The eHuddle, a gathering for evangelistic leadership visioning for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, kicked off its second year on February 27, 2017, in Orlando, Florida. More than 130 pastors, evangelism leaders, and administrators gathered for the three-day, by-invitation event that included a mix of presentations, Q&A sessions, and roundtable conversations.
“We continued the conversation intended to help us in the advancement of a shared vision for evangelism and church growth in our division,” explained 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 as a lifestyle — not just an event — in all churches across the division.”
The presentations, Q&A sessions, and conversations 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 Adventists are still the fastest growing Christian denomination in the United States, but he painted the current reality through a number of startling facts. Bryant highlighted the following during 2009-2015: “While [the NAD] baptized 251,166, our total membership losses were 132,988 — 46 percent of all new members. We also face significant disparities between the Adventist Church and 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). Speaking to the mission overlap of 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 others, including pastors John Boston, from Columbus, Ohio; Teddy Bagassien, from Saint-Lambert, Montreal, Canada; Meshach Soli, from Beaumont, California; Ron Pickell, from Berkeley, California; and Tim Madding, from Beltsville, Maryland, shared their experiences of community impact, church planting, and engaging second generation immigrant communities.
Patty Crouch, a lay pastor in Perry, Florida, shared her story of not only replanting a dead church, but having the privilege of baptizing her father. She said, “He was there when I was born; I was there when he was reborn.” Crouch received a standing ovation.
“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 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) collaborating 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.”
— Anthony WagenerSmith, pastor of the LifeSpring Seventh-day Adventist Church, is the Florida Conference church planting coordinator.