Last Friday through Sunday I spoke to 275 Southern Baptist Spanish pastors and leaders at a two-day cell church conference near Miami, Florida. It was the first of its kind among the Southern Baptist of Florida. Even many of the high-level directors attended the conference.
Southern Baptists had shown little interest in the cell church strategy in the past. What happened to stimulate such interest? In 2000 the Southern Baptists launched a church planting initiative called “For You Miami.” The goal was to plant 100 churches between the years 2000-2005. I was told that approximately seventy churches were planted and most of them either closed or dwindled down to a handful (this goes along with the general U.S. statistics that say between 80-95% of church plants fail). There was one shining star, however, called Centro Cristiano Nueva Vida. CCNV started like the other SB churches, but it has continued to grow in both quality and quantity. And you guessed it, CCNV is a Southern Baptist cell church.
Pastor Pedro Saavedra planted CCNV in Miami in 2002, and the church has grown to thirty-seven cells, approximately 200 worshippers each Sunday, and they recently planted their first daughter church. Pastor Pedro is a student of the cell church. He has taken several trips to Elim, gone to various Touch conferences on cell church, and even sought me out for personal coaching. I had the privilege of preaching at CCNV on Sunday and was impressed by the passionate prayer, worship, and vision. I also witnessed the presentation of several new cell leaders.
Southern Baptists in general are pragmatic. The top leadership that organized the cell church conference last week realized that their people were interested in an integrated cell/celebration strategy. Florida and all the U.S. is being flooded with Latin American immigrants. Cell Church is a growing phenomonenon throughout Latin America, and many of the SB leaders and pastors settling in the U.S. are wanting to continue the two-winged church (both cell and celebration). I believe that the cell church strategy will be a key future tool for Southern Baptists throughout the U.S.