June 13, 2016

How Mexican Pastor Baptized Nearly 300 in Hostile Area

Inter-American Division

With 296 baptisms, Johan Pineda led more people to Christ last year than any other Seventh-day Adventist district pastor in Jamaica, Mexico, and Central America.

Aged 31, Pineda oversees 26 churches and 10 small congregations, or companies, in Ocosingo, Chiapas, one of the most religiously intolerant regions in the country.

Pineda believes the work of evangelism is all about encouraging the more than 1,100 members under his watch to share the gospel actively — and in creative ways.

“God has opened the way to reach these areas where persecution and even killings have occurred in the past because of religious intolerance,” he said.

Pineda is among 170 district pastors from Mexico and Jamaica who collectively baptized 20,920 people in 2015 and were honored last week during a conference in Riviera Maya that launched the Inter-American Division’s “Lord Transform Me” evangelism initiative. “Lord Transform Me” encourages church leaders and members to pursue a spiritual transformation in Jesus through daily Bible study, prayer, and actively sharing Jesus with neighbors.

A group of Mexican pastors being recognized for baptizing 100 or more people in 2015. (Abel Marquez / IAD)

Pinedo said the initiative, which complements the world church’s “Total Member Involvement” program, confirms a path that he has been pursuing in his district for the past eight years.

“This aspect of a transformation in Jesus is important to guide us as leaders and others to accept the challenge to share the gospel,” he said.

Pinedo’s evangelism plan consists of four parts: training members to use their talents, moving together with his church elders in implementing annual evangelism strategies, ensuring that current and new members learn Adventist doctrines and beliefs, and integrating all local church ministries and departments to focus on one goal: preparing people for eternal life.

Pinedo also thinks outside the box. His district of churches includes congregations that speak various dialects and a number of people who have converted from other faiths.

Just this year, 95 television antennas have been installed in all the churches he pastors, as well as in several local businesses, homes, and even non-Adventist churches, so people can watch Adventist broadcasts from Hope Channel’s Esperanza TV and 3ABN Latino every day.

So far 42 people have joined the church as a result of the programs alone, Pineda said. His overall goal is to reach 400 people with the gospel this year, and so far he has baptized 216 new believers since January.

“The key to the success in my district has been about seeking a daily relationship with Christ, working hard at driving an evangelism plan, leading by example, and getting members involved in sharing Jesus,” Pineda said.

Pineda was echoed by Vencont Dyer, a 34-year-old pastor of three churches in Jamaica, who was also recognized at the conference for his outreach efforts. He baptized 126 people in 2015, making him one of eight pastors in Jamaica who led more than 100 people to Christ.

Bringing that many people into the church in a tourist area was only possible by encouraging church members to connect actively with their communities, Dyer said. His churches are involved in many outreach activities, including organizing 5-kilometer runs, health expos, technical training, evangelism campaigns, and more.

Balvin Braham, assistant to the Inter-American Division president for evangelism, said the "Lord Transform Me" initiative would only succeed if church members got involved in the mission of the church.

He expressed hope that 80 percent of the division’s 3.7 million members, or 2.9 million people, will have participated in the initiative by 2020.