Church celebrates success of Year of the Laity, launches year of Non-Formal Education during business meetings
November 15, 2013 – Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico…Libna Stevens/IAD
Top Seventh-day Adventist leaders from throughout the Inter-American Division (IAD) reflected on the Year of the Laity during a special celebration at the Poliforum Auditorium in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico, on October 26, 2013. The Year of the Laity was a year-long effort which began earlier this year to double laypeople-led evangelism efforts throughout the territory.
More than 8,000 church leaders and local church members gathered to testify about their completed initiatives and activities and their impact during the celebration.
“We feel so greatly blessed for the thousands of souls who were brought into the church thanks to the work of our faithful laypeople,” said Pastor Israel Leito, president of the church in Inter-America as he addressed the congregation.
“The work of the layperson is not for me, it is not for the division, it is not for the union or the conference, it is the privilege that the Lord has given each one of us to participate in the process of salvation of souls,” said Pastor Leito. “Continue your efforts, this is your church, we recognize your dedication and commitment.”
The event set the tone as top church administrators met in Mexico during Inter-America’s Year-End Executive Committee meetings to report on church growth, approve new evangelistic initiatives, review policies and launch a non-formal education emphasis for 2014.
IAD Executive Secretary Dr. Elie Henry reported to the committee that as of September 30, some 150,810 new members joined the church, bring the total membership to 3,685,511. The membership count total has not been increasing as usual due to the fact that auditing of church books is electronic and is revealing a more accurate count. Church leaders continue to work on training and following up on the auditing of their books, and vow to reconnect with members who have left the church and retain members, said Dr. Henry.
Committee members voted to change the status of 21 missions into conference status, a historic number which strengthens the church and allows for greater growth opportunities, said Pastor Leito. “For us growth is not only in numbers but qualitative, and we have challenged all local fields having mission status with more than four years to get out of their comfort zone and get evaluated and respond more directly to their local constituency.”
In his financial report to the committee, IAD Treasurer Filiberto Verduzco reported that church members continue to contribute tithe and offering faithfully – even with 72 percent of currencies in the territory being considered weak currencies and only 28 percent strong currencies. For 2013, tithe collected throughout the IAD was 64 percent from Spanish-speaking territories, 27 percent from English-speaking territories and 9 percent from French-speaking territories.
Among the evangelistic initiatives voted was the church’s Evangelistic Marshall Plan where serious efforts will be done to reach cities and towns across the IAD territory in 2014. While the emphasis will be on the urban areas, suburban and rural evangelism will also take place, according to the vote. Evangelism activities will be focused on six main areas: child, youth, women, male and pastoral evangelism.
Each major church territory will break down how each of the ministries and departments will project its own evangelistic impact according to its needs and follow through, said Pastor Balvin Braham, associate director of ministerial association for the church in Inter-America.
In addition, the church will continue Vision One Million in 2014, which is a goal to bring at least one million new members into the church next year. Evangelists from throughout the IAD will travel to the five unions, or church regions, in Mexico for one week and gather in Mexico City for urban impact and a special live presentation on April 12, 2014.
Although urban impact is something church leaders had began to target more than a year ago, more intentional efforts need to take place in order to have greater impact, said Pastor Leito.
“We have an Adventist presence in all of our major cities throughout Inter-America,” he said, “but in order to see a giant leap in outreach, less traditional ways of sharing the Gospel needs to take place.”
Leaders voted to accept the Adventist world church’s plan called “It’s Time—the Urgency of Urban Mission” urging world leaders to give higher priority for urban mission to the cities.
Also, Inter-American church leaders agreed to begin an initial phase of the Adventist world church’s comprehensive health evangelism outreach which will involve promoting health evangelism to local church members and administrators through church media programs.
The missionary book of 2014 is called “Beyond Imagination” by Jerry D. Thomas, John Templeton Baldwin and L. James Gibson. The book explores the wonders of the universe and life on the planet and human existence for use as an evangelistic impact tool. The book is part of evangelistic project called Impact 2014 that is part of a time-table approach with video and other resources to reach people with the Gospel.
Publishing Ministry Policy
Leaders voted to adopt the new publishing ministry policy that governs the principles that will provide funding of retirement benefits to literature evangelists across the IAD territory. Church administrators will meet in January 2014 to implement and manage the new policy.
2014 Year of Non-Formal Education
Top leaders officially launched Inter-America’s Year of Non-Formal Education which will entail preparing lay leaders with training courses and resources to better serve the church.
“We want our lay leaders to enhance their leadership skills, equip others, not for academic degree, but as a spring board to continue a structured certification training in united efforts with every department and ministry of the church for years to come,” said Pastor Leito.
Executive committee members voted to appoint Ivelisse Herrera as IAD undertreasurer, Elizabeth Christian to be an IAD associate treasurer, Saul Ortiz as IAD Publishing Association vice president for finances, and Sonja Carnegie as treasurer for Belize Union of churches.
Other initiatives and plans were also voted during IAD’s year-end committee meetings.
For more information on Inter-America’s upcoming initiatives and programs, visit us at interamerica.org