Like a mighty army, moves the Church of God. Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod. We are not divided. All one body we — one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
Those words — the third verse of the beloved hymn Onward, Christian Soldiers — come immediately to mind as Rigoberto Reyes tells of church-planting ministry. Pastor Rigo, the Director of Ministry in Central America and the Caribbean for Missions Door, is building an army for Christ, and its ranks are growing at an unprecedented pace.
On September 14, the eve of Independence Day in Central America, Rigo presided over a ceremony to appoint 17 new indigenous missionaries — our single biggest appointment of missionaries in one day in the history of Missions Door. “It was a great day of joy and celebration,” Rigo said.
These 17 men, from Honduras and El Salvador, have been working with missionaries for 10, 15, even 20 years in some cases. Three years ago, they started training with Rigo through the BEE (Biblical Education by Extension) program, which provides the foundation for a strategy to plant churches.
“It was very difficult for them. Some don’t have computers or phones. But they are the best church planters I’ve ever met,” Rigo said.
Growth through “Rabbit” Strategy
Over the past five years, the 20-25 men under Rigo’s guidance have planted approximately 200 churches in Central America. Now that his team has grown to more than 40, Rigo has an ambitious goal for 2020: plant an additional 100 churches.
“That’s 2.5 churches per missionary. We can plant 15-20 churches in each country,” Rigo said.
Rigo is confident they will meet that goal because of the quality of men being appointed. One of the new missionaries, a man from Honduras who accepted Jesus in 1979, has already helped plant approximately 36 churches. “He has done this without any support whatsoever. Now, he is training leaders with the BEE program, and he himself has a goal to plant three churches in the next year.”
BEE is a three-year program. The first phase is studying. The classes focus upon biblical content as well as character and skills development. Studying is done in groups of eight. Then, six months later, they begin the teaching phase. Each member begins to mentor eight more people in discipleship — while continuing to learn more themselves.
This is church-based theological education, training people in ministry while doing ministry. That’s important, Rigo said. “It’s not just what you study, it’s not just what you teach — it’s what you do. You must constantly be doing something. That’s how churches get planted.”
The Missions Door Churches in Central America are much smaller than those found in the United States. Rigo estimates that the largest church in Central America is probably no more than 300 people.
“When you are a church planter, you have the rabbit style and the elephant style,” Rigo said. “Rabbits have babies three times a year, sometimes 8-9 babies per litter. We don’t have elephant churches. Elephants have babies once every five years. We are thinking of multiplication of these churches rabbit style.”
How You Can Help
Missions Door has been engaged with the BEE program over the past three or four years, in connection with BILD International. BILD provides a 94% discount for anyone in Central America, which translates into a cost of $20 per month.
“The unemployment rate throughout Central America is 40-45%,” Rigo said. “Those who are working typically earn $5-$7 daily. When you have a family to support, it’s very difficult to come up with $20 a month. Many are sacrificing food, suitable clothing or even adequate shoes in order to participate in our pastoral program.”
The 17 new indigenous missionaries are in the Pastoral Program. Among Rigo’s group of 40 missionaries, seven already have their bachelor’s degree; others are working toward their master’s and doctorate degrees.
“Already we have seven missionaries in the doctorate program, and many are ready to study for the pastoral degree. Our prayer is that in 5-6 years, we will have enough men in the program that we will have our own university under the umbrella of Missions Door,” Rigo said.
That’s another ambitious goal, but first things first: The goal to plant 100 new churches in Central America in 2020. Yes, an army of Christian soldiers is being trained in Central America to do just that. Pray for them.
“I know if we have support, they are going to do great,” Rigo said.
Onward, Christian soldiers!