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Focus on the Capital City

In 1954, Roy LeTourneau began a road building project in the Peruvian jungle for his father–famed industrialist R.G. LeTourneau. Roy and his crew started the project by steaming boats of equipment up the Pachitea River and landing them at a site that they called Tournavista. From there they began the long arduous task of building a road from the middle of nowhere toward civilization.

Yet even in this remote jungle location, Roy found it crucial to be in constant communication with people in Peru’s capital city of Lima. Utilizing a corporate plane, he flew back and forth from Tournavista to Lima continually. He quickly realized the power and influence of that one city on even the remotest parts of the country.

In the fifty years since, the influence of Lima has only grown. Today, one-third of Peru’s population resides in the capital city. It is the center of government, commerce, education and communications. The same is true of the capital cities in virtually every other country in Latin America.

The massive size and influence of these urban centers are the primary reasons why CMI focuses its ministry on the capital city. It has been said that in Latin America, everyone has at least one contact in the capital. It truly is the hub of the nation. While hundreds of people move into the capital each day, change and influence radiate out.

As such, the capital city is a crucial beachhead for discipling the entire nation.

“In Latin America,” notes international evangelist Luis Palau, “it is an absolute fact: if you reach the capital city you can touch the whole nation. It’s amazing. In Latin America the capital city has enormous influence in contrast to the USA where Washington is influential but New York in some ways is more powerful. Not so in Latin America. In every single republic the capital touches the nation.”

“If we reach the cities, then the cities themselves will reach out into other areas of the country,” says C&MA Missionary David Peters. “For years in Latin America we worked in the smaller towns and villages, trying to evangelize the country in that way. As North American missionaries we felt that this was the way to go. But if we can go into the cities, into key cities, and plant strong churches in those cities, then the people in those churches go out and evangelize their family members who live in the small towns and the villages.”

Mobilize Urban Professionals

In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul says that “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Such a statement was a radical thought in the Roman world where the lines between the powerful and the powerless were drawn with extreme rigidness. Paul’s message of equality for those in Christ was revolutionary. In his day, those with power, wealth and privilege were often deemed as more favored by God. Thus writers like James admonished the early church not to show preference to the rich over the poor.

However, when we survey the majority of the missions landscape today, we find almost a reverse tendency. Much of the evangelism in many parts of the world has been in remote villages and among the poorest in society. The middle and upper classes are often devoid of any gospel influence. Praise God that so many of the world’s needy are hearing the gospel and responding. These people need to be reached.

Unfortunately, the lack of a cross-social balance in missions can create dependency. With few exceptions, people from the poorer segments of society are ill-equipped to effect nationwide transformation. This is not a reflection on them personally, but on the social realities that limit them.

So, how can you affect nationwide impact? Pastor Walter Perez of Buenos Aires, Argentina points to two key factors: “If we want to change a nation or continent for God it has to be done by national people and national leaders. That requires a strong national church. To have a strong national church you need resources and you need leadership. And people who have the ability to lead and finance the work are generally found in the middle class in Latin American capital cities.”

This is why the Encounter Model places a strong emphasis on mobilizing the urban professional segments of society. When won to Christ and properly challenged, they provide the necessary leadership and resources to advance the church throughout their nation. Moreover, they are better equipped to reach both up and down the social ladder to reach everyone with the gospel.

In addition, as a strong national church emerges, the believers in a nation are better equipped and end up doing a better job of helping the displaced and suffering people in their countries. A strong national church can prick the conscience of a nation and effect long-term social change.

The gospel is for all people. Mobilizing urban professionals is one of the most effective means for unleashing its power to change lives and change nations for God.

Concentrate Resources

In military strategy, one of the biggest concerns is spreading forces too thin. Doing so, increases the territory covered, but also reduces effectiveness. History is replete with examples of powerful militaries rendered weak because they tried to hold too much territory too fast.
The same can be true for people. Everyone knows people who are so busy doing so many things that they are incapable of accomplishing much of anything. We likewise say that such a person is “spread too thin.”

Shotgun Missions

The same applies to missions. Frequently, churches use a “shotgun” approach in missions strategy–trying to cover as much territory as they possibly can. The logic is that reaching new territories means touching more lives. However, the same limitations that govern militaries and individuals apply also to missions work. Rarely are there sufficient financial resources and adequate personnel available to be effective when people and resources are spread too thin. Attempting to cover a broader expanse can debilitate the entire enterprise.

Stronger, Faster

In contrast, one of the key concepts of the Encounter with God approach to missions is a firm commitment to concentrating human and financial resources in a limited arena. This means beginning with one church in one city. This initial church has a capacity to develop more ministries, reach more people and achieve greater impact than it would otherwise be able to dream. Such churches advance and develop much faster, quickly becoming partners in future expansion efforts. The result is reproduction by multiplication rather than simple addition.
Over time this concentrated focuses produces a network capable of generating the resources and leadership required for sustaining reproduction without dependence on outside resources. Strong churches of this nature will reach new territories and hold greater promise of discipling entire nations for Jesus Christ.

Take Small Steps

In Jesus’ last words to His disciples, He commanded them to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.
In fact, the remainder of the Book of Acts relates how this was precisely the manner in which the gospel went forth—step by step from the epicenter in Jerusalem. It spread to Samaria and other parts of Judea. When persecution began, the church took another step to the city of Antioch. From there Paul and Barnabas carried the message progressively step by step westward through the Roman Empire.

First Steps

In a similar way, CMI believes that this “small step” approach remains the best way to disciple nations for Jesus Christ. Concentrating missionaries in urban centers is an effective way that this can be done. This does not mean missionaries shouldn’t go to remote places if the Lord calls them there. It does mean that redeploying a substantial number of missionaries into cities may be the most effective way of taking the gospel to that country.

Maximizing Steps

When a missionary is sent from North America to the jungles, a huge step is taken. That step results in a tremendous gap in all areas—including housing, food, transportation, language and culture and in the ability to establish understanding between peoples of such diverse backgrounds. When a missionary from North America is sent to a capital city it is a smaller step. Some adjustments to culture, another language and they’re soon at work.

Future Steps

When the people of the city are won to Christ and challenged properly, they can go to the secondary cities—again a small step. These people in turn can go to the provinces and those of the provinces can go to the jungles.
Each group taking only a small step in systematically reaching their country with the gospel of Jesus Christ.