Church administrators and publishing ministries leaders from across the Inter-American Division recently met to review and expand initiatives to motivate church members to read and share Adventist literature in their communities, during the four-day meeting held in Riviera Maya, Mexico.  The meetings were part of the Adventist world church’s American Tri-Division Publishing Directors Workshop held Aug. 27-30, 2018, with leaders from the Inter-American, North American and South American Divisions. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

September 3, 2018 | Riviera Maya, Mexico | Libna Stevens/IAD

Seventh-day Adventist leaders and publishing ministries directors from across the Inter-American Division (IAD) recommitted efforts to uphold plans and expand initiatives to get the church membership more active in reading and sharing Adventist literature in their communities. IAD leaders took time to report publishing progress and discussed plans during the American Tri-Division Publishing Directors Workshop, held last week in Riviera Maya, Mexico, Aug. 27-30, 2018.

“We are all called here to be servants of God and we must share the good news, that hope in Him through books and publications that speak of that love and hope,” said Pastor Elie Henry, president of the church in Inter-America as he addressed the dozens of church leaders. “We have been given this invitation to take Christ to others, and it is more than an option, it’s an obligation.”

Conveying that obligation as Christians and Seventh-day Adventists is not complicated but takes collaboration at every level of the church to reach every corner of Inter-America, church leaders said.

“There are 3.8 million members and we must move fast in spreading God’s Word through magazines, tracts, and books, to reach everyone in Inter-America,” said Pastor Ervin González, publishing ministries director for the church in Inter-America, as he spoke to the IAD delegation. “We want church members to fall in love with the publications that the church is making available to them.”

Inter-American Division President Pastor Elie Henry said it is an obligation to share publications that speak of the love and hope Jesus offers. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

It’s about that love of reading literature which expands on the Bible and publications that strengthen a spiritual relationship with Jesus, strengthen marriages and the family, promotes a healthy lifestyle, and more, that drives members to want to share these with their friends, neighbors, co-workers and acquaintances around them, added González.

Membership Involvement

One initiative the publishing ministries is focusing on is motivating members to purchase the missionary book of the year for 50 cents or less following the Adventist world church vote, and distribute these during a designated day in April and/or throughout the year. The number of distributed missionary books has been increasing in the IAD territory since the initiative was voted in in 2006, said González.

According to González, 30 million missionary books printed by Inter-America’s two publishing houses, IAD Publishing Association (or IADPA) and Gema Editors, were distributed by church members throughout the IAD during the past 10 years. “This is a great achievement but I believe we can reach still more in our territory by getting more members involved,” he said.

In one year alone, members in the church in Chiapas, Mexico, distributed one million copies of the missionary book in a single Sabbath in April in 2016. And in 2017 and 2018, members distributed nearly 800,000 copies of the book each year. With a membership of over 200,000 in Chiapas, that is a simple and impressive way to involve every member in sharing hope across the territory, said González.

Pastor Ervin González, publishing ministries director for the church in Inter-America, reported that more than 30 million missionary books have been distributed in Inter-America during the past 10 years. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

Local church publishing ministries coordinator

Making publications more available to the members is another publishing ministries initiative that was set forth four years ago. That initiative includes having a publishing ministries coordinator at every church or congregation across the IAD and a partnership with the church’s publishing houses.

The publishing director or coordinator at the local church level is involved in promoting Sabbath School lesson quarterlies, devotionals, books and resources so the church can grow and mature spiritually, said González. In turn, the local publishing director/coordinator supports the pastor in providing spiritual nourishment through books and resources overseen by Gema Editors in the case of Mexico, and IADPA for the rest of IAD territory.

El Salvador has been working hard at establishing a publishing ministries coordinator at nearly every one of its churches, said Pastor Abel Pacheco, president of the church in El Salvador. So far, 886 out of the 998 churches have a publishing ministries director who works closely with IADPA to promote books, resources and take in orders for lesson quarterlies and more, said Pacheco. It took training, meetings, and coordinated efforts to ensure that each church has a publishing ministries coordinator, he said.

“We started with 448 in 2016, then 629 in 2017, and now we have 886 strong local directors who are ensuring our members keep reading and strengthening their faith through these resources,” said Pacheco.

“Our members are more aware of publications available, local directors, who are active laypersons, assist the pastor in this area so that pastors can concentrate on ministering to the churches they lead,” said Pacheco. Pacheco said that the volunteer local publishing directors meet monthly and quarterly with regional church leaders and IADPA store managers for training on resources, and outreach literature activities. The plan in El Salvador is that the local publishing directors/coordinators sell the resources and receive compensation from IADPA as an incentive for their work.

