Joel Comiskey's Ph.D. Dissertation

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Chapter 6: Description of the Case Study Churches

This chapter presents a description and discussion of five Latin American churches which were chosen for their cell-based ministry (Appendix B discusses selection of these case study churches and methodology employed). I will also be using the abbreviations listed in Table 8 throughout the following chapters.

TABLE 8: LATIN AMERICAN CASE STUDY CHURCHES
Abbreviation Name of Church Country Head Pastor
MCI La Misión Carismática Internacional Bogotá, Colombia César Castellanos
AGV El Agua Viva Lima, Perú Juan Capuro (no longer)
MCE La Misión Cristiana Elim San Salvador, El Salvador Mario Vega
CCG El Centro Cristiano de Guayaquil Guayaquil, Ecuador Jerry Smith
AMV El Amor Viviente Tegucigalpa, Honduras René Peñalba

La Misión Carismática Internacional

Located in Bogota, Colombia, La Misión Carismática Internacional ( MCI) is a dynamic, indigenous church which came into being apart from the help of any denomination or missionary agency. It is one of Latin America’s grass roots churches.

Context

To understand this church better, it is important to understand something about Colombia. Colombia’s history has been characterized by periods of widespread, violent conflict. The War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902) cost an estimated 100,000 lives, and during the 1940s and 1950s up to 300,000 people perished during the period called “La Violencia.” In July 1957, the National Front (a compromise between the Conservative and Liberal government) ended “La Violencia.” Since that time, subsequent governments have included opposition parties.

Administrations in Colombia are forced to contend with both guerrillas and narcotic traffickers who freely operated within the country. Patrick Johnstone writes,

Colombia has a reputation for being possibly one of the most violent countries in the world. Leftist guerrilla movements and the drug-trafficking “barons” dominate many areas of the country. Corruption, blackmail, kidnapping, assassination and revenge murders have brutalized society (1993:174).

The 1996 State Department report states,

Based on Colombian Government statistics, Colombia’s per capita murder rate of 77.5 murders per 100,000 inhabitants is more than eight times higher than that of the United States. While narcotics and guerrilla related violence account for part of this, common criminals are responsible for an estimated 75 percent of the reported murders (“ Colombia” 1996).

With such continual upheaval confronting the inhabitants of Colombia, there seems to be a new spiritual openness among the people.

Ninety-five percent of the country is Roman Catholic, whereas Evangelicals comprise only 3.1 percent (Protestant 3.8%). However, Johnstone notes that seventy percent of the Roman Catholics never attend mass and that the Evangelical presence is growing (1993:174).

History of the Church ( MCI )

In 1983, after struggling as a pastor for nine years and at the point of giving up, the Lord gave Pastor César Castellanos a vision that changed his life. The Lord spoke to him that the number of his converts would be more than the stars of the sky and the sand by the seashore. Within months of that vision, his new church, the Misión Carismática Internacional, had grown to over 200 people.

FIGURE 1
MCI: CELEBRATION ATTENDANCE AND NUMBER OF CELLS

Growth of the Church ( MCI )

Pastor Castellanos has led this church from eight members in his home thirteen years ago to the present 35,000 (Guell 1996:42). The yearly statistical breakdown of celebration attendance and number of cell groups was very difficult to obtain (note 1). I basically had to do my own calculation based on a multitude of interviews (note 2). After arriving at the following figures, I then checked them with various long standing leaders at MCI to determine their accuracy. Figure 1 depicts the historical growth at MCI and includes the eleven satellites, while Table 9 includes only the statistics from the mother church. These statistics are accurate as of March 1997.

TABLE 9: MCI: STATISTICS AT THE MOTHER CHURCH

DAILY MORNING PRAYER

( 5:00-9:00 a.m.)

500

SEVEN MINISTERIAL DEPARTMENT SERVICES THROUGHOUT THE WEEK

300 to 3,000

(in each service)

FRIDAY ALL NIGHT PRAYER MEETING

400

MONTHLY NUMBER BAPTIZED

160

SATURDAY NIGHT YOUTH

1st service: 5,000

2nd service: 3,000

TOTAL: 8,000

SUNDAY AM WORSHIP

1st service: 4,000

2nd service: 4,000

3rd service: 4,000

4th service: 3,500

5th service: 1,500

TOTAL: 17,000

CHILDREN ON SUNDAY AM

3,000 (note 3)

It is very difficult to discern what proportion of the youth on Saturday night attend a Sunday service at MCI. Since the expectation is for all youth to attend a Sunday worship service, I have chosen only to include 4,000 of the estimated 8,000 in the total worship attendance at the mother church (note 4) Between 1991 and 1992 MCI established eighteen satellite churches (later reduced to eleven) around Bogota which are connected to the mother church (note 5). These churches were established upon the cell groups that already existed in those outlying zones, thus maintaining the cell-based focus. After talking to several leaders and attending one of the satellite churches, I believe that it is correct to say that the church has approximately 11,000 attending the eleven satellite churches and 24,000 in the mother church for a total of 35,000. Table 10 is a breakdown of cell group distribution between the young people, the mother church, and the daughter churches.

TABLE 10
MCI: CELL GROUP STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN

Cells Among Young People (note 6)

3,600 cell groups

Homogeneous Cells In Mother Church

4,317 cell groups

Cells in Satellite Churches

2,683 cell groups

Total Cell Groups

10,600 cell groups

It was very hard to determine what percentage of the congregation attends a cell group during the week. I arrived at an estimate of some sixty-five percent (note 7) Nor were there exact figures concerning the average cell attendance. From the statistics that I did obtain, my visitation in the cell groups, and many interviews, I believe that there are approximately five to six people per group.

General Characteristics

These are various aspects of the church that are neither strong points or weak points. They simply help to describe the church better.

Church Government

As in many post-denominational churches, there is very little church government at MCI. Rather, Pastor Castellanos, the founder of the church is the unchallenged leader. Leadership under Pastor Castellanos is based on the concept of Christ and His disciples. Originally, Pastor Castellanos picked twelve disciples who were in charge of the various zones around Bogota.

Although, he still meets with his twelve senior pastors weekly, because of the growth of the church, the pastoral/leadership staff has now expanded to seventy. These leaders are in charge of the satellite churches, the various departments, leadership training, and administrative functions (note 8). I also noticed that at least half of the leadership staff are women (note 9).

Diversity of Ministries

There are a number of ministries at this ever-expanding church. The radio and television ministries are expanding quickly (note 10). Others include Spiritual Warfare, Men’s ministry, Women’s ministry, and Counseling.

Doctrine

The doctrine of the church is evangelical, with a strong Pentecostal persuasion. There are many messages about dreams and visions. The new Christians participate in a spiritual retreat called Encounter. It is at these retreats that the new ones are baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues (note 11). At the same time, I did not see the need to speak in tongues clearly spelled out in their literature (Varón 1995:62).

