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July 14, 1999






Cell group reaching Rio's rich beach dwellers
___By Wally Poor
___SBC International Mission Board
___RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil --Almost everyone has dreamed of vacationing in Rio and visiting the famed beaches of Copacabana or Ipanema.
___
key
GUY KEY greets a member of the congregation during a weekly "celebration" the group started in a hotel in the beach area of Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
But how would you feel about starting churches there?
___Guy and Elena Key, both children of missionaries who grew up in Brazil, are undertaking that difficult assignment.
___It's difficult because the people who live in these areas are mostly wealthy business and professional people.
___And it's difficult because "the Lord didn't make any more land here," Key said. That means a church must be started without a building.
___It's also difficult because the people who live in these areas are established residents with long-ingrained habits and beliefs.
___Despite these difficulties, the Keys aim to start five churches in the area by 2005 and are on their way with the first, South Beachfront Baptist Church, which has a weekly "celebration service" on Sunday nights at a hotel and four cell group meetings in member homes during the week. Their goal is to have 10 cell groups by December.
___Key began his training as a church planter in Texas. He was born in Greenville.
___"The Lord gave me different experiences to prepare me for the mission field," he said. He was youth minister at First Baptist Church of Eagle Lake, assistant pastor and youth minister at Cedar Crest Baptist Church in Azle and pastor of Floyd Baptist Church in Greenville.
___The Keys were successful church planters in the state of Sao Paulo before moving to Rio. When they went to Santos, the port city of Sao Paulo, there were 32 Baptist churches. When they left, there were 55.
___Now they are harnessing what they learned in Sao Paulo to start new churches in Rio. Their strategy is to develop a methodology appropriate to reach non-Christians.
___"You've got to think like a non-Christian if you're going to reach a non-Christian," Key said.
___The Keys work with a Brazilian Baptist Convention home missionary, Gerluce Terto.
___Together with a few believers from other Rio churches, they began with "bridge" events to which their core group could invite non-believers. This included a couple of cook-outs, a plaza musical program and a Christian magician.
___"We are doing some strategic planning with our leadership from the new church, which will help us develop appropriate methodology to penetrate closed condominiums and high-rise buildings," he explained.
___The Keys seek to form "grupos de convivencia," what church planting pioneer Ralph Neighbor called "touch groups" where people with common interests gather.
___For example, Key would like to plant a cell group among business people in the downtown area of Rio.
___"The cell group ministry feeds into the church. It is the main evangelistic branch of the church," he said. "It also is a support group which provides fellowship, Bible study and prayer support for the members."
___On Sunday evenings, the cell groups come together for a large-group "celebration" service.
___"We try to be a user-friendly church by carefully planning through each service. We're also very casual," Key said. "We try to involve as many of our core group as we can in the process. You're not going to see the pastor being up there a lot. I sit in the audience. I like what Ralph Neighbor says, 'The pastor is a player-coach.' I have empowered these people to do ministry. They are sensing new freedom to be able to minister."
___As people minister, they develop as leaders for the cell groups.
___The Keys hope not only to start five churches in the area but to model how Brazilian Baptists can multiply churches in Rio and elsewhere.
___"We hope we are being catalysts to helping Brazilians rethink how they can establish churches in the thick of urban life without being tied to the church planting model which required that an established church have a piece of property and a building," he said.
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