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New Adventist Church members are baptized at Mexico City Arena on Saturday April 12. The event celebrated the results of strategic evangelism outreach efforts in the country. [photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]
April 17, 2014 | Mexico City | Libna Stevens/IAD/ANN
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America celebrated its big-city evangelism impact across the territory with a special live broadcast program from the Mexico City Arena on April 12, an event that spotlights the culmination of thousands of evangelistic campaigns that ended last week throughout the Inter-American Division (IAD) territory.
The massive evangelism campaigns are the work of thousands of pastors and laypeople who have been spreading the gospel in their communities this year.
Coined as Vision One Million, the initiative focused this year on large cities throughout the 22 major church regions in Inter-America. Vision One Million is an annual initiative in the IAD that seeks to empower 1 million church members to become true followers and witnesses of Jesus while each bringing one new member into the church during the 2010-2015 period.
Nearly 18,000 church members filled the Mexico City Arena (Arena Ciudad de Mexico) for the two-hour satellite event. The program was transmitted through Hope Channel, Esperanza TV, 3ABN, and 3ABN Latino in English, Spanish and French. The live program included baptismal ceremonies and musical performances.
“We want you to know that we are pleased that you have chosen our city to reach your objectives with your Impact 2014 efforts,” said Cesar Palacios Trejo, mayor of Azcapotzalco, as he welcomed the audience. “We know that with your efforts you will help mold a better society.”
Mexico City’s director of Religious Affairs, Arturo Manuel Diaz Leon, thanked the church leadership and its members for enriching the lives of the citizens of Mexico.
“Mexico has seen this church grow with dignity while enjoying the freedom of belief the nation offers,” said Diaz. “Thank you for fostering principled values in your members and seeking to serve and be useful in your endeavors.”
Adventist World Church President Ted N. C. Wilson delivered the keynote speech during the live program, praising the work of pastors and church members for the city evangelism results throughout the last three months. He urged them to continue being a people that studies and promotes the reading of the Word of God.
“God is calling you as a remnant church to be part of revival and reformation to proclaim the prophetic messages of Daniel and Revelation,” Wilson told the audience.
The denomination’s leader encouraged the congregation and viewers to be part of the great emphasis in the world on the mission to the cities and to “pray like you have never prayed before, for God is calling you in a special way to help propel this great Advent message.”
Propelling the message in large cities across the division is the main evangelism emphasis this year, said Balvin Braham, associate ministerial secretary and main organizer of the event.
“We want to focus on areas where we have planted churches and grow more members there,” Braham said. “We also want to focus on areas where there is no Adventist presence and plant new churches.”
As part of the Mexico Impact 2014, nearly 100 ministers and evangelists from Central America, the Caribbean, French Antilles, Colombia, Venezuela, Canada and England traveled to Mexico earlier this month to partner with local pastors and laypeople in churches, auditoriums, community centers and small groups for one week. During that week they met with new believers about joining the church, then spent one week in Mexico City working with evangelism campaigns, Braham said.
More than 6,400 evangelistic campaigns were held throughout Mexico, 200 of which were held in Mexico City last week. The thousands of campaigns in Mexico generated more than 28,300 new members, Braham said.
Ministers also took part in a three-day school of evangelism last week that focused on evangelistic strategies for urban areas, church planting in urban areas, use of technology in evangelism, social media evangelism, evangelizing those of non-Christian religions and contextualization in evangelism, Braham said. Thousands of pastors across the division also viewed the evangelism training online.
In addition, the church in Central Mexico hosted a six-week school of urban evangelism in Mexico City with some 30 ministers from across the country.
The live event also highlighted the work of more than two-dozen young people who came to Mexico City from throughout the division to participate in urban training under the world church initiative One Year in Mission. The IAD-run OYiM initiative trained young people doing missionary work throughout the metropolitan region to strengthen the Adventist presence and visit previously un-reached areas with health classes, English classes, social and spiritual activities and more.
Tomas Torres, president of the more than 74,000-member church in Central Mexico, thanked the support of the Inter-American Division and its territory to boost urban evangelism in Mexico City.
“It’s a privilege to share with you this historic moment for the Adventist Church in Mexico City,” Torres said.
“This union was established just five years ago as the Central Mexican Union, headquartered here in Mexico City, with one conference and three missions,” Torres said. “The church now has three conferences, one mission and a brand new region today,” he added.
Seeing the church grow to a five-region territory in Central Mexico is a strategy that was set in motion nearly a decade ago when division administrators studied and planned to pay closer attention to the big cities throughout Inter-America, said Israel Leito, president of the church in Inter-America.
“We are glad to see this progress and continue to work towards targeting our cities across the territory,” Leito said. “We realize that this big-city impact is not as easy as far as soul-winning is concerned than in rural areas, we have to go deep into the structure in establishing centers of influence, special initiatives to reach the post-modern mind.”
Already, the church has established 24 centers of influence in cities across the IAD. Work has begun in non-Christian communities throughout the territory. That work includes special health initiatives and planning new churches in urban areas, IAD leaders reported.
The numbers are slowing down, Leito added, something leaders have noticed and have been studying. “The [evangelism] plan we set out was to have an average of 250,000 new members joining the church every year, that would give us approximately 1 million new members by 2015, but we understand big-city impact is not fueled by the traditional evangelism approach,” Leito said.
“We are working on rekindling the fire of soul-winning throughout the territory, stressing to our pastors not to stop nor slow down on the vision of the mission to reach more souls for the Kingdom,” Pastor Leito added. “It’s the power of the Holy Spirit which will open the way to reach more people with the gospel in the cities.”
Through city impact, the church across Inter-America has held massive evangelism gatherings this year, such as the one in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and a health initiative in Monterrey, North Mexico. In addition, there has been evangelism outreach in Tabasco, Southeast Mexico, city-wide impact throughout Jamaica, evangelism impact in San Sebastian, Puerto Rico, and urban outreach in Guatemala. Division officials reported nearly 45,000 baptisms in cities and 30,000 baptisms in rural areas as a result of evangelism efforts this year.
Next year, the IAD will carry out Vision One Million city impact throughout its territory and will host the annual celebration program in the English-speaking Caribbean territory.