Continuous Ministry

Church never stops at MCI. From the early prayer meeting at 5:15 a.m. to late into the evening, services continue in the main sanctuary. There was rarely a moment when one of the pastors or lay people was not preaching the Word of God, worshipping, or praying.

Areas of Strength in the Church

There are several key elements of this church that stand out. I have chosen these characteristics based on numerous interviews with leaders and members, as well what I personally observed.

Cell Groups

Cell groups form the very base of this church. Tessie Guell writes, “. . . the Castellanos attribute the church’s growth to their emphasis on home cell-groups--a focus they believe the Lord gave them after they visited David Yonggi Cho’s Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea . . .” (1996:44). It was in 1986 that Pastor Catellanos visited Korea; yet even before that time, the group ministry had begun.

However, this church has taken cell groups one step beyond most cell-based churches. They are not content with slow, natural multiplication of individual cell groups. Rather, each cell leader is constantly looking for potential cell leaders among the cell members. For this reason, new cell groups are constantly springing up.

Leadership Training

Every day of the week there are an average of fifteen cell leadership training courses taking place with some 3,000 potential leaders in preparation. From the pulpit, the pastor calls the people to join one of the leadership training courses, and then gives an altar call to confirm their decision. It’s possible to get this type of rhythm to occur in Latin America.

Young People

Out of all the departments (ministries) of the church, the young people’s is the most successful. The Saturday night services for the youth now reach some 8,000 in attendance due to the 3,600 youth cell groups. Pastor Fajardo has his twelve disciples; those disciples have twelve more and the process continues down to the new young people who enter each week. The key to the growth is that each disciple must also lead a cell group.

When I was present, some 500 young people went forward to receive Christ. Each name is written down and delivered to specifically chosen cell groups who rotate on a monthly basis (note 12). Another crowning event is the weekly spiritual retreat which is called an Encuentro (Encounter). This event lasts an entire weekend and serves to draw people to salvation as well as sanctification (note 13). The vision of the young people is contagious. Their goal is to reach 100,000 young people by the year 2000.

Prayer

Every morning from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., there is prayer in the church. A different pastor or leader is in charge of each hourly segment. Some 300-500 people are present in the four sessions every morning. Every Friday night, the church has an all-night prayer meeting. On special occasions (as conditions in the country worsen due to drug trafficking and guerrilla warfare), the church dedicates one twenty-four hour, non-stop period to pray for the country (note 14).

Worship

One of the members at MCI told me, “The worship in our church is explosive.” I believe this is a good way to describe the worship at MCI. The first time I attended a Saturday night worship at MCI, I jotted down the following words,

Here is the future of Colombia--young people touched by the gospel. Here is life! This is Your sovereign work! The young people dance in unison, in a single line using the same hand and feet motions. The entire congregation is led by two girls on the stage who model the motions. This is a clean, dynamic expression of God’s love. The shouts of joy spread like wildfire across the auditorium. This is not just wild, charismatic individualism. There is order everywhere. Each jerk and hand motion is in unity. This is Colombian style. Only Latin Americans could express themselves so well with so little hesitation.

There is an entire department dedicated to this ministry. A full band, complete with precision dancing, livens the sanctuary.

Vision

Pastor Castellanos considers himself an apostle with an apostolic vision. He has been very successful in passing down his vision to his top leadership. Several of his key leaders believe that their vision and success comes from the visionary leadership of César Castellanos. Pastor Castellanos is known for his time spent in prayer and communion with the Holy Spirit. In those times, he receives his world-wide vision for the church.

He is also a firm believer in goal setting--both short and long term. When I first visited MCI in October 1996 there were 5,600 cell groups. The clearly stated cell group goal was 10,000 cell groups by December 31, 1996. At that time I wrote,

. . . . the goals of the church were not adjusted to conform to reality. For example, the clearly stated goal of the church is to have 10,000 cell groups by the end of 1996. Two staff pastors told me they were sure that they were going to meet the goal even though it was only two months away. This would mean going from the present 5,600 cell groups to 10,000 cells in just two months. Practically speaking, this is humanly impossible (Comiskey 1996).

Yet, by January, 1997 the church had reached the goal of 10,000 cell groups! From now on I will be more careful to criticize the goals at MCI.

One of the church’s future goals is to build their own coliseum that will minister each weekend to 100,000 people. In 1997, they hope to launch out on faith and rent a 20,000 seat coliseum every Sunday. Another goal is to construct their own university to train young people in theology, missions, and other disciplines (note 15).

Christian Community Agua Viva

Christian Community Agua Viva (AGV) is located in the heart of downtown Miraflores, a suburb of Lima, Perú. It is a church that has great plans for the future.

Context

During the 1980s, rural terrorism by the Sendero Luminoso and the Tupac Amaru killed 26,000 people and inflicted ten billion dollars in damage to the country (Johnstone 1993:444). In 1992, President Fujimori suspended the constitution and took control of the country. His radical moves, along with the capture of the key leader of the Sendero Luminoso, has greatly reduced terrorism. Perú is once again prospering economically and the approval of Fujimori could be seen by his overwhelming presidential reelection in 1995.

Eighty-nine percent of the country is Roman Catholic, but they are only growing at a rate of 1.5 percent. Johnstone writes, “The Catholic church is in a crisis. Over 80% of its clergy are foreign. It is polarized between the traditionalists and those who espouse Liberation Theology” (“Perú” 1994). On the other hand, Evangelicals have been growing and are now a significant source of leadership. As of 1993, 5.7 percent of the population Evangelical with an annual growth rate of 7.7 percent (Johnstone 1993:445).

History of the Church

In 1980 as a university student and committed atheist, Juan Capuro was miraculously converted while reading the gospel of John. The Full Gospel Businessmen Association played an important role in Capuro’s conversion and early Christian growth. Five years after his conversion, Capuro started AGV with twenty people. He continued working as general director of a computer company until 1987 when the church was able to fully support him financially.

Growth of the Church

AGV is a grass roots, independent Peruvian church with no official connections to the United States or any other outside body. Perhaps this has contributed to its effectiveness. Figure 2 explains the history of growth at AGV.

FIGURE 2: AGV: CELEBRATION ATTENDANCE AND NUMBER OF CELLS

Table 11 gives a breakdown of attendance at AGV. These statistics are accurate as of October, 1996.

TABLE 11: AGV: STATISTICS AT THE MOTHER CHURCH

THURSDAY GENERAL SERVICE

1,000

SUNDAY AM WORSHIP

1 st service: 1,000

2 nd service: 1,500

3 rd service: 900

4 th service: 1,500

ATTENDANCE AT SATELLITE CHURCHES

1,000

TOTAL

6,000

MONTHLY BAPTISM

50

CHURCH MEMBERSHIP

3,000 (note 16)

The church can seat about 1,000 people, but there are often people standing. In order to be seated at AGV one must arrive early. It is normal to see huge lines forming outside and around the church building (a converted theater) waiting for the next service. Presently, the church is constructing a sanctuary that will seat 2,500 people. This piece of property is located on one of the main streets in Lima and is now the present site of AGV’s administrative offices. Until the sanctuary is completed, AGV will continue to meet in the three rented theaters around the city (note 17).

