Adventist Church in Inter-America Tackles Stagnant Growth, Commits to Discipleship Initiative

Top Seventh-day Adventist Leaders across the Inter-American Division (IAD) have taken a hard look this week at the harsh reality the church has been facing: less and less new believers are joining the church. Gone are the decades where the growth of the church kept on a straight upward path.

Leaders reported that for more than 15 years, the growth of the church in the IAD has not reached 200,000 new members in a year like previous years. Also, less members are actively involved in the missionary work of giving Bible studies across the 42 countries and islands in Inter-America.

IAD President Pastor Israel Leito said that the church in Inter-America cannot rely on the successes of the past. Image by Libna Stevens/IAD

“We have to broaden our minds to reach the needs of the multitudes around us,” said Pastor Israel Leito, president of the church in Inter-America, as he addressed presidents and ministerial leaders from across the 24 major church regions in the territory during a council meeting in Miami, Florida.

“We need to regroup and find out how to better fill Inter-America with the gospel and capture the vision to reach more souls and allow the Holy Spirit to use every member to reach that,” said Pastor Leito. “Our evangelism methods must change to reach more for the kingdom.”

There are approximately 307 million people in the division territory. The challenge is to connect them to the gospel with the help of only 3.7 million Adventist church members – a little over 1 percent of the territory’s population. The task is enormous but not impossible, church leaders said.

Changing the Paradigm
It’s about changing the paradigm the pastor and the church has been following for years in bringing in more believers into the fold, said Pastor Josney Rodriguez, ministerial secretary for the church Inter-America. That paradigm change has to first take place with each local church pastor and his elders.

“Our church culture needs to change,” said Rodriguez. “It’s all about going back to the basics and focusing our attention on engaging the membership in discipleship.” That will only be possible as the pastors and elders unite across the more than 22,000 congregations in Inter-America to involve each member in fulfilling the mission. And it can only happen when the pastor takes more time in discipling the members to be disciple-makers, so they in turn can go and preach, teach and baptize new believers as Jesus commanded, said Rodríguez.