Fourteen Million and Counting

Since 1965, over 14 million people, 14,521,088 to be exact, have left the Seventh-day Adventist Church, according to the program for the Nurture and Retention Summit held at the General Conference, April 5-7, 2019. Make that 15,132,555 people. After the program went to press, the 2018 statistics were finalized, and the number increased, Archivist David Trim told the 120 church leaders who gathered for the weekend Summit.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

The Zwemer tribe accounts for over 20 of those. Glacier View was the Eye opener-abetted by The White Lie, and the sponsored anaylist Of Desire of Ages. The Southern Union was a Far Cry from Maxwell, Ford, Heppenstall, Smuts, et al. I am appalled by the direction Ted Wilson is leading the Church. He’s Bound on building a theological tower of Babel. Christsinity was confirmed on Golgotha’s Hill, not on a final generation.


I wonder (not really) if the church would ever have someone speak about leaving because of doctrine? Once again, it’s not even mentioned.
There are thousands and thousands of us out here. I understand why they don’t, but it would at least be more honest if they would admit that this is the case, and that there are many, many who have done so.


It is largely a matter of culture. Those who have been in management and/or are consultants know how fiendishly difficult it is to change the culture of an organization. So when people leave a room where these numbers are presented, they go right back into the culture of Adventism. As the old saying goes, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Culture overwhelms everything else.

I believe the culture of Adventism is gnostic. One definition of gnostic is “relating to knowledge, especially esoteric mystical knowledge.” We value our “knowledge” of things prophetic and doctrinal above all else.

I recently saw a poster for an evangelistic meeting. It specifically listed 11 out of 20 subjects to be covered. Not a word about Jesus. Not a word about the Christian walk. Not a word about how Christians relate to the needs and challenges of society. It just promised to give you insights into “esoteric mystical knowledge.”

Until we change that priority within our Adventist culture, nothing else will change.


Unfortunately I am one of those who had no choice but to withdraw from the SDA. I was born in an Adventist family, and I studied in the theological seminary in South America. Every time I received a magazine from the fundamentalist Hope ministry, my spirit entered into total conflict. I could not believe that there were people who preached so much nonsense. And I had to leave.


There you go…that says it all. Great quote about “culture eating strategy for breakfast”.

Absolutely! The “mystical knowledge” is only believed by the faithful (or perhaps semi-faithful) SDA. It’s not orthodox Christianity.

I find that these meetings do reflect the SDA church and it’s lack of emphasis on Jesus, unfortunately.

The SDA church needs to buckle up (or tighten their belt), because this system can’t/won’t turn around.


People look for something in a community of believers.
A lot of times they do not know what it is, but the “hunger” is there.
What this “hunger” is is a “knowing” of God, a “relationship” with
The SDA church does NOT teach Spirituality. It teaches INFORMATION.
It does not teach 1.Reading of the Word and HOW to recognize lessons in it.
2. Meditation. “What does this text say to me, today, and to my life?” To see
myself in the text.
3. Prayer. Experiencing an intimate encounter with God that allows us to
spontaneously respond in prayer. Having met our God in His word, to speak
to Him/Her in our own words.
4. Contemplation. In contemplation we begin to understand the parts of my
life that needs to be transformed by God’s grace.
5. Action. How am I called to take this experience out into the world.

Groups hold together when there is a clear and defined “us” and “them” and when
we are the “superior ones.” Guilt-based religion, strong boundary markers, and shame
work well to keep the troops in line. Keeping people always a LITTLE insecure about
grace and mercy and forgiveness.
Perhaps THIS TENSION is too much for those nearly 15 million. Hopefully, they went
someplace where they could find a meaningful relationship with God that the H.S.
was calling them to.
Communities where they can learn Spiritual Practices they can enjoy every day
with God.


These groups hold together for a time, but as we see now, there is a breaking point. We see it in large and small groups with this kind of modus operandi.

It is too much. It is spiritually and emotionally unhealthy and abusive.


CF, et. al.
REMEMBER we DO have the “Doctrine of the Shaking”.
So when someone “leaves” it is not shocking. NOR is it a problem for us.
It just means their “baptism didn’t stick”.
If one recalls in all this talk about a schism in the church, and other
terms for the same, no body seems to blink an eye. It is predicted and
so have it come now or later and “cleanse” the church.
I can see WHY there is a “Ho Hum” through an auditorium when these
figures are presented.
It IS Cultural!
Then there is the “Not one in 20…” that can be brought up. I heard that
quoted back when I was growing up. So, AGAIN, it is EXPECTED.
FOR the person leaving, as the pastor’s son, perhaps he feels he did
the unpardonable sin. And had to quiet the Mental Noise with Alcohol. And
no one around to relieve the PAIN. And perhaps NOT introduced to AA when
he could have found his “higher power” and a loving God this time.
As an Aside – AA and NA make up the LARGEST “denomination of Higher
Power worshipers” in the world. I know of at least 4 pastor’s children who
voiced that they had to come to AA to find God. Did not find God in their
home. And that was here in Macon one evening at ONE meeting. [I sometimes take persons to AA/NA so know quite a number of members. Have also taken persons to week-end conventions out of town]


As a 4th generation Adventist who relinquished my membership in writing, I wonder how the GC identifies the reason for their retention problem. I have no doubt I would be welcomed back to my former church community; but I could no longer live with the cognitive dissonance between life and “the truth”. I am sure I am not alone in this perspective.