At the mother church there are about 5,000 people attending, yet another 1,000 in the two satellite churches in northern and southern Lima. These two satellite churches are intimately connected with the mother church. However, there are also between seven hundred and eight hundred more attending the five independent AGV churches that have their services in various provinces throughout Perú.

General Characteristics

To better describe AGV, other key characteristics should be taken into account. There were at least three descriptive aspects that stood out.

Doctrine

The church is very conscious of the need for correct doctrine. Bible teaching through systematic classroom instruction is a high priority in this church. The doctrine is clearly Biblical with a Pentecostal slant. It appears that the early influence of Lince Alliance Church, and the general system of Bible training in Perú has had a strong impact on Pastor Capuro and the church (note 18).

Church Government

Pastor Juan Capuro and his wife Alicia are the unchallenged leaders. Like many independent charismatic churches, the people submit to and obey them. There is no elected board. Pastor Capuro meets with five elders who formed part of the initial church. At times, before he is about to make an important decision, Pastor Capuro will meet with the elders and the zone pastors to talk about the future direction of the church. A key aspect here is unchallenged!

Relationship with Other Churches

Although the church is an independent charismatic church, it is part of a larger fellowship of charismatic churches in the city. One of the training manuals says,

Christian Community Agua Viva is a Peruvian congregation. It is not a mission, nor does it depend on outside finances to support it. It is a non-denominational church and forms part of the Union of Christian Communities of Perú (Capuro Libro III:21).

Key Areas of Strength in the Church

Pastor Capuro told me that God had led the church to emphasis six major areas. They are: training, worship, cell groups, communication (radio, TV), prayer, and social action. From my observation and analysis, some seemed to be more prominent than others, namely cell groups, training, and worship.

Cell Groups

In 1997 Perú will celebrate one hundred years of Protestantism. The Evangelical Fraternity in Perú is planning special celebrations for this important event. Juan Capuro was asked to address the conference on the topic of reaching out through cell ministry. AGV’s commitment to cell ministry can be seen by the huge forty foot by thirty foot sign that hangs down next to the platform saying, “Family Cell Communities: The Strategy that God has given us to evangelize Perú. Join one.” Phone numbers are then given. It is well known throughout Perú that AGV is a cell-based church.

There is a certain healthiness about the cell ministry at AGV. More than sixty-five percent of those who attend AGV also attend a cell group (note 19). Great emphasis is placed on cell leader preparation. Juan Capuro confessed to me that at times they have had to slow down the cell growth due to the lack of quality leadership.

Leadership Training

I use the term “leadership training” loosely here because the Bible training at AGV is for everyone. There is a clear four year plan of Bible training at AGV that could enable a brand new Christian to become a pastor or missionary. For most future leaders, the Bible training prepares them to become cell leaders. At any one time there are some 1,000 people studying at the four different levels.

Spiritual Vitality

There is a certain spiritual vitality that one notes immediately at AGV. The worship is dynamic with at least thirteen musicians on stage playing various instruments. All of them are immaculately dressed with matching clothes, and they sway in unity to the beat. The worship is truly Peruvian without any North American restrictions. The source of this vitality comes from their commitment to prayer and fasting. During the holidays, the entire church spends a day in fasting and prayer together (note 20). I was told that 1,000 people gather for these events. Three days during the week, various women gather in the administrative building to pray and fast. I was also told that most cell groups have their own prayer chains. Lord, fill us with spirituality. Give us Your power.

La Misión Cristiana Elim

La Misión Cristiana Elim (MCE) is the most recognized cell church in Latin America. Hundreds of people each year flock to this church in San Salvador, El Salvador to learn about their powerful cell ministry. Several churches have followed the MCE model and now have large, dynamic cell churches (note 21).

Context

El Salvador has the reputation of being the smallest and most densely populated mainland Spanish-speaking state in the Americas (Johnstone 1993:207). Of the six million inhabitants in El Salvador, less than six percent would be considered indigenous. Mestizos make up niney-two percent of the population with Whites (pure Spanish blood) comprising 1.7 percent of the population. The mother church is located in San Salvador, El Salvador, which has a population of approximately two million inhabitants (note 22).

One cannot understand the present situation in El Salvador without being aware of the civil war that has only recently come to an end. Patrick Johnstone writes, “A long series of corrupt dictatorships and gross inequalities between the rich and poor provoked armed leftist insurrection in 1981. Over 75,000 were killed in fighting, cross-fire or through right-wing death squads” (1993:207). Although a peace accord was signed in 1992, many wounds and bitter feelings still exist among the people. The healing process will take a long time.

Evangelicals now comprise 19.8 percent of the population (Johnstone 1993:207). The bitter civil war has brought new openness and harvest (in 1960 Evangelicals comprised only 2.3 percent of the population). Growth among the Pentecostal groups has been especially dramatic. Although the official Roman Catholic figure for El Salvador is 88.4 percent of the population, Johnstone notes that in reality only 75.1 percent of the population would be considered Roman Catholic (1993:207).

History of the Church

Sergio Solórzano, born in Guatemala, came to El Salvador to start an Elim Church, a grass roots Evangelical denomination which started in Guatemala (note 23). Solórzano started the church in 1977 in a rented house with nine persons. The church grew rapidly and by 1981 there were 3,000 people attending the mother church. By 1985, the church had planted some seventy daughter churches around the country, but the attendance at the mother church had stagnated.

Due to this stagnation, in 1985 Pastor Solórzano visited David Yonggi Cho’s church in Korea. He came back convinced that cell group ministry would revolutionize MCE. He called together the pastors of the twenty-five daughter churches around San Salvador and asked them to close down their churches and join with him to form one huge cell church in San Salvador. By 1991, six years later, the cell group attendance had grown to 57,000 with a large proportion attending the Sunday celebration services (note 24).

FIGURE 3: MCE: CELEBRATION ATTENDANCE AND NUMBER OF CELLS
Growth of the Church

Figure 3 describes the historical growth of MCE until October 1996. The mother church attendance statistics (Table 12) since 1986 are estimates (note 25). In 1996 there were thirty MCE churches in El Salvador and some fifty-one MCE churches around the world (note 26). These churches are under the covering of the mother church in San Salvador, but they operate independently (note 27). As of October 1996 MCE was considering the possibility of either moving the church to a larger piece of land or adding on to the present sanctuary. In the present building MCE can hold 45,000 people in six consecutive services (note 28). At this time, they plan to continue to add new services. Each of the eight districts attend a designated service on Sunday morning.

