A few years ago we heard about the church in Bogotá, Colombia and about Cesar Castellanos who was pastoring that church. There were rumours of incredible growth and revival. Tens of thousands were members in the church.
The senior pastors of Metro church Sunderland (UK), Ken and Lois Gott, met up with the Colombian pastor in Wales, in circumstances that can only be described as Divine. The Gotts flew to Bogotá, invited by Pastor Cesar Castellanos. They were convinced that they had witnessed a church to whom God had given the strategy for church multiplication through cells in the 21st century – the wineskin for revival.
The strategy (also referred to as The Vision) did not come cheap. The pastors Cesar and Claudia Castellanos paid a very high price. Several years ago they were attacked and robbed in their house and later nearly shot dead while in their car at a traffic light (with their four young daughters). They had to be taken to the States to recover. So it’s worth listening to what they have to say.
Because of the relationship between Pastors Ken and Lois Gott and Pastors Cesar and Claudia Castellanos, our Sunderland church has committed itself to visit Bogotá regularly in order to marinate in the Vision and to catch the anointing of multiplication, brokenness, holiness and spiritual warfare that is so active in the Bogotá Church, called “Mision Carismatica Internacional” or MCI.
I had the privilege to witness the Vision at its source along with Pastor Ken Gott and other members from our church. What follows is what I saw, heard and experienced during that visit on July 20-30, 2000.
Revival Youth Meeting
After nearly 17 hours travelling we landed in Bogotá and were taken to our hotel. What struck us immediately was the fact that the church had appointed young men (some of them fluent in English) to look after us. Every one of them was a leader of cells. They had obviously learnt to apply Matt 23:11, The greatest among you will be your servant.
We went to the Saturday night youth meeting! Now, what is our European image of a Saturday night youth meeting? A handful of youths playing table tennis in a youth club? In Bogotá they fill a 26,000-seat stadium twice on a Saturday night!
The music consisted of highly charged praise to God with spiritual warfare at its core: loud and aggressive, modern and relevant. The youth leader’s talent and enthusiasm were like “nothing ever seen or heard” before. This young man, Freddie, has over 500 cells (approximately involving 5000 youths). The youth meeting is made attractive for the unsaved. Any youth will be proud to invite their unsaved friend to come along because they can confidently promise a good Saturday night out!
Only later we understood the amount of prayer and fasting that goes into the preparation for such an event. Every item on the program has been thoroughly soaked in prayer and fasting. For instance, dancers were on the stage leading the youths in choreographic warfare dance. Every one of these dancers is required to lead a holy and righteous life before they can stand on the platform. They all have to attend the dance school that teaches them (among many things) doctrine, spiritual warfare, dance, prayer, prophecy and holy living.
The youth congregation flock out of their seats into the aisle and right in front of the stage joining in with the stage dancers. We, as visitors, stood there amazed at the fervour and the sound of these young people and some of us even tried joining in, but I reckon we need more practice.
One of the songs, “Levántate Señor! (Arise Oh Lord! or Rise Up Oh Lord!)” was followed by a session in which the song leader, along with the rest of the congregation, commanded evil spirits to flee: spirits of division, hate, wickedness and other such spirits. The power and authority among that crowd of youths was unique.
At another Youth Meeting we also witnessed spontaneous Revival Praise when Pastor Cesar stepped to the microphone. Before he could open his mouth, all the 20,000-odd youth erupted into explosive jubilation with “Ole, Ole Jesus!” and “Satan! Christ has defeated you!” and an impressive demonstration of Mexican Waves. It was awesome! This lasted nearly 10 minutes non-stop.
The Word that is preached after the songs is also worth noting. You would expect a heart-rending Gospel message pleading with the youth to come forward for salvation. Nothing is further from the truth! At our first Youth meeting a youth pastor Rojas (every time ‘pastor’ is used, remember: this signifies a leader of 500 or more cells!) preached on principles of prayer; a message we all benefited from. He followed it up with a prayer that we all had to pray: the sinner’s prayer. Without any hype or emotionalism or even rousing background organ music, he asked the youths which one of them had prayed that prayer for the first time. Then he invited them to come forward because he wanted to pray specifically for them.
Without further ado nearly 500 youths came forward. Apparently this happens every Saturday night in both meetings!
I was also amazed at the wisdom that the Lord had given the leaders regarding “keeping the fruit (converts).” They surrounded the group of people who had come forward with a human fence, formed by those who are called Consolidators. These trained youth cell leaders look after the new converts. They start by encouraging those who are at the altar not to go back to their seats. Basically, they block the way! Subsequently the people are led away from the altar to a room where they will hear a short talk on salvation and they will pray the sinner’s prayer again, just to make sure they know what they are doing!
