March 4, 2017

Leadership Gathering Envision Evangelism, Church Growth in North America

Anthony WagenerSmith, Florida Conference Church Planting Coordinator

More than 130 pastors, evangelism leaders, and administrators met at the “eHuddle,” a gathering for leadership focusing on the future of evangelism in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, on February 27-28 in Orlando, Florida, United States. The two-day, by-invitation-only event included a mix of presentations, Q&A sessions, and roundtable discussions.

“We continued the conversation intended to help us in the advancement of a shared vision for evangelism and church growth in our division,” said Jose Cortes Jr., associate ministerial director for evangelism and church planting in the North American Division (NAD). “We began with a vision to see not only new churches planted, but to cultivate evangelism not just as an event but as a lifestyle in all churches across the division.”

“The ‪eHuddle was one of the most inspiring and thought provoking conferences I've been to in ministry”

The presentations, Q&A sessions, and discussions centered around five specific mission indicators: Engagement of all members in evangelism; creation of an atmosphere of accessibility and safety in all our churches; discipleship of all our membership; multiplication of community-based church planting; and participation of every pastor and able lay leader in utilizing diverse forms of proclamation evangelism at least once a year.

On the first day of the eHuddle, G. Alexander Bryant, executive secretary of the NAD, shared that Seventh-day Adventists are still the fastest growing Christian denomination in the United States, but he painted the current reality through the lens of a number of startling facts. Bryant highlighted that from 2009-2015, “while [the NAD] baptized 251,166, our total membership losses were 132,988—46 percent of all new members.” He also revealed that the North American church faces significant disparities regarding the North American culture along age and concentration of our membership outside major metropolitan areas.”

Roger Hernandez, Southern Union Conference Ministerial director, gave a presentation on evangelism in today’s culture that integrates good deeds (compassion), good will (connection), and good news (conversion).

Laffin Cortes, pastor of the Miami Temple Church in Florida, presents a segment on prayer during the e-Huddle evangelism meetings on Feb. 28, 2017. [Photo by Dan Weber]

Speaking to the mission overlap in Adventist hospitals and churches, Peter Bath, regional vice president for mission for Florida Hospital’s West Florida Region, spoke about hospitals as places of worship and churches as places of healing.

Several other pastors shared their experiences of community impact, church planting, and engaging second generation immigrant communities.

“The ‪eHuddle was one of the most inspiring and thought provoking conferences I've been to in ministry,” tweeted Dustin Hall, pastor from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and eHuddle presenter. “[There was] lots of innovative, Gospel-oriented creative ministry, and news about what's working.”

“In order to be effective in reaching others in these rapidly changing times, we must not only have a united vision, but also an ongoing and active conversation, which empowers our members, churches, pastors, and institutions to reach people in different ways according to their contexts,” said Dan Jackson, president of the North American Division, or church region, in a message to church leaders before the eHuddle. “We’d like to see our NAD team—churches, pastors, schools, conferences, unions, hospitals, media ministries, colleges and universities—working together, learning from each other, and doing what it takes to fulfill our mission of reaching our territory with a lifestyle and a message of compassionate hope and wholeness.”