TABLE 12: MCE: STATISTICS AT THE MOTHER CHURCH

SUNDAY WORSHIP

1 st service: 5,750

2 nd service: 4,000

3 rd service: 5,500

4 th service: 5,000

5 th service: 4,500

6 th service: 5,250

ADULTS ON SUNDAY CELEBRATION

30,000

CHILDREN ON SUNDAY

3,000

TOTAL SUNDAY ATTENDANCE

33,000

MONTHLY BAPTISM

540

FULL TIME PASTORAL STAFF

67

TOTAL OF THE TWO WEEK NIGHT SERVICES (note 29)

11,000

WEEKLY ALL NIGHT PRAYER MEETING

3,000

Table 12 describes the statistical activity at the mother church as of October 1996. Table 13 demonstrates the high level of attendance in the cell ministry at MCE.

Less than one-third of the total number of people who attend the cell groups also attend the Sunday morning worship. Some of the reasons given were: distance of mother church, Sunday jobs, and the fact that each service is broadcast on live radio.

TABLE 13: MCE: CELL GROUP STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
(October 1996)

NUMBER OF CELL GROUPS

5,420

ADULT CELL GROUP ATTENDANCE

60,200

CHILD CELL GROUP ATTENDANCE

56,300

TOTAL CELL GROUP ATTENDANCE

116,500

MONTHLY CONVERSIONS IN CELL GROUPS

2,000

WEEKLY TOTAL CELL OFFERING

$4,465.00

General Characteristics

MCE is a very unique church. Unlike any other church that I have experienced, MCE maintains a distinct church culture.

Church Culture

One senses a distinct flavor at MCE by the commonly used expressions of MCE members (note 30), the fact that everyone preaches in the same loud style as Sergio Solórzano (note 31), the distinctive dress of the members (note 32), and the strict emphasis on order (note 33).

Literal Interpretation of Scripture

Like most evangelical churches, MCE believes the Bible is the inspired Word of God. The major difference with MCE is their interpretation of Scripture (note 34). This can be seen in several areas. First, MCE takes the Bible literally when it says that women should remain silent (1 Co. 14:34). Women are not permitted to speak in the services (note 35). Second, Paul required that the Corinthian women wear a head covering as a sign of their submission and protection (1 Co. 11:1-14). This advice is literally followed at MCE. Third, Paul’s advice to Timothy about Christian women (1 Ti. 2:9) find concrete expression at MCE (note 36). Again, based on Paul’s advice to Timothy (1 Ti. 2:12), women are not allowed to teach men at MCE (note 37).

Doctrinal Emphasis

The church strongly emphasizes the importance of pure doctrine. It was the first church that handed me a doctrinal statement, complete with all of the major Christian doctrines. The primary distinction is that MCE holds very closely to a Calvinistic interpretation of Scripture (note 38)

Interestingly enough, MCE is a Calvinistic, Pentecostal church. They believe that only those who speak in tongues have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They will not allow an assistant cell leader become the main cell leader without the evidence of speaking in tongues.

The Organization

The church is in the process of changing its name to MCE International, because there are now over eighty MCE churches around the world. At the pinnacle of authority over all of these churches is a board of six members who are elected at the annual assembly. At the church level, the head pastor and his elders have the ultimate authority (note 39).

Areas of Strength in the Church

Although there are many strong points in this church, I selected those which seemed to be the most evident. These points have attracted many leaders from around the world to visit MCE.

The Cell System

The cell group ministry at MCE is the key to their success. Since starting the cell ministry in 1986, they have added nearly 30,000 people to their Sunday morning worship service (note 40). The current statistic of 116,500 represents the impact and penetration that this church is having in practically every neighborhood in San Salvador. Jorge Galindo told me that he does not just view the cells as an instrument of the church but rather as the church itself. Cell members need the church to round out their Christian faith, but those who only attend a cell group are still considered part of the MCE church.

A Well-Run Organization

This is a highly organized church. Although Latin Americans are normally portrayed as lacking organizational abilities, this is certainly not true of MCE (note 41). The church uses statistics, graphics, and percentages to determine exactly where they stand at any given moment. Goals are made and followed on every level. Through the organization of the cell system every single person is touched. Each district coordinator, zone pastor, supervisor, and cell leader knows exactly what to do to make the system work effectively.

El Centro Cristiano de Guayaquil

El Centro Cristiano (CCG) is located in Guayaquil, Ecuador. It is a cell-based church which is known throughout Ecuador, and is making an important contribution to cell ministry in Latin America as a whole.

Context

This church is located in the heart of Guayaquil, which boasts a population of two million. It is the largest coastal city in Ecuador, a country which continues to be one of the most underdeveloped nations in South America ( Ecuador in Pictures 1987:5). According to 1993 statistics, the average yearly income per household is $1,040.00 US dollars (4.9 percent of United States income).

Roman Catholics comprise ninety-four percent of the population, while Protestants make up 3.8 percent (Johnstone 1993:201). Johnstone informs us,

Ecuador had Latin America’s smallest percentage of evangelicals in 1960. Praise God for major breakthroughs and people movements that have brought rapid church growth since then, notably among: Spanish speaking urbanites. . . . Quichuas in Chimborazo Province (1993:202).

It appears that Ecuador is entering a time of harvest. The hard, often fruitless labor of former missionaries is now paying rich dividends.

History of the Church

In 1984, the Wilkes, an Assembly of God missionary couple, started a church in Guayaquil, Ecuador. With 150 people attending in 1985, the Wilkes suddenly had to leave. Along comes Jerry Smith, a North American missionary, who not only filled vacated pastoral position but began to instill into this small flock of believers a vision for something far greater. With a large donation from the Jimmy Swaggart foundation property was purchased provided space for both a church as well as a Christian school (first through twelfth grade).

Growth of the Church

The initial growth of the church came primarily from the Christian school as well as a campaign ministry. Although there were a few small groups operating in the church, they were only another program until 1992 when Smith decided to transform CCG into a cell church. The growth that has taken place since the implementation of cell groups in 1992 is significant. As of October 1997 approximately seventy percent of those who attend the church also attend a cell group, although some three times as many people attend a weekly cell group than attend the weekly Sunday celebration service (note 42). Figure 4 provides estimates of the historical annual church attendance.

As of October 1996, the total attendance figure for CCG was about 3,800. This figure includes the three satellite congregations (500 total). Because their cell system extends so far and wide, they have extension congregations in such areas as Milagro (seventy miles away), Babahoyo (forty miles away), and Durán (fifteen miles away). The figure of 3,800 also includes the Saturday night attendance which is mandatory for those parents whose children go to the CCG school in the afternoon (43). The sanctuary at CCG can comfortably fit about 750 people.

FIGURE 4: CCG: CELEBRATION ATTENDANCE AND NUMBER OF CELLS

Table 14 describes the statistics in the mother church. Table 15 provides a breakdown of cell groups and cell group attendance.

