By Libna Stevens - IAD
April 3, 2018 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens/IAD
Dozens of administrators, pastors and lay preachers from the Seventh-day Adventist Church throughout the Inter-American Division (IAD) met during a two-day summit to review evangelism practices and set new strategies to reach more people with the gospel. Called the Best Practices Summit on Evangelism and Retention, the event brought more than 130 leaders to Miami, Florida, Mar. 28-29, 2018.
“We are known in the Adventist world as a very strong division in evangelism, a growing church and a church that does not stop preaching the gospel,” said Pastor Balvin Braham, assistant to the president in evangelism for the church in Inter-America. “Now that we are in that phase in our journey, it is a good moment to stop a little and think about new ways to go forward in evangelism.”
Going forward means determining the soul-winning and conservation methodologies that are being used in various districts, local fields and unions across the IAD territory, explained Braham. It also means evaluating the effectiveness of these methodologies and identifying new ones that may be used in an ongoing discipleship program.
“God has called us as leaders to coach, to figure out what is not working and fix or change it,” said Braham.
What leaders want to see is at least 200,000 or more new members across the territory every year, like it was more than 15 years ago. Last year, the baptismal reach was a little over 168,400.
For that to happen means not only empowering and energizing church members into becoming disciple-makers and getting children and young people more involved, but also finding better methods to preach the gospel in public and small-group settings, said Pastor Braham.
Summit leaders met in several groups to highlight their best practices and come up with new ways of improving evangelism, discipleship, and retention, and come up with new evangelism initiatives they can implement this year.
Pastor Robert Costa, associate ministerial secretary for the Adventist world church, encouraged leaders to look for ways to adopt to new evangelism methods of evangelism.
“We need to take into account every media but we cannot discount technological media,” said Costa. Using Christ’s method of preaching, technology tools and proclaiming the message every Sabbath will bring success, he added.
“My dream is for every pastor to become an evangelist, because they have the pulpit to preach every Sabbath, making it an evangelism center,” said Costa. “When the
people are cemented in the Bible message they stay in church, because there is power in the Word…so if we don’t preach the whole message, then it’s pastoral malpractice.”
Preaching the gospel from the pulpit is what Pastor Claudius Morgan has been doing for more than 31 years. He’s been a well-known evangelist throughout the Caribbean, Inter-America and even in parts of North America. Morgan’s favorite setting is conducting tent campaigns for two or three weeks at a time where music, prayer, technology and the Word draw hundreds every night.
“The key is that connection with the Holy Spirit, digging deep into the Word of God with a mix of prayer nights, anointing services, food drives for the needy in the community, children’s programs, fellowship and more,” said Morgan.
Improving best evangelism practices means multiplying evangelists in the territory, something he has already started to do in the English Caribbean Union in his post as assistant to the union president for evangelism. He has conducted 149 evangelistic campaigns and more than 28,000 souls have joined the church since he began as a lay preacher in 1987.
Getting church members involved in the preparation and running of a public campaign is key to growing the church and retaining members, said Morgan.
For leaders in Guatemala, it’s not just about getting church members to take part in evangelism but integrating every church department and ministries to reach more people with the gospel as well.
“We see it as a lifestyle, every department and every member involved in all the activities for missionary work,” said Pastor Gustavo Menéndez, an evangelist and assistant to the union president for evangelism.
Guatemala has seen a decline in new members. Last year there were 12,720 new members who joined the church, compared to the more than 14,000 persons added to the church three years ago. Leaders began equipping and involving more church members in all kinds of evangelism efforts, like distribution of tracts and books, social projects in the community, discipleship training, social media impact, and more.
“It’s been all about giving church members the vision and tools they need so that they can become more active in evangelistic efforts, in connecting with others and reaching beyond their limits,” said Menéndez.
Already, 114 new churches have been planted since last year and leaders are challenging the 5,000 members trained and actively involved in spreading the gospel throughout Guatemala to commit to winning five new souls each this year.
IAD top leaders also challenged summit delegates to reach for more as membership growth and financial progress was shared.
Pastor Leito praised the hard work of the leaders and members in growing the church but challenged leaders to reach further.
“We need every member, every ministry and every department to be involved, finding new methods, new approaches, new ways of engaging members and ways of using technology to get the attention of those who are not yet committed to Christ,” said Pastor Leito.
“We want you to win and retain members,” said Pastor Israel Leito, as he presented the challenge for each church and congregation across Inter-America to baptize one person into the church once a month. That would bring more than 264,000 new members into the church this year from the more than 22,000 churches and congregations across the 24 unions, or major church regions, in Inter-America.
A group of technologists from across the IAD and the Adventist world church met to
discuss ways of creating technology that would make it easy to track different analytics about current best practices in the territory.
“We presented a few things to group leaders on possible ways to measure other metrics outside of baptisms and tithe numbers, as well as new tools for members to be involved in evangelism efforts continually,” said Jose Romero, IT director for the church in Inter-America who lead the technology team during the summit.
Leaders will compile all the methods discussed and evaluated during the summit and will apply for greater effectiveness across Inter-America, Braham said.
To learn more about the Inter-American Division and its evangelism initiatives and activities, visit us at interamerica.org