A group of church members in Guatemala display the missionary books of this year before distributing these during a community outreach activity in March 2018. Photo courtesy of Guatemala Union/IAD

Similarly in the Chiapas Mexican Union, there are more than 900 publishing directors/coordinators across the churches who work with Gema Editors in promoting new books and resources. Gema Editors gives a 10 to 15 percent discount on the resources as an incentive to local publishing directors, said David Javier, Gema Editors president.

Becoming a literature evangelist

There are many other IAD unions that are working toward establishing publishing ministries director/coordinators at local churches, yet more needs to be done, encouraged González. The plan is to motivate the publishing ministries directors/coordinators at every church to become literature evangelists full time or part time.

“The more they fall in love with our publications, the more they will be spiritually fed and see their part in sharing the gospel as literature evangelists,” said González.

Recruiting full time literature evangelists has been one of the biggest challenges the publishing ministries in Inter-America has faced, more so since 2014 when church leadership re-designed strategies to revamp the department and work towards recruiting an army of 15,000 literature evangelists it once had more than 30 years ago.

Today, the IAD has more than 5,600 literature evangelists, including 1,218 full time 1,915 part-time and 2,469 (as of Dec. 2017) student literature evangelists, and is working on restarting recruitment plans through new resources and special training schools across the territory.

Inter-America’s to publishing houses IADPA and Gema Editors print more than 240 books combined for the literature evangelists to sell. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

Recruiting literature evangelists

“We have made a basic course for literature evangelists based on a specific curriculum, in English, Spanish and French,” said González. There are online presentations by some of the best speakers in the Adventist world church, book authors, as well as motivational classes, explained González.

One of the strong literature evangelists programs in the IAD is taking place in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union where 290 full time evangelists and 178 part time evangelists have made their mark in reaching businesses and homes across cities and communities, selling the most books across the IAD territory.

It has taken motivating publishing ministries at every level of the church, including publishing ministries directors at 11 conferences and missions, reported Pastor Martin Olvera, publishing ministries director of the church Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union. The union has formed a model school of literature evangelists to train, strengthen and recruit literature evangelists in their ministry.

District leaders meet every month and regionally every quarter to provide a model school of literature evangelists with training, spiritual retreats, updates on the latest Adventist publications, videos, newsletters and more, reported Olvera.

Church leaders pray together for the publishing ministries across Inter-America, North America and South America. Photo by Germán Rodríguez/IAD

“If you do not form literature evangelist schools throughout your territory, you will not see that ministry grow, because it has to be constantly growing throughout the year,” appealed González to church leaders and union publishing ministries directors.

Student literature evangelists

Enlisting students to canvass is also one of the initiatives publishing ministries is focusing on. “So far, there are nearly 2,000 students enrolled at 11 of our 14 Adventist universities that share the truths of the gospel and place on high Adventist education through their colporting, or canvassing,” reported González.

It is imperative that Adventist universities provide avenues like canvassing so that students can take part in fulfilling the mission with passion and dedication while they pay for their studies, explained González.

Montemorelos University in North Mexico runs the largest student literature evangelist program with more than 600 students canvassing annually throughout the school year. “Our schools must strengthen their canvassing program to prepare more young people with leadership skills and love for the publications,” said González.

Riseldy Pillo, publishing ministries director for the church in Cuba, listens in during the publishing meetings last week. Photo by Germán Rodríguez/IAD

Supporting literature evangelists

González explained that the Education department is working with Adventist universities to ensure that every theology major is required to do canvassing while they study so they can understand the importance and impact of publications to the membership and those in the community who have yet to learn of the gospel.

IADPA reported that they have a total of 177 books in English, Spanish and French specifically for literature evangelists to use, while Gema Editors reported that they have more than 60 books for literature evangelists to choose from.

Church leaders also discussed involving the small group ministry across the IAD involved in sharing the hope of salvation through literature evangelism.

There are still challenges today in publishing ministries, said González. Even in places like Cuba where there had not been any canvassing for over 58 years, there is a group now of 33 literature evangelists working throughout the island, he said.

Church leaders from Inter-America present a publishing ministries report during the church’s American Tri-Division Publishing Workshop, Aug. 27-30, 2018. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

In Venezuela, where economic challenges have been worsening week by week, the church is moving forward with more than 70 literature evangelists across the country.

“The Adventist Church still firmly believes in its role of spreading the gospel through the publications,” said González. “We must double our efforts in doing our part to get more members involved in sharing publications, recruiting members to become literature evangelists and finish the task that has been given to us.”

Church leaders envision that the number of literature evangelists will double in the next five years if not more.

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