Adventist Church in Costa Rica and Nicaragua Commit to Reaching Former Members

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Central American Union, which comprises Costa Rica and Nicaragua, officially launched Inter-America’s territory-wide initiative to seek out former church members during a special training throughout its six regional church fields. More than 1,300 church elders, pastors, and Sabbath school leaders gathered earlier this month to be trained in how to reach former members and bring them back to the church.

More than 100,000 members have left the church or are unaccounted for across Costa Rica and Nicaragua during the past two years, reported Pastor Ricardo Marín, executive secretary for the church in South Central America. “That means that there is more than 45 percent decrease in total membership in the union,” said Marín. The current membership stands at 121,440.

“We know that through this rescue plan initiative the church can recover many former members if we ensure that we apply the methods of Christ carefully and constant in seeking them out in each one of our congregations,” said Marín.

Pastor Samuel Telemaque, Sabbath school director for the church in Inter-America speaks during a training session in Alajuela, Costa Rica, on June 1, 2019. Photo by Alexis Vásquez.

Pastor Samuel Telemaque, Sabbath school director for the church in Inter-America, traveled throughout Costa Rica and Nicaragua to emphasize the importance of building relationships in retaining and seeking members through Sabbath school classes.

It’s about being a community of grace while in search of former members, inviting them to be reconciled to God, through a process of appealing to the heart of the members, said Pastor Telemaque. Telemaque pointed to Ezekiel 34 and 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19, highlighting the need to ensure that the proper ministry of reconciliation is followed.

The training focused on the stages of reconciliation and provided practical instructions on how to implement a ministry of reconciliation, discipleship, and reintegration into the fellowship of the church.

Delegates also were taught how to make an effective visit to a former member and how to manage feelings of anger and deception that many former members feel regarding the church and its leaders. More emphasis was given to being more empathetic, caring and listening more to former members.

Church leaders in prayer for a believer during the training session in Alajuela, in North Costa Rica. Photo by Alexis Vásquez.

Pastor Wilfredo Ruiz, president of the church in South Central America, who traveled to different conferences during the training, said that the initiative will gain strength in the union, and added that, thanks to the commitment of church elders and Sabbath School directors, former members will be approached in a more compassionate way.

For Olman Soto, head elder of the Naranjo Adventist Church in Alajuela, the training shed light on the effective way of visiting a former Seventh-day Adventist. Soto said he would meet with his church board as soon as possible to get organized and begin seeking out former members.

“We need to organize a huge army in the church with children, young people, adults, men and women, to further the ministry of reconciliation, just like Jesus taught in the parables of the lost sheep and the prodigal son,” said Pastor Leonardo Godinez, district pastor of the Northwest Nicaragua Mission. “That is the purpose of Sabbath school.”

At the close of each regional training, church elders and leaders were challenged to be actively involved and double their evangelistic efforts as the church in Costa Rica and Nicaragua prepares for a massive baptismal ceremony on April 4, 2020, in Alajuela. The celebration will highlight the Inter-American Division’s territory-wide evangelism efforts next summer, which marks the end of the current quinquennium, or five-year period.

Pastor Wilfredo Ruiz, president of the church in the South Central American Union, said the seeking out former members will take strength across the territory thanks to the commitment of church elders and leaders. Photo by Alexis Vásquez.

The South Central American Union has more than 121,400 Seventh-day Adventists worshiping in 825 churches and congregations.

This article was written by Tomas Saez with Eddy Bonilla contributing to the report. It originally appeared on the Inter-American Division website.

Main image: Church members gather for Sabbath School congress training in Northwest, Nicaragua, June 3, 2019. The training was for church elders and Sabbath school directors all across the South Central American Union in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, to better seek out hundreds of former members who have left the church. Photo by Milton Mártinez. All images courtesy of the IAD.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9717
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That is a task that requires first an acceptance of the good News of Grace. Then an invitation to rejoin those who share that hope. Rejoice if they accept the first and not the second.

A former student of mine and later a fellow teacher died of cancer at a relatively young age. The wife asked me to give the eulogy, even though I was no longer a member of the Augusta SDA Church…Following my remarks the head Elder preached a long sermon the gist of which was a comparison of a true SDA against a backslider like me., Following the sermon as we were leaving the chapel, A number of non Adventist faculty asked me—What was that all about. I replied Zeal not according to knowledge. I got a knowing smile in return. Christianity is a blessing, denominationalism is a curse.

