The Strengths of a Large Church

marioby Mario Vega

In its first nine years, Elim church focused its effort in planting new churches. In San Salvador’s metropolitan area (1.5 millions of people), the church established twenty-two branch churches.

However, in 1986 when the transition to a cell church was made, the objective changed and all the effort was focused on building a mega church. The closing of all of the city’s branch churches was part of that effort to concentrate all of its members in one church. All of the pastors of the church plants became zone pastors of the one larger mega cell church.

The reasons for this apparent regression was, as noted by Joel Comiskey, to cause a greater impact on society. Furthermore, it was considered that only by concentrating efforts, mega projects like the purchase of large properties, the construction of an auditorium with thousands of seats, and the purchase of a radio station, could be undertaken. Those investments were so large that it was not possible to reach them unless all the branch churches were joined.

This policy has enabled Elim church to become at the present time the owner of three radio stations, one of them with national coverage. The church also owns a television channel with national coverage.  And it has recently acquired  22 acres  of property to build its future facilities.

The most important impact, however, is the social one. The church is very well known and has a very strong social influence. In the latest public opinion poll, the Evangelical Church stood out as the institution that generates the most confidence in Salvadoran society (together with the Catholic Church). By contrast, political parties ranked as those in whom the public has the least confidence.

The effort to build a mega church has not neglected the work of planting new churches. I must recognize that planting new churches has not been one of Elim’s priority objectives. Probably the fact that the size of El Salvador is so small has been one of the reasons why we do not consider church planting a key strategy for evangelization at this time. And this is why I believe most of our branch churches are abroad and not in El Salvador.



Translation in Spanish:

De la mega iglesia a la plantación de iglesias.

En sus primeros nueve años de vida, la iglesia Elim enfocó sus fuerzas en plantar nuevas iglesias. Solamente en el área metropolitana de San Salvador (1.5 millones de personas) se establecieron 22 iglesias filiales.

No obstante, en 1986, cuando se hizo la transición a una iglesia celular, el objetivo cambió y las fuerzas se centraron en edificar una mega iglesia. Como parte de ese esfuerzo se procedió a cerrar todas la iglesias filiales de la ciudad para concentrar sus miembros en una sola iglesia. Todos los pastores de esas iglesias se convirtieron en pastores de zonas de la que comenzaba a ser una mega iglesia celular.

Las razones para esa aparente involución fue, como Joel Comiskey lo ha señalado, causar un mayor impacto en la sociedad. Además, se consideró que solamente concentrando las fuerzas se podran emprender mega proyectos como la compra de propiedades grandes, la construcción de un auditorio con miles de asientos. La compra de una emisora de radio. Esas inversiones eran tan grandes que no era posible alcanzarlas sino solamente uniendo todas las filiales.

Esa poltica ha permitido a iglesia Elim llegar a ser en la actualidad la propietaria de tres emisoras de radio, una de ellas de cobertura nacional. Además, la iglesia es propietaria de un canal de televisión también con cobertura nacional. Se ha adquirido una propiedad de 22 acres para construir sus futuras instalaciones.

Pero, lo más importante de todo, es el impacto que socialmente se ha logrado. La iglesia es sumamente conocida y su pensamiento ejerce una influencia social marcada. En la más reciente encuesta de opinión pública, la iglesia evangélica se ubicó como la institución que más confianza genera en la sociedad salvadoreña. Junto a la iglesia católica. Por contraste, los partidos polticos se ubicaron como aquellos en quienes menos confianza tiene la población.

El esfuerzo por edificar una mega iglesia no ha dejado de lado el trabajo de plantación de nuevas iglesias. Debo reconocer que no es una poltica prioritaria de Elim la plantación de nuevas iglesias. Probablemente el hecho que El Salvador posee un territorio pequeño ha sido una de las razones por las que no consideramos una estrategia fundamental para la evangelización el abrir nuevas iglesias. Y creo que esa es la razón de por qué la mayor parte de nuestras iglesias filiales se encuentran en el extranjero y no en El Salvador.

2 thoughts on “The Strengths of a Large Church

  • “The effort to build a mega church has not neglected the work of planting new churches…. Most of our branch churches are abroad and not in El Salvador.”

    This extraordinary outcome must cause a lot of rejoicing in heaven. “Elephant” churches can fulfill the command to “multiply and fill the earth,” by continually raising new “rabbit” churches, and will do so if the rabbits can refrain from nibbling on the elephants toes (Geo. Patterson).

  • Mario has some very good points here. Listen to what Becky Huber, the sister of Abe Huber, lead pastor of the Igreja de Paz movement in northern Brazil says:

    We have really seen the impact that a large cell church can have on a community. Here in Santarem, a city of about 180,000 people, we have united all our little PAZ churches to become one large church. We still use all the buildings–we have 32 celebration services on Sunday–all speaking the same language, giving the same sermon, all having the cell leadership training on Tuesday nights, all one bank account and one administration, and the results have been incredible! We have over 4,000 cells in this city,with over 32,000 people attending the cells. We have a huge social program and a very large mission vision in church planting along the rivers and in the jungles. We have planted about 400 other churches in the surrounding area. The Brazilians like to be associated with something big and exciting.

    I know you were here many years ago . . . you would not believe what God has done since then. As a mission, we have scattered across the basin. Pr. Abe Huber has moved with the cream of the crop pastors from Santarem as a church planting effort to Fortaleza 3 years ago. They now have over 2,000 already in their congregation and have planted 12 churches in neighboring towns and communities.

    All glory be to Jesus!!!! You will have to come back and visit again!

    Love in Jesus,
    Becky–for Jeff also

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