I’ve been reading the books for my upcoming classes in seminary next year. I’ll be taking a class on world missions and a class on strategies for church growth. I started reading the books for the church growth class and am learning SO much. I feel like the spiritual equivalent of a kid in a candy store when I read some of this stuff because there are so many amazing ideas that people have put into place, so many awesome movements that have resulted in not just church growth, but in souls being won for Christ, and so many people from which I can learn.
In a few of my books throughout my seminary career, I have had the opportunity to read about city-reaching churches. These are single or multiple churches whose goal and mission to make sure that every person in a given city hears the gospel of Christ. There is one story that has seriously impacted me and given me a fire to coordinate a similar program in Annapolis, MD.
I read the story of Ed Silvoso. Born in Argentina, he worked to soften the ground and make the way ready for some of the larger evangelists of our age such as Billy Graham. Eventually, illness took its toll on his professional Christian media career, but that didn’t stop him. After a short time battling spiritual warfare, God gave him the vision of a 4-star general, the urgency of a drill sergeant, and the spiritual attack strength of a battalion of soldiers.
When he was asked to help set up a visit from a Korean pastor, he went into the town of Resistencia. With a population of 400,000, this town is on the border of northern Argentina. Silvoso created his “Plan Resistencia” to take back that entire city in the name of Christ.
Silvoso began his journey by sharing with all of the pastors in the area his plan to create 500 neighborhood prayer cells to go into every neighborhood in the city and intercede for the Christian church universal. He approached all pastors to gain unity among the Christians who had been losing ground to Satan while they battled themselves for the same churchgoers. The pastors began praying regularly for this dream to take hold and for all Christians to come together in unity to take back the streets. It ended with pastors preaching in each other’s churches, sharing the sacraments and ordinances together, and sharing their offerings among the most-needy churches in the region.
Once the unity started, Silvoso created “lighthouses,” 635 neighborhood prayer cell that involved at least 2 people apiece who were responsible for a section of the city. Those 635 cells were then tasked for prayer-walking around their assigned blocks every day for 3 months. After 3 months, the walkers went up to every door in their neighborhood, knocked, and asked each and every person, “how may we pray for you?” Writing down in their notebooks the requests of the inhabitants, every single prayer request was prayed over fervently by the cell. The only request that the cell had for the inhabitants? “When God answers your prayer, make sure you come and tell us at the church so that we may rejoice together.”
This follows a true Christian model of evangelizing! In the past, an evangelist would go into a city and preach about sin, making everyone feel guilty of their sin, in hopes that they will repent. Silvoso followed Romans 2:4 in blessing the unsaved so “that they would know the reason God is good to them is because He wants them to turn to Him.”
After 6 months, the churches in the city had seen a 201% INCREASE!!! Silvoso likens city-reaching to a military campaign and provides a 6-step plan.
1) Look for and find people with whom you can create a “faithful remnant” of believers and make sure they understand that they are God’s representatives in Satan’s dominion.
2) Secure the perimeter of the city. Recognize that Satan has infiltrated the city and sin has established anxiety throughout it. Christians are to begin praying to “destroy arguments and every bit of pride that keeps anyone from knowing God.” (see 2 Corinthians 10:4-5) Churches need to practice unity.
3) Expand God’s perimeters in the city. Christians prayer-walk around their neighborhoods, praying for every home and launching a spiritual attack on the forces of darkness in the city.
4) Infiltrate Satan’s perimeter by going “behind enemy lines” through a massive “air assault” of specific prayer requests and secure a strong base of operations. Establish hundreds of prayer cells acorss the city in order to weaken Satan’s control.
5) Attack and destroy Satan’s perimeters. The church begins to “take over the city by confronting, binding, and casting down spiritual powers that rule the region.” Proclaim the message of the Gospel to every person in the city and believers get discipled through their prayer cell “lighthouses.”
6) Establish God’s new perimeter where Satan once existed. Silvoso calls this “looting the enemy’s camp,” I call this “plunder hell and populate heaven.” Christians completely take away Satan’s claim on the souls of people. Silvoso said, “unless spiritual warfare results in solid, tangible conversions which are incorporated into a growing number of churches, nothing consequential has happened.” (Silvoso 1977)
We can do this, church! It is our calling in the Great Commission to go out and make disciples! I’ve said this before. We are not called to make church attenders. We are not called to make friends. We are called to make disciples.
Reaching the city for Christ is not a new idea. It was started in the earliest of evangelism missions of the Christian church. Look at Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Lord is emphasizing cities. He first commanded them to go to Jerusalem, their city. (Towns, Stetzer and Bird 2007)
Paul started churches in major cities in each region. The city church could influence the region for Christ. Once established, then that church would influence the more rural areas.
And how does the Bible end? IN A CITY! Revelation 21:2, “I, John, saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.”
So, church, I will ask you. Have you reached your city for Christ? Are you doing everything you possibly can to get outside your four walls, impact your community, praying and interceding for those who won’t come to you? Or are you waiting for them to come?
About 4 years ago, I was teaching a Bible study at a small church. During the seventh week of the study, we had “bring a friend to church” week. When Sunday came, I looked around at the congregation and only one person brought a friend to church. I called an emergency meeting of my group of 20 in the study for right after church. Once we were assembled, I asked the simple question, “Where are your friends?” The pastor of the church, a member of the group I was running, looked me straight in the eye and said, “They know where we are. If they need us, they will find us.”
Church, are we so prideful and arrogant that we think that we hold the greatest gift but are unwilling to give it to others? Are we so blind that we think that our church is made up of perfect Christians and if we add any sinner that the balance will be thrown off? Are we so cold to love that we don’t know how to be on fire for Christ? What has happened to Romans 1:16? What has happened to Matthew 28:19? Are those just verses in the Bible that only hold meaning for some?
Church, wake up! Your cities are dying! And your communities are blaming Christ because Christians are standing around watching it die! Let’s get on fire, church! Let’s go outside and meet new people! Let’s bring EVERYONE into our church so that NO ONE will perish!
I would love to hear from you. Tell me what your churches are doing to reach the communities that they are in. Are there any organizations in your area that are already city-reaching? If so, reach out and ask them what their plan for reaching the city is.
And prayerfully consider reaching your city for Christ.
Silvoso, Ed. That None Should Perish. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1977.
Towns, Elmer, Ed Stetzer, and Warren Bird. 11 Innovations in the Local Church. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2007.