Advance Magazine

Restoring Light: a mission church reborn

This spring, heavy rains pounded João Pessoa, Brazil, substantially damaging the street lights in front of Igreja Batista Regular (IBR—Regular Baptist Church). In the months that the street remained dark, the church installed a large illuminated sign that stood out far more than if the street had been lit. It was a profound metaphor of the church’s role in the world today.

Yet sometimes churches can go dark themselves. Over the course of many years, Igreja Batista Regular’s spiritual light had dimmed due to many challenges, including the death of their pastor from COVID-19 in September 2020. The BMM-affiliated Brazilian church association asked missionaries Jeff and Ivana Reiner to step in to help the once-thriving church. It had been planted by BMM missionaries Russ and Judy Gordon and turned over to national leadership in 2006.

Although the congregation had dwindled to a handful of members, Jeff and Ivana saw the church’s great potential. Located on a main street in the affluent oceanside neighborhood of Bessa, IBR stands positioned to reach people of influence. The church not only has resources to reach its community and support missions, but it also could become a hub for starting new churches.

One of the Reiners’ initial tasks was to repair the church’s physical structure, which had fallen into disrepair. The greater task was to strengthen the church’s spiritual foundation. Through months of biblical teaching and preaching, Jeff reestablished the church’s doctrinal footing.

Church members are excited about the changes and have caught the vision for their neighborhood. Using funds from a generous US donor, the church printed its own evangelistic tracts. Wearing specially made t-shirts, church members hit the streets this August to witness for Christ (photo above). They hope to develop a drama team and minister in local parks to reach people who might never otherwise take an interest in church.

The men are holding regular prayer breakfasts to strengthen the church’s male leadership. The women’s group is also thriving. At the suggestion of one of the women, the church is holding periodic English services that are attracting new visitors. Jeff regularly holds discipleship classes, and the church has welcomed several new members through baptism. In October, they held a missions conference that re-energized the church for spreading the gospel around the world.

The Reiners wrote in a recent prayer letter: “We as Christians can shine more now than ever before in our lifetimes. Think about it … what an opportunity. We are ‘the light of the world’ and a ‘city that is set on a hill.’ What are we doing to shine in this darkness? It is our desire to shine in the dark corner of the world where the Lord has placed us … for His glory.”

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