by Heber and Fiona Gallitto
There is no ‘secret formula’ for planting a church. God is God; He uses different ways and methods because He uses different people to fulfil His mission. However, there are some principles in the Scriptures that never change. It is not about starting meetings, a programme, a new ministry, an evangelistic campaign or an open-air outreach. It is about faithfully following the Lord’s call to make disciples.
We live in Parana, in the northeast of Argentina. Paraná, with a population of 300,000 inhabitants, is the capital of the province of Entre Ríos. There are three brethren assemblies and we worked in the planting of the newest of them in the north of the city three years ago. We are mainly reaching people from a working class Catholic background, many of who mare affected, whether directly or indirectly through family members, by drug addiction, violence, alcoholism or abuse.
We want to be a missionary church. So, although we are new, we want everyone to be aware that we exist for mission. That is why we recently started a new outreach five miles away in Estación Parera, using the ABCD mission method. We are using these steps to begin a new testimony there.
The Mission is Fundamental
‘Our mission is to worship God, reaching and developing followers of Christ.’ This is our assembly’s mission statement. If we do not have mission in mind, instead of focusing on relationships, we will become distracted by activities, ministries and meetings. That is not the mission! Our tendency is to focus on ‘me’ and ‘us’ but the mission is about ‘Him’, the Lord, and about ‘them’, the lost. To understand our mission, we must answer the two questions of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus: ‘Who are you, Lord?’ and ‘what do you want me to do?’ We repeat our mission statement at least once a month and teach it from different aspects at least once a year (Mt. 22:37-39; 28:18-20; Mk 3:14-15; Ac. 9:5-6).
Strategy is Important
We must follow Jesus’ steps. He said in His prayer: ‘As You sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.’ And in the upper room He said to them: ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you.’ (Jn 17:18; 20:21; 1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:17; Rom. 6:17; 2 Tim. 1:13).
Our strategy is called the ABCD of mission:
A – Approaching the people
B – Blessing the neighbour
C – Conquering the lost
D – Discipling the brother.
In order to start a new fellowship in a neighbourhood with no contacts, the first step is to seek the people that are being prepared by God and start to build a relationship with them. It is important to follow Jesus’ model. He taught the steps of His strategy in Luke 10, and it includes reaching out to people in their homes (Lk. 19:5-7; Ac. 9:11, 43; 10:24; 12:12; 16:15, 34; 17:5; 1 Cor. 16:15, 19; 2 Tim. 1:16).
A – Approaching the people
Prayer requests. We went to Estación Parera, a rural village of at least 1,000 inhabitants of working class and middle class backgrounds. We prayed and, with our son Martin, went door to door asking the people if they would like us to pray for them. At this point, we are not trying to convince them, we are looking for people in whom the Holy Spirit has already begun to work. At first nobody wanted our prayers! Then Martin and Heber met Ricardo and Claudia Miller. They invited us in to pray, asking for health and a new job for Ricardo (Mt. 1:23; 9:37-38; Jn. 4:35; Lk. 14:28-30).
…it is the Word of God that produces faith in the heart
B – Blessing the Neighbour
Evangelistic prayer. When we went into their house we realised the poor condition this family of eight were living in. We prayed with them with what we call the evangelistic prayer. That is to not only pray for the needs requested but for three other things: peace, forgiveness and eternity.
Peace – that the Lord will give them peace in their minds, feelings and relationships.
Forgiveness – that they may have the resources to forgive others and ask for forgiveness for hurting others.
Eternity – that they can understand that the problem is sin, that Jesus died for them at the Cross bearing their faults, that He rose again and has the power to give them forgiveness, freedom, hope, faith and a new life.
They were touched by this prayer and we asked them if we could come back the following week to tell them a Bible story. (Jn. 1:14; Lk. 10:5-6; Mt. 5:44).
C – Conquering the Lost
Bible story. The next week we, Heber and Fiona, went back. Ricardo and Claudia were waiting for us because the Lord had answered some of their prayer requests and their hearts were prepared for the good seed of the gospel.
Why do we use a Bible story? Firstly, because it is the Word of God that produces faith in the heart. Secondly, because Jesus used stories to reveal eternal realities. Thirdly, it is an easy way to understand the truth. We use the story of Simon the Pharisee and the sinful woman from Luke. We tell them the Bible story in a simple way, showing the difference between religion and a relationship with God; emphasising that at the end the woman receives peace, forgiveness and eternal life. Connecting that step and the next one we asked, ‘Do you remember that the last time we were here, we prayed for forgiveness, eternal life and peace?’ This woman had the same needs and the Lord gave her all three: ‘Your sins are forgiven’, ‘your faith has saved you’ and ‘go in peace’.
Personal Testimony. At this point we make the transition between the Bible and the people who are listening. We tell our own testimony. Heber told Ricardo and Claudia, ‘I had the same experience as the woman. I had a religion but not a relationship with God. There was a time in my life when I was spiteful and a liar, but I met Jesus and decided to follow Him. Now I’m honest and I can forgive.’
Gospel. Now, this was the opportunity to share the gospel. I asked them: ‘Do you want to know how you can have peace, forgiveness and eternal life?’ We use a tool for evangelism called the ‘three circles’.1 I explained to Ricardo and Claudia about the broken world, the perfect world and the way of salvation, and asked them if they wanted to follow Jesus. At that moment, they prayed, asking forgiveness for their sins and trusted in the Lord (Rom. 5:8; Heb. 2:14-15; Lk. 7:36-50).
Discipleship is not a programme…Rather it is building a relationship and spiritual training
D – Discipling the Brother
The follow up. We asked them if they wanted to learn how to follow Jesus. Discipleship is not a programme, a ministry or a meeting – although we use them. Rather it is building a relationship and spiritual training. They learned how to read the Bible every day, how to pray and now they are learning how to share the good news. God is working in their lives; Ricardo and Claudia are growing considerably in faith and have opened their house for a weekly meeting. We help them with a food parcel now and again to bless them in a practical way as well. The next step is baptism.
We need wisdom to know how to go ahead with the different tasks of the new assembly, because they need to grow, to serve, to love each other and to worship, without losing the vision of the mission. Our mission does not succeed because of an anointed method, but because He is the Lord of the harvest (1 Jn 2:27; Mt. 28:18-20; 2 Cor. 5:17, 20; 2 Tim. 2:2).
- for Heber and Fiona, that they would have health and strength for mission
- for wisdom and holiness, that they might lead by example
- for the new assembly and the ongoing discipleship of those within it
- for new premises to accommodate growth
- for CRECER 2019, a gospel campaign with the three assemblies in Paraná, in August.