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Adventist Church in Costa Rica and Nicaragua commits to reaching former members

Alajuela, Costa Rica—The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Central American Union Mission, which comprises Costa Rica and Nicaragua, officially launched the Inter-American Division’s territory-wide initiative to seek out former church members during a special training throughout its six regional church fields. More than 1,300 church elders, pastors, and Sabbath School leaders gathered earlier this month to be trained in how to reach former members and bring them back to the church.

More than 100,000 members have left the church or are unaccounted for across Costa Rica and Nicaragua during the past two years, reported Pastor Ricardo Marín, executive secretary of the South Central American Union Mission. “That means that there is more than a 45 percent decrease in total membership in the union,” said Marín. The current membership stands at 121,440.

Samuel Telemaque, Sabbath School director for the Inter-American Division, traveled throughout Costa Rica and Nicaragua to emphasize the importance of building relationships in retaining and seeking members through Sabbath School classes.

It’s about being a community of grace while searching for former members, inviting them to be reconciled to God through a process of appealing to the hearts of the members, said Telemaque. He pointed to Ezekiel 34 and 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19, highlighting the need to ensure that the proper ministry of reconciliation is followed.

The training focused on the stages of reconciliation and provided practical instructions on how to implement a ministry of reconciliation, discipleship, and reintegration into the fellowship life of the church.

Delegates also were taught how to make an effective visit to a former member and how to help former members manage feelings of anger and hurt that many hold regarding the church and its leaders. Emphasis was made on being more empathetic and caring and listening more to former members.

“We need to organize a huge army in the church with children, young people, adults, men, and women to further the ministry of reconciliation, just [as] Jesus taught in the parables of the lost sheep and the prodigal son,” said Leonardo Godinez, district pastor of the Northwestern Nicaragua Mission. “That is the purpose of Sabbath School.”

At the close of each regional training, church elders and leaders were challenged to be actively involved and to double their evangelistic efforts as the church in Costa Rica and Nicaragua prepares for a massive baptismal ceremony on April 4, 2020, in Alajuela. The celebration will highlight the Inter-American Division’s territory-wide evangelism efforts next summer, which marks the end of the current quinquennium. [Tomas Saez/IAD News Staff]

North American Division Asian-Pacific pastors meet

Ontario, California, United States—Pastors from across the United States, Canada, Guam-Micronesia, and Bermuda gathered for the North American Division (NAD) Asian-Pacific Pastors’ Convention. About 400 pastors and spouses registered for the event.

“The convention brought our pastors a renewed passion for the study of the Bible and helped them embrace the relevance of planting and growing healthy churches,” said VicLouis Arreola, director of Asian-Pacific Ministries for both the NAD and the Pacific Union Conference. “This gathering was an upper-room experience that prepared them to meet the challenges of these end times.”

“It was a wonderful experience to bring the [pastoral] team together,” said Tony Anobile, NAD vice president for multilingual ministries. “The speakers were focusing on the journey that pastors have and their relationship with Jesus. [Arreola] and [his team] brought in people to provide training seminars and education on how to better their personal life, their ministries, and their families. The event showed that, in the NAD, there is diversity but also unity of purpose and spirit.”

For Arreola and his team, who work to provide this opportunity for those in ministry, the NAD convention is a time to celebrate the diversity of and ministry to 33 different cultural language groups. The convention is also an opportunity for the Asian-language advisories to meet, plan, and renew their mission and vision for reaching the communities in this division.

Pastors attended courses on New Testament theology, Old Testament theology, archaeology, pastoral care and counseling, systematic theology, and church growth and evangelism. Course curricula included Seventh-day Adventist foundational studies, interpersonal ministry, outreach in the community, applied pastoral skills, and concepts of church growth.

This year’s convention was themed “Redeeming the Time.” Guest speakers included NAD president Dan Jackson, Pacific Union Conference president Ricardo Graham, and Loma Linda University Church senior pastor Randy Roberts.

Pastors in attendance represented many of the 820 Asian-Pacific churches across the United States, Canada, Bermuda, and Guam-Micronesia. For these pastors, the fellowship, continuing education, and time for spiritual renewal make these conventions significant both professionally and spiritually.

“The reality in North America is that minority groups are going to continue to grow. I’m grateful to Vic for coordinating this event and for his commitment to continued [ministry] growth,” Anobile said. “At the NAD, our commitment is to support the growth of immigrant and refugee ministries in North America in any way we can.” [Faith Hoyt/North American Division News]

Inter-American Division leaders unveil soul-winning plan

Miami, Florida, United States—The passion of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Inter-American Division (IAD) is for all of its administrators, pastors, lay preachers, Bible instructors, church members, Sabbath Schools and small groups to contribute to a comprehensive plan to baptize more than 200,000 new believers by the end of this quinquennium, which ends in June 2020. For that to take place, the church at all levels needs to stay focused on evangelism initiatives and activities in the weeks and months to come, top church leaders said during an online evangelism summit held June 4, 2019.

“As members, we have to preach and teach to win souls for Christ. That’s what God put in our hearts to do,” said Pastor Elie Henry, president of the Inter-American Division.

“We stand together in soul-winning in the Inter-American Division,” said Pastor Balvin Braham, assistant to the IAD president for evangelism and the main organizer of the online event. “We have to conquer in the name of Jesus, for there are too many people out there who have not accepted Christ as their personal Savior in our local church communities,” said Braham.

Sharing the gospel with others means baptizing and discipling them as part of the church flock, said Braham. It means bringing in more believers to reach the goal set out mid-2015 of one million new members by mid-2020. And it means looking at numbers reached so far.

Since July 2015, when the cur-rent quinquennium began, 732,256 new members have been baptized, reported Pastor Leonard Johnson, executive secretary for the IAD. To reach the goal of one million, we would have to reach 267,744 new members, which is at least 53,548 new members added for each of the next five quarters, said Johnson.

Efforts will need to see the 3,200 pastors in the 24 major church regions in the IAD on board with a comprehensive evangelism plan that will seek to train 100,000 lay preachers and 300,000 Bible instructors. The goal is to hold 104,000 evangelistic campaigns throughout the territory from January to April in 2020. The vision corresponds to what church leaders voted recently during IAD’s Mid-Year Executive Committee meetings, where 2020 was voted in as the Year of Discipleship and Evangelistic Mega Reaping.

Unions, or church regions, will set their own evangelistic goals before the end of the year and unite efforts to not only reach new believers but also to work hard with discipleship or retention initiatives to get more members involved and committed to the mission, Braham said.

“Our intention with this summit was to create an understanding among pastors in terms of where we are headed in church growth and retention of members,” said Braham. It’s about mobilizing and inspiring all pastors to maximize their potential in equipping members to continue equipping members in soul-winning. “With the help of the Holy Spirit, and much prayer, we will experience a rich harvest of souls,” Braham said. [Libna Stevens/IAD]

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To view the Inter-American Division’s Online Evangelism Summit for Pastors, visit bit.ly/2ZNDayW.

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