Late 80s, Dominican Republic – eighteen-year-old Felix Abreu sits, entranced by the words of his bible study teacher. It feels like he was being introduced to Jesus all over again. He could barely keep up. How is that this teacher has only been in an evangelical seminary for two years? Felix spent four years in a Catholic seminary, and yet he’s learning so much more now.
From Catholicism to Church Planting
Felix was raised in the Dominican Republic. From adolescence, he had a desire to serve the Lord. He enrolled in a Catholic seminary at the young age of fourteen, but four years later realized it wasn’t the path for him. He left and headed to the city of Santo Domingo where he was invited to a bible study by a friend. At that study is when he became enthralled by the bible teacher. The teacher knew much more about the bible than he did and had only been in seminary for half the time he had been. Felix knew he had to attend an evangelical seminary.
In 1990, he enrolled in an evangelical seminary in Guatemala. Three years later, he returned to the Dominican Republic to help revitalize a dying church, along with his wife. He served there for fourteen years and during that time, planted three other churches. Unfortunately, two of them closed and he began to question his missionary work.
Multi-Campuses and House Churches
Felix took a one-year sabbatical in Phoenix where he reflected on his work. He questioned why the churches he planted didn’t work out and began digging for answers deeply in God’s word. In 2008, he returned to the Dominical Republic with a new idea. He would plant one church with one leadership team and different campuses. For the next four years, he would plant five campuses using this method. He was happy and it was working well, but in 2014, he felt the Lord putting something else on his heart – house churches.
Felix wasn’t content with the status quo. “I believe in a creative God who does something different every day. I see the church as a mission from God that’s constantly changing, not static,” he says. He wanted to see church the way it started with the apostles. He studied the book of Acts and the epistles more in depth, and he started falling in love with organic, smaller churches. Back In seminary, he had a conviction that he couldn’t disciple more than fifty people. That number was dropping down to twenty.
Deconstructing the Western Church
House churches come with challenges. It’s often difficult to remove from peoples’ minds that the church is the body of Christ, not building or temple. Felix spent 2014 through 2018 preparing for the transition. The two years after that was spent focusing on deconstructing the concept of a westernized church and thinking about more biblical churches. Interestingly, the pandemic didn’t affect them that much; by 2020, they had already transitioned to home churches. He did lose people because of the pandemic and transition, but he also gained people. Incredibly, Felix and has team have gone from having five church campuses to twenty-seven home churches! They have three focuses:
- Plant home churches
- Develop leaders
- Revitalize home churches so they can grow and multiply
“Leadership and family have been crucial topics,” he says. One story he shares encompasses those topics perfectly. There was a couple in his church whose children died within the span of three months. As their pastor, he walked with them and watched the Lord work. The couple decided to quit their jobs and serve the Lord alongside Felix. The church walked God heal them in their grief. They’ve been an amazing example of moving forward rather than remaining in their sadness.
The Dominican People
Felix desires that house churches be agents of change and for the gospel to transform the Dominican Republic. In the last ten to fifteen years, the Catholic church has gradually lost influence while the evangelical church has grown. Today, around 25-30% of the population identify with the evangelical church. However, Felix is concerned this is just a number and not a transformation of the country.
The Dominican Republic people have to deal with corruption in politics, businesses, and even churches in their country (primarily drug trafficking). Western colonization has, unfortunately, influenced the citizens to focus on achieving wealth above all else. Better healthcare is a need, along with education, although that’s improving. The religious background is still mostly Catholic but has elements like voodoo in it because of the infusion of Hispanic and African culture. There’s a growing population of Haitian immigrants as well (around 2 million compared to the 11 million Dominicans). “Dominican culture is happy,” Felix states, with a smile.
Prayer for Felix
Missions Door has proudly been supporting Felix as a missionary since 1993 and before that while he was in ministry. He’s grown from being the director of the Dominican Republic to the director of the Caribbean. He asks for prayer in the church planting movement in the Dominican Republic and beyond Latin America. He would love wisdom and health as he trains indigenous leaders. Lastly, he desires to influence other Missions Door missionaries to embrace an organic church model instead of just the western one.
If you’d like to support Felix, you can do so at his page here.
How Can You Help
The Great Commission is what spurs us to do indigenous ministry. Around the world, Christians are bringing the Gospel to their people and making disciples in their hometowns. How will you be a part of this?