Jeffrey O. Brown (JB): I have the privilege of interviewing Balvin B. Braham, D. Ed, who is assistant to the president of the Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists (IAD), with responsibilities for evangelism and leadership development. Thank you, Dr. Braham, for spending some time with me.
KPI 6.1Increased church member involvement in fellowship and service, both in the church and in the local community.
Balvin B. Braham (BB): Greetings, Dr. Brown. And I bring greetings to Ministry readers from our president, Dr. Elie Henry.
JB: You came to IAD from a presidential role within the Jamaica Union. Dr. Trevor O’Reggio, prominent church historian from Andrews University, stated, “The Seventh-day Adventist Church is one of the strongest religious organizations in the tropical paradise of Jamaica . . .
making Jamaica one of the highest per capita areas in the world for Adventist membership.”1 That was in 2008. Is this still true?
BB: At the end of 2019, the Jamaica Union had 322,666 members in a population of 2,811,000, which means that 1 in 9 Jamaicans is a Seventh-day Adventist. To God be the glory. But the territory of the Inter-American Division comprises Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and the five northernmost countries of South America. I say with pride in my heart, wherever you go across the IAD territory, you will find beautiful countries and wonderful people. We have over 3.5 million baptized believers, making it the division with the most church members.
JB: Tell us the secret of successfully sharing Jesus in the Inter-American Division!
BB: The secret? Ellen White said, “The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers.”2 Members are willing to be involved, the leadership of the church wants them to be involved, and they are counseled to do so by the Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy. However, they need answers to “What?”, “How?”, “Why?”, and “Where?”
JB: Have you found any answers in the church’s I Will Go strategic plan for 2020-2025?
BB: Oh, yes! For us, I Will Go is not just a slogan. It is a package of strategic initiatives that answer questions that members have. It provides them with tools, resources, training, motivation, and inspiration, packaged to their individual context. Pastors, in dialogue with their local church board, may select from the menu of objectives and also develop their own initiatives to address issues unique to their local context.
JB: Ellen White states, “In some respects the pastor occupies a position similar to that of the foreman of a gang of laboring men or the captain of a ship’s crew. They are expected to see that the men over whom they are set, do the work assigned to them correctly and promptly, and only in case of emergency are they to execute in detail.”3 To what extent is the pastor key to the success of I Will Go?
BB: The local church pastor’s leadership role—to motivate, plan, organize, supervise, delegate, coordinate, assess, handle reports, and make appropriate determination—is critically important to the effectiveness of I Will Go. We have designed Action Plan Forms that allow pastors, working with the administration and the ministerial secretary of their local fields, to have their own I Will Go plan. Resources are provided through the local fields and other organizational levels to (1) recruit, train, and deploy persons to implement the initiatives, and (2) evaluate the processes and projects and take relevant action.4
JB: Employees are often fearful of evaluations. What kinds of assessment will you engage in?
BB: An evaluation is done for each proposed strategy simply to see if it fulfills the KPI. Each project is evaluated for short, medium, or long-term effectiveness. The division, unions, local fields, institutions, and churches should each make their own assessment or evaluation instrument and process to determine the extent to which initiatives. We believe that pastors should be evaluated, not based on somebody else’s program but based on the menu of objectives that they have chosen and developed, with the blessing of the local field administration.
JB: Let’s back up just a little. How did you get your various fields involved in the planning?
BB: We conducted a four-day strategic planning workshop. Titled, “Defining the Future of the Inter-American Division,” the more than 200 participants were divided into 15 focus groups to (a) listen to the Lord through prayer, Scripture readings, Spirit of Prophecy counsels, and sermons; (b) evaluate surveys conducted by the General Conference; and (c) adopt the I Will Go General Conference Strategic Planning document. This workshop was followed by meetings in the different fields with division officers and departmental leaders. A menu of objectives, KPIs, and initiatives for action plans were developed, processed, and adopted.
JB: Did you find I Will Go overwhelming?
BB: Not at all, because in IAD, we decided to focus on just three things: education, evangelism, and service.5
JB: Thinking of our colleagues in other divisions, just walk me through this. How did you decide on these three specific foci: education, evangelism, and service?
BB: IAD administration dialogued with church leaders in the unions across the Division territory regarding the needs and mission objectives in their local context. Those discussions resulted in the three priorities or focus areas as vehicles through which to package and dispense initiatives to fulfill and evaluate strategic objectives.
JB: Show me what this looks like with, let’s say, evangelism.
BB: The emphasis of this focus is inclusive evangelism (see diagram below). It has clearly defined projects or action plans to reach, equip, rescue, retain and disciple people of all classes and is intentional to reach the upper and middle classes as well as traditionalists, millennials, adolescents, children, people of other faiths, and unreached people groups.
JB: From there you came up with specific initiatives or action plans?
BB: The action plans of I Will Go – Inter-America have been developed within the context of eight matrices: (a) strategic priorities; (b) specific objectives; (c) specific initiatives (names); (d) initiative implementation plan (including personnel and process: who and how); (e) time frame for the execution; (f) collaborating ministries involved in executing the specific initiative; (g) key performance indicator (KPI) alignment; and (h) budget implications.
JB: You mentioned listening to the Lord through prayer. Ellen White says, “Let me tell you that the Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the common order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning.”6 Is it possible to plan too much? And will this fire up young people?
BB: The General Conference has surveyed almost every demographic group within the organization
—including young people—giving them the opportunity to share. Nevertheless, I love the section in I Will Go called, “Holy Spirit Objectives: To be defined as the Holy Spirit leads.” Amen! In IAD, we are driven by gifted, visionary young people (Acts 2:17). We believe they are fired up, and ready to go.
JB: Franky, I am amazed at the depth of your processes. Thank you, Dr. Braham. And, on behalf of our world church, thank you, IAD. Let me end with this: What propels IAD to so consistently push for greater heights of soulwinning?
BB: We find this statement truly motivational for mission: “Had the purpose of God been carried out in giving the message of mercy to the world, Christ would have come, and the saints would have received their welcome into the city of God.”7 Most of us are careless in managing the physical, mental, and social assets acquired through divine providence. But to go home to live with God requires that we plan strategically. Jesus wants volunteers in His service—Adventists must not hesitate to embrace the opportunity, and declare, “Here am I; send me” or, in other words, “I will go.”
- Trevor O’Reggio, “Exploring the Factors That Shaped the Early Adventist Mission to Jamaica.” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, 19/1-2 (2008): 230.
- Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1915), 352.
- White, Gospel Workers, 197.
- See Balvin Braham, A Practical Guide to Evangelism how to Win and Keep New Members (Columbia: Inter-American Division Publishing Association, 2014).
- See Libna Stevens, “Inter America to Double Efforts in Evangelism, Community Outreach and Evangelism.” Inter-American Division News, November 18, 2018. https://www.interamerica.org/2018/11/inter-america-to-double-efforts-in-evangelism-community-outreach-and-education/.
- Ellen G. White, Last Day Events (Boise, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1992), 203.
- Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1940), 36.