In the foothills of the eastern Sierra Madres, lives the city of Querétaro. Yes, it is very much alive. Its rich culture is derived from thousands of years of native civilization mixed with over 400 years of Spanish influence.
Unlike the grid layout of many modern cities, Querétaro is built with odd angles, unexpected curves and dead ends. A mixture of both modern development and well maintained historic beauty, comfortably set amongst its rugged surroundings, the city is a metaphor of its two million people.
Located about three hours north of Mexico City, Querétaro, like most of Mexico, is heavily influenced by Catholicism. Festivities, complete with fireworks, food, music and dance, celebrate various patrons. A much anticipated parade on December 24th celebrates the birth of Jesus. Ornate Cathedrals, shoulders back, heads high, open their doors to welcome the people.
The Catholic Church brings much good to the city, promoting many community initiatives, hosting and running scouting and other groups, and supporting education. Its long history with emphasis on tradition offers some stability to the community. More importantly, it provides an environment of spiritual openness and an interest in the Bible.
But Catholicism in Mexico has its shortcomings. Its encouragement of religious traditions often results in nominalism. Also, the church fails to draw a clear line between what is traditionally Catholic and what is just tradition. The effect is Christian faith blended with indigenous cultic ideas, particularly animism and superstition.
The evangelical church, a lesser influence historically in Mexico, is growing in the city, with Pentecostal and independent churches springing up all around. But church and denominational factions keep believers isolated from one another.
Though the city is an educational center in Mexico, theological education is weak in the church. Pastors of small churches are usually bi-vocational and cannot put enough time into ministry.
Peter Sholl, Director of Moore College in Latin America (MOCLAM) writes,“Some pastors have studied at some sort of Bible institute in a short term capacity, but the training is often very shallow, and the most important consideration is the certificate . . . rather than the depth or significance of what is learnt.”
On top of this, there are cultural difficulties. Almost everyone can read but there is little desire to do so. Sholl notes, “Probably the greatest challenge is encouraging pastors to step outside their culture, which says enthusiasm and a love for people are enough to be a pastor. They are a great start, but careful Biblical training is also needed!”
Álvaro in the city
Álvaro is a 29-yr-old In Querétaro with a mission is to spread the gospel of Jesus. He works full time for a student group in Mexico, COMPA, where he pastors, disciples and leads students in Bible study, and also organizes training and evangelistic events.
Álvaro comes from a family that highly values education. After studying engineering and working four years in that field, his decision to begin full time ministry was not met with full approval. His mother and sister are believers, but his brothers and father see his decision as foolish and wish he would return to a “real” job. Even so, he’s completed six courses from MOCLAM, and his efforts have equipped him to teach others.
Peter Sholl says the young pastor has experienced some failures in ministry, but there is fruit: “Many students have grown and have a deeper understanding of God and the Bible as a result of his ministry.” Sholl also sees Álvaro becoming an example to his students by humbly serving his coworkers and others.
Theological famine in Querétaro
With only two Christian bookstores in the city, it’s hard to find Christian books, especially ones with solid theological groundings. Even online Spanish resources are scarce. On top of this, any available resources are too expensive for most.
Donors seeking to relieve theological famine have enabled TGC International Outreach (IO) to assist Álvaro and other Mexican ministers, who’ve received El Gran Panorama Divino (God’s Big Picture) by Vaughan Roberts, and Pacto Matrimonial (This Momentary Marriage) by John Piper.
The first book helps the Christian to read each passage of scripture in light of the entire Bible, and shows how Jesus is central in the Scriptures. (When this is clearly taught, moralism and legalism are replaced by a sense of desperate need for Christ and gratefulness for His work on the cross).
With marriage on the forefronts of the minds of Álvaro’s students, they will benefit from the biblical perspective that Pacto Matrimonial applies. This book offers a great framework for conversations, and counters the cultural understanding of marriage.
Prayer for Alvaro and God’s work in Mexico
Mexico has greater access to gospel resources than many countries, and because of ministries like MOCLAM, education is becoming more affordable. Still, resources are limited.
Pray that God will sustain the ministers of His word in Mexico and keep them from discouragement. And that the Holy Spirit will help Álvaro to effectively communicate the value of deeper theological groundings.
Pray that ministries such as IO and MOCLAM will meet financial goals for continued resources for those in need.
Most importantly, pray for the good news of salvation to continue to spread across Mexico and other Latin American countries.