As a territory with a high level of agricultural productivity, Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil is nationally known for the fertility of its soils. The certainty of waiting for the fruits of what is planted is such that the subject is even part of the lyrics of one of the most popular songs in the state: “where everything that is planted grows and what flourishes most is love”. The verse and metaphor of the agricultural granary of the Pampas can also be applied to the evangelism work the Seventh-day Adventist Church (IASD) has implemented in the central region of the state in recent times. It is a workforce that not even the pandemic has prevented from germinating, growing, and already bearing fruit.
This is the Plante ACSR project [Associação Central Sul-Rio-Grandense], a program that consists of a line of work that seeks to involve leaders, pastors, and members in the work of cultivating bases for the emergence of new groups and Adventist churches. Through these efforts, subdivided between groups, with the stipulation of goals to be achieved, those involved work weekly so a certain region of the city starts to have a new church. Thus, the so-called “empty Adventists” regions of high population density that do not yet have a church now have congregations and groups.
Pastor Marcos Júnior, president of the IASD in the territory, explains the historical context of the church-planting process. “The idea of planting churches is ancient. Early in the history of Christianity, churches were planted in houses and became essential places for the development of the religion. Several examples are mentioned in the Bible. ‘Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house’ [Colossians 4:15, NKJV]; ‘to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house’ [Philemon 1:2]”, he contextualizes.
It also presents theological concepts that support the importance of the church in spreading the message. “The prestigious professor Siegfried J. Schwantes once said that ‘through the church, heaven touches earth.’ The concept of church in the Bible has to do with the word ‘assembly’, but it also has to do with a call to go out. It is in the church that we are strengthened and united for the mission. In the church, we organize ourselves to preach, and that is why it becomes necessary to plant more and more churches”, Júnior emphasizes.
A Call to Mission
Therefore, the Associação Central Sul Rio-Grandense has been concerned with preparing the fertile land in the Rio Grande do Sul for the planting of churches and the harvest of hundreds of souls for salvation. “This movement aims to develop new centers in different cities of the association in order to expand the influence of the gospel and strengthen the mission of preaching. In the book of Isaiah, chapter 54, verse 2, it is written, ‘Enlarge the place of your tent…’ The context here was of the growth of the people of Israel. The promise was to prepare the people to leave the Babylonian captivity”, explains Júnior.
It also shows the lesson provided by the book of Isaiah has a modern-day application. “In the same way, we need to get out of the captivity of sin, and for that, we need to broaden our horizons by planting more and more churches. Join us: open your home, your company, and be part of this movement. Think about it and remember: following the Word of God is always the best choice”, Júnior appeals.
Of the five most populous cities in the state, only Pelotas is not part of ACSR’s territory. Porto Alegre, Caxias do Sul, Canoas, and Santa Maria make up the largest population share of the association and are receiving the Plante ACSR project. In the capital, six churches were planted in regions that were highly populated and had little Adventist presence. In recent months, the city of Santa Maria has added four more Adventist churches.
In the Metropolitan Region of Serra Gaúcha, Caxias do Sul is in the process of planting a fourth new church, and the district of Bento Gonçalves already has two new congregations. “In this way, the kingdom of God increases its influence. At a time when many do not understand the role of the church, it develops”, explains Júnior.
Church planting works in the form of a timeline. The timeline starts with the parent church’s target of 80% occupancy. Once this is achieved, a prayer group is created with at least ten people who will be constantly praying for the planting. In phase three, the church chooses a base group to form the new leadership and, with the association, defines the neighborhood where the project will be implemented. After that, the base group and the so-called “planting director” are also defined. A plan to promote Christian stewardship is also made, and a treasury fund is created to provide a financial basis for the maintenance of the new church.
Project meetings should take place on a weekly basis. Leaders must also ask the association for a study of neighborhood geomarketing. It contains data such as income, consumption, population behavior, and other factors that provide accurate information through the use of information technology resources. The faithful must also visit the three most influential families and people in the neighborhood and present spiritual and social initiatives. After all that, the new church defines the neighborhood where another church will be planted, continuing the cycle.
This article was originally published on the South American Division’s Portuguese news site