IDENTITY AND MISSION IMPLEMENTATION
Called by God, guided by the Bible, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, Seventh-day Adventists, wherever we live in the world, devote ourselves to:
• Christ-Like Living: Illustrating the lordship of Jesus in our lives by moral, ethical, and social behaviors that are consistent with the teachings and example of Jesus.
• Christ-Like Communicating: Realizing that all are called to active witness, we share through personal conversation, preaching, publishing, and the arts, the Bible’s message about God and the hope and salvation offered through the life, ministry, atoning death, resurrection, and high priestly ministry of Jesus Christ.
• Christ-Like Discipling: Affirming the vital importance of continued spiritual growth and development among all who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, we nurture and instruct each other in righteous living, provide training for effective witness, and encourage responsive obedience to God’s will.
• Christ-Like Teaching: Acknowledging that development of mind and character is essential to God’s redemptive plan, we promote the growth of a mature understanding of and relationship to God, His Word, and the created universe.
• Christ-Like Healing: Affirming the biblical principles of the wellbeing of the whole person, we make healthful living and the healing of the sick a priority and through our ministry to the poor and oppressed, cooperate with the Creator in His compassionate work of restoration.
• Christ-Like Serving: Following the example of Jesus we
commit ourselves to humble service, ministering to individuals
and populations most affected by poverty, tragedy, hopelessness,
REACH THE WORLD
Strategic Plan 2015-2020 focuses on the mission statement
of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and our identity and
implementation of our mission.
By examining the strategic issues that emerged from global
research carried out from 2011 to 2013, specific objectives
and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) were developed to provide
vision and direction in carrying out the church’s special
Over a two-year period, beginning 2011, five major research
projects took place globally. Almost 41,000 church
members and nearly 1,000 former church members were interviewed
or received and completed questionnaires about their beliefs, attitudes, experiences in the church, and spiritual-life
practices. These included 4,260 pastors, almost 1,200 young
people (recent graduates of Adventist colleges and universities
in North America), and over 35,000 other church members.
This unprecedented survey of the world church was carried
out to provide a basis for strategic planning. In addition,
each division and each General Conference department provided
its assessment of the strategic priorities facing them in
their part of the world or line of work, and each division proposed
items that need to be addressed by the denomination
as a whole.
Finally, research undertaken for and presented at two
global conferences held at the world headquarters (“It’s Time:
Refocusing Adventist Urban Mission for the 21st Century”
and “Summit on Nurture and Retention: Discipling, Retaining
and Reclaiming”) was taken into account. This global analysis
highlighted a number of positives as well as a number of areas
of concern; the most important are summarized here. The
Strategic Plan is founded on this research.
Among the strategic issues emerging from global research
(2011-2013), we can see a theme that is repeated several
times—the need to strengthen the faith and maturity of our
members to become disciples, to provide nurture and care, to
increase retention rate. These are some of the issues:
• Sabbath School emerges as a powerful positive in church life around the world. It is a strength on which the church should build (Strategic Issue #1).
• Less than half of all Seventh-day Adventists worldwide have experienced any denominational education, and many pastors have limited Adventist education. This may be a factor in less than satisfactory retention and an arising variety of views concerning key doctrines (Strategic Issue #2).
• Many local churches lack robust mechanisms for member care—especially for those who are at risk of leaving the church. Local churches need pastors to equip elders and members collectively to provide pastoral care for each other (Strategic Issue #3).
• As well as improving retention rates, there is also a need
to instill lifelong commitment to membership in the Seventh-day
Adventist Church. World discipleship programs should be
greatly strengthened, with baptism being seen as the beginning
of a life as a fruitful disciple of Jesus Christ (Strategic
• There is a decline in most divisions of personal commitment to participation in vital personal, familial, and corporate spiritual practices—especially in personal Bible study and family worship (Strategic Issue #6).
• There is also a significant degree of variation in belief in other landmark Adventist doctrines. Instruction in doctrine should not be restricted to baptismal candidates; active discipleship should ideally include lifelong learning about the biblical basis for Adventist doctrines and how they give a fuller understanding of Christ and salvation (Strategic Issue #8).
• Adventist media’s impact within the church is varied; despite some successes, its influence is limited in many areas. Although it is probably a significant factor in bringing people into the denomination, it makes less of an impact on those already in the church. A very large percentage of young people gave low ratings to Adventist social media. Denominational media has unrealized potential for impacting current Seventh-day Adventists (Strategic Issue #10).
• The spread of mobile devices, especially smartphones,
making access to the Internet ever more widely available, provides
extraordinary opportunities both for widening evangelism and witness and for responding to the issues identified
above: promoting and enriching Bible study, disseminating
Ellen White’s writings, and energizing and equipping church
members for service (Strategic Issue #11).
