José Carlos Pezini - Update
Portuguese-Language Ministries Coordinator
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Since Odete and I returned from the U.S.A. at the end of April, we have been traveling to fulfill an intense agenda with commitments in various denominations all over Brazil. The Brazilian church faces many dilemmas these days. God has given me the privilege of being able to help pastors, lay leaders, and congregations in different areas including mentoring pastors, lay leadership training, church revitalization, and discipleship.
In all these places, I feel encouraged by God to motivate Christians to engage in discipleship by sharing their faith with non-believers as well as helping new converts grow in their intimacy with God through prayer and meditation in the Scriptures. I have also led the church to rethink its missionary action in the context where it is located and to rethink the reason for its existence.
The goal of the first SARA Retreat Ministry for Pastor's conference, held May 1-4, was to bring pastors together who are being cared for in the SARA mentoring networks throughout the country. We wanted to give them opportunities to get to know each other and realize that, no matter where they live and serve or how big their churches are, they face the same struggles. The speakers were the Rev. Dr. Glenn MacDonald, an experienced pastor with more than thirty years of ministry and author of several books written on spiritual formation, and John Terech, a lay pastor with extensive experience motivating pastors in the areas of discipleship and coaching. We were tremendously blessed. The pastors who participated gave testimonies sharing how much their lives were touched by these two men of God.
Mentoring: There are now 16 mentoring groups scattered throughout the country. Each group holds two retreats per year. Pastors who need help in their daily struggles participate in the groups to find the care they need. We motivate and challenge them to seek the Kingdom of God first in their lives and then take care of their physical and emotional health. Because of that, they have become more effective in their ministries. God in his immense grace calls them to be with him, to be his partner in the work he is doing because he wants to share with each pastor the joy of seeing lives being transformed. By understanding this, they begin to minister with God and not for God. They cease to be simply providers of work and become humble servants and partners with God. Pastors also discover that church growth is the direct result of the action of the Holy Spirit in people's lives and not of personal effort and good marketing strategies. When pastors discover this, they seek to spend more time with God developing intimacy with him. The growth of the church because of divine action results in people transformed into disciples of Jesus Christ.
Spiritual Formation: There are 20 students enrolled in the master’s program for Spiritual Formation. We feel great joy that none of those who start the program gives up. To the contrary, their lives are transformed which motivates others to participate.
Church Revitalization: By the grace of God through the SARA Ministries, I developed a two-year program of eight different 20-hour courses to help churches that need revitalization. As a result of this program, churches that had been losing members and experiencing no growth for years are coming to life again. Worship is lively, and most of the members are now involved with discipleship, with disciples producing new disciples. Christians who did not practice daily devotional habits are now praying, meditating on a daily basis and sharing their faith with their friends. In July, we began a revitalization work in Vila Velha the state of Espirito Santo with 14 churches and 35 people. They are excited and enthusiastic about what they are receiving.
I visited Rio de Janeiro twice in July. The first visit was with a church that decided to transform from a static church to a discipleship-making church. It now has 107 disciples making new disciples. I helped them understand the purpose of the Christian life and the principles of the Kingdom of God. Now we are working with them and motivating them to multiply. I returned the following weekend and spent time with three churches that I am guiding in revitalization and training, motivating and leading 60 lay leaders to understand the joy of making new disciples.
New Doors Open: In June I spent a morning with 22 Mennonite pastors who work with German immigrants in Brazil. I spoke with them about the biblical principle of believers' involvement in the work of evangelization. A church is only a missional church when it can motivate believers to participate in the expansion of the Kingdom. This is a task given by Christ to all believers, not just for ordained pastors. That afternoon, I spoke to about 300 Methodist pastors about partnering with God.
I spoke at the General Assembly of the United Missionary Church in Maringá PR to about 400 pastors on the theme: "Christian Leadership According to the Scriptures" in July. This was a great opportunity given by God to motivate, inspire, and challenge churches to fulfill their purpose. It has been a time of great joy to see churches being revived and pastors who were discouraged and thinking about giving up the ministry having passion again for pastoral ministry. Churches that have not grown for years are now receiving new members. Believers who only attended worship services are now getting involved in church life and sharing their faith with others. This motivates me to continue investing my time to challenge churches in the fulfillment of their mission.
Many other things could be said, but this report gives you an idea of what God has done in our lives and through our ministry here in Brazil. Thank you for your participation in this ministry. Without your generous contributions, it would not be possible to accomplish the will of God and fulfill God´s purpose in our lives. Thank you!
Pezini and Odete
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.