AN IDEA WORTH SHARING:
AN OVERVIEW OF IDEA MINISTRIES
The general purpose of our Church Growth Studies Program, CGSP (known in Latin America by its Spanish acronym, PROLADES: Programa Latinoamericano de Estudios Sociorreligiosos), is to help Christian leaders make a critical self-evaluation of their own churches and organizations, and to assist them in developing more fruitful strategies and programs, in order to achieve a greater measure of holistic church growth for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom.
Needs, Goals and Priorities
"Discovering the facts, planning new strategies" is more than a slogan because it puts the emphasis where it belongs: research is not an end in itself, but rather a means to an end. Christian leaders need to have a better understanding of the facts about where they are today and where they have come from in their organizational growth and development, so that they can determine with greater certainty their needs, goals and priorities for the present and future of their ministries.
Stewardship, Fruitfulness and Quality Control
Christian leaders and their organizations, both individually and collectively, should be moving progressively from "fruit" to "more fruit" and "much fruit" in their obedience to the risen Lord. Church growth research helps us to understand better the dynamics of holistic growth in a specific context, and to use more effectively all of our resources to increase out fruitfulness and the quality of our fruitbearing in behalf of the Kingdom of God. He is the masterbuilder and we are His coworkers, equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit, in the building and expansion of His righteous Kingdom among men. Jesus taught His disciples that a tree is known by the kind of fruit it bears. We might say that church growth researchers are specialists in the area of Christian stewardship, or "fruit inspectors" in God's vineyard.
Research Results as Tools for Strategic Planning
The information that is gathered, tabulated, analyzed and shared by church growth specialists must be utilized as a tool for evaluation and planning by Christian leaders if it is to help us bear more and better fruit for the glory of God. The result must be the holistic or integral growth of the Body of Christ; it must be Kingdom growth. The signs of the Kingdom must be seen in the lifestyle of God's redeemed people, whose purpose is to declare forth the glories of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Measuring Kingdom Growth may be difficult at times, but it is our Christian duty; it is a matter of good stewardship of God's resources.
Our Committment to Holistic Church Growth
IDEA is committed to helping the people of God be more obedient to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment by training Christian leaders in the field of "holistic church growth." Our published reports and audio-visuals help Christian leaders and their churches evaluate patterns of church growth or decline within their own context. Comparative church growth studies help local churches, as well as whole denominations, understand more clearly the dynamics of organizational growth and their potential for growth at the local, regional and/or national levels, in relationship to the Body of Christ at large. Our materials help church and mission leaders determine priority areas for outreach, both geographically as well as in reaching neglected people groups with the Gospel of Christ.
IDEA team members share this information with Christian leaders in programs of formal education, like IMDELA's School of World Mission in Costa Rica and its extension programs in other countries, and in programs of nonformal education, such as seminars, workshops and conferences.
Our Historical Development/Types of Studies
Originally, our research program was under the sponsorship of the International Institute of In-Depth Evangelism (1974-1983), then it became part of the newly established Missiological Institute of the Americas (1983-1987); both of these organizations are based in Costa Rica. Since October of 1987, PROLADES has functioned as a separate ministry affiliated with IDEA and located in Southern California. Its founder and director is Clifton L. Holland.
The following kinds of studies have been conducted in Central America by our ministry since 1977 under its origional name, the Central American Socio-religious Studies Project (PROCADES, in Spanish), and since 1983 we have worked on similar studies in other regions of the Americas under our new name, the Latin American Socio-Religious Studies Program (PROLADES).
1. National Directories of Protestant Churches and Service Agencies, also by cities and regions within a country.
2. Resource Manuals for Christian Leaders
3. Historical Studies: "Status of Christianity Country Profiles" and "Histories of the Protestant Movement" by countries, regions and cities.
4. "Unreached Peoples" Studies
5. Church Growth Case Studies
6. Public Opinion Research on religiosity, religion and social change, conversion influences, evangelical self-image and its public image, etc.
7. Profiles of New Religious Movements (NRMs)
8. Research-in-progress reports on current research projects
9. Directory of all known Religious Groups in a particular country
10. A Study of Ethnic and Religious Diversity in a particular region (e.g. Central America), country (e.g. Costa Rica) or subregion (e.g., the San Jose Metropolitan Area)
Specific Objectives of CGSP/PROLADES:
1. To study the history, context and dynamics of church growth in each country of Latin America and the Caribbean region, including Hispanics and Caribbean peoples in North America, in order to help Christian leaders understand more fully the origin, development and holistic growth of the Christian Church in each specific context throughout the Americas.
2. To analyze the factors that affect holistic church growth at the congregational and denominational levels, within each of the various religious subsocieties throughout the Americas, including the growth dynamics of non-Christian religious movements.
3. To discover those geographical areas and sociological groups (ethnolinguistical units) that are the least evangelized and discipled by the Christian Church in the Americas.
4. To communicate the results of our research to Christian leaders in order to increase their understanding of the unfinished task facing the Christian Church in the Americas, and to help train and mobilize churches and service organizations in obedience to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment in our generation.
