New Church Development in Brazil - September 2015 Update
For many years the principal partnership of The Outreach Foundation with the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil was in relationship to the IPIB’s church-planting initiatives in the semi-arid interior of Northeast Brazil (Sertão), in the river communities of the Amazon Region, and in the largely unchurched southern (Gaucho) part of Brazil. Beginning in 2010, the IPIB began evaluating the effectiveness of their projects and concluded that they need to support new church development in Brazil differently. In this period of evaluation, Outreach staff Pezini played a constructive role at the request of successive Coordinators of the Department of Evangelism of the IPIB.
What does new church development in the IPIB look like now? On a recent trip to Brazil, Outreach Associate Director for Mission, Jeff Ritchie, saw it first-hand. Here is his report:
The National Department of Evangelism now sees the local church as the chief agent in planting new churches. Presbyteries and the National Office work best as supporters of these local efforts. As a result, the commitment to starting new churches is no longer confined to specific regions determined by the national church but is a nationwide commitment that is made when a local church takes the initiative to start a new community of Christ followers. The national level connects the local church with a ministry to assess potential church planters, and both the presbytery of the local church and National Department of Evangelism join the local church in funding the new church. The Outreach Foundation has been invited by the National Department of Evangelism to share in their portion of the support that is given on a declining scale over a five-year period.
In 2014 the IPIB identified 16 new church developments they would continue to support, and one of them is the first-fruit of this new commitment. The new church still has no name. As of now it is the “East Zone” project of the First Independent Presbyterian Church of São José do Rio Preto, a city of about 150,000 in the northern part of São Paulo State. At a recent conference on church growth in Campinas, Brazil, I met some of the core group of this church (shown above). These are their stories about new church development in urban Brazil today.
The pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of São José do Rio Preto, the Rev. Mário Gois, was an early adopter of the vision that churches are called to plant churches. He sent one of his associate pastors and his director of children’s ministries (they were also husband and wife) to be assessed for their potential as church planters. Evandro and Aqila, second and third from left on the front row in the photo, passed with flying colors.
Then Pastor Mário cast a vision for this new church, which would be launched in an area of the city full of gated communities where it is hard to gain access and where the people are mainly unchurched and highly unlikely to darken the door of any church. He called on some of his key lay leaders to consider “seeding” a new expression of the church in this area. Over twenty responded, and at the end of December, 2014 they began to work with the Rev. Evandro and Aqila to launch the new church.
Evandro and Aqila moved into one of the gated communities of East Zone and began developing relationships. Aqila, a drama teacher, used her hobby of cooking to invite fellow drama teachers to her home for food and to develop a closer friendship with them. One of those teachers, in fact, later moved into the same community and is becoming part of the new fellowship.
Another member of the core group told me that she used to spend 90% of her non-working time with fellow church members. Now she spends 90% of her non-working time developing relationships with those outside the church. An English teacher said that she went to a special school in Brazil to be trained to be a missionary. Instead of going overseas, however, this new part of São José do Rio Preto became her mission field.
Pastor Evandro said that their purpose, to have a church for the unchurched, has led them to “deconstruct” their understanding of worship, spirituality, and service in society in order to present the Good News of Jesus in a way that makes sense to those outside the church and that makes a difference in the society. For example, they are much more likely to use poetry and the arts in their times of worship. They volunteer at the local day care center, not as members of the new church but as residents of the community who happen to be Christian. They even did a time of reflection around Easter time in which they used the trial of Jesus before his crucifixion as an opportunity to reflect on the justice system in Brazil, something that “church people” don’t always do.
One couple summarized their experience of participation in this new church this way: “This has saved my family.” They went on to say that their adolescent sons had been increasingly alienated from traditional church, but with the outward orientation of the new community, the sons embraced the new way of doing church and are deeply involved in its life and work.
The church plans to have public worship beginning in October. It is still seeking a name and a location to meet. But what it does have is a commitment to build relationships with those outside the church. Every member is committed to the vision of being God’s missionaries and agents of blessing in their community.
The Outreach Foundation is grateful to have received a gift of $2,500 in support of this new church. Our goal for this year is $10,000, with a declining contribution over the next 4-5 years. We know of other, similar efforts about to begin, and we invite the partnership of churches in the U.S. who will not only support the new way of doing new church development but will be inspired to “go and do likewise” in their own communities in an increasingly unchurched America.
Grateful for your partnership,
Amount needed in 2015
The Outreach Foundation seeks to raise at least $40,000 to support four new church developments at $10,000 per church. To make a donation, click the Donate Now link in the sidebar.
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