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As a former member, my feelings are please leave me alone.

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Something is obviously wrong. These numbers indicate that almost 50% of members left the Church in the past two years. Something is really wrong…

Thoughts and prayers are OK, but is the Church also learning why those people leave? Is the Church going to make adjustment to certain conditions that led to so many people just quitting?

I am concerned about this issue. In Brazil it said that the Church bought 8,000 baptismal robes for a project geared toward rescuing former members. But I didn’t hear anything about any research trying to detect the main problems that cause so many to leave the church. I haven’t seen the number of people who left in a certain period. Maybe the Church does not even want to publicize it…

Also, what will be the criteria to receive the members back? Is it allegiance to the 28?If so, good luck!.. :wink:

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Haven’t seen you for a while. Hope you are well.
Just curious, did you find another Denomination or are you just “churchless?”
I need this info to develop a specific plan to rescue you!.. LOL

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Hello George. I’m doing great, thanks for asking. I am a churchless “heathen” and plan on staying that way!

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I wouldn’t mind being visited by a church member. It wouldn’t change my mind about anything, but it would be nice to actually have a conversation. But, it won’t ever happen, and I’m perfectly okay with that too.

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I don’t think there is any need to receive a visit. If one hasn’t retained any Adventist friends after they left, then the friendship that existed was negligible. I have retained many Adventist friends, and the lines of communication are open.

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There’s a reason they left. Perhaps the first step is to figure that out.

Um, well there’s one reason. Likely valid. Instead of trying to manage such feelings, what if you figured out why people feel that way and then fix that? Just a thought.

Why is there such a huge need for reconciliation? Likely the church has brought that on itself, which is not particularly surprising.

And here I thought it was to study the bible.

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This is interesting in light of their mission targets:
“91% of all church resources are spent on those already Christian” - Gary Krause. Director of the Office of Adventist Mission, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

If this is the case then what is it that pulls them out from the body of Christ, admittedly “already Christian”, and into the SDA church? I have been told by a very prolific commentor of an Adventist forum “If we believe that the RCC and apostate Protestants are in error, why should we not “spend” resources teaching the Truth?” OK so what is “the Truth”?
I was given the answer by a well known Adventist author and forum moderator. He stated “We know about the Sabbath and the state of the dead, and that had better be enough.” So I asked the
question: Is the sabbath and the state of the dead salvational doctrine? Crickets from both of these gentlemen. I did get an answer of “yes” from another poster that directed me to a chapter in Samuel about Saul seeking a medium which he equated with so-called Christians that try to communicate with the dead and that it goes on “more than you know”. No proof texts on the sabbath were given. So it puzzles me why if these “truths” are true why the non-answers to an obvious core belief?
So if the sabbath and state of the dead “truth” is the difference, along with Dan/Rev scary monster shows and the 3AM, maybe just maybe these likely previous “already Christians” didn’t get the answer either and went back to their original Christian church?

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Reading of Acts and the Letters indicates Doctrines were limited.
Fellowship was important. Relationships with God were important,
and Paul spent a lot of column inches on what Relationship looked
like.
Peter and James were big on Relationships within the community of
believers. Were big on developing Relationships with God the Father
and Jesus Christ.
Relationship with the Holy Spirit brought many “Fruits”.

Even here in North America we are not big on discussing these issues
in community. Probably the same in all the other Divisions.

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@niteguy2 relationship with God is the only thing. You can know a lot about someone (theology/doctrine) without knowing them. You can only know them when you have a relationship with them. When courting a potential spouse, many do “research” about the candidate prior to actually meeting them. They can gather a lot of facts but they don’t really know them. You have to personally meet and speak with someone to know them.
Much of what we do in religion is talking about God. To know Him we need to spend time talking with God.

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Robert –
Rob Bell has a neat book. “What we talk about when we talk about God.”
I like the foreward on the book flap –
“The truth is, we have a problem with God. It’s not just a problem of definition –
what is it we’re talking about when we talk about God? – and it’s not just the
increasing likelihood that two people discussing God are in fact talking about
two extraordinarily different realities while using the exact word.”