Mixed in the crowds are more consolidators who will take the contact details of every new convert and give them a free booklet about their newly found life in Christ. Within 24-48 hours the consolidator will contact the new believer and arrange a home visit in the same week. Soon after that the new Christian will be planted into a cell where he/she will be pastored. This is how they keep nearly 90% of all the new converts. Considering that approximately only 3% of those who respond at a typical evangelistic crusade in Europe end up being member of a local church, this is certainly worth noting.
Revival Sunday Services
The next day, Sunday morning, there were 3 services at the Coliseum (they meet also in other places to fit in everybody): 7am, 9am and 11am. We attended the 9am service where Pastor Cesar Castellanos preached. Again, they were expecting hundreds to get saved but the preaching was not evangelistic. It was about The Anointing. And boy, could you feel the Anointing in that place! During the praise where the youth dancers lead the congregation in dance, all the kids came out to the front to join in with the dancers. I am referring to little tots from 3 years and older. It was a beautiful sight to see them join in the praise and spiritual warfare.
When the altar call came, nearly 400 people came forward. The consolidators kick in to action again.
Every cell member is expected to be trained as a leader of cells. The training and discipling is includes deliverance from demons, breaking of curses and generational bondage, inner healing and baptism in the Holy Spirit. They are taught how to successfully evangelise, pray and fast, enter into spiritual warfare, how to live a life of brokenness and holiness before God and people. They are discipled by their cell leader and later when they are producing disciples they are mentored by a Leader of twelve.
This is one of the core values of the Vision: Each leader should pray and ask God for twelve leaders into whom he will pour out his life. Out of this will come twelve excellent leaders who are able to produce a further 12 excellent leaders.
Instead of trying to pastor thousands of people, the Senior Pastor only has to concentrate on twelve leaders whom the Lord has given him. Using this strategy he can permeate the whole of the church in Revival with leadership qualities. It’s all in the Bible (Luke 6:12,13; 2 Tim 2:2) and yet this is the first church in the world that is methodically and successfully applying these biblical leadership principles on such a large scale.
The wisdom of this is that there is no ceiling to the number of people a church can train using this strategy: ideal for an end-time harvest! By the third generation of the twelves you are reaching 20,736 and by the 5th generation you are talking about 2,985,984 leaders!
Every member of the church is properly pastored; every one of them is set free from any demonic oppression and healed from any emotional hurts. This produces an army that can multiply itself healthily!
Another core value of the vision (in a nutshell) is that the Bogotá Church actually believes that they will take their nation for Christ. They believe in the multiplication anointing that God gave to Abraham. In Christ we are children of Abraham and have inherited all his blessings (Gal 3:6ff).
Pastors Cesar and Claudia Castellanos have believed God and they are seeing that Word fulfilled before their eyes. They are now inspiring other nations to go after the same anointing of multiplication: Brazil is taking the country by force using this Vision. Central and South America are reshaping the destiny of their countries by following in the footsteps of Bogotá.
Meanwhile, back to our visit, we had (prior to the actual conference) the privilege of being taught the vision in some detail in special meetings at the Church’s offices. The speakers were from the Youth Network: young men and women in their late twenties, I guess. Each one of them had several hundreds of cells. These sessions were quickly set up for us who had arrived early for the conference. With us were groups from Venezuela, Brazil, Chile and the US. The love, self-denial and Christ-likeness of the speakers were not unique – they were typical of the whole church!
At the official conference, delegates from all over the world gathered to hear and celebrate the Vision. Every speaker, whether male or female (mostly from Pastors Cesar and Claudia’s Twelves) had the same anointing and power as their mentors. We were encouraged to go for our nations and senior pastors were encouraged to find their twelves. We were all told to go and multiply like the stars.
When Pastor Claudia held her ladies meeting a couple of weeks ago 3,000 ladies found Christ as their Saviour. However, she encouraged her ladies to do better next time: they are going for 7,000!
At one of the last meetings, Pastor Claudia released her pastors to go through the congregation of delegates and impart the Lord’s anointing. We previously had also received an impartation by Pastor Cesar himself. By faith we have received the multiplication anointing and now we need to apply it in our countries.
