To win an area this large presents many challenges. We need a workable plan. Our strategy is based on biblical principles and years of fruitful experience in our base city of Santarém. What God is doing in the city of Santarém (a city of just 200,000 people) is a picture of what He is preparing to do across the whole Amazon region! Here's how we're moving forward:
1. Establish Strong Bases in Key Cities
PAZ has established 15 bases, all but two of them are located in the nine Brazilian states that lie within the Amazon Basin. The base in Santarém — started at the end of 1976 by PAZ founders Luke and Christine Huber — was the first. When starting a base, initial resources are concentrated on the base city to develop strong missions-minded churches. As these churches grow, they become self-sufficient and able to reach out.
These bases are the staging points for reaching out into the vast unreached areas around them. Most bases are separated by hundreds of miles — miles exaggerated by the rugged terrain and lack of developed highways. PAZ's church-planting efforts have even reached the borders of Venezuela and Bolivia and we have already started our first churches in neighboring countries (which also lie in the Amazon Basin).
2. Grow ADM Church Structure
Developed in Santarém under Pastor Abe Huber, our churches use the Apostolic Discipleship Model, or ADM (Modelo Discipulado Apostólico in Portuguese). This vision has had so much success in evangelism, disciple-making and quality church growth that pastors and leaders come from all over Brazil each October to the ADM Conference in Santarém. Here they learn how to implement this vision.
In essence, the vision is this: before a church plant even begins, a cell group (small group or home church) is started and people are won for Christ. This cell group is led by a fully committed disciple of Christ (typically a local worker from the larger mother or base church). The purpose of our cell groups is to grow and multiply. This happens while raising up the next new leaders in the cell group. As cell groups multiply, the local church is born and eventually a building is needed.
Each member is encouraged to participate in the heart of the ADM structure, which is one-on-one discipleship. One-on-one discipleship has been a key component to maintain quality while growing rapidly, putting ministry into the hands of the members.
3. Develop Church-Planting Ministries
We develop key ministries that aid in church-planting, such as medical, water filter, education, construction, work programs, aviation and more. For example, a medical team will arrive in a target community via boat and host a health clinic while the water filter team installs filters. Each night the team, in collaboration with the river missionary, holds services, preaching the Gospel and winning converts. At the end of the trip, cell groups are established and a new local church is born, putting ADM into practice right away!
4. Transplant a Healthy ADM Orchard to Start a New Base
When starting a new base, we’ve found we are more successful when we send out a team of Brazilian pastors and leaders that have already worked together and born much fruit in the MDA vision than if we send out just an experienced couple. It's as if we were transplanting an entire healthy orchard of fruit-bearing trees rather than just one fruit-bearing tree. Our last three base plants have operated in this fashion and have been our most fruitful base plants yet. The base plant in Fortaleza was a team 40 families lead by missionary/pastor Abe Huber and in 6 years have grown their church to over 4,000 people and planted 50 churches!
Next Step in Santarém, PAZ Headquarters
The church in Santarém is unified like never before; growing like crazy and making thousands of new leaders. To try to accommodate all our members, there are over 60 services each Sunday, seven at the Paz Central Church alone! Service after service the church reaches capacity and people are turned away because of space. Therefore, plans are in motion for a 10,000 plus seat worship center that will accelerate the PAZ vision and stand as a testament to God's great favor and desire to spread His fame to all nations. It will be a training center for thousands of missionaries that will be sent out all over the Basin, Brazil and yes — the world.
And this is just the beginning, because as the base in Santarém goes, so do all the other bases and churches throughout the Amazon! We're going to need many new, committed donors, investors and prayer warriors to take the vision to the rest of the Amazon!
Now read more about the ministries we've developed that fuel the fire of church-planting.