TABLE 14: CCG: STATISTICS AT THE MOTHER CHURCH
(October 1996)

BI-MONTHLY ALL NIGHT PRAYER MEETING

175

MONTHLY BAPTISM TOTAL

50

TOTAL BAPTIZED MEMBERS (note 44)

2,100

SATURDAY NIGHT SERVICE

750

CHILDREN’S SUNDAY SCHOOL

500

SUNDAY AM WORSHIP

1st service: 400

2nd service: 600

3rd service: 500

4th service: 550

SATELLITE CHURCHES

500

TABLE 15: CCG: CELL GROUP STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
(October 1996)
DISTRICTS CELL GROUPS ATTENDANCE
District One 602 3,892
District Two 442 3,331
District Three 543 3,530

With almost 1,600 cell groups and 11,000 people attending, the cell system has been very successful (note 45). At the same time, the total number of people attending the mother church was merely one-third of those attending the cell groups (note 46). I was given several reasons for this situation: the church is reaching out to the non-Christians, non-Christians attending the cell groups are in the process of being discipled and will eventually attend the church, many of the cell groups are very far away and cannot attend Sunday morning worship, Catholics will attend mid-week Bible studies but will not make the commitment to attend an Evangelical church, and the sanctuary is very small and is already at eighty percent capacity.

Denominational Affiliation

This church forms part of the Assemblies of God denomination (note 47). The doctrine of the church is very evangelical. Although Assembly of God teaching states that the evidence of being filled with the Spirit of God is the gift of tongues, CCG does not require that all its leaders speak in tongues (note 48).

Areas of Strength in the Church

I have chosen to highlight several key elements of the church. These characteristics stood out in the numerous interviews with leaders and members, as well as in my personal observations.

Cell Groups

CCG is a cell-based church. There is no doubt concerning this most vital and important ministry in the church. A large sign next to the pulpit reads: “A Church Solidified and Edified By Cell Groups.” Everything is run by and through the cells. For example, the pastoral staff is organized by districts and zones, cell districts rotate to provide pastoral attention and counseling, cell districts rotate to provide the ushering and other basic services, cell districts rotate to run the all-night prayer meetings, and cell districts rotate each month to baptize members from their cell groups (note 49).

There are no weekly youth services at CCG. The adolescents have their cell groups and those over eighteen years operate within the adult cell groups. However, every three months the young people do meet together for congregational worship.

Goal Orientation

CCG is a church with eyes on the future. Its goals are posted everywhere. Each district pastor, zone pastor, and secretary receives a plaque listing the goals for the upcoming year. Normally these goals hang on the wall next to his or her desk. Table 16 is a replica of the huge ten by five- foot wall hanging that everyone sees when they walk into the sanctuary.

Beyond the yearly goals, Jerry Smith believes that CCG will eventually become a church of 100,000. With this in mind, one of the important long term goals for the church is to find property large enough to fulfill this future vision. The hope is to buy a piece of property large enough to construct a sanctuary for 25,000, a Christian high school and university, and various sport facilities (note 50) In order to fulfill these dreams, the church presently saves twenty-five percent of all income (note 51).

TABLE 16: GOAL ORIENTATION AT CCG
GOALS TO REACH BY DECEMBER 1996
AS A CHURCH BY DISTRICT BY ZONE
2,250 Cells 750 Cells 125 Cells
300 Supervisors 100 Supervisors 17 Supervisors
9,000 Members 3,000 members 500 members

Diligent planning precedes goal setting at CCG. At the beginning of each year, the pastoral staff sets aside five days for fasting and praying. Immediately following is the yearly congress in which the staff sets goals for the upcoming year. Again in May, the pastors go on a retreat for several days where they refine detailed annual plans. Very little takes this church by surprise.

Administration

It is well known that Pastor Smith is a gifted administrator. Largely due to his gifts and talents, the church runs like a well-oiled machine.

Christian School

Perhaps CCG is best known for its Christian school. The school serves some 3,500 children from first grade to twelfth grade. The school grants scholarships to poorer students who cannot pay their own way. The funds generated in the morning sessions are sufficient to grant scholarships to almost all of the students who come in the afternoon.

El Amor Viviente

El Amor Viviente (AMV) is one of God’s sovereign works. Located in the relatively “unknown” country of Honduras, this church in Tegulcigalpa has become a model for all of Latin America. Thus far, it is the most viable model of cell ministry that I have seen.

Context

Honduras is a small, mountainous land located in Central America. There are six million inhabitants with the largest concentration residing in Tegucigalpa (800,000). Since independence in 1821, Honduras has been plagued with nearly 300 internal rebellions, civil wars, and changes of government, more than half occurring during this century. The country traditionally lacked both an economic infrastructure and social and political integration, and thus is one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America. Johnstone writes, “The broken terrain and unequal distribution of land and wealth have hindered development. Insensitive exploitation by multinationals and corruption of politicians have helped to keep Honduras poor” (1993:263).

Evangelicals comprise 10.4 percent of the population, and the annual Evangelical growth rate is six percent. Response to the gospel over the past twenty years has been dramatic. Johnstone believes that a large part of the receptivity is due to the country’s economic upheaval (1993:264). Roman Catholics make up 85.5 percent of the population, but they have been declining because eighty percent of the leadership is foreign and there is widespread nominalism, pagan practices, and immorality (Johnstone 1993:264).

History of the Church

AMV started in 1974 when Edward King, a missionary with the Mennonite denomination, received a vision to reach Honduran young people. King received special permission to do a “new thing” in Honduras, and thus AMV has never been officially connected with the Mennonite denomination.

A large number of young people were delivered from drugs and alcohol (including the present head pastor, René Peñalba) and began to proclaim their new found freedom to their friends and relatives (Urbina 1996:8-9). Edward King called certain ones to enter an in-depth discipleship relationship with him. The newly formed church was soon divided into small groups and King’s disciples were each assigned to one of them (note 52) Although King left Honduras in 1982, the fruit of his labor continues today through his disciples.

Growth of the Church

Honduras as a country might lack a national identity, but this certainly is not true in AMV. The mother church in Tegucigalpa owns some seven and one half acres of property, and has now become a “mini-denomination.” This present study will be limited to the mother church in Tegucigalpa. Figure 5 gives a history of the attendance and cell group growth in the mother church as of November 1996.

Including children, I estimated that some 6,500 people attend the six services at the mother church in Tegucigalpa each weekend (note 53). The main sanctuary seats about 1,400 people, but it is already too small. Therefore, the church has made bold plans to begin building an 8,000 seat sanctuary in January 1997. Since the church is divided into four cell districts, each district occupies one of the four services.

After each celebration service, the cell team leadership (leader, intern, treasurer, and two members at large) meet with their supervisors and zone leaders to plan the following week’s activity. I was impressed to know that eighty-nine percent of those who attend a cell group also attend the weekend celebration service. Table 18 attempts to describe the cell situation.