Applying the Vision
It was hard to say goodbye to the church in Bogotá. As our plane took off from Bogotá I was wondering: How will I ever forget the Christ-like people there? Pastors Cesar and Claudia were such lovely, approachable Christ-like people. Their leaders were just replicas of them as far as love, commitment and self-denial were concerned. The stewards who looked after us considered it pure joy and honour to serve us. How will we forget the sight of hundreds coming to the Lord in every meeting? How will we ever be content with Christian-orientated self-indulgent meetings? Somehow amidst all our meetings (mostly geared towards a blessing for the Christian), we seem to have forgotten that the Lord Jesus did say “make disciples of all the nations … and I am with you” (Matthew 28:18-20).
We know now without a shadow of a doubt, that we have witnessed a Church in sustained revival, challenging us to apply the Vision to our “small” churches in Europe. Cells and Twelves are the wineskins for Revival. If the Church could diligently apply this Vision, we would see sustained revival in Europe and abroad – not a 3 year revival which peters out at the end. However, the price is high and it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Colombia is currently best known for its drug-related crimes. However, it won’t be long before it will be best known for having one of the largest and fastest growing churches not only in the world, but in history. It is a hot spot where one can catch the Vision!
What’s going on?
More than 20,000 people (primarily youth) are crammed together in an indoor stadium in Bogotá. Large numbers of coaches drop people off. Long queues try to get in. Street vendors sell fruit and snacks all around the outside of the complex.
No, it’s not an international sporting event. It’s the church in Bogotá, Colombia, getting ready for a revival service. Actually, it’s only a tenth of the church gathering together. If all the 200,000 or more people turned up, they would have a problem: not enough seats! To make things worse, delegates from literally all around the world have turned up to witness the Bogotá phenomenon for themselves. I was one of them.
Our group (nearly 80 people) belonged to Pastors Ken & Lois Gott’s church in Sunderland, UK. But there were other groups from Kensington Temple in London (Pastors Colin & Amanda Dye) and from Scotland (Pastor Jimmy Dowds). Then there were various large groups from South American countries, US, Canada, Europe, Asia etc. 3,000 or more delegates from these parts of the world landed in Bogotá for a week’s conference in January 2001, eager to catch the Bogotá anointing and to take it back to
What you have to realise is this: The Bogotá anointing is not the kind you can just come and enjoy for yourself, like we all did at Toronto and Pensacola. We all went to those places to get refreshed and to get right with God and perhaps to take it back to our church. What God is pouring out in Bogotá is an anointing for multiplication of souls for the Corporate Church – not for individuals – not for conference junkies!
The revival in Bogotá will demand changes in our churches. The senior pastors and other leaders have the authority and influence to implement changes as God reveals these to them. Metro Church in Sunderland is very privileged to have their pastors (Ken & Lois Gott) fully behind the Bogotá Vision of multiplication. They have been able to start implementing the required changes in their churches creating a wineskin for the greatest harvest in history.
We saw a stadium holding 20,000 people that was throbbing with spiritual warfare. We saw youngsters praising God and engaging in spiritual battle. We saw spontaneous “Mexican wave” praise offerings going on around the stadium. We heard victory chants around us (“Satan! Jesus has defeated you!” and “Ole (4X) Jesus, Jesus”) led by no
man, only the Holy Spirit. We experienced praise and worship in a style that would put any secular concert to shame (dance, smoke machine, lights, professional voices – the full works). And we saw 3 or 400 people getting saved in one single meeting.
How do they do it? What is their secret?
For a detailed answer to those questions you will have to read the various books written about the Revival in Colombia (see heading ‘More Information’ further below). However, let us look at the main points of the Revival.
Their senior pastors Cesar and Claudia Castellanos believe that every church member should be trained into a soul winning leader producing leaders after their own kind training them to be leaders who are able to produce more leaders and so on.
They believe that their strongest weapon is what they have labelled as consolidation. They are aware that after most big crusades only a very low percentage of new converts actually stay rooted in Christ. So they developed, though prayer, a method to “consolidate” every new believer as soon as they get saved. They are strategically discipled and rooted in the love and purity of God, filled with the Holy Spirit and delivered from every kind of demons and generational curses. All this can happen in
matter of weeks after their salvation. This way they are retaining nearly 80% of the fruit.
The new believer is assigned to a cell and will be looked after and trained by the cell leader. Through another training module called the School of Leaders the new convert can become a cell leader himself within a year after his conversion. The new leader will keep meeting with his mentor while he leads his new cell, ready to repeat the process with his new disciples.
The whole church meets in cells throughout the week and comes together at weekends for a celebration meeting. The emphasis is not on what happens Sunday morning but what happens in the cells. Everybody is winning souls and building their downline “cells.” A pastor is someone who has 500 cells in his downline. We had the privilege to meet several of those. One of the worship leaders has 900 women cells and another one has 2,500 youth cells.
