More than 1,000 laypersons gathered during the Lay Congress themed “Ultimate Hope” Villacencio, East Llanos region in South Colombia, on Feb. 5, 2022. Hundreds of pastors, laypersons and new members gathered to be equipped to strengthen the small group ministry and share the gospel message in their communities. [Photo: Melchor Ferreyra]

February 17, 2022 | Bogota, Colombia | Laura Acosta and Inter-American Division News

More than 1,000 laypersons in South Colombia were recently trained during a special congress to strengthen small group ministry in the City of Villavicencio not far from Bogota, Colombia.

The lay congress, held on Feb. 5, 2022, drew regional and local leaders from the East Los Llanos Conference, to better equip small group leaders and active members in spreading the gospel where they live.

Pastor Melchor Ferreyra, personal ministries director for the church in Inter-America, speaks during his seminar on discipleship during lay congress. [Photo: Mosiés Prieto]

Themed “Esperanza Definitiva”, or Ultimate Hope, the congress sought to also “bolster the lay forces developing the discipleship, retention, new believers, and the missionary couples ministries set out in each congregation with the purpose to preach the gospel everywhere in the region,” said Pastor Pastor Moises Prieto, personal ministries director for the church in South Colombia Union.

One of the important ministries is that of the missionary couples, said Prieto. “It is definitely a biblical principle to evangelize and it is the plan of God for the church in the current times,” he said. “It is important that two persons work together, one encouraging the other and praying and studying the Scriptures together.”

Pastor Melchor Ferreyra, personal ministries for the church in Inter-America, motivated the hundreds of laypersons to continue laboring with all their might in growing the church.

More than 1,000 missionary work and new believer kits were distributed among the delegates during the lay congress. [Photo: Moisés Prieto]

“We have more than 2,000 years of accumulated experience in laypersons, which means that the early church grew on the foundation of laypersons, church members,” said Ferreyra. “Very few were evangelists, but churches multiplied, and new churches were planted on the work of so many anonymous laypeople who work with tenacity and tireless efforts.”  So the same is repeated throughout history and in the 21st century, he said.

It’s very clear, Ferreyra said, that the role of the layperson is not as a spectator, but as a protagonist. “The layperson is not applauding from the auditorium seats,” he said. “The layperson is immersed in all of the activities of the church following the ‘total member involvement’ church initiative and is committed to be involved in evangelism in his or her local church or local field,” he added. It’s about being totally and completely involved using his or her gifts and talents for the church today, he added.

Leaders provided 1,100 “Missionary Work Kits” for church leaders, pastors and ministers, as well as New Believer Kit which contains a bible, bible study course, Sabbath school quarterly and more.

Small group leaders were honored with a special plaque for their outstanding evangelistic efforts in growing their group with new baptized members in 2021. [Photo: Melchor Ferreyra]

“The laypersons in East Los Llanos are being trained to cater to four basic needs such as retaining new members after baptism; discipleship and winning others for Christ, as well as  missionary couples and small groups, which is how the new member is going to be integrated through small groups in the church and Sabbath school class,” said Daruwin González, personal ministries director of the East Los Llanos Conference.

With the membership of more than 20,700 church members, 400 small groups in 17 pastoral districts, the goal is to mobilize the membership to expand to 350 small groups, 700 missionary couples, 1,288 bible instructors and reach 1,000 baptisms this year, reported Pastor Joel Hernández, president of the church in East Los Llanos Conference.

During the congress small group leaders and church pastors with the most new members baptized in 2021 were honored for their outstanding efforts.

Pastor Joel Pascuas hugs a recently baptized member who received a special the New Member Kit during the lay congress on Feb. 5, 2022. [Photo: Moisés Prieto]

Regional leaders plan to hold another congress to gather more laypersons and equip them for coordinated evangelism efforts this year.

The other eight regional conferences and missions in South Colombia have also began holding lay congresses this month and the coming months as part of the evangelism strategy this year and in celebration of the Inter-American Division’s centennial  in 2022, church leaders said.

“The challenge that our lay brethren have in the union territory is to be messengers of hope everywhere they are to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ,” said Prieto. “The world is sick and we need to take the message of hope.”

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