FIGURE 5: AMV: CELEBRATION ATTENDANCE AND NUMBER OF CELLS
TABLE 17: AMV: STATISTICS AT THE MOTHER CHURCH IN TEGUCIGALPA
(November 1996)

SATURDAY WORSHIP

1st service: 900

2nd service: 1,300

3rd service: 1,000

4th service: 1,300

SUNDAY WORSHIP

1 st service: 300

2 nd service: 500

TOTAL WEEKEND WORSHIP ATTENDANCE (note 54)

6,500

AVERAGE MONTHLY BAPTISM

50

NUMBER OF BAPTIZED MEMBERS

4,750

BAPTIZED IN THE SPIRIT

3,785

Table 17 describes the statistics of the mother church are accurate as of November 1996.

TABLE 18: AMV: CELL GROUP STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN

NUMBER OF CELL GROUPS

730

ADULT CELL ATTENDANCE

4,500

CHILDREN CELL ATTENDANCE

500

General Characteristics

To better understand AMV, it is helpful to understand its structure and philosophy. I noticed at least two descriptive characteristics that are worth noting.

The Organization

The AMV movement began in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, but now there are twenty-five different AMV churches throughout Latin America and the United States. There is an annual AMV assembly in which delegates attend from each church (number of delegates is determined by size of congregation) (note 55). It is at the assembly that an eight-member junta is elected (comprised only of AMV pastors). This junta has the ultimate authority over every AMV church, although within each congregation, the head pastor has the final authority.

Doctrine

The doctrine at AMV is very evangelical. It is not officially affiliated with the Mennonite denomination and would best be characterized as “independent charismatic.” Actually, I was refreshed by the balanced Biblical teaching that I encountered at AMV (note 56).

Areas of Strength in the Church

AMV has many strengths. I believe it is one of Latin American’s “hidden treasures.” However, here I will only mention three characteristics.

Cell Groups

The cell groups make up the heart of this church. Among the five case study churches AMV has the highest ratio of attendance between cell and celebration attendance. This is largely due to the accountability structure that AMV has perfected.

The mother-daughter multiplication process at AMV was healthiest among the case study churches. Cells not only multiply rapidly, but they maintain a high quality. I also noticed a high degree of creativity in the cell ministry at AMV. While they are not opposed to gleaning from others, they have pragmatically perfected a cell system which works best for them. AMV has been honing their own system for the past twenty years. I was amazed at the practicality of many of their ideas.

Discipleship

Although Edward King has not been in the church for fourteen years, he left the church with a strong discipleship emphasis. The church has developed a creative discipleship training structure that prepares people socially, spiritually, and intellectually. Discipleship training at AMV is not Sunday School, although it meets during the normal Sunday School hour. It is not a classroom lecture although discipleship takes place in the classroom. Rather, it includes a close relationship between mentor and disciple that lasts for one to three years (note 57).

Helping Ministries

Although AMV is a cell church, it does not exclusively focused on cell ministry. Rather, the cells have created new opportunities for a variety of ministries. For example, special counseling needs arise in the cell groups that the average cell leader is not equipped to handle. For this reason, AMV developed a full time counseling center is located on the church property (note 58).

Other important ministries at AMV include an AM and FM radio station, children’s department, and a worship ministry. All of these have their own director and function as separate ministries in the church. The common thread that binds all of them together is the fact that each worker is required to participate in a weekly Wednesday cell group. Thus, the ministries do not detract but rather add strength to the cell focus.

Summary of the Five Churches

I discovered patterns of similarities and differences among the five case study churches. In this chapter I will highlight general descriptive features of these churches, while in later chapters I will analyze more specific areas.

General Patterns among the Case Study Churches

The following list represents some of the descriptive patterns that I found in the case study churches:

  • Strongly influenced by David Yonggi Cho
  • New apostolic flavor
  • Focus on entire city—It’s important for pastors to get a focus on the entire city. Why do we just focus on one aspect.
  • Congregation made up of working class
  • Emphasis on charismatic experience
  • Strong prayer emphasis
  • Lively worship
The Influence of Cho

I noticed the widespread influence of David Yonggi Cho and the cell model exemplified at the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea. Three of the churches had sent delegations to Cho’s church in Korea before starting their own cell group ministry. All of them attribute their present cell structure in some way to David Yonggi Cho (note 59).

New Apostolic Flavor

These churches behave like New Apostolic networks (note 60). Four of the churches had grown into “mini-denominations” while only CCG formed part of an established denomination (Assemblies of God). MCI, MCE, and AMV are planting cell churches all over the world. God has given each one of these churches a vision for something greater than themselves, and the cell philosophy has been the chosen method to fulfill that vision.

Although César Castellanos was the only one identified as “apostle,” all of these leaders functioned in an apostolic, authoritative role. Supernatural occurrences in these churches were a natural part of church life. Leadership as well as membership received direct guidance from the Spirit of God. Prophecies, tongues, interpretation, words of knowledge and miracles were expected as a normal part of church life. Lord, deliver us from denominationalism.

City Churches

All of these churches ministered in urban, and their goal was to reach the entire city for Jesus Christ. None of them planned to start independent daughter churches within the same city. Their mandate from God was to reach the entire city through the cell ministry, and their cells extended to the farthest corners. MCI and AGV eventually created satellite churches to more effectively reap the harvest. In reality, I don’t know about rural cell churches.

Congregation Comprised of Working Class

All of these churches were primarily reaching the working class (lower-middle class). My statistical analysis of the cell leaders confirmed this fact (note 61).

Emphasis on Charismatic Experience

All of the churches were Pentecostal/Charismatic in flavor. Three of the five churches required that each cell leader and assistant speak in tongues, as the evidence of being baptized in the Spirit.

Strong Prayer Emphasis

All of these churches were deeply committed to prayer. Prayer was not just talked about but regularly practiced. Each church held regular all-night prayer meetings. The two largest churches ( MCI and MCE) held weekly all-night prayer meetings. AGV utilized national holidays to gather the church for fasting and prayer. I sensed a total dependence on God in each of these churches.

Lively Worship

Without exception, these churches engaged in lively charismatic worship. At MCI, the worship was explosive with well-planned body motions by those directing the worship. At AGV the worship team resembled a top notch orchestra with some thirteen instruments and uniformly dressed worship leaders (note 62).

General Differences among the Case Study Churches

There were also some distinct differences among the case study churches that deserve special attention:

  • Cell emphasis versus celebration emphasis
  • Traditional cell structure verses new models
  • Participation of women verses domination of men
  • Satellite strategy versus one city church strategy
  • Authority structure among churches
Cell Emphasis Versus Celebration Emphasis

This difference was dramatic among the case study churches (note 63). MCE and CCG made a great effort to be “cell churches.” However, in both of these churches, there were three times as many people (including children) attending their weekly cell groups than their celebration service. There was a tendency to count church attendance in terms of how many people were in their weekly cell groups (note 64). Because cell group goals are easier to make and measure, the cell group attendance was closely monitored while celebration attendance seemed less important. At times in these two churches it seemed that the cell ministry was an end in itself. And I learned from these churches to view cells above celebration, to judge success by how many people being won through the cell structure.

