More than 1,000 laypersons in South Colombia were recently trained during a special congress to strengthen small group ministry in Villavicencio, not far from Bogota, Colombia. The lay congress, held February 5, 2022, drew regional and local leaders from the East Los Llanos Conference to better equip small group leaders and active members in spreading the gospel where they live.
Themed “Esperanza Definitiva,” or Ultimate Hope, the congress also sought to “bolster the lay forces developing the discipleship, retention, new believers, and the missionary couples ministries set out in each congregation with the purpose to preach the gospel everywhere in the region,” Moisés Prieto, personal ministries director for the church in South Colombia Union Conference, said.
Missionary couples ministry is one of several important ministries, Prieto said. “It is definitely a biblical principle to evangelize, and it is the plan of God for the church in the current times. It is important that two persons work together, one encouraging the other and praying and studying the Scriptures together,” he said.
Melchor Ferreyra, personal ministries director for the church in Inter-America, motivated the hundreds of laypersons to continue laboring with all their might in growing the church.
“We have more than 2,000 years of accumulated experience in laypersons, which means that the early church grew on the foundation of laypersons, church members,” Ferreyra said. “Very few were evangelists, but churches multiplied, and new churches were planted on the work of so many anonymous laypeople who work with tenacity and tireless efforts.” So the same is repeated throughout history and in the 21st century, he said.
It’s very clear, Ferreyra said, that laypeople are not called to a spectator role but instead should be protagonists. “Laypeople are not clapping from their pews,” he said. “They are immersed in all of the activities of the church, following the ‘total member involvement’ church initiative. They are committed to participating in evangelism in his or her local church or local field,” he added.
Leaders provided 1,100 “Missionary Work Kits” for church leaders, pastors, and ministers, as well as New Believer Kits that contain a Bible, Bible study course, Sabbath School quarterly, and more.
“Laypeople in East Los Llanos are being trained to cater to four basic needs, namely retaining new members after baptism; discipleship and winning others for Christ; creating missionary couples and small groups; [and] participating in the Sabbath School class,” Daruwin González, personal ministries director of the East Los Llanos Conference, said.
With more than 20,700 church members and 400 small groups in 17 pastoral districts, the goal is to mobilize the membership to expand to 350 additional small groups, 700 missionary couples, 1,288 Bible instructors, and 1,000 baptisms this year, Joel Hernández, president of the church in East Los Llanos Conference, reported.
During the congress small group leaders and church pastors with the most people baptized in 2021 were honored for their outstanding efforts.
Regional leaders plan to hold another congress to gather more laypersons and equip them for coordinated evangelism efforts this year.
The other eight regional conferences and missions in South Colombia have also begun holding lay congresses this month as part of the evangelism strategy this year and in celebration of the Inter-American Division’s centennial in 2022, church leaders said.
“The challenge that our lay brethren have in the union territory is to be messengers of hope everywhere,” Prieto said. “The world is sick, and we must share that message [of hope].”