Editor's note: This is the third in a series by news editor Andrew McChesney about how Seventh-day Adventists in South America are using technology to spread the gospel.
This is the story of how Marcelo Flordos Santos, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in northeast Brazil, received two talents and then gained 100 more through the reach of the Internet.
Flor, a slight man with graying hair, looked at the several dozen people who were showing up at his evangelistic meetings five years ago and determined to find a way to expand his audience with the tools within his reach: a webcam-enabled laptop, the Internet, and the Adventist Church’s message about the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation.
Today Flor uses those tools to air live broadcasts of his meetings over the Internet. The average attendance has remained the same: about 60 people. But now another 100 to 150 people log on to one of Flor’s three websites to watch from their homes. Still another 1,000 to 3,000 people watch the archived videos after each meeting.
Much like the servant who received two talents and gained four in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:14-30, Flor has taken an audience of 60 people and expanded it to up to 3,000 people across Brazil and beyond.
“My meetings are simply about prophecy and are based on the three angels’ messages,” Flor said.
The three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 proclaim the soon coming of Jesus.
Adventist believers in South America are known within the world church for their innovative use of technology to spread the gospel. But Flor is the only Adventist in Brazil to use Wirecast software to share Jesus — and dozens of people have been baptized as a result.
Flor discovered Wirecast — whose website promises, “Everything you need to stream live video from your desktop to the world” — when he embarked on his quest to reach a wider audience in 2011. The software, with a starting price of $495, offers titles, live switching, and transitions to create professional-looking productions without the steep budgets associated with television.
Flor, using his own money, purchased the software and eventually an additional four laptops at a total cost of $2,000. The extra laptops allow him to use multiple camera angles during each broadcast.
He started broadcasting with the assistance of one young adult volunteer. Today he works with six young adults who, with him, donate the $100 needed monthly to cover the project’s expenses, primarily to maintain its three websites: aovivo7profetica.com, aovivo7dialogo.com, and aovivoiasd.com.
Flor whipped out his iPhone 5 and eagerly thrust its cracked screen before an Adventist Review reporter.
“This is one of my recent broadcasts,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of a recent GAiN conference of Adventist communications specialists from across South America that was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
At the end of each nightly evangelistic meeting, Flor greets people at the door of the church and then returns inside for a video chat with online viewers. He answers their questions and prays with them.
Flor publicizes the live broadcasts and the websites on Facebook.
He hopes that other Adventists will follow his example and has published a how-to guide on how to replicate his work.
Flor now serves as the district pastor of 14 local churches, each of which has 40 to 60 members, in the Adventist Church’s South Bahia Conference. He also leads four 18-day evangelistic series every year, all of which are streamed online.
The results of the live broadcasts were immediate in 2011. When the first evangelistic series ended, Flor baptized a family that had watched online. At his most recent evangelistic series, 60 people attended in person, and 20 of them were baptized. Another four people who had watched online were also baptized.
In the five years of the project, at least three former Adventists have been rebaptized after watching online.
“I have helped three former Adventists return to the church, including Sarah,” Flor said.
Sarah Lopez is especially precious to Flor. It was Lopez who introduced him to the Adventist message in 2001, leading to his baptism later that year. But Flor lost touch with her as he studied to become a pastor and then entered full-time ministry.
In 2014, Flor received a Facebook friend request from Lopez, now married in Portugal but recently separated from her husband. As the two reconnected, Flor learned that his friend had stopped attending church, and he encouraged her to watch his programs online.
Flor baptized Lopez during the Sabbath worship service at the GAiN conference on April 16. The baptism and sermon, delivered by Williams Costa Jr., communication director of the Adventist world church and a Brazilian native, were streamed live over the Internet.
Later that day, Lopez learned that her husband had watched the Sabbath service online and had been so moved by her story and the sermon that he had requested Bible studies in preparation for baptism, Costa said.
“It’s amazing what God can do through a sermon,” Costa, visibly surprised, said in an interview. “I never expected this.”
It could also be said that it’s amazing what God can do with a faithful servant entrusted with two talents.