Died: José María Silvestri, Pastor Whose Small-Group Ministry Discipled Argentina

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Founder of Iglesia Evangélica Misionera Argentina died of COVID-19.

José María Silvestri, who founded the Iglesia Evangélica Misionera Argentina (IEMA) and promoted a small-group model for Christian growth in Latin America, died on September 23. The 73-year-old church leader had contracted the new coronavirus.

Silvestri and his wife, Mabel, founded IEMA (the Argentine Evangelical Missionary Church) in 1984. The church put an emphasis on grupos de crecimiento (“growth groups”): intimate weekly gatherings of about five people, which allowed for intense and sometimes transformative discipleship.

“It is in the growth group where people affirm their identity as children of God,” Silvestri wrote, “where they have a closer authority figure, the teacher whose authority was delegated by the pastors, and who can truly evaluate their spiritual growth.”

Today, the denomination has more than 2,000 ministers inside and outside Argentina. IEMA also has a radio station, a TV channel, several schools, and a medical clinic.

“He loved everything God allowed him to do,” said Andres Christian Scott, a childhood friend who became his right-hand man in church leadership. “Everything was special to him and required his full attention and effort. Pastor Silvestri had an outstanding work ethic and didn’t have a conversation topic that was not related to spreading the gospel by any means possible.”

Silvestri was born in 1947 in Rosario, the third-most populous city in the country. He began attending a Protestant church at age 12 and went into ministry in the Salvation Army. He was passionate about meeting not only the spiritual needs but the social and physical needs of his community.

IEMA’s first service was humble: A group of …

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