On St. Maarten, Pastor Marcos Salas and the congregations of New Bethany and Maranatha are celebrating above-average church growth. The district sees a correlation between active cell groups’ ministry and baptisms during the first and second quarters of 2018.
The congregations have set goals for transforming the culture of the church and for evangelizing the St. Maarten community. They are known for growing the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church through the Sabbath School Action Units (cell/small groups).
In 2016, the district embraced the initiative of growing the church through small groups and within a short time, the New Bethany SDA Church gave birth to the Maranatha SDA Group. “This initiative is all about sharing the message of God’s love,” said Pastor Salas who leads both congregations. Pastor Salas explained that the effort is a part of the Inter-American Division’s Lord Transform Me journey, which has been coupled with the General Conference’s Total Member Involvement plan. This comprehensive evangelism endeavour aims to befriend the community and introduce people to Jesus Christ.
For three weeks in May, 2018, the cell groups engaged in a season of connecting with the community via an evangelistic campaign and welcomed 24 new members through baptism. Pastor Salas observed, “This evangelistic program has surpassed almost all our objectives. What’s more, there is space for all the ministries of the church especially children and young people that, from our point of view, are the most powerful but sometimes are frustrated in our church. The plan is to incorporate the new members into the small groups to consolidate them and work toward another reaping campaign, later this year. The Lord has been blessing us and we plan to follow His successful method. We know that people have loneliness inside and we have been working on reaching out to people who want to receive bible studies, within the 11 small groups organized in the church. So far, this year, 30 souls have joined the church.”
“We believe this model can work for other churches, but it is dependent on the pastor’s passion,” said Dr. Henry Peters, Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Director of the North Caribbean Conference. “To succeed, small groups cannot be just another program of the church – they must become the basic building blocks of the church, itself. I commend the church for following the initiative.”
New Bethany and Maranatha, in Philipsburg, are two of eight congregations on St. Maarten, which cater to the needs of a growing Spanish-speaking community. The district is a dynamic group of believers who enjoy the team ministry of Pastor Marcos Salas and his wife.