5. To provide informational resources for Christian leaders to assist them in the process of evaluation and planning toward the development of more fruitful strategies and programs, in order to achieve a greater measure of holistic church growth for the glory of God.
6. To help encourage the formation and development of permanent national research teams and resource centers (i.e., PNRF = Permanent National Research Function) in every country of the Americas, and to assist in the training of researchers and the teaching of courses on missiological research. This will also be done in the context of major urban areas: Permanent City Research Functions (PCRF) and urban resource centers (such as COULD in Los Angeles and CENII in Mexico City).
7. To promote the development of an international network of Christian researchers and organizations with a research function, in order to encourage and assist one another in our mutual endeavors for the cause of Christ throughout the Americas.
The following services are offered through our programs of missiological research and communication throughout the Americas:
1. Direct research designed and implemented by PROLADES (example: a series of Church Growth Studies on Central America conducted during 1977-81; follow-up studies on Costa Rica, 1982-88; and updates on other countries, 1986 to present).
2. Project management of studies sponsored by a coordinating committee composed of representatives of different organizations (example: "A National Study of Hispanic Church Growth in the USA," 1987-1991).
3. Technical assistance to other organizations (examples):
CONSORTIUM FOR URBAN LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT (COULD): Greater Los Angeles Metro Area Study, COULD Resource Center development, Unreached Peoples Research, Study of Ethnic and Religious Diversity in GLAMA, etc., 1991-1997
EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE OF COSTA RICA: National Directory of Protestant Churches, Regional Case Studies: Cartago, Research-in-progress reports, National Database on Religion, National Directory of Religious Groups in Costa Rica, etc., 1997 to present.
HISPANIC ASSOCIACION FOR BILINGUAL-BICULTURAL MINISTRIES: Case Studies on Bilingual Churches, National Hispanic Database Project, 1988-1994
HISPANIC ASSOCIATION FOR THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION: History Project and Survey of Hispanic Church Growth in So. California, 1986-1995
LATIN AMERICA MISSION / CHRIST FOR THE CITY PROGRAM: Caracas, Medellin, Mexico City and Miami, 1986-1991
LOGOI PUBLISHERS: Program evaluation of FLET in Southern Argentina, December of 1987
WORLD VISION INTERNATIONAL: Haiti, Honduras, Costa Rica, Mexico City and MARC, 1977-1993
VELA / Mexico City Metro Area Study, 1985-1994, 1998; National Study, 1994-to present
4. Consultive Services: creative design of research projects, organizational development, project planning, program evaluation, human and material resource development, etc.
5. Development of Permanent National Research Functions (PNRF) and National Resource Centers (NRC) in Latin America and the Caribbean: we are networking with evangelical organizations in 25 countries to facilitate the establishment and development of these research programs and resource centers as a means of empowering and training Third World leaders. Each of the PNRF/Resource Centers will continuously monitor the growth and expansion of the Evangelical Church in their nation and region, especially among the least evangelized and discipled people groups and geographical areas. Hopefully, all of these Centers will be linked soon via e-mail and public and private conferences on MAFxc (formerly CrossConnect); via the IDEA/PROLADES World Wide Web page on the Internet with each other and with members of the Latin American Church Growth Task Force (LACGTF); via modem with Global Mapping, International, in Colorado Springs, CO, for technical support for ATLAS GIS software and the Global Research Data Base (GRDB); and with other international organizations that are similarly committed to the Great Commission.
6. Training of Researchers (academic and fieldwork): this is already taking place at IMDELA's School of World Mission in Costa Rica, and now we are launching a similar effort in Mexico City in the summer of 1998 as part of the IMDELA-Mexico City Urban Studies Program (IMCUSP). The Mexico City program is a joint venture with more than a dozen programs of theological education in Mexico and a network of Christian universities and seminaries in the USA; the Academic Dean of IMCUSP is Dr. Peter Larson of the Baptist Theological Seminary in Lomas Verdes section of Mexico City, and Clifton L. Holland is the international coordinator of this extension program for IMDELA.
7. Strategic Planning and Networking with international organizations: Academia para la Historia de la Iglesia Latina (APHILA), Asociación de Educadores Teológicos Hispanos (AETH), Confraternidad Evangélica Latinoamericana (CONELA), Cooperación Misionera Iberoamericana (COMIBAM), AD 2000 Movement/ Cooperación 2000, Fraternidad Teológica Latinoamericana (FTL), Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism (LCWE), World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF), etc.
8. Fundraising assistance for organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean that desire to sponsor research and leadership development projects at the city, regional and/or national levels.
"We can reasonably assume that the Great Commission will be accomplished when at least one evangelical congregation exists for every 1,000 people in every people group throughout the world, and when evangelicals in every people group demonstrate the truth of the Gospel in their family and congregational life and in their local community--where they live, work and serve others as obedient disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ."
--Clifton L. Holland
For more information, please contact us at one of the following addresses:
Regional Office for Latin America & the
San Pedro, Costa Rica, Central America
(506) 2283-8300; FAX 2234-7682
Executive Director: Clifton L. Holland (biographical sketch)
c/o Mr. Rick Holland/IDEA Treasurer
176 Willow Avenue
Fairfax, CA 94930