I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow. (I Corinthians 3:6-7)
“Eleven leaders of the church wrote a letter to the president of the convention asking for my resignation,” Pastor Israel Buen Rostro told us. “They told him that I was stirring up trouble, that I wasn’t even Baptist. It was a very difficult time.”
What offense had Pastor Israel committed to cause such an uproar among his church leadership? Introduce the concept of small group ministry through cell groups. He wanted to do away with the traditional Wednesday prayer service and the Friday Bible study, and in their place hold cell groups in homes. Change is never easy. When you’re up against Baptist traditions, watch out!
The president of the convention listened to the concerns of the leaders, and then held a congregational meeting with the entire church. The majority voted to allow Pastor Israel and his family to stay, and what’s even more amazing, only two of the eleven church leaders decided to leave the church. Of the nine that remained, all are now hosting or leading cell groups in their homes. God indeed works in mysterious ways!
Pastor Israel wanted every member of his church to be involved in a cell group. Each cell has a leadership team of three. One facilitates the discussions, one is the host, and one arranges for childcare. These leadership teams meet with the pastor early in the week where he trains, encourages, and prays for them, laying out the text that will be studied in each cell group that week. Any questions and/or concerns are addressed. This meeting is critical to equipping the leaders on a regular basis.
The cell groups are evangelistic in nature. The goal is for every person in each cell to invite at least one new person to the group within a one year period. After that person begins attending, then the goal is to see that person make a decision for Christ and be baptized. Once your first invited person is along the path of discipleship, then you invite another person. Pastor Israel shares that if every person commits and follows through on inviting just one new person, your church will double in size in just one year. And that’s what happened!
Getsemani, the church he pastors in San Jose, now has over 300 people attending on Sunday mornings. Most are new Christians. Due to the effectiveness of their cell group ministry, he is baptizing 10 to 15 people EVERY MONTH! These are new converts, not people switching allegiance from other churches. He says, “People are hungry for the Word of God. You just have to give them the opportunity to hear it.”
His wife, Niki, who is a leader of one cell group, shares how important prayer and follow-up is with each person that comes. After one new person in their group didn’t show up one week, she called him and discovered he had lost his job. The next day the members of the cell group were at his door with a dispensa (bag of essential groceries) and words of encouragement. Another woman missed a week and it was discovered that she was sick. Again, the members immediately organized a visit and a meal to her family, also praying for her recovery. “We respond with love in action,” Niki said. “When people know that you really care about them, they keep coming back.”
Getsemani’s growth through cell groups has inspired the churches in La Paz as well. On a recent Sunday, Pastor Guillermo challenged the members of El Mesias to launch a cell group ministry to reach their neighbors and friends for Christ. He desired to start with 12 cell groups and thus needed 12 small group leaders. Eleven people came forward at the close of the service in response to his challenge. God is on the move at El Mesias!
Please continue to pray for the small group ministries of Getsemani, El Mesias, El Buen Pastor, and the First Baptist Church of La Paz. San Jose, Los Cabos and La Paz are the three largest cities in Southern Baja. We win them for Christ and we transform not only the next generation, but also half of the Baja Peninsula! Kingdom movers and shakers. Are you one of them?
Serving as your ambassadors in Mexico,
David and Joyce
La Paz, Mexico