Will You Rejoice? The 5 Percenters!
Abraham petitioned God to save the city his nephew lived in if as many as 5 people in the entire city worshiped the God of heaven. The angels found only 4 persons and of them, only 3 survived the flight from Sodom.
Our pastor recently spoke about commitment in our local church. While our membership exceeds 400, we were told that average attendance is only 171. Thatís less than half. He then told us that only 120 paid tithe which is little move than 25 percent. But our pastor then said only 60 are committed enough to serve in church offices and/or attend church business sessions. That figure exceeded my counts at the three business sessions held during 2004. Our pastor emphasized this 15 percent.
Sixty out of 400+ isnít very many. A million Seventh-day Adventists throughout the USA and Canada isnít very many, about 1 in every 300. And with 6 churches in the greater Kalamazoo area, I think that would be about the number where I live.
Mrs. White said that at a given point when she lived that not one in 20 Seventh-day Adventists were ready from Jesus to come. And she lived during what seems to have been a very committed time in Adventist history. It was a time when Christians of many denominations disapproved of dancing, makeup, jewelry, and theaters. If in a time of less societal permissiveness so few members were ready, what about today?
Events today seem to point directly to the nearness of the 2nd coming. If as many as 1 in 20 are ready today then of the 1000 Seventh-day Adventists in the six churches near Kalamazoo, no more than 49 members would look up rejoicing when Jesus comes. Meaning that maybe no more than 19 from the so-called committed group of 60, my churchís 15 percent of membership described by our pastor as really committedÖ No more that 19 would be rejoicingÖ
Nineteen from about 400 members! Not very many, is it? And we understand from Ellen White that in the end many will leave our church, including many leaders and even ministers. And we must consider that at least some from other denominations will join. Maybe this nineteen will come from new members and not simply those of us who currently believe.
More optimistically, perhaps the number ready for the Lordís appearing will exceed the 1 in 20 figure referred to above. But then my pessimism kicked in again.
My father is 92 years old. He had 2 children. My sister, divorced, wonít consider becoming a Seventh-day Adventist again. So he has 1 in 2 children as members today. My wifeís mother is 77. She had 4 children and each is a member of our church today. Three of her daughters are married to Seventh-day Adventists and the fourth was prior to his death. Between our two families, there are 9 children and spouses, including the deceased, making it 8 of 9 who are today Seventh-day Adventist members. That is 89 percent.
But this high percentage decreases considerably when we consider our children. My sister had two children. My niece graduated from academy and now attends Walla Walla College and I assume is a member today although for a while she attended her momís Baptist church instead. Neither of my sister's children are married. My daughter and her husband are members in a nearby Seventh-day Adventist church.
My wife has two nieces who are members of the church. One is married to a non-member while the other is still in high school. She has three nephews, none of them a member and the spouse of the two married are not a members.
So of our 11 children and their spouses, only 5 are members of the Seventh-day Adventist church. That comes to about 45 percent. That is almost exactly half the 90 percent of their parents who are members.
My wifeís parents and my parents have 9 great-grandchildren, including 2 step great-grandchildren. None of them are baptized yet but the oldest is taking Bible studies preparing for baptism at the church school she attends. Assuming membership attributed to those parents who are Seventh-day Adventists, two of these 9 are Seventh-day Adventists. It should be noted that grandparents, my wifeís sisters and their husbands, take three of these great-grandchildren to church with them. So there is some exposure to our church for just over half of these nine great-grandchildren. But nevertheless, only 2 of the 9 can clearly be considered members based on their parentís choices. And this is just 22 percent.
Satisfyingly, 89 percent of the 2nd generation kept the faith of their parents and are Seventh-day Adventists today. But that 89 percent decreases in half to 45 percent of the 3rd generation and again decreases in half to only 22 percent of the 4th generation.
These sobering findings donít encourage me to have confidence that Mrs. Whiteís analysis of fewer than 1 in 20 being ready for Jesus to come would be any stronger today. I would wish it were so. But at least in our families, evidence points to the unpleasant opposite.
One in 20 may seem pessimistic. We would wish to be optimistic. But it may be worse today. I certainly hope that I am ready. But as I look at myself, thatís not a certainty. I know that when I confess that I am forgiven. I wear the robe of Christís righteousness. But I also know that I cast this robe off all too often. To be among those rejoicing when Jesus comes, I must become more recognized by Christ as wearing this robe or His righteousness. I must live as a 5 percenter! Otherwise, Iím among the vast crowd of Seventh-day Adventists who will cry with pain and despair when we should instead be rejoicingÖ