Compañerismo, the word the Mexican's use for fellowship, holds so much more meaning. It speaks of friendship, companionship, team work, camaraderie and harmony.
This past week I spent time with 3 senior leaders from the Mexican church, UNIFAM, visiting and having compañerismo with leaders from another church denomination OMS partners with in the Caribbean. This denomination has experienced a phenomenal blessing from God in the past few years in their church growth, something we are trying to contextualise for Mexico.
What discourages me is that the success of this church growth has been based on a few core principles that are sadly missing in so many of our churches. Without writing a full missiological thesis, (which I may do someday!), let me share some brief thoughts on these observed principles.
Every member is engaged
There are very few 'pew warmers' in their churches. Thousands of new believers are being equipped to share their faith, win new converts to Christ and disciple them. In fact their church is an observed example of 10 generations of new believers, which shows a church in action, which doesn't rely on the professional pastor to do all the work.
There is a place for the academic and thought provoking sermons, but we also need to put tools in people's hands that can be reproduced allowing the gospel to spread like wild fire. There is a generation of Christians that think going to Bible college or seminary is what qualifies you for ministry. To some degree that's true, but fundamentally God 'equips the called, he does not call the equipped'. So, sadly, many discount themselves early on because of misguided thinking.
Focus on God's kingdom rather than a church's empire
There are far too many pastors concerned about growing the empire of their church and not focusing on unity with other pastors and denominations. So long as a church doesn't have a doctrine which has gone completely off the rails, Psalm 133 tells that that when we dwell together in unity with other brothers and sisters, God commands a blessing.
The church is not the building it's the people
The folk we visited there had the 'advantage' that the government prohibits the setting up of new church buildings, so the beauty of this is that people are not held back by the need for a building in order to gather together. People gather in homes or community locations. Which is why currently in Mexico we are measuring our growth by the amount of house churches we can multiply.
The church I recently handed over, mentioned in our last newsletter, doubled in size the year I was supervising it. This was done through the small groups. The goal is to triple the size of the church in the next year, which is possible when principles like those mentioned above are in play.
Here's a picture of me presenting the new pastor and his family to the church. Quetzal was an elder whom I have been mentoring for the last year, and recently he left his job to work full-time with the church. The other picture is of the President of the denomination and me praying over them.
Hunger to pray
The last and most vital principle is the passion to pray. There is much more I could say and many other observed principles, but prayer is so vital. We have made this our main focus in Mexico this year - to raise up a new generation of prayer warriers. The country we visited clearly had prayer at the top of their agenda too. We have been saying to the folk here that "Mexico will be won on it's knees". It still baffles me that the prayer meeting is the least attended meeting in churches. If people could only fathom its power, prayer wouldn't cease in the church.
The compañerismo I had with our friends in the Caribbean this week has reminded me of the new thing God is doing in the world, with influential leaders like Francis Chan and David Platt leading the way. I believe the church will look very different in the next 30 years and will look more and more like the 1st century version. I would encourage any of you that feel like 'church' has gotten a bit stale to come have some compañerismo with us here in Mexico, or more importantly ask God to renew His vision in your heart.