José Carlos Pezini - June 2018 Update
Portuguese-Language Ministries Coordinator
Dear brothers and sisters,
Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Let me begin by thanking you for your prayers. God has been great to us. After spending some time in the U.S., I returned to Brazil at the end of May to find that the SARA Retreat Ministry for Pastors continues to grow. In this update I want to share with you the testimony of a fellow pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, the Rev. Marcio Tenponi, whom God gave me the privilege of helping in his ministry. This is the Rev. Marcio’s testimony:
At the age of 17 I began to follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. I served the church as a lay leader until I received God’s call to the pastoral ministry. I surrendered to God and went to the Presbyterian seminary.
Over my forty years of life, I have gone through various crises. About five years ago one of those crises led to the most radical moment of transformation in my life. Let me share what led up to the crisis.
I was ordained as a pastor in 2004, full of ideas and ready to revolutionize the world through the Gospel. After my ordination, the presbytery appointed me as pastor of a dying church. The church I began serving had been devastated when its pastor left his family, the church, and the ministry altogether to go to live with another woman. By the time I got there the church had dwindled to ten members.
I pastored this church for nine years. The church began to grow as it came out of its crisis. However, I was tired, frustrated and entered into a personal crisis. I felt exhausted and empty. I began seeing the church more as an institution and my work as a struggle for the institution to survive. My spiritual life was shallow and focused on getting God to grow the church and bless my ministry.
During this time, I studied psychology and found in it some meaning and purpose for my own life. I began to think seriously about leaving the ministry and dedicating myself only to the counseling work I had begun to do while still being a pastor. Leaving the ministry became a real consideration for me even though things were going well in the church. But church growth and other positive developments in the ministry did not erase my sense of emptiness. I did not want them anymore.
It was then that I learned that a long-time friend, Pezini, was back in Brazil. I went with a friend to meet him, and I attended a SARA mentoring retreat in 2013. God became real for me once more! A change not only in behavior was waiting for me but also in my identity. From this and other mentoring retreats, as well as from the personal mentoring of Pezini, the Gospel became part of who I am, not simply what I do or what I believe. I began to become a disciple of Jesus who had a real relationship with God.
I realized that despite being a Christian and pastor for years, significant areas of my personality had not yet been transformed by the Gospel. I was still someone who was desperately searching for recognition, someone who used words as weapons, especially the weapon of sarcasm to mock those I considered inferior to me. Vanity and pride were present continually in my life covered by a false piety that gave me the appearance of being religious.
But now the Eternal God was at work in my life. Let me give an example of what took place during one of the mentoring retreats. We were doing a silent morning walk as a spiritual exercise. As I walked, I talked to God about being loved by him. I told him that I did not feel loved. Then the Holy Spirit spoke to me and reminded me of the Gospel, of the greatest proof of the Father's love, namely, that Jesus died for me. Not satisfied, I told the Holy Spirit that I wanted more of his love. Then the Spirit unmasked me by showing me that in fact I wanted to be more loved than other people. I was continuing to seek recognition as God’s most beloved son! So, God was at work transforming me.
As my personal transformation was underway, I took a new call to a church that needed revitalization. The church was organized in 1930 with 400 members, but by the time I arrived at the end of 2013, it had shrunk to about 45 members. The attendance in the evening worship was about eight people on average. The church was dead on all levels, with misappropriation, covert sins, uncommitted leadership, and a pessimistic view of its future.
The early years as a pastor of this church were not easy, but I began to share what I had learned and experienced through the SARA ministries – personal discipleship, investing in the spiritual formation of people, gospel-centered preaching and structuring the church in a simple way so that people are transformed into disciples of Jesus.
By 2016 I began to see the impact in the lives of the church people. They were beginning to experience a process of transformation, both spiritual and emotional. God gave our church an identity: we would be a church that TRANSFORMS PEOPLE INTO DISCIPLES OF JESUS.
The results have been growth in numbers and in depth of discipleship to Jesus. In 2017 we received more than 20 new members by baptism. Just four months into 2018 we have received 14 new members and still have another seven people who are ready to be baptized. Over 40 people are involved in a process of personal discipleship. Worship attendance is also growing steadily as the process of transformation takes place.
The Lord has made powerful transformations in the lives of individual believers: sins are being confessed and people have been healed. Love for God and for one another has impacted all the people who come to our community. Marriages are being restored, and people are becoming witnesses not only with their words, but also with their lives. Today the church has about 100 committed members (disciples), but the quantity is no longer the central point of “church.” The point is what God is doing in our lives. He has brought people to himself, and he uses us as instruments to make disciples of people.
I have more to share, but I believe that this is enough to show what God was doing when he brought Pezini back to Brazil and created the SARA ministries with his colleagues Casso and Mario. The Brazilian church needs such ministries which focus on what really matters in the Gospel ministry. I praise God for what he is doing in my life and through my life in the community that I serve. I praise him for Pezini's life that he obeyed the will of the Eternal One with the result that SARA has grown all over Brazil and continues to transform lives, one of which is my own. My whole life now is aligned to be in intimate relationship with God and to be totally submitted to his will.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Rev. Marcio Tenponi Pacheco
Click on the button below to hear Rev. Marcio Tenponi's personal testimony:
I want to thank all of you who have contributed to our ministry. I pray every day asking God to bless all of you and your ministry. Your generosity, ministerial vision, and faithfulness are the reasons our ministry has advanced. God bless you.
Pezini and Odete
Read more about Pezini's ministry HERE.
The Outreach Foundation is seeking gifts totaling $95,000 for support and ministry funds for Pezini and $5,000 to defray costs of attending SARA retreats for pastors who cannot afford them.