Faith Communities Today
New Fact Information
Half of Adventist congregations report they are “very” or “quite” spiritually vital and alive. The other half is only “somewhat” or “slightly” or “not at all” spiritually vital and alive. Two-thirds of congregations of all faiths across America say they are “very” or “quite” spiritually vital and alive.
Why are Adventist congregations below the norm on spiritual vitality as compared to churches in the wider Christian community? One is tempted to trot out the much-used text about the “lukewarm” church symbolized by Laodicea in Revelation 3.
Researchers would probably prefer one of these explanations, all about equally probable:
A. The leaders of Adventist congregations are less likely to be enthusiastic about the spirituality and vitality of their local church than are the leaders of other congregations. The difference is about 15%, and it could be related to an Adventist perfectionistic view of the world. Some would say, “No matter how good things are, they really should be much better for us to attain our goal.”
B. There are greater numbers of Adventist congregations experiencing the doldrums of internal attitudes, especially among the pastors and lay leaders and not necessarily among people in the pews. You can see why some local church leaders may feel a little down when you consider the fact that many historically white congregations are stalled on church growth, have little if any visible impact on their local community, and are graying because of high dropout rates among younger generations. The numbers shown in the attached graph measure congregations, not members. There are a disproportionately larger number of small, white congregations where these attitudes might surface.
C. Spirituality has not been valued as highly by the Adventist system as have message and mission. There is considerable evidence across America today that more and more people are increasingly focused on personal spirituality as a higher priority to them than “organized religion.” These numbers may simply be an indicator that this attitude is rubbing off on some local leaders in Adventist congregations.
Some possible discussion questions for your church board, Sabbath School class, or other group.
1. How spiritually vital and alive is our local church on a scale of 1 to 5? (5 being “very” and 1 “not at all.”)
2. What specific evidence supports the number that you picked?
3. How do people in our group define “spiritual vitality” in concrete, practical terms?4. What would make our congregation feel more spiritually vital and alive
New FACT Information, Center for Creative Ministry