ATECINGO, Mexico — The lack of true discipleship at Primera Iglesia Bautista had been heavy on Pastor Alejandro’s heart for a while.
“He told us they were a congregation that has tried one event after another, hoping something would happen,” said Mike Self, pastor of discipleship and church administration at Canaan Baptist Church in St. Louis. “By the end of the third day of the conference, Pastor Alejandro explained to his members that he saw this as a holistic approach to how the church should disciple people. He made a commitment to the members that this would be the discipleship strategy and groups began forming immediately following the session.”
Self, along with fellow Canaan Baptist Church member, Bruce Klaverkamp, traveled to Atecingo, Mexico, in March to lead a three-day Discipleship Conference for Pastor Alejandro and the members of his church, Primera Iglesia Bautista. Mario Ramirez, a translator and member of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Atlixco, Mexico, assisted them.
This trip followed a vision trip that took place last summer. During that trip, Canaan Baptist Church pastors Martin Winslow and Bryan Davidson identified leadership training as a major need of the churches and associations there. They were confident Self could show the Atecingo church the tools and biblical strategies that have helped Canaan Baptist Church expand its discipleship ministry.
At the conference they discussed the purpose and strategies of discipleship and were also given a session-by-session overview of Discipleship Essentials, written by Greg Ogden. Prior to the trip, Self reached out to Ogden and was granted permission to make copies of the Spanish version of his manual and send them out ahead of time.
“Canaan Baptist Church has used this tool for about five years to multiply the number of people who are building disciple-making relationships in groups of 3-5 disciples,” Self said. “We went from having about 10 to 15 people going through it to over 100 now.”
While God worked out His overall plan for discipleship in the hearts of church members during the morning hours, He gave Self and Klavercamp the opportunity to share the gospel and pray with people in the afternoon. During these personal visits, three people became followers of Christ. As if that weren’t exciting enough; all three new believers also happen to be related to Pastor Alejandro: his son and daughter-in-law, and his son-in-law who lives with him.
“The pastor has had conversations but had not been able to get through to them so he invited them to listen to us as the missionaries and they all agreed—one even took the afternoon off from work to be there,” Self said. “We feel very strongly about their conversions. They were really tuned in and listening and his son even told us that he had never had it fully explained to him that way. He thanked us for coming into his home and said more than once that this is life changing. He cried and asked us to pray for their marriage.”
Self believes God used every moment of their trip to strengthen and encourage the church there. He said plans are already underway for him to go back in July and teach discipleship at a student camp in Mexico City.
The Missouri Baptist Convention has a partnership with the Puebla/Tiaxcala Association of churches and rather than going there to do evangelism for them, Self said Missouri Baptist churches should consider going and training people to make disciples and plant more churches.
“With a population of nearly three million people and only about 25 churches in the region, there is plenty of work to be done,” he said. “My personal feeling is that while there is a time for construction projects, backyard Bible clubs and door-to-door evangelism, that’s not their biggest need. They want and need to be trained on how to be the church. We can go there and help give them hope for the future of their churches.”