By Roberto Herrera
The quinquennium of 2015-2020, as far as Inter-American Division Stewardship Ministries is concerned, will be remembered in the Inter-American Division as one that was challenging, innovative, and blessed with great growth.
It was challenging because our territory had to face, during these last five years, situations ranging from social, political, and economic instability to impressive natural disasters that impacted much of our territory. Although these situations are beyond the control of what we can do as a church, as an organization we cannot escape the fact that our members live in and are affected by these realities. As a result, the consequences affect the church and its mission.
However, in the midst of the challenges, opportunities are generated—and opportunities can turn challenges into blessings, thus fulfilling what Ellen G. White wrote: “God gives opportunities; success depends upon the use made of them” (Prophets and Kings, p. 486).
In the midst of the challenges that lie ahead, Inter-America has responded with simple faith—trusting in the future of the church and in God’s plan for it—with prayer and hard work but also with innovation and creativity. The more challenges that the people we lead face, the more we try with God’s help to be a highly people-oriented church. The more we attempt to understand that, the more those of us who are serving in the different ministries of the church come to realize that our main responsibility is to care for people.
That is why during this past quinquennium we tried to devote ourselves to helping church members grow spiritually and organizing our nearly 23,000 congregations so that this can be achieved. During these past five years, Stewardship Ministries has mobilized a large number of dedicated, generous, and passionate people to influence each church member and family in a positive way.
Innovation has been seen in our vision for this quinquennium, which has had three main working areas:
- Strengthening the spiritual attention that our members receive.
- Improving the role pastors have in stewardship in the local church.
- Establishing a solid financial system throughout our territory.
Innovation has also been reflected in the range of materials that have been prepared and made available to churches for free. Among these we must highlight:
- That They Know You—a course of 13 lessons studying some of God’s wonderful attributes or qualities in the context of biblical stewardship.
- Being Prosperous in Everything—a course of 13 lessons on family finances.
- Pastor, So That You Fulfill Your Ministry—special material for pastors and elders that helps them see their role within the ministry of stewardship in the church.
- The Church, Its Finances, and the Mission—a course of 13 lessons to promote understanding of how the church obtains, manages, and invests its financial resources.
- Two special issues of Elder and Ministry magazines on the topic of Christian stewardship.
- Equipped to Succeed—a course on stewardship for teenagers.
- The Creed of the Triumphant Youth—to teach stewardship to our youth.
All these materials have helped during these five years to strengthen our focus on church members and congregations, allowing the message to reach the places where the growth of our organization happens.
On the other hand, perhaps the most innovative strategy we have used during this five-year period has been the plan called Holy Convocation. It is an initiative recommended by the General Conference Stewardship Ministries Department and consists of locating areas in our territory where a significant number of congregations are concentrated. For eight intensive days we bring together a number of pastors, leaders, and preachers who commit themselves to preaching God’s Word every night in one of the congregations. They also visit for spiritual reasons every family in that congregation. As a result, we are rediscovering the importance of pastoral visitation and adequate spiritual nourishment through good preaching centering on church members in our ministerial initiatives.
For all of the previously noted reasons, we can conclude that this quinquennium, ending in June 2020, has been blessed by God. Thanks to His blessing, our tithes and offerings have increased. But in the end, the most important thing has been the experience of doing all of this while holding on to the Lord’s hand and being guided by the Holy Spirit. In this way, all of this becomes a huge privilege, giving us the opportunity to witness God’s transformation of the lives of those who decide to be faithful to Him and dedicate themselves to His work. We also see spiritually revived congregations decide to take better care of their members while continuing to seek others.
We conclude by borrowing these memorable words from Ellen G. White: “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history” (Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, p. 196).