Scope of the Problem
Benjamin C. Maxson, then the stewardship director for the SDA world church, reported that since the 1970s, to October 2003, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has seen its tithe, or members donating 10 percent of their earnings to the church, drop 75 percent, per capita, adjusted for inflation. “Adventist Christians may not be alone in this seeming trend,” reported Barna Research Group, Ltd., an independent Christian research firm in southern California. “The number of American households who give at least 10 percent of their income to their church has dropped by 62 percent in the past year—from 8 percent in 2001 to just 3 percent of adults during 2002.” [i]
Dr. Maxson along with a good number of stewardship leaders in the world divisions of SDA, traced the decline to a spiritual problem. Not so, argues a host of dissenting voices, who traces the tithe decline to either that church members are waking up to the realization that tithing is not a biblical mandate, or they are fed up with the misuse of the tithe in lawsuits etc.[ii]
I embrace the thought that we are facing a spiritual problem. But isn’t it true that the lack of spirituality knocks on the door of every sinful depravity in our church? The broth from this soup is too thin to nourish the robust claim that spirituality is the sole culprit.
To compound the issue, G. Jeffrey MacDonald, in a post reported that “newly released data show Seventh-day Adventism growing by 2.5% in North America, a rapid clip for this part of the world, where Southern Baptists and mainline denominations, as well as other church groups are declining. Adventists are even growing 75% faster than Mormons (1.4 percent), who prioritize numeric growth.”[iii] In October 2013, Adventist Church Executive Secretary G. T. Ng in his report at the 2013 Annual Council in Silver Spring, Maryland, told church leaders that, “On any given day, 3,052 people join the church. Every hour 127 people are baptized. Every minute, two individuals are baptized, and we praise God for that,”[iv]
How is it that a church on any given day could add 3,052 new members to its roster and yet experience such a dramatic drop of 75% per capita in tithe return? Connecting the dots perhaps leads to one conclusion. The bulk of SDA baptisms perhaps is coming from the non-tithing population, which are between the ages of 9-22—juniors, adolescents, and college students. This is good news for the SDA church, as it is the smoking gun that affirms that indeed the SDA system is attractive for the youth. On the other hand, this could be the reason why it is reported that “about 30 percent of Adventist Church members worldwide give tithe.”[v] The reason may be a far cry from spiritual depravity. It could be an issue of non-employment.
Solution to Problem
But now, where do we go from here? If we are not a part of the solution, then we are a part of the problem. The late Herbert Fletcher, who served as education director for the IAD for many years, was speaking at a workers meeting in the Belize Mission of SDA to which I was in attendance. In response to the statistic that baptisms were soaring, yet tithes were on the decline, Dr. Fletcher’s assessment was that we were baptizing “sprats” and that we needed to start fishing for some “whales.” His statement also holds true for the SDA church all across the globe. There is an urgent need for our church to intentionally start targeting the affluent populace of the global society with the Advent Message.
Recently, I authored a book, The Rise and Fall of Capitalism: A Social, Religious, and Political Perspective, the primary purpose of which is to fish for some “whales” and reach out to the affluent and middle classes of the suburban areas of the global society with the advent message. The book addresses social, religious, and political issues from a biblical perspective, the likes of welfare, wages, same-sex marriages, abortion, the environment and the Arab-Israeli conflict, that Christians and non-Christians struggle with. It examines the history of capitalism and its impact on the global community and discusses solutions to even the playing field between the lower, middle, and upper classes.
Through a series of unprecedented ground breaking revelations, the advent message is integrated into the pages of the book in question. In this manner it is improbable that the targeted affluent and middle class population of the global community could read this book without savoring some of the basic claims of Adventism as preached by the Three Angels’ Message. To attain such a gallant undertaking, it was crucial that religious political issues be conformed to the norms of journalism and not to the reforms of Adventism! The real challenge is whether church leaders can emulate the great apostle Paul and become “all things to all men, that [they] might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22 KJV).
But even though the bulk of the ammunition fired within the pages of this book is of a religious-political nature, the entire book is driven from a biblical perspective. Complimentary copies could be sent to the affluent and middle classes of the suburban areas of the global population. Local church members could also come on board, by giving complimentary copies to their affluent co-workers, neighbors, employers etc. We can then stand still and see God’s salvation. From the outset, I made a personal covenant with God that 50% of all royalties gleaned will be returned to Him for the construction of the Sharon SDA church in Bronx New York, as well as other congregations, providing that there is “oil in the cruise and flour in the barrel.”
I encourage you paraphrasing President John F. Kennedy, “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the [church] we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.”
Feel free to contact me at: 31 Circle Drive, Hempstead NY 11550; at: (516) 417 4793 (cell); at: 516 565 4425 (home); at: firstname.lastname@example.org: The Rise and Fall of Capitalism is published by TEACH Services, and is available through the publisher’s Web site (http://www.TEACHServices.com), Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or local bookstores by request.