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Keys to WA growth

Keys to WA growth

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The 2011 Australian Census revealed there was a 27 per cent increase in the number of people in Western Australia who identified themselves as Seventh-day Adventists over the period from 2006 to 2011. That is an average growth of 5.4 per cent per year dur

October 07, 2013 | Sven Östring, Global Mission & Western Australian Conf. Leadership Director;

The 2011 Australian Census revealed there was a 27 per cent increase in the number of people in Western Australia who identified themselves as Seventh-day Adventists over the period from 2006 to 2011. That is an average growth of 5.4 per cent per year during that period. From another angle, a recent membership report for the Western Australian Conference shows a 3 per cent growth per year, for the past three years, in the number of people joining the Seventh-day Adventist Church in WA.

These two independent statistics confirm that the WA Conference is the fastest growing conference in Australia and one of the fastest growing conferences within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Western world. What has it done to encourage this kind of growth? What are the keys that unlocked the growth potential?


Listening to God and people

The first key to the growth in WA was simply listening. The conference administrative team, under the leadership of Pastor Glenn Townend, spent time listening to the pastors and church members to really identify the common challenges and dreams that were shared within the Church. They also cultivated an environment of listening to God by modelling prayer and Bible study in order to discern God’s vision for the Conference. It was after spending significant time listening that the Conference could move confidently into His preferred future.


Shaping and implementing a vision

The next key was to articulate the vision. Dr Russell Burrill shared at a camp meeting in 2005 that the Adventist Church was originally a lay movement, and he noted that “we can only become what we once were”. The WA Conference leadership sensed God’s vision for them would be based on our heritage and drive them to a better future. It would supersede existing growth patterns. Having spent time listening and brainstorming, the executive committee articulated the following shared vision: "Renewing the Adventist movement by creating significant lives and transforming communities."

While the picture of a renewed Adventist movement was clear in the minds of the conference leadership, later it became evident that some people needed tangible numbers, which led to the formulation of the 2020 vision:

  • 20,000 Adventist disciples
  • 2000 groups
  • 200 churches
  • 2 new schools... by 2020

    The 2020 vision initially challenged many people, but after persistently communicating the vision with stories of WA people trying to fulfil the dream, many within the Conference caught it.


    Letting the growth be Spirit-led

    Another major key was to allow the growth to be led by the Holy Spirit. Rather than being prescriptive and conscripting people into a predetermined strategy, the conference leadership encouraged people themselves to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow His leading, whether they start a kids' club, a soup kitchen or door knock. While this involves taking the risk of giving people freedom, the results have demonstrated that a Spirit-led movement is more powerful than one that is tightly constrained by human strategies.


    Mission training and development

    The WA Conference leadership team understood that one of its key roles was to train people for mission. This mission focus included a whole range of projects, including public evangelism, STORMCo, overseas mission trips and church planting. Training occurred by modelling mission as well as facilitating key events, including the annual life renewal and church planting summits, which teach the biblical principles of mission.


    Communication

    Finally, the WA Conference has been actively communicating the stories of what God has been doing in the Conference, as well as the challenges being faced. This has been accomplished through the conference leadership and departments telling God stories in worship every Sabbath in the various churches around the Conference. The monthly NewsWest magazine and the AMNWest video media unit tell the stories of what God’s people are doing. People love hearing these stories and it provides them with tangible examples of what can be achieved.

    Prior to the current growth phase, it took 100 Adventists to disciple one new person into the faith. It now takes 30 Adventists to make another disciple of Jesus. The church plants are particularly effective in reaching new people, with only 19 Adventists in a church plant being needed to make another disciple. Tithe has also grown in the period from $A3.8 million to $6.3 million.

    God led the journey and is to be glorified for the growth in the WA Conference. We would like to acknowledge the keys that He has given to us for this growth.

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