March 24, 2021 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division
Seventh-day Adventist leaders in Inter-America are beginning to re-think and re-strategize evangelism across the territory. Top leadership recently gathered nearly 200 church leaders in charge of evangelism throughout the Inter-American Division (IAD) in a series of quarterly training meetings aimed at strengthening and optimizing their efforts as the I Will Go mission initiative gets underway.
With 3.7 million members, the church must continue to move forward, leveraging past evangelism efforts and switching gears to better reach individuals in the changing post-modern world today, church administrators said.
“Everyone faces an obligation to achieve results, but sooner or later everyone hits a wall,” said Pastor Elie Henry, president of the church in Inter-America, as he addressed dozens of church leaders in charge of evangelism throughout the Inter-American Division (IAD). In referencing Luke 5, when Jesus was telling the disciples to go into the deep to catch fish, Pastor Henry encouraged leaders to trust, rely and be open to the lesson in the story. “God is giving us the path and telling us to move forward, to go deeper into the Word of God, in confidence and faith in new things we have to do and understanding the new direction to follow.”
New direction amid challenges
That new direction is not about doing the same thing over and over again when it comes to evangelism but moving forward with new methods and strategies amid challenges, he said.
One of those challenges could be a post-pandemic reality in which members choose to continue attend church virtually rather than returning to the church building in-person, explained Pastor Henry. “We need to look for new opportunities, look at ways of finding people where God sends us and not be limited to what we have been doing,” he said.
It’s all about effectively reaching new believers where they are, discipling and keeping them active in the life of the church to further share the gospel. Attaining that goal is not as easy and as fast today than it used to be in Inter-America, said Pastor Balvin Braham, assistant to the IAD president in charge of evangelism.
For years the accession to the membership of the church in Inter-America has averaged over 200,000 new members annually. As the post-Christian era approached, there has been some decline, said Braham. “The transition to online evangelism in 2020 positively impacted results as leaders reported that nearly 100,000 new believers were baptized into the church amidst the pandemic. However, for greater impact to be experienced in soul-winning, things have to change,” said Braham.
Equipping leaders at the forefront of evangelism
Against the background of reaching the mindset of the 21st Century, Braham said it is important that evangelists, pastors, leaders and church members alike move forward with relevant and contextualized methods resources to influence people of varying classes with the gospel. That’s why equipping leaders at the forefront of evangelism is vital for a new, more creative evangelism strategy.
“To prepare unions and local field evangelism leaders for this relevant and contextualized evangelistic approach, special enrichment seminars with Adventist scholars and renowned evangelists to share their insight have been implemented,” said Braham. “They in turn will share with local pastors in each of the major church regions.”
According to Braham, serious focus on reaching the upper class across each major region, or union will be launched soon.
Adventist Theologian Johnny Ramírez-Johnson challenged church leaders to change their approach, their view and their outlook in their evangelism ministry as they look at the Scriptures and contextualize the biblical message therein. Dr. Ramírez-Johnson pointed to the greatest evangelism event that the church and its believers will be a part of with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that is yet to come highlighted in the Bible and in the writings of Ellen G. White, co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Contextualizing evangelism in 21st Century
In his presentation on Hermeneutics: Presenting Truth from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, Dr. Ramírez-Johnson encouraged leaders to understand the distinction between what leaders can do in facilitating and celebrating the Holy Spirit’s outpouring as part of the Three Angel’s Message, embracing the spirit as Moses did when he contextualized the fourth commandment mentioned in Deuteronomy 5, 40 years after he had presented the commandment tablets written by God, and understanding the Holy Spirit’s inclusionary nature of the expected outpouring during the last days. Hesaid: “How should I present the message of the Sabbath as the day of the Lord as a seal of God in today’s environment? Should I use the 1840s message? Or instead look around me and notice the ecological emphasis of a younger millennial generation and reading the ecological implication of the 4th commandment?”
Read and re-read the Bible looking at newspaper in hand to see the ecological needs of the planet, added Dr. Ramírez-Johnson. “Change is the only way for the Holy Spirit’s outpouring and evangelism success.” It’s about contextualization, it is not about changing principles but about the changing of applications and policies, he said.
During his lecture, Adventist Evangelist Pastor Mark Finley, who is assistant to the Adventist World Church President for evangelism, shared his experience and key points in making their evangelism preaching more effective. “The power is in the Word of God, we must preach a Christ-centered message, an urgent message—the gospel,” said Pastor Finley. “Preach from the heart, share your own stories, illustrating your message, and be passionate when preaching.”
Effecting change in reaching others
Church evangelists and leaders were challenged to turn the world upside down just as the apostles did in a time when there wasn’t the kind of technology readily available to reach the masses like today, said Pastor Robert Costa, associate ministerial secretary for the Adventist World Church. “Preach on the Three Angels Message, and the whole plan of salvation, not only part of it or cutout parts.” It’s not about a motivational speech from the pulpit but the solid message of Jesus, His ministry, His resurrection and His whole plan of salvation.
Costa reminded leaders that it is not so much about the method they use but who is leading in their lives that will make the difference.
Church leaders were motivated to dive into learning more about the digital impact they can have, learning to be multi-taskers, be hands-on technology in their evangelism ministry, and get members involved in digital evangelism as well.
The training also saw leaders briefed on Sortt Padd, the new digital evangelism platform that stores evangelism resources, programs, events, blogs and others features.
Quarterly evangelism training is scheduled to take place on June 17, 2021, September 19, December 9, 2021.
To learn more about Inter-America’s evangelism initiatives and programs, visit us at interamerica.org