HERMOSILLO, Mexico—Twenty-nine year old Juan (not his real name) lives 150 miles southwest of missionaries Jason and Danielle Boyle. He came to Christ through a Charismatic church, but after coming to the doctrines of grace he became part of a Reformed ministry in Mexico City where he was mentored by the pastor and promised training and support to start a Reformed work in his small hometown. With that promise, and a burden to reach his community, Juan launched out. But, two months into the church plant, his supporting church and his mentorship were cut off with little explanation. In six months, he was forced to close the work, unable to continue without training and oversight.
“A Reformed Baptist pastor here in the city stopped supporting him because he refused to be re-baptized,” Boyle said about Juan. “This pastor says that until you come to the ‘five-points’ [of Calvinism], you’re not saved. Since Juan came to the doctrines of grace later in life, the pastor was requiring him to be re-baptized. Obviously, that was an impossible doctrine for Juan to accept, and so they stopped helping him.”
Discouraged and feeling helpless, Juan prayed for the Lord’s guidance.
Juan had been already invited to attend a yearly Reformed conference in December hosted by Pastor Paco Orozco in Hermosillo, 1000 miles north of his small town. Orozco has been laboring in Mexico for 25 years, and through his brother and an American missionary, helped start the conference for needy pastors. This is their third year with 40 in attendance.
Among the group was Free Presbyterian Church of North America (FPCNA) missionary Jason Boyle who was invited to preach and also to speak on the life and legacy of Ian Paisley, the founder of the Free Presbyterian Church of Northern Ireland (FPCU) who died this past September. At this conference, Boyle met Juan, among many others, who had similar stories.
“After I spoke, I was approached many times by men looking for advice and help,” Boyle said. “These are men who lack training or just basic support and fellowship.”
“Pastors here have it very difficult,” Boyle said. “There are few solidly Reformed churches in Mexico, and since they are scattered over the whole country, many of the men feel very isolated and helpless.”
Their difficulty results from their inability to afford a formal education. One of the only options is a Reformed Seminary in Argentina, but the online courses can be expensive.
The men could also use good Reformed books, many of which are translated into Spanish, but these also can be very expensive and are therefore beyond reach.
“What these men really need is training with another pastor so they can get both the formal and practical,” Boyle said. “Of course, for most of them, they already have their own churches started, so they can’t just up and leave. Although, a couple younger guys near us expressed a desire to possibly put the work on hold for a bit so they could study.”
Boyle invited one of the young pastors to come to Mexico City and study with him. “I’d be happy to have them come here and work and help in the church and I could give them some training,” Boyle said.
Many of the pastors feel challenged when facing tough doctrinal questions from people in their churches, and when they try to answer the many false teachings flooding their communities.
“I talked to one man who was interested in knowing more about our denomination, not to join, per se, but more because he was interