We’ve been forming our strategy in fits and starts for years. In some ways, aspects of it were decided before we did anythings else. Those who first banded together in the final months of 2001 already knew that, within the context of South America, we would undertake an urban mission.In order to narrow our options, we participated in a research project that had two important criteria: prospects would be cities of 500,000 or more and have no “significant” Church of Christ presence. Thus, whatever we did, it would be a “frontier” church planting mission in a South American urban environment.
A great many questions followed, however, and we have done our best to answer those that demanded an answer at this early stage—there are many others that will have to be answered when we are not quite so ignorant. Now, to start, let me say that few of the people who write about formulating a strategy are exactly in agreement on what a strategy is, much less precisely how to create one. In general, I assume that strategy is what we intend to do to accomplish our goals and tactics is how we intend to do it. It’s easy to get goals, strategy, and tactics muddled on paper, but I intend to share here the general what—our strategy. An important question accompanies all of the above: Why? On the basic level of responsibility, we have to account for the legitimacy of our strategic choices. On another level, to whatever extent our strategic choices are, let’s say, unorthodox—I intentionally refrain from saying “novel”—to that extent the burden of the Why? is increased. So, we’ve done due diligence, but I will leave the theory behind our strategy for another time. At this point, we simply want to let our supporters and friends know how we expect things to go.
The following is the summary portion of our working strategy document:
We intend to evangelize second generation migrants of nominal or syncretistic backgrounds in Arequipa, Peru. We will begin with Urbanización (a large sector of the city) Miraflores. Both missionary families will live in Miraflores in the manner of their neighbors and attempt to establish relationships. During the initial year, the primary objectives will be language acquisition, acculturation, and identification, with secondary emphasis on demographic and felt-needs research. During the second year, the emphasis will shift to relational ministries and the first developmental project will initiate. At the end of the second year, many neighbors will be positively disposed toward the faith and lifestyle of the missionaries. Each couple will be significantly involved in at least three social networks. Each couple will have at least six ongoing Bible studies at the opening of year three.
As the first disciples come to faith, the missionaries will gather with them in their homes for Sunday worship. New believers will immediately begin co-evangelizing family and friends and will immediately begin training to host and facilitate a church meeting in their homes. Those who evince leadership gifting will begin practicing leadership immediately. Each Christian will participate in two regular discipling relationships: (1) a weekly growth group of two or three believers focusing on repetitive Scripture reading and prayer and (2) a weekly mentoring group with a missionary. Lastly, every Christian will have a chance to serve the needs of those around them through the developmental ministries of the church. The second project with initiate in year three.
A church will be constituted by two or three believers gathered together. Congregations will grow to 12-15 believers and then multiply. Every house church leader will always have a leader-in-training preparing for this moment. As the number of new converts grows, the missionaries will begin focusing their mentoring on how to mentor others, so that the first converts can mentor new converts. As the number of leaders grows, the missionaries will institute a cascading structure for the dissemination of training and information, in which initial leaders are responsible for passing on training to newer leaders. All leaders will meet together weekly for training and accountability. By year six, at least two or three leaders will be equipped to facilitate the cascading structure, and at least two or three Christians will be equipped to steward developmental ministry resources. At this point, the church network will engage in its own vision casting and strategizing to reach the entire city. The missionaries will shift to an equipping emphasis to serve and facilitate the church’s vision.
In our experience, it surprises many people that we will take two years before launching into the “evangelistic” ministry proper, so don’t be surprised! Our belief is that we must first become learners and members of the Arequipeño community. Finally, let me say in print, we will adapt our strategy at need. We know! Things won’t go according to plan. Whatever happens, we will do what we must to glorify the name of God.