Behaviour changes under stress and will often shift to operate in a more comfortable mode. Just over a year ago, the Church in the South Pacific Division (SPD) entered a high stress period with uncertainty about what lay ahead.
My training is to stress test business plans and measure results, so how have we gone? In 2020 baptisms were the highest ever for the SPD at 57,704—up 25 per cent on 2019. This goes against a global trend of lower baptisms during COVID-19.
Despite economic anxiety, tithe in Australia in 2020 increased by 6 per cent and across the SPD by 2 per cent—the largest increase of any Division.
Giving to world mission (including Sabbath school) decreased by around 20 per cent SPD-wide. Travel bans, border closures and bad news from around the world has seen people spend more on caring for themselves. Spending on home renovations and appliances is at record levels. Is that influencing members giving to world mission? With less offerings given for world mission, there has been less resources available for the Church to respond to new opportunities created by COVID.
Our institutions and services have experienced stress but have been able to maintain what they do and in some cases do better.
Prophecy tells us that there is greater stress ahead. What have we learned about ourselves under stress?
Despite some members waiting for the Church to fail, we have seen that God will not let His Church fail. We’ve learned more about discipleship and when and where to implement new strategies that bear fruit. The membership in SPD has remained faithful with tithe when tested. It is a concern that, under stress, we have seen how quickly financial support for taking the gospel to all the world has been reduced.
Like gold tried in the fire the Church in the SPD has been tested and I am delighted to see it has not failed. I praise God for sustaining His Church. Although we are under stress, my prayer is that we don’t forget we are part of a global movement and maintain our worldwide focus. “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests the hearts” (Proverbs 17:3, NKJV).