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by Eliezer Bonilla
T HAPPENED NATURALLY. That’s way; within nine months our average were never implemented. They had the
how I describe the two churches attendance is reaching 300 in worship. right motives and they were bathed in
that Abundant Life has seen grow At Abundant Life we’ve been able to prayer, but they were never moved to the
from zero to thriving Spirit-filled harness the spirit of the harvest by engag- implementation stage.
communities. In the span of five years, ing in church planting from within. Our Our experience has taught us that no
our congregation has set out to expand focus lies primarily on two basic princi- one will be able to foresee all of the
the kingdom of God by planting an ples. First, growth comes as a direct result unknown factors of church planting.
extension of our church in totally differ- of a strategic and concerted effort. When Nevertheless, we’ve launched in faith and
ent locations. One was planted by default the vision is cast from within, it is much adjusted along the way. Now, we can say
when a faithful couple whose commute more effective. It carries with it the most that we have two thriving congregations
to church took them four hours realized crucial element, which is natural develop- that were birthed from our very own
that it was no longer practical for them to ment. Many church plants fail to recog- DNA. They are not comprised of dissatis-
continue coming every weekend. At their nize that growth is a result of all necessary fied church folk looking for another
own request, because they did not want elements coming together at the right church, nor are they part of independent
time. These elements are both spiritual congregations wanting to join a larger
and strategic. The spiritual elements Christian body. They were nurtured from
include divine calling, spiritual warfare, the moment of inception until the time
faith, and prayer. These arise from a real- that they were birthed as healthy and
ization that planting churches is a God- thriving communities of faith. It’s all part
ordained proposition. The strategic ele- of God’s natural growth plan.
ments include timing, visioning, the right
people, and implementation. The last Eliezer Bonilla is senior pas-
one, implementation, seems to be the one tor of Abundant Life Church of
that determines if the church plant will be God, with two locations in San
to be referred to another church apart effective. Many church-plant efforts lie at Antonio, Texas, and a satellite
from what they had experienced with us, the bottom of a wastebasket because they congregation in Mexico.
it was decided that they would plant a
church in their home and community.
These were ordinary laypeople who
THE MISSION: Hands-on Ministry and Evangelism
wanted to serve the Lord. So with much For over 11 years, The Mission: School of Emerging Missional Leadership, has been
prayer, support, and effort, the church training, equipping, and commissioning young adults to engage their culture and influ-
was launched; and in five years, it has ence their world for Christ. This intensive discipleship, leadership, and hands-on min-
grown from two people to nearly 150 in a istry internship program has helped hundreds of young adults discover and pursue their
community of approximately 20,000. greatest potential by focusing on five core values: Christ, personal character, authentic
They have finished the first phase in their community, engaging culture, and fulfilling their calling.
building construction, with a project to The Mission is a residential collegiate program offering fully accredited courses
build a sanctuary that seats 500 in the through a partnership with Patten University, offering a B.A. degree in church leadership.
coming year. Former students found The Mission to be ideal for effective ministry training and
The second extension happened last now serve as pastors, youth and children’s pastors, worship leaders, and missionaries
year when we realized that we needed to throughout the United States and the world. Other graduates are fulfilling God’s call on
have a strategic place in the north side of their lives in local schools and inner-city ministries, caring for the physically disabled, as
our city to reach the harvest. With faith houseparents in orphanages and teen pregnancy centers, operating Christian coffee-
and motivation, we launched the second houses, directing summer camps, and in marketplace ministry.
of what ultimately will be five outreach The Church of God currently has seven programs operating: in Georgia, South
centers in our city by 2017. To our sur- Carolina, Maryland, Texas, Florida, California, and Uruguay.
prise, this first church plant is well on its
18 EVANGEL • APR 2009
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