Pentecostal Denomination Reports Membership Gains

In stark contrast to the declining trend among mainline groups, membership in the Assemblies of God continues to grow, new statistics show.

For the 19th consecutive year, the Assemblies of God reported an increase in adherents and now claims more than 2.8 million followers, according to the Annual Church Ministries Report.

The number of adherents went up by 1.3 percent in 2008, which statistician Sherri Doty called a significant gain.

"The U.S. population grows by about one percent a year," she told the Assemblies of God News Service. "This is an indication that we are growing faster than the population. And in light of the steady declines in attendance by other religious organizations over the past years, this is encouraging news."

Earlier this year, two of the largest Christian communions in the country reported membership losses for the first time in years. The Southern Baptist Convention and the Roman Catholic Church saw decreases of less than one percent. Although the losses were small, some worry it may mark the beginning of a negative trend.

Meanwhile, The Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and other mainline denominations all continued to report membership decline – a trend that hasn't turned around in decades.

The Assemblies of God, one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the country, did report some declines including Sunday p.m. worship attendance which fell by nearly 6 percent; conversions which decreased by 0.8 percent; and Spirit baptisms which dropped by 3.6 percent.

But with water baptisms up 0.5 percent and Sunday morning worship attendance higher by 1.6 percent, the Pentecostal group is hopeful for the future.

General Secretary James Bradford commented to the denomination's news service, "Some of our hardest work is yet ahead of us, but we are encouraged and aiming at accelerated growth in the future."

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