cared for by the elected elders and deacons. The Inter-American Division assigns ministers to care for groups of churches, sometimes large groups.

On the Western Hemisphere Spreadsheet, the South American Division with territory-based assignments for ministers, the growth in members and new churches was significantly higher than in the Inter-American Division. Although the South American Division did have 16 percent more ministers employed than the Inter-American Division, it had 19 percent more accessions and 65 percent more congregations planted. Church planting was a major focus in the South American Division. 3,665 more new congregations were added than were added in the Inter-American Division. The Inter-American Division, which had church-based assignments for ministers, required 61 percent more existing members for each baptism or profession-of-faith as well. The method of assigning ministers to care for existing churches is not nearly as productive in soul-winning and church planting as the territory-based method.

African Continent Comparison of World Divisions

Division Increase In Congregations During 12 year period Minister Salaries per Each New Congregation Added Total Accessions During 12 year period Minister Salaries for 12 year period Members per Accession
South Africa-Indian Ocean (SID) 5,968 2.8 2,337,245 16,856 12.8
East-Central Africa (ECD) 6,119 4.2 2,322,203 25,504 13.3

In the African Continent example, you will notice that the South Africa-Indian Ocean Division and the demographically similar East-Central Division, had very similar increases of both accessions and new churches. In the South Africa-Indian Ocean Division, evangelism was a higher priority than church planting. The difference in the number of salaries required to achieve similar results in the two divisions is very significant. During the 12 years, the East-Central Africa Division with church-based ministerial assignments, needed 51 percent more ministers than the South Africa-Indian Ocean Division with territory-based ministerial assignments, to achieve the same results in the growth of members and new churches.

Simply stated, when ministers and lay people are permitted to work using God’s methods, they can baptize more people and start more new churches using less money.

Two other illustrations worth considering

Mongolia Mission

In 1990, Adventist Frontier Missions volunteers Brad and Cathy Jolly entered Mongolia as the first Adventist missionaries in that nation. They worked hard and started an excellent work. In 1998, the project was turned over to the General Conference and became the Mongolia Mission.

In 2016, It Is Written sponsored a medical/dental mission trip to Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. I decided to go, but before I went, I took a look at the mission’s growth statistics from the Adventist Statistics website. I discovered something which caught my eye. I saw that in 2008 there was a 50 percent increase in the number of ordained or licensed ministers, but the next year there was a 50 percent decrease in the mission’s growth rate. There was no increase in churches or companies but just an increase in ministers. As of 2017, the growth rate had never returned to the same level in 2008 or before.

I called the General Secretary, Pastor Bold Batsukh, and asked him about the figures. What he told me was interesting. He indicated that adding more ministers to care for the existing churches was bad for the churches, because the lay people just relaxed and did not share their faith as much. It is very simple – when there are more ministers per number of existing churches, the lay people witness less and the growth rate decreases.

This phenomenon can be seen in other conferences and areas of the world. Mongolia Mission is not an isolated instance. When there is a significant increase in the number of ministers for an existing church or group of churches, the growth rate can be expected to decrease within a year or two and possibly not return to the higher rate of growth. If additional ministers are sent to evangelize and plant new churches, instead of being used to add extra ministerial staff to the existing churches, the addition of ministers will not adversely affect the growth rate of the area or conference.

Western Kenya Field – Education Project

I learned this next story from Elder Peter Kereri, who was the treasurer for the Western Kenya Field at the time. Later I confirmed the story with Elder Christopher Misoi, president of the Great Rift Valley Conference, Elder John Tuwei - ministerial director for the Western Kenya Union Conference, and from Daniel Bett – headmaster of the Kingsway Preparatory School in Kenya.

In 2002, the Western Kenya Field had nearly 90 ordained and licensed ministers. About eighty percent of those ministers did not have a bachelor’s degree. The East African Union designed an educational program in cooperation with Baraton University, whereby employed ministers in the different conferences and missions in Kenya, could get a bachelor’s degree if they wished while remaining fully employed. The ministers would be allowed to leave their districts twice a year for several months and go to Baraton University and take intensive classes. Total time away from the church districts was about five months each year. The education program was a five-year program. Each minister in the Western Kenya Field had an average of about 26 churches and companies to oversee in his district. 34 ministers (almost 40 percent) took part in the program. John Tuwei and Daniel Bett were two of those students.

The eight-year average for accessions (baptisms and professions of faith) before the ministers went back to school was approximately 3400 per year. The first year that 34 of the 90 ministers in the Field were away from their district almost half the year (2003), the accessions increased to nearly 4200. The second year, accessions increased to more than 8100. The third year, more than 9300. The members started doing more outreach and evangelism themselves in the continued absence of the ministers. When the ministers returned to their churches full-time, the growth rate in percentage decreased and has never since been at the high level that was reached in their absence.

Simply put, the churches are healthier and more productive when they do not have a long term, salaried minister to focus on them instead of focusing on the salvation of the lost.

God’s Plan Has Not Changed

God’s plan for ministry in the days of the apostles, like the Sabbath, has never been changed by God. His plan, the same plan which the apostle Paul used, has been repeated and elaborated upon by the modern prophet Ellen White. No amount of adjustments to some other plan will ever equal God’s perfect plan. No other plan will suffice to evangelize the world quickly and effectively. Other plans or methods simply delay Christ’s return even longer.

Malachi 3:6

For I am the Lord, I change not...

Psalms 89:34

My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.

Hebrews 13:8

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

There is no time any better for turning back to God’s plan than today. Why delay any longer?


  1. Ellen White, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, July 25, 1895, page 402.