While the number of church members has grown significantly
over the past fifty years, in the same period, four out
of ten of all members have left. There is an evident need for
comprehensive member-care strategies to enhance the experience
in the local church family and thus improve membership
RECOMMENDATIONS OF NURTURE & RETENTION SUMMIT
1. Each division and union to have a designated N&R coordinator and an N&R committee that should include at least one officer and the departmental directors.
2. Each division to have an overall plan to improve the audited membership retention rate, the percentage to be selected by each division and then communicated to the General Conference.
3. Each division to implement regular attendance counts to supplement membership audits and to help pastors and elders to identify active disciples and those who are inactive and/or in danger of slipping away.
4. Each division and union to have and implement an active discipleship plan, along the lines of the “Growing Fruitful Disciples” model.
5. General Conference Departments, in collaboration with one another and consultation with divisions leaders, to create materials that meet expressed needs in the areas of nurture, retention and discipling, avoiding multiplicity of initiatives and approaches.
6. Each division to hold conferences on nurture, retention, and discipling: one involving administrators and academics (along the lines of the global summit), then further conferences sharing data and good practice with pastors and elders.
7. Comprehensive, widespread and practical training in conflict
resolution and reconciliation to be implemented throughout
the worldwide Church.
8. Specific training in nurture/retention/discipling, as well as evangelism, to be a part of every ministerial/theological training program.
9. A new section to be added to the Church Manual on
discipleship at the local church level (the Minister’s Handbook
and Elder’s Handbook subsequently to be amended appropriately).
2013 SUMMIT STATEMENT
RECOMMITTING, RECONNECTING AND RECONCILING:
The mission of God is “to seek and to save the lost" (Luke
19:10, NKJV). Jesus commissioned His followers as instruments
of God’s mission, charging us to “Go . . . and make
disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching
them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:
19, 20, NRSV).
While God calls on the Church to seek the lost and to
baptize the converted, He desires that the lost be saved and
He commanded us to make disciples. The follower of Jesus
is to become a member of an active community (e.g., Acts
2:42-46, 4:32-35), be fruitful (John 15:1-8), attain to the
whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:12), and be
part of the “people of God,” foretold in the third angel’s message,
“who keep His commands and remain faithful to Jesus”
Creating disciples is thus central to God’s plan and vision
for restoring humanity.
Tragically, since the mid-1960s, while an extraordinary
number of people joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church,
a third of those baptized have left the Church, including a disproportionately
large number of young adults. We acknowledge
the findings of the research presented at the Summit on
Nurture and Retention (2013) that, while most converts are
convicted by distinctive Adventist doctrines, a large majority of
those who separate from the church do so because of personal
factors, rather than doctrinal reasons, and frequently without
deliberate rejection of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
We recognize that Christ’s love for the Church also needs
to be manifested within the Church by His followers. True discipleship
entails not only biblical teaching (Matt. 28:20), but
also a passionate commitment to loving our fellow believers
unconditionally. This was the heart of Christ’s message to
His disciples as He faced the cross (John 15:9-13). Christ’s
command to them applies to us: that we “love one another.”
Ellen White’s powerful insight into this historical scene is still
vital for us: “This love is the evidence of their discipleship”
(DA 677, 678).
We recognize that, for pastors and church members, it is
often easier to instruct others in doctrine than to nurture and
mentor them in a personal, dynamic relationship with Jesus
Christ. We acknowledge that, in consequence, the church has
prioritized persuading people to be baptized over the equally
essential task of discipling. We affirm that all believers need to
be continually nurtured and mentored in the journey of faith,
and that though this task is not easily quantified, it is essential.
We also recognize that the example of the Shepherd, who
actively seeks the lost, must be emulated by His Remnant
people. Reaching out to those who have lost their way, who
have lost connection with the body of Christ, who have been
bruised by fellow believers, will align us with the mission of
God; welcoming them with open arms will make us participants
in the joy of heaven over everyone who is lost and is
found (Luke 15:7, 10, 32).
We affirm that:
1. The purpose of the Church as the body of Christ is to intentionally disciple members, so that they continue in an active and fruitful relationship with Christ and His Church.
2. Discipleship is based on an ongoing, lifelong relationship with Jesus—the believer commits to “abiding in Christ” (John 15:8) and to being fruitful and sharing Him with others.
3. Responsibility for ensuring that every church member
remains part of the body of Christ, and for reconnecting and
reconciling with those who do not, is mutually shared by
the Church at large, each congregation, and every church
We therefore affirm that
building loving and Christ-like
relationships within the local
church must be an urgent necessity
for the Seventh-day Adventist
Church. We recommit ourselves
to God’s vision of mission, which
is founded on discipling, believing
that this will enable us better to
fulfill the prophetic mission of the
This document was voted by the
General Conference of Seventh-day
Adventists Executive Committee
at the 2017 Annual Council held in
Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.