On the other hand, MCI and AGV had impressive, well attended worship services, but it seemed that other variables strongly contributed to the high attendance (e.g., dynamic leadership, lively worship). AMV maintained the highest percentage of both cell and celebration attendance (those who attended the cell also attended the celebration services), and thus seemed to be the most balanced cell church in this important category.

Traditional Cell Structures Versus New Models

There was a great deal of difference between the churches which followed the Pure cell model and those who had initiated new, creative structures (note 65). At one end of the spectrum, MCE and CCG could be described as Pure cell churches. On the other hand, MCI and AGV were in the process of creating new models and adapting their cell system to meet their own needs. Again, AMV seemed to strike a healthy balance between the traditional cell structure and its own creativity (note 66).

Participation of Women Verses Domination of Men

In four of the cell churches, women played a vital part of the cell system. At MCI approximately half of the top leadership was female and at CCG and AMV women were placed in top leadership roles (note 67). On the other hand, at MCE women were only allowed to teach other women and never could rise above the position of supervisor.

Satellite Strategy Verses One City Church Strategy

One distinct difference among the churches was their strategy to reach the city. MCE, CCG, and AMV believed that there should be one cell church per city. The cell system was used to penetrate every corner of the city, while buses were utilized (more than six hundred buses at MCE) to transport the cell members to the mother church. On the other hand, MCI and AGV chose to create satellite churches in order to provide closer worship sites for the members.

Conclusion

These five cell-based churches were chosen because of their prominent status throughout Latin America. They serve as examples of effective cell-based ministry to other congregations throughout Latin America. In this chapter, I have both described these churches as well as examined common patterns and differences among them. In the following chapters, we will analyze more comprehensively the cell-based organization, the leadership patterns, and the multiplication factors of these case study churches.

