There are more than 420,844 baptized members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific, but on any given Saturday, services may draw more than a million worshippers, church officials in the region estimate.
With one Adventist for every 86 people in the South Pacific, the region is focusing on discipleship, regional President Barry Oliver told local church leaders during Year-End Meetings in Sydney, Australia last week. Oliver reminded them that Jesus' call in the New Testament to "make disciples" is an "imperative."
Providing spiritual nurture and houses of worship for members will help maintain dramatic church growth in countries such as Papua New Guinea, which is also experiencing high numbers leaving the church. There are still 3,000 people per year who stop attending church in the country, down from 5,000 in 2006, church officials said.
The church's educational institution in the region is also growing, church education officials said. Enrollment over the past five years at church-run Avondale College in New South Wales, Australia, has increased by 40 percent to 1,300 students. Twenty-two of those students are currently enrolled in the school's new doctoral program and 14 are completing master's degrees in research. Avondale College anticipates earning full university status by 2016.
The church's media center in the South Pacific is experiencing similar expansion. About 10 percent of the church's growth in Australia and New Zealand is directly attributed to Bible study courses taken through Adventist Media, church leaders said.
The South Pacific region was the first of the church's 13 world regions to hold its Year-End Meetings, during which regional church officials vote on policy and finance matters and appoint departmental directors. Most regions hold such meetings in late October or early November.