Church Growth and the Tithe

Sobering facts and figures for our individual study

By CLAUDE CONARD, Statistical Secretary of the General Conference

In an active church body such as the Seventh-day Adventist, which does not practice infant baptism, it is reasonable to expect that the membership growth will be in fair proportion to the number of baptisms each year. During the thirteen-year period beginning with 1931, the average yearly baptisms in the North American field numbered 11,641. But the average yearly in­crease in church membership over the same period was 6,196. Thus for every Ioo persons baptized during these years, the church increase was ac­tually only 53 members.

In the year 1943 alone the recorded baptisms were 10,704 as compared with this thirteen-year average of 11,641. The membership increase of 3,896 was 2,300 below the period's norm of church growth, or 37 percent. The net gain in church membership in 1943 for every leo persons bap­tized was only 36, which is the lowest record of any year but one since the year 1928.

In the Seventh-day Adventist Church the rite of baptism is performed almost wholly by the or­dained ministers of the denomination. Although church workers of every class and lay members as well help in preparing candidates for church asso­ciation, upon the ordained minister has been spe­cifically laid the solemn responsibility of nurturing and maturing the seeker for truth, and leading him into full church fellowship.

To a limited extent, at least, it would seem then that a basis of comparison of church advancement from year to year might be discovered in the re­lationship between the number of baptisms and the count of ordained ministers in any given sec­tion, recognizing at all times that there is a va­riety of conditions difficult to determine which favor or retard the fruitful results of ministerial service. Whatever the effect of such contributing factors may be, the ratio of workers to baptisms is worthy of note.

By comparing the strength of the ministerial force in the United States and Canada with the number of baptisms performed from the beginning of 1931 to the end of 1943, we find that if each laborer in active service were considered, the en­tire group would have baptized an average of around eleven (10.7) members a year for each ordained minister in the North American field.

In 1943 alone the aggregate number of baptisms for each Seventh-day Adventist ordained minister was actually eight persons.

The tabulation which follows shows numerically the relations between baptisms and church mem­bership in the United States and Canada, and be­tween baptisms and the number of ordained min­isters each year since 1931:

Baptisms, Membership Increase, and Ordained Ministers

(See PDF for Statistics)

Tithe and Number of Baptisms

The major portion of the tithe paid into the conferences in North America is used in the local fields for administrative and evangelistic purposes. It would not seem unreasonable to anticipate that during times when there are abundant advances in tithe income there would also be a more or less proportionate growth in church memberships. That the experience of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in recent years has not fully followed this pattern warrants careful attention.

For the thirteen-year period ending with 1943 the average of baptisms as compared to tithe in the United States and Canada was one baptism for each $448 of tithe receipts in the conferences. In 1933 alone, with a tithe of $2,715,869.67, there were 12,711 baptisms in the North American field, or a ratio of one baptism for each $214 in tithe. In 1943 the tithe was $11,978,811.97-more than five times what it was in 1933-but the 10,704 bap­tisms in 1943 were fewer than in 1933. There was one baptism in 1943 for each $1,119 of tithe. The tabulation following shows the tithe relation­ship to baptisms each year from 1931 to 1943:

Relationship of Tithe and Baptisms

(See PDF for statistics)

A further important comparison is made of tithe receipts with church membership growth. Dur­ing the years from 1933 to 3943 inclusive the av­erage annual net increase in membership was one member for every $842 tithe. In 1933 alone, when the tithe was the least for any year in this thir­teen-year period and the membership increase one of the largest, the relationship was one member of church growth for each $339 of tithe received.

In 1943, while the annual receipt of tithe was the highest ever recorded in the United States and Canada, the church membership gains were less than usual, and the ratio was one member of increase for $3,075 tithe, or a relationship of tithe for each unit of membership growth of more than nine times that of 1933.

The accompanying tabulation gives the average tithe receipts each year from 1931 to 1943 for each member of church growth.

Relationship of Tithe to Membership Increase

(See PDF for statistics)

The relationships between tithe receipts and baptisms and church increases may have more than passing interest. The wide differences be­tween these factors in the several years offers a distinct challenge to determine how fuller returns in baptisms and membership growths can be se­cured from the greater inflows of the tithes of God's people. The material prosperity of the church calls for increasing earnestness in the proc­lamation of the gospel of salvation to everyone who will hear. For the accomplishment of this purpose the Lord has promised His richest bless­ing on the faithful efforts of those who have been entrusted with this sacred task.

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By CLAUDE CONARD, Statistical Secretary of the General Conference

March 1945

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