Anglican churches around the world share a common aim to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom and to teach, baptise and nurture new believers, which makes up part of the Communion’s five marks of mission. In many areas of the world the church is growing rapidly with new churches emerging all the time. The Anglican Church of Chile, established in 2018, is one of the newest provinces in the Anglican Communion. Headed up by Archbishop Héctor Tito Zavala Muñoz, the province continues to grow and has a very active evangelism and church planting programme. Archbishop Tito is sharing this expertise throughout the Anglican Communion as one of the chairs of the new Anglican Communion Commission on Evangelism and Discipleship.
An assistant bishop in the Diocese of Santiago in Chile, the Rt Revd Alfredo Cooper, explains how churches in Chile have been evolving fresh approaches to reach out to their communities, which has also been a learning experience for him.
He said it was very difficult to reach the middle class of Latin America. After planting a church in one of Chile’s poorer areas, he began overseeing an Anglican Church in Las Condes, which was a middle-class professional area of Chile’s capital, Santiago. He was asked to establish a Spanish speaking service for locals.
“We would ring the doorbell and nobody would answer or show any interest,” he said. “We started to pray and cry out to God, and he gave us this idea – to plant churches that grow without limits.”
When they opened the church for the first service in Spanish, one woman attended who found faith for the first time that day. Bishop Alfredo said, “She then brought her mother and she in turn brought others, and so the church began to grow.” In three years the church had grown and more than 250 new people were attending.
He said the church wanted to try to encourage people to invite their friends to big events and for those friends then to invite their friends, which would continue to snowball the evangelism growth.
Bishop Alfredo explained that gradually a few people became Christians and grew as disciples, they were also encouraged to share their faith with family and friends, colleagues, university friends and neighbours.
“Undoubtedly the gospel spread through personal relationships,” said the Bishop.
“The church also set up special events over a weekend for couples with food, music and surprises and they enjoyed it so much that they brought their friends and even if they didn’t join the church, they would come back to the next event and tell their friends and acquaintances, because they wanted them to experience it too.”
Bishop Alfredo said that gradually a culture of evangelism started to take shape.
“It was newcomers bringing in new people. Those people were discipled and motivated to evangelise and tell others about the gospel.”
“I also had to learn about new paradigms for evangelism. I took my group of new leaders out on to the street to preach, but people ran away, no one wanted to listen. It was a disaster no one even came close.”
“The young leaders took me to a house and said, ‘We know you have a good heart, we will tell you how to evangelise.’ I thought, what do they know about it…? But I listened.”
A few weeks went by and Bishop Alfredo and his wife were invited to an evangelistic BBQ.
Bishop Alfredo explained, “It was a large house, there was a TV comedian telling terrible jokes, lots of wine, I wondered what they were doing. Then the owner of the house said, ‘This is your moment, now it’s the time we have prepared for you to preach.’ They gathered round and I preached about repentance like Jonah.”
“Despite my misgivings about this methodology, the next morning in my church, many of those house owner’s friends were there.”
“It goes to show that the true act of evangelism is from person to person, friend to friend. Newcomers bringing in new people. Throughout Latin America we see millions of Christians preaching Christ, because they know him, because they are enthusiastic and because the church helps them to evangelise.”
Source: From a video on the Theological Education in the Anglican Communion (TEAC)