Nearly 5,000 Seventh-day Adventist small-group leaders from across the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union Conference church region in Mexico celebrated evangelism growth, strengthened their ministry, and renewed their commitment to sharing the gospel in their communities during a large gathering August 17-18, 2018.
The festival celebration, titled “Mission First” and held at the Exhibition Convention Center in Puebla, Mexico, brought Adventist world leaders to witness the progress of the church and encourage those attending the gathering to carry on proclaiming the message of salvation.
Adventist world church president Ted N. C. Wilson applauded the hard work of church and small-group leaders, for claiming God’s promises and moving forward with the mission of reaching people across the region.
“I am so impressed with how God is working through you,” Wilson said. “It is God’s special commission to you here to be part of this last-day proclamation of the gospel.”
Wilson motivated the congregation to continue being ambassadors for Christ. “God is calling you to action and mission first,” he said.
The Adventist leader invited small-group leaders to humble their hearts to God, put self aside, and let Jesus control their life completely. “Make mission first until Jesus comes,” Wilson said.
Inter-American Division (IAD) president Elie Henry reminded small-group leaders to rely on the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit is the catalyst, the one that leads to the commitment to the mission,” he told the delegation. “To continue to grow, we have to be in Christ, and we must be in the Word of God.”
Small Group Leaders
The words of Wilson, Henry, and other speakers resonated in the mind of Miralda Ortiz Rinza, who traveled from the state of Veracruz in the Mexico Southeast region. She was among the 4,800 small-group leaders brought in by local conferences to take part in the special presentations and seminars during the two-day event. Ortiz was recognized with an award for her leadership in bringing 46 persons who accepted Christ and were baptized into the church.
“Telling others how good God is and the great things He has done for me has been my main mission for the past nine years,” said Ortiz, who has taken being an ambassador for Christ very seriously as a small-group leader in the city of Coatzacoalcos.
Leading a small group of 20 every Wednesday in her home brings Ortiz joy and happiness, she said. She confesses she cannot imagine not being part of a small-group ministry. “It’s like I could not exist. I would feel like I was missing an arm,” she says.
Strengthening the Church
Ortiz is among the 9,800 small-group leaders in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union who have contributed in growing the church in the past 10 years, said IAD personal ministries director Melchor Ferreyra.
“Small groups are not another program of the church — they should become the life of the church,” he said.
It’s not only about bringing people to church, said Ferreyra. “It’s about taking the church where the people are, and that’s what small groups do.”
Currently, 80,000 small groups meet in the 22,000 churches and congregations across the IAD territory.
The Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union has the most comprehensive plan, according to Ferreyra. It is a plan that can inspire other unions to bolster their small groups. A dozen leaders from the 24 unions in the IAD witnessed the hard work of church leaders, pastors, and small-group leaders during the festival.
From 6,000 small groups that were formed 10 years ago in Mexico’s Inter-Oceanic region, the current level of 9,800 groups speaks volumes, because it’s a ministry that supports the work of the pastor in member retention and gets members involved in the mission of the church, said Inter-Ocean church region president Moisés Reyna. “It is not that small groups are bringing in thousands more baptisms every year, but members are staying in church and are more involved, and we have fewer people leaving the church,” he said. “The key in small groups is member retention.”
The blessing of the small-group ministry growth has brought a big challenge for church leaders across the region, because new churches are needed, said Reyna. “We simply do not have the financial resources to purchase property to build churches right now,” he said, as he explained that church leaders could not keep up with the fast-growing membership.
“Many of our congregations rent larger locations and auditoriums to accommodate worship services,” said Reyna.
Among other topics, delegates were given a workbook with presentations on member retention and instructions on how to get more members involved in the mission of the church. In addition, union leaders unveiled a 12-month plan with initiatives, activities, and events to strengthen their small-groups leaders in their ministry.
In the Inter-Oceanic Mexican region, more than 206,000 Adventists members worship in 3,046 churches and congregations. The church also operates 90 primary and secondary schools across the territory.
You can read a longer version of this news report on the Inter-American Division News page.