Some authors contend that BECs have their origin and inspiration from liberation theology in Latin America. Others regard the emergence of BECs as part of the concrete realization of the communitarian model of the Church (as Communion and as People of God) that they believe was promoted by the Second Vatican Council. BECs are considered as a new way of being Church - the Church at the grassroots, in the neighborhood. They are communities of disciples, whose members live in communion/solidarity, and actively participate in Christ's mission as a priestly, prophetic and servant people, and as the Church of the poor.
The earliest BECs emerged in Brazil and in the Philippines in the late 1960s - long before liberation theology became prominent. They have spread in other parts of Latin America, Asia, Africa, and in recent years in North America.