The church in São Paulo (Igreja de Cristo Internacional de São Paulo) was planted by the New York City Church of Christ with a team of 18 fired-up disciples in 1987. The church grew rapidly over the years and numbered in the thousands at the beginning of the new millennium. Stories abounded of radical faith, reckless abandonment, zealous passion and pure love for Jesus Christ, the community of believers and the lost.
The church in Sao Paulo was directly responsible for or involved with the planting of more than 10 churches in South America and Africa. More than 16,000 disciples were baptized in these churches in the first 16 years of their existence. At its peak, over 100 people worked for the church in São Paulo as evangelists, women’s leaders and ministry leaders. The future looked so bright.
Difficult times came about in 2003 as the church started to reevaluate some of its dynamics from the past. Confidence was lost, relationships shattered and a certain level of chaos ensued. More than two-thirds of its members left the church immediately following or in the first couple of years after the events in 2003.
For the best part of a decade, the church was unable to move on, despite the efforts of noble-spirited men and women, both from Brazil and abroad. In 2014, the church started on a path of recovery and healing. The church decided to meet together in one physical place for a number of years in order to have its unity strengthened.
Relationships began being restored, a few of them after decades of unresolved conflict, trust started increasing among members and between members and leaders. Vision was being introduced again. Disciples started recommitting their lives to Christ and his mission and leaders started being trained again. The church became financially autonomous. Young people were being baptized, including campus students. Some of them have been training to work full-time for the church. The church sent its first mission team to another city in 16 years!
At the end of last year, the time came for the church to spread out into different regions. The time also finally came for the church to officially appoint evangelists once again, and to appoint elders for the first time.
Marcelo Araujo, Ettore Macciantelli and Leandro Rodrigues had once been appointed as evangelists in the church and had led different churches and regions in different cities, but were no longer recognized as evangelists in the church in São Paulo. Edson Gonçalves and Jorge Bittencourt had led regions and churches in different cities but had never been appointed as evangelists. All of these brothers, together with their wives, were reinstated or appointed as evangelists and received the charge of advancing the church and its five regions.
Francisco Lisboa, José Antonio da Silva and Claudio de Souza have led both in a full-time capacity and as lay leaders for over twenty years in different cities and regions. Their families are an inspiration to the church as they provide leadership and wise counsel to the brothers and sisters. These three brothers were appointed as the first elders in the church in Sao Paulo. Together with their wives, they have provided maturity and stability to the church.
We are grateful as a church to have taken this next step in our faith journey in this great city, as we realize, with awe, that the grace of God has been helping us all these years. We also feel particularly grateful to the brothers and sisters in the churches in Florida, who have been long-term partners with us, helping us both financially, with leadership and with their wisdom and friendship. We are also grateful to our brothers and sisters in the Brazilian churches, who have been friends and partners with us through the thick and thin.