Byron Pellecer was born in Guatemala City where he began his faith journey in a local Mennonite Church. He is married to Hildalejandra, a native of Nicaragua, and they have two children. Byron’s passions are church planting and leadership development. He is lead pastor of Iglesia Menonita Aposento Alto in Wichita, Kan.
Led by the Spirit of Christ and according to our plan, my wife and I were aiming to become friends and rub shoulders with the Latino-Hispanic community of our city.
“I want to commit my life to Christ,” were loud and joyful words of José.
I looked around and asked, “Is there anyone else that wishes to commit his or her life to Christ?” Each and every one of those present raised their hands in affirmation.
“For God ‘so much’ loved the world that He gave us Jesus,” were words that came to mind and heart. As we drove away for the night, my wife and I began to loudly praise God. Indeed, our souls rejoiced in the LORD!
We had recently celebrated our Summer’s End Festival a picnic and potluck held at local park with an attendance of 27 people of all ages. At the park I heard some people speaking about “meaningful movies,” that is to say, Christian, faith-related movies.
My wife and I discerned that we needed to do something else as follow-up after the picnic. Watching the movie, “God’s Not Dead” (in Spanish) seemed to be the appropriate approach. Projector, laptop and a homemade movie screen were installed in the front yard of one of the house churches. We followed with a movie discussion. It was during this movie discussion that each one decided to commit or recommit their lives to Christ.
Any missional approach whether through service or the spoken word, has to have the intention of presenting Christ as LORD and Savior. “Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’” (John 3:3 NRSV).
There are three things that Jesus constantly did during his ministry: he connected with his community, he taught the word of God and he taught people to pray. It was not about the church, it was about the kingdom of God. The church exists because the kingdom of God is at hand, not the other way around. The church becomes the people of God while following Christ.
The church is an agent of transformation as much as the church allows itself to be transformed by its hosting community without becoming of the world. As church, we need to avail ourselves of the hospitality extended to us by our respective communities and we need to be grateful for it. In addition, we need to become part of it as much as possible because in doing so, we become relevant to it. After all, as church we are evangelized by our neighborhood as well.
There is no way that a church can be effective in the community where it resides, unless it meets and serves the people around it. It is not about an arrogant prescriptive approach where the church pretends to have the solution to the problems of its community. The church needs to be fully incarnate and engaged in the life of its neighborhood, living among them. At least that’s what Jesus did. Jesus got into the people’s culture and from within he announced the good news. He reached out and evangelized them by proclaiming that the kingdom of God was near. People were the reason for Jesus’ message; he lived and spoke from within his community. It was an inward approach with outward results – transformation.
As the church keeps interacting with both the Body of Christ and its neighborhood – el barrio – it will come across a diverse group of people in the religious, political and socio-economic backgrounds respectively. This interaction becomes beneficial for both the church and the community. Neither one will be strangers anymore and true friendship will emerge and therefore, salvation and transformation will take place.
May I suggest that we continue praying to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers – evangelists – into our communities in order to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand? It is not about proselytizing, it is about discipleship – understanding that discipleship does not happen overnight, it is a lifetime process.
I resonate with Jose’s confession: I want to recommit my life to Christ too! And I want to draw people to Christ.