ENDNOTES

  1. MCI does not keep clear, readily available statistical information. Even the reporter/writer of the church, David Javier Torres, could not give me exact statistics, even though he searched the records on my behalf.
  2. I interviewed about ten leaders, including César and Claudia Castellanos, to come up with these statistics.
  3. This is just a broad estimate--I only attended one of the children’s gatherings.
  4. I estimated that approximately 4,000 of the young people also attend a Sunday morning service, either in the mother church or in one of the satellite churches.
  5. Pastor César Castellanos meets with the pastors of each of these satellite churches during a Monday morning staff meeting. Often, Pastor Castellanos will give them a theme for the week.
  6. The cell groups among the young people have become a separate category because they organize their own statistics and program.
  7. Pastor César Fajardo thought that it might be as high as eighty percent, but the majority gave me more conservative figures.
  8. Interestingly enough, several of Pastor Castellano’s family members also fill staff positions. I personally talked with two sisters, two brothers, and the mother of Pastor Castellanos before talking with him personally. The family of Claudia Castellanos (pastor’s wife) also hold key positions in the church.
  9. Claudia Castellanos has modeled a strong leadership influence as she formed part of the Colombia senate in 1989 and even gave me the impression that she was open to run for the presidency at a future time.
  10. The California based Christian television network, Trinity Broadcasting, is planning on helping the church obtain a television station in Bogota.
  11. Pastor César Fajardo, the head youth pastor, told me that speaking in tongues is a requirement for leadership because only those speaking in tongues would truly be effective
  12. Each one of the twelve disciples under Pastor Fajardo has developed cell groups under him or her. The follow-up cards are given to one of the twelve each month, so that follow-up is evenly distributed.
  13. When I revisited MCI in March 1997 there were nine Encounters taking during one weekend with approximately 500 young people attending.
  14. Days before I arrived in Colombia, the guerrillas had kidnapped seventy people. The church responded by praying for twenty-four hours straight over their own national radio station.
  15. The construction of the university is well under way. When the university is functioning, they even hope to offer doctorate degrees.
  16. This was a close estimate that I obtained from two of the key leaders
  17. I only attended the theater in central Lima, where Capuro preaches each Sunday. From what I understand, this theater is the largest and the most well attended. The other two theaters serve the needs of northern and southern Lima.
  18. The main AGV sanctuary is located very close to the Lince Alliance Church (Christian and Missionary Alliance) which has spawned more than thirty large congregations since the early 1970s. Lince Alliance is known for its intense Bible training through a program called Bible Academy. The material that Juan Capuro uses follows the same format as the Alliance.
  19. These figures are my personal estimates that were derived from reviewing weekly cell reports, the results of a 1992 survey, and through conversing with various leaders at AGV.
  20. In a normal calendar year, they use seven out of the ten holidays to fast and pray.
  21. La Cosecha in Honduras (10,000 members), El Centro Cristiano in Guayquil (5,000 members), and Fe Esperanza y Amor in Mexico (10,000 members) have all structured their system after La Misión Elim. Bethany World Prayer Center in Lousiana also sends their pastors and workers to Elim to learn about cell ministry.
  22. The fact that the population is so densely populated has probably contributed to the rapid growth through cell groups.
  23. Sergio no longer recognizes the mother church in Guatemala. Various sources at MCE claim that the mother church in Guatemala no longer believes in the Trinity and teaches other errant doctrines. Interestingly enough, Sergio’s Elim Church in El Salvador now sends missionaries to Guatemala to plant a new brand of Elim Churches. It should also be noted that Sergio Solórzano is no longer head pastor at MCE. The official word is that he is experiencing “family problems.” Jorge Galindo has replaced him as senior pastor.
  24. The present facility is located less than one kilometer from the original 1977 meeting place, which is about ten miles from downtown San Salvador.
  25. MCE does not keep accurate Sunday celebration statistics. Therefore, although I asked several people, they simply did not know, nor did they have any objective data available. Therefore, the historical attendance figures for the celebration service after 1985 were subjectively obtained by taking the current ratio between celebration attendance and cell attendance and maintaining that ratio for each year.
  26. Elim churches are found in many countries of Latin America, Canada, United States, Australia, and Sweden.
  27. The mother church in San Salvador is by far the largest of the MCE Churches and continues to be the main model of church growth. I was told that the mother church grows at an annual rate of twenty-five percent.
  28. After diligently inquiring about the seating capacity at Elim and receiving a number of different answers, I arrived at the conclusion that there were 6,000 seats in the main sanctuary and 1,000 seats in adjacent building for young people. The young people of each district hold a separate worship service at the same time that the adults are meeting. I was present in all of the Sunday services with the exception of the first one. I took into consideration that the Sunday in which I was present was low time for celebration attendance. With this in mind, I added 3,000 adults to my estimate.
  29. Each district attends one of these services at designated times during the week. Zone pastors and district pastors preach through the Word of God on a rotating basis. The preaching is a verse by verse expository analysis.
  30. Words such as “hermano” (brother), “varón” (man), or “siervo” (servant) are frequently used. I was constantly called one of those names during my stay.
  31. There is literal screaming and loud shouting from the pulpit. Interestingly enough, the young men and young women also shout while teaching the Sunday School class. Cell leaders teach their lessons in a similar manner.
  32. Cell leaders wear ties to all of the services, as well as in the cell group; all of the workers (e.g., ushers, parking lot attendants) wear special uniforms; women wear long head coverings (shawls) that practically cover their entire face.
  33. The women sit on one side of the auditorium while the men sit on the other. Women ushers greet only other women and the men and women do not talk to each other in the service. Ushers stand like soldiers throughout the church to make sure that nothing is done erratically. When time is given for the supernatural (e.g., prophesy, tongues), the ushers line up in a single file row to assure that no one is out of order. Even during the most upbeat worship songs, everyone remains seated. Again, the reason is to maintain order and to prevent emotions from running wild. I talked with a man named Giovani on the way home from El Salvador. He said that the first time he visited MCE, he raised his head during the prayer time (to look around) and an usher immediately lowered it by placing a firm hand on the back of his head.
  34. I noticed that there was a lack of higher level training at MCE. There were no adult Sunday school classes, TEE training, or Bible School curriculum. Pastoral staff are not encouraged to attend Bible School.
  35. Even in the cell meetings, for the most part, the women remain silent. When I spoke at one of the women’s cell groups, I noticed that several of the women would not look at me. A certain humble subjugation seems to be the norm.
  36. The Christian women wear dresses at all times (no pants) and do not wear make-up.
  37. Women cell leaders do not lead mixed groups. Nor are any of the paid pastoral staff female. It is interesting that in any given church service probably sixty-five percent of those attending are women, yet these same women have very little overt leadership influence.
  38. MCE strongly believes and preaches the five point of Calvinism. During my first night in the church, I was treated to a dynamic message on sovereign election, the depravity of man, and the unmerited grace of God. Calvins’ books, translated into Spanish, were stocked in their bookstore.
  39. The senior pastor, Jorge Galindo, is accompanied by two other elders at the highest level of decision making at La Misión Elim.
  40. Taking just the attendance figures for the Sunday morning services (apart from satellite congregations), this could very well be the largest church in Latin America.
  41. This church has stretched my understanding of the organizational capabilities of Latin Americans. It must be noted that the organizational genius of MCE is not the result of North American influence. I did not detect any such influence on Pastor Sergio or the church in general. Rather, the church has reconditioned the Latin people to see the benefit of such tight informational control.
  42. I arrived at this conclusion through talking with leadership and examining the general statistics at CCG.
  43. These children have received a scholarship to attend the CCG school. If they want to receive the scholarship the following year, they must attend one CCG celebration church service every week.
  44. The stated goal for the end of 1996 is 9,000 baptized church members. However, as of October, 1996 there are only 2,100 baptized members at CCG. There is an obvious disparity between goal and reality.
  45. It should be noted that on any given week about twenty percent of the cell groups do not take place for one reason or another.
  46. CCG has not been able to convert cell growth into church growth. In other words, the cell groups continue to grow at an exciting rate, but those very same people who are being reached by the cell group are not attending the church. As of October, 1996, there were nearly three times as many people attending the cell groups as were attending the church services. I was concerned that there were clear attendance goals for the cell group but not clear attendance goals for the church.
  47. The move to become a cell church has not been entirely supported by the Assembly of God denomination in Ecuador.
  48. The baptism of the Spirit with the accompanying evidence of speaking in tongues is encouraged, but is not a leadership requirement.
  49. Baptismal forms are filled out by the cell leader and a person cannot be baptized unless he or she is attending a cell group. Baptisms at CCG take place in the church. As of October 1996 approximately fifty people were baptized each month and total baptized membership was 2,100.
  50. José Medina, the head pastor while Jerry was on his missionary furlough, shared with me this vision.
  51. I sensed that the major concern at this time is whether or not the church should construct a new sanctuary on its present property as a medium range goal.
  52. Those early groups have little resemblance to the growth groups today. Rather, they were large congregational type groups that did not focus on multiplication. Yet, from the beginning, the strength of the church was squarely fixed on the small group meetings. In fact, at times the church was forced to go several weeks without a celebration service.
  53. Sunday worship services were only recently added to fill a need for those who are not able to attend a cell group. However, the main celebration services take place on Saturday night.
  54. This includes 1,200 children.
  55. More recently, the Amor Viviente church in the United States became a separate entity with its own decision- making power.
  56. They have a section on the baptism of the Spirit, but not once do they mention the evidence of speaking in tongues. When I asked about this, I was told that Pastor René, knowing the variety of beliefs around that point, has chosen not to emphasize it.
  57. Actually, the entire discipleship process last three years, but it is divided into yearly segments (each year the student receives a new mentor). Each discipleship instructor has between ten and fifteen students. The mentor personally visits and cares for each disciple. During the first year, the students take some thirteen modular type courses with the same instructor. All of the discipleship groups follow the same material and requirements. In November 1996 more than 800 people were enrolled in the discipleship groups with over ninety discipleship trainers.
  58. The counseling staff ministers to almost one hundred people each week. Prayer teams organized by the counseling ministry intercede for the petitions of the church members. Interestingly enough, some eighty percent of those who go for counseling have been referred by the cell groups.
  59. Interestingly enough, the pastors of the two largest cell churches, MCI and MCE, both visited Korea between 1985 and 1986 and respectively started their cell ministry immediately afterwards.
  60. This term has been coined by C. Peter Wagner to describe a new breed of non-denominational churches which manifest similar characteristics and often network among themselves (also called “post-denominational” churches).
  61. MCE seemed to attract even a lower class of people, but since these churches were city- wide, the majority of the people could be classified as lower-middle. Although initially AGV attracted the middle-upper sectors of Perú, it now draws from the lower-middle classes.
  62. All of them used at least some worship songs from Marcos Witt, a well-known Latin American worship leader.
  63. This struggle touches on a very important ecclesiastic question. Are the cells the church or are they an instrument to bring people to the church? Ralph Neighbour and others would strongly suggest that the cells are the church although in most of my case study churches it seemed that the cells were simply an arm or instrument of the local church (for the purpose of evangelism and edification). MCE was the only cell church moving in the direction of declaring that the cells are the church.
  64. When publicly declaring how many people are in these churches, the cell attendance figure was always given. In fact, CCG did not have a celebration attendance goal and MCE did not even know how many were attending their celebration service on a weekly basis.
  65. I am thinking here of the Pure Cell model handed down from Cho’s church in Korea and later generalized by Ralph Neighbour as being the “Pure Cell model”.
  66. They used a Pure Cell model (geographical districts with top leadership over these areas), but also demonstrated a great deal of creativity in leadership training, cell multiplication, and team ministry.
  67. At MCI and AGV the pastor’s wives are vice president and co-senior pastor respectively.