Multiple initiatives engage young people, successfully navigate the new reality.
Published on: 12-02-2020
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union region baptized 814 people in early November 2020, the culmination of its fourth digital evangelism campaign. The campaign saw thousands of active church members connecting with their friends and neighbors to watch the series and enroll in studying the Bible.
Coined as Project #Rescate316, or Rescue316, the message of the series was focused on John 3:16. Evangelism efforts took place from October 31 to November 6. Geared toward a younger viewership, the campaign was held on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. It was the latest in a series of online evangelism series that began soon after the coronavirus pandemic hit Mexico.
So far, close to 6,000 people have been baptized as a result of the four online evangelism campaigns. The numbers are remarkable, said Felix Vidal, assistant to the president for evangelism in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union, considering how church leaders were forced to switch gears when churches had to close their doors.
“At the beginning of the lockdown, we looked at the pandemic situation as a challenge or a barrier for our evangelism work,” Vidal said. “We thought, once the pandemic is over, we will hold evangelism series, but soon we realized that we needed to think about digital evangelism strategies as a way of reaching people with the gospel.”
Greater Use of Social Media
Vidal said it was a time to use social media platforms to reach people who could not be reached any other way.
Rescate316 is part of the evangelism effort to connect with friends of Adventists who are interested in studying the Bible, Vidal said. Previous to the #Rescate316 initiative, thousands of young people were recruited and trained to share Bible study lessons with those who were interested during the week of the campaign, Vidal explained. More than 7,814 requests for Bible studies came in, he added.
“We saw more than 3,000 devices connected every night,” said Benjamin Camacho, youth ministries director of the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union, “which represented some 10,000 persons connected live, according to our district reports, which have included some gathered in small groups or in churches where it was allowed.”
Impact of a Youth Evangelism Series
The youth evangelism series speakers included psychologist Lorena Peñaloza and pastor Jesús Fernández of Montemorelos University, both with extensive experience in youth counseling.
“There were a lot of comments and questions that came in during a special forum held on emotional issues, challenges with addictions, relationships, abuse, and homosexuality, among others,” Camacho said. “People opened up their hearts to ask questions that are usually not done in public, and we noticed that the subjects covered were beneficial to the online viewers.”
Ninive Aguilar was among the hundreds who were baptized. She had decided that she wanted to accept Jesus and get baptized several months earlier but waited for the right moment. That moment came after the #Rescate316 online series tugged at her heart. Even after Hurricane Eta’s torrential rains pounded her home, she could not pass up the opportunity found in the Enrique Rodriguez Cano community in Tabasco. She and four others were baptized in the Pedregal River near her home on November 7.
Rosa Martínez and her family also decided to get baptized after studying Bible lessons and viewing the online youth evangelism week. “I grew up in the Adventist Church, but I left the church after getting married,” Martínez said. “Even though I tried to talk to my husband about God and put that seed in his heart, I had to wait 20 years to see the changes.” Her husband decided to get baptized at the end of the youth series, together with her three children. “We all made a pact with God to continue getting to know Him and become the light to other people so they can know and believe in God, that He exists and He is wonderful,” Martínez said.
Reaching More With Less
The first online series week, held in May, was about providing hope in the midst of crisis. The second was on the books of Daniel and Revelation, held in July, and the third was focused on health and well-being, in early August.
It’s been a new way of reaching more people, a proven strategy in evangelism for the church in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican region, Vidal said.
In 2020, 12,686 people have been baptized into the church, some 5,500 alone during the pandemic period of April to early November, Vidal reported. In 2019, total baptisms for the year stood at about 15,000. “Our pastors had to resort to baptizing people in their backyard swimming pool or small portable pool, or rivers.”
“Sure, there were some technological advances, new strategies, lowering of costs to reach so many more souls,” Vidal said. “With less, you do more, and with less, you reach more.”
Leaders reported that as of November, more than 25,000 people have requested Bible studies online.