Courage –
I hope you had the “courage” to find God in another community of believers,
even though they may have their worship space open only on Sunday.
As Paul says in Hebrews, we maintain our relationship with God in “community”.
The Old Testament calls it “iron sharpening iron”. A “dull blade” is of no use.


Correct, Steve. I’ve seen that attitude as well. Usually in the form of “Oh well…they knew the truth”. And that’s where it ends. “Truth” of course, meaning the Sabbath. It never means Jesus.


If we really wanted to understand why people leave, we should spend dollars to hire a professional organization to do a responsible survey (a number in person not on paper, or at least on phone calls) and report back. Secondly, we need to pray and reflect on what might have been done differently to keep them, to minister to them, to help them navigate the feelings with which they suffered. We have meetings on doctrine, but few to help divorcing couples and children of divorce, few to help couples struggling with their marriage, few to help suicidal youth, alcoholics, drug addicts, singles, LGBTQ, and so on. People leave when all the reasons to stay evaporate.

Oh, and for those who no longer believe, where can they go inside the church to express their skepticism? Either they will be nurtured through it, or they will be welcomed and affirmed in it and encouraged to stay. Even the church writ large need to grow theologically and spiritually.


James –
Is the typical small [and most of them are] SDA church SAFE for persons to
share their deepest, darkest secrets of the list that you wrote?
I am not so sure it is. So persons keep quiet and let them eat away at them,
unless they can find help outside the ranks. Which is probably doubtful.
There is the SHAME that goes along with an SDA even having problems as
you listed. SHAME brings on a ton of depression. And Depression makes it
even more difficult for the person to think logically and address an issue
rationally, IF that is possible in an SDA format, SDA counselor. Most pastors
I have seen are NOT really prepared for counseling.


I prefer church-run small groups for members and non-members with challenges that are led by local professionals, not pastors or other members. They can be set up so that people who betray the confidence of the group can be sued or even prosecuted if they sign a contract. Not easy, I agree, but needed.


A shocking statistic indeed, especially considering how arduous and expensive it is to recruit new members — only to see them exit by the back door!

In our more westernized, enlightened twenty first century countries, the misogyny in our church appears archaic, anachronistic, antiquarian and antique.

Most European countries have elected women prime ministers / female presidents, as have our South Pacific lands ,Australia’s and New Zealand. While the US has yet to see a female president we have seen some high profile Secretaries of State, Hillary Clinton, Condoleeza Rice, and Madelyn Albright.

So, our young women and female teens find it quaint, and positively medieval, that our church prohibits our clergywomen from attaining higher administrative positions due to an effective “ glass ceiling “.

Why would any self respecting young lady want to affiliate with such a discriminating denomination?

While the demographic of gays / lesbians is only 4% (or about one in twenty five church members ). every extended family of twenty five members has a cousin, sibling, aunt , uncle who is gay / lesbian.

The shabby, seedy, shoddy shameful treatment of our gay / lesbian offspring leads many straight family members to question the unloving non- inclusive behavior of what should be a Christ like church.

Almost one hundred per cent of the gays / lesbians distance themselves from the denomination at the earliest opportunity, because they have been made to feel unwelcome.— shunning and shaming is not a fun experience!

Finally judgmentalism prevails, indeed it is pandemic and prevalent in our congregations, schools,and homes. Not a recipe for retaining members !


What if the millions and millions of dollars spent on old, outdated evangelism meetings, flyers, seminars, etc. were focused on funding retention? Economically, is makes no sense to allow such a huge exit by millions who were educated at great cost (many). Think private school, university, Pathfinders, music groups, trips, etc. Think hours of contact. What a pricey loss in every realm.


Life revolves around a belief in stories. Or myths. Stories about acceptable behaviour. About rights. About legal constraints. About origins. About politics. About the foods we eat and don’t eat. About the way that we organise ourselves into families, communities, nationalities.

And the Adventist church came along and created its own set of stories. Stories about God, and lifestyle, and money, and welfare. And then they endeavour to have people believe these stories, and accept that there are consequences for not believing these stories, and act all shocked that people would no longer believe the stories.

Discipleship training is the way to go, because this provides the glue to keeping people in believing the Adventist stories. But if they no longer accept these stories, so what? They were simply stories.

I left, but not because of the stories. But the stories are enough to keep me from returning.


“Why Our Teenagers Leave The Church – personal stories from a
10-year study,” by Roger L. Dudley. [Institute of church ministry,
Andrews University], printed 2000, R&H Publishing.

Has anyone heard of this study? Has anyone ACTED on the findings of
this study? I don’t believe we even KNOW this study was conducted and
hours and hours of time interviewing persons, collecting all the data, and
putting it together, and the weeks that went into writing the book, and then
the time and money to typeset it, run it through the presses on rolls of paper.

That was 19 years ago. Almost 2 decades. Most of the persons interviewed
would now be in their late 30’s to late 40’s. And their peers [ones never
interviewed] would also be the same ages.

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Stripped of all excuses, the real reason one walks out of a relationship is the loss of its value. As in couples therapy, the treatment of choice is not to change a partner to please the other partner but to enhance the value of the relationship so both partners profit from the relationship. So how do you make this happen? The Beatles said it best. “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

And the best way to destroy a relationship? Create Compliance Committees.