Everyone is taught that one of their main purposes on earth is to win souls and multiply.
Pastor Cesar Castellanos received a vision from God in which he understood that (in Christ) the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2,3: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (NIV) was still valid today for every Christian.
He believed God and started imparting faith to those around him so that together they would believe for their individual ‘nation’. The vision turned out to be genuine since no other church has ever seen such rapid growth through multiplication of cells. Actually, it makes sense: if we believe that the Lord Jesus is coming soon and that there is coming a great harvest, than this must be the wineskin for world evangelisation. Let’s face it: The way we’ve been doing church is now out-dated!
Another revelation that Pastor Castellanos received was that of the Twelve. Just as the Father had 12 men for Jesus through whom He multiplied himself, so also God has for every one of us twelve persons who are called to be mentored by us. Each one of the twelve has twelve who in turn will each have twelve and so on. You are called to only pour your life into twelve people and teach them to do the same. Think in 12s: 12, 144, 1728, 20 736, 248 832, 2 985 984, 35 831 808. In 7 layers of 12s you can pastor 35 million people. Following this principle you can pastor a multitude as numerous the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore without getting a nervous breakdown.
The Church has lost her first calling of world evangelisation. And the few congregations who do exceed a couple of thousands are lulled into stopping there with a feeling of “we’ve arrived!” This vision of Bogotá knows no limits! They are dreaming of winning the whole city of Bogotá; the whole country of Colombia … and then the world.
That’s why 3,000 delegates attended this conference: to take this revelation back to their countries; to challenge their congregations to dream again – of nations won for Christ.
The Life Style
However, apart from spectacular growth, there is another feature that sets this church apart from many others: Christ-likeness. All the cell leaders you meet have the same sweetness of Christ on them. The ushers are powerful cell leaders filled with Christ. The singers are soul winners and violent warriors in the Spirit. The senior pastors are full of holiness, humility and brokenness. The price tag on their achievements in the church: their very lives.
The people are taught holiness as a life style and as a weapon against satan. Because of the consolidation modules of deliverance and inner healing, the new converts are free to pursue holy living with a passion I’ve never seen before. I interviewed a young man in his early twenties who has been saved for 3 years. After one year of discipleship and
training in the School of Leaders he has produced in the last 2 years 9 cells and he is mentoring 6 leaders as part of his Twelve. “I fast one day every week,” he told me, “and every day I get up at 5am to pray for my disciples and for new souls. At the end of this year I will have 50 cells and I am believing God for 500 cells in three or four years time.”
During the week and a half we were there he led at least two persons to the Lord. By the way, he was an usher, a sort of guide looking after the UK visitors.
The reason they see so much success is that they actually live the life. Satan comes but has nothing on them (John 14:30). When they engage in spiritual warfare they achieve success because their lives are clean and they have been praying and fasting with diligence. So, don’t just look at the structure but look at the price tag.
We can’t achieve their success if we are jealous of the other pastor in our city who is so popular, or if we think we always know it better. We won’t get anywhere in this vision if we can’t submit to leaders and honour them by serving them. The devil will laugh at us if we pursue this vision but we treat our wives or husbands badly. We can’t enter into spiritual warfare for our cities if we have open windows for the enemy. We need to sanctify our lives in order to have the authority to enter into battle for our cities.
Will it Work for Me?
God is getting ready to spread this revelation world-wide because he will harvest the multitudes. First he gave us the hunger and desire for revival during the Renewal years but now he is showing us how to achieve it. We have to ask God for faith to believe that he can use “little ol’ me” to win multitudes – not just one or two. Once you connect with God’s faith you can start dreaming about your ‘nation’. Then you’ll be burdened to fast and pray for the souls that God has placed on your heart. And then, well, you’ll be a ‘fisher of men’.
Some will argue trying to find faults with the vision or with the culture or the people or even the theology. But with all due respect: it is working. They are winning souls at a rate of nearly 2000 a week. This rate is due to be multiplied as more and more are getting saved. They are winning more souls in one church than many Western churches put together!
We should be asking God: “How can I tap into what you are pouring out in our days? Help me to surrender my good ideas for your God ideas. Help me to recognise your Spirit when He is on the move!”
This anointing is working in South America, England, Scotland, Korea – all around the world it’s beginning to happen. It is not a Latin American thing. It is for the church world-wide!
This has just been an impression from Bogotá but you can visit the Church (Mision Carismatica Internacional – MCI) website at www.mci12.com. Their books and other material are just being released into the English language, but if you can read Spanish you can order the lot!
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© Renewal Journal #16: Vision (2000, 2012) renewaljournal.com
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