BEFORE The Gospels we had
The Book of James [he is the 1st to QUOTE Jesus]
The Book of Acts
The Letters of Paul [which defined Jesus Christ and defined His Gift and the
Father’s Gift. The fact that there was Jesus Christ, God, the Holy Spirit – Trinity.]
Named, Defined, Described what Christians “looked like” in their private and
public life.
Hebrews [dictated by Paul to a scribe?] The 1st to tell WHERE Jesus Christ went
after the Ascension and what He, the Father, the Holy Spirit were doing in Heaven,
but presented in Jewish picture-story terms which may have been concrete imaging,
or may have been only “representative” imaging for the Jewish mind to understand
by what they were familiar with in their worship.
John – Toward the end of the Century, in the Book of Revelation [Revealing] tells
us that there was NO Temple in the New Jerusalem [the same Jerusalem that the
believers were told to set their sights on now]. That it is the personages of Christ
and the Father [would assume also the Holy Spirit] who ARE the Temple and the
Temple is ANYWHERE that they are.
Whenever John wrote HIS 1st letter, he CONFIRMS the Trinity in 5:7 that Paul
talked about in his discourses. And CONFIRMS that They are ONE.

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During all my life I’ve heard this nice, politically correct, and sanctified idea. But who can talk with God? Has anyone on this site ever talked with God? I know people who talk TO God, but never had a true conversation WITH Him.

If anyone has a hot hint on how to talk with God for real, please share.

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G –
Some of the writers of Psalms would not “talk” to God. They would YELL
at God. Psalm 77 [message tr.] vs 1 – “I yell out to my God. I yell with all
my might. I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens.”
Read the remainder verses. Enlightening.

Perhaps “talking to and Hearing from God” comes as a result of Meditating
on the words of God in the Bible. Perhaps actual Messages recorded word
for word by prophets. OR, perhaps through the “stories” of the humans in
the Bible. Their lives that had good days and bad days, times they did things
right and times they did bad things. And their lives were not always happy nor
successful.
The PROBLEM with SDA Pastors and Leaders is that MEDITATION is sometimes
told that it is “spiritualism”, it is “devilish”. Same for “Transformation” and for
“Spiritual Formation”.
So the ABILITY to “Hear” from God is interrupted at least for SDA Christians.
Psalm 77 – actually tells one HOW to Meditate. BUT “Meditation” is a bad word
in SDA circles.

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@GeorgeTichy sometimes we don’t hear God “talking” to us because we are talking to much?
Actually hearing the physical, audible voice of God is probably rare and reported even less. If you went to your neighbor and said “God spoke to me”, they would probably recommend you speak some of the suitably qualified members of the forum. If you said “I feel impressed by God to…”, you would receive a warmer reception. God speaks to us in a variety of experiences - mental impression, a physical sign, the words of another. We need to talk to God more often but we also need to “listen” for the response.

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George, I believe this to be biblically sound admonition. Every one who has confessed Jesus as his saviour is privileged to talk to God thruogh prayer in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whenever you meditate on God’s word, and commune with Him in prayer, you are talking to him. I believe this to be the experience of every one on this forum, that includes you.

There are millions around the world who talk to their “Higher Power”
every day. AA and NA are probably the 2 largest “church” membership
in the world.
I know of at least 4 pastor’s children who found “God – Higher Power”
at AA and NOT in their home, nor in church growing up.
ANYONE is eligible to talk to God, to talk to their Angel. My Angel is
a Master Plumber. That is WHY I KNOW there ARE Angels.
The down-side – my Angel forces me to meet people and make me do
good things for them in their desperation.
PS: Their “Higher Power” DOES Answer their prayers like my “Higher
Power” does for me.
Sometimes I AM God. Wednesday pm I went to town. Decided to drive,
and not walk. I parked in what I thought was MY Decision. But across
the street was a hungry young man. I am sure he did not pray. But God
answered anyway, by making ME God for God. He said “cheese burger”.
But I bought him something better. My Angel made me do it.
Probably behind the scenes, His Angel was in cahoots with MY Angel.
Were they laughing? Probably.

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It is NOT first of all, about “inviting” former members to be “reconciled to God.” This assumes that every absent member abandoned the Lord.

I believe the majority of the reasons when a member drifts away is the due to the very dysfunctional nature of many local congregations. Many, if not most, are ripe with power plays, favorites, wealthy power couples that dominate, lack of friendships and involvement of community projects feeling they are part of a team. In short–they never came to love their local congregation or felt they were loved. It is not that all of them desired to walk away from the LORD. Simply, their spiritual needs were not met–thus they quietly left. In their absence–how many cared for them and included them into the churches higher social influences??

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When was the last time an Elder of the church or the Pastor visited you? Or called you just to keep in touch?

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