Original Research

Ecclesiola in ecclesia in Brazil from a missio Dei perspective: An autoethnographic case study of four Presbyterian churches in Brazil

Phillipus J. Buys, Edilson B. Nogueira
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 53, No 1 | a2378 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v53i1.2378 | © 2019 P.J. (Flip) Buys, Edilson Botelho Nogueira | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 May 2018 | Published: 24 January 2019

About the author(s)

Phillipus J. Buys, School for Ecclesiastical Science, North-West University, South Africa
Edilson B. Nogueira, School for Ecclesiastical Science, North-West University, South Africa

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This study represents an unconventional qualitative research genre, autoethnography, which is not commonly found in qualitative research circles, and is rarely used by researchers in South African and Brazilian social science. The main question behind this research is: Why were some Presbyterian churches in Brazil challenged by a significant loss of members while others were experiencing ‘times of refreshing’ (Ac 3:20)? There are even statistics of extraordinary increase in the participation, interest in and outreach to their communities of some churches. The question why some churches belonging to the same denomination, in the same city and presbytery and with some liturgical likeness, for some reason, were growing while others were shrinking, became a driving question leading to this research. Four growing Presbyterian churches were chosen because all four were using small group ministries. They were situated in four different cities, one in the northern part of Brazil, three in the southwest, and they were using the same method, with their own adaptations. Each of them experienced gracious growth within their own context. Through their ministries, ordinary people were doing ordinary things with extraordinary results of radiating the universal priesthood of all believers, exercising a missional witness and reaching out to a world in need. This article aims to consider their motivation, the challenges they experienced during the implementation of small group ministries, the positive and negative aspects of the process, the lessons learnt and possible application for the revitalisation of Igreja Presbiteriana do Brasil (IPB) today.


autoethnography; ecclesiola in ecclesia; church revitalization; Iglesia Presbiteriana de Brasil (IPB)


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