The role of small groups in the revitalization of the Presbyterian churches in Brazil: a comparative study
Nogueira, Edilson Botelho
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The present research aimed to demonstrate that small groups ministry is not only an effective instrument to revitalise a declining church. This ministry also provides the model experience for missional witness and action when reaching out to a world in need. Approximately 160 years since its foundation by Rev. Ashbel Green Simonton (1833-1867), the Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPB) is in need of revitalisation. Worrying signs of stagnation emerges, namely decreasing membership, inefficient evangelisation, loss of power to influence the society, and the rise of a growing non-religious population. These tendencies occur within a cultural context of religious plurality, which leads IPB to its largest challenge to date: revitalise to survive. The small groups ministry, as an instrument of renewal, has been present through different periods of the Christian church’s history, ranging from the New Testament through the Middle Ages and the Reformation with Martin Bucer to the system of John Wesley and the Methodism in the 18th century. Each of these models offer a particular contribution and inspiration to a current Brazilian Presbyterian model of small groups ministry. To investigate the effectiveness of such a model, the present research made use of an article published in In Luce Verbi. For the research reported in this article, four senior pastors from Presbyterian churches were interviewed on their experience of establishing a small groups ministry within their communities. These churches disclosed their successes and failures with a view to inspire and guide others in the process of revitalisation. The present study had a biblical, theological, and historical focus and applied the research design of a qualitative empirical approach. The research was informed by missiological reflection on the Scriptural, Christian principles of ‘community’. In the process, a model of small groups ministry was proposed to align with the traditions and practice of the current Reformed Presbyterian Churches in Brazil and similar diverse contexts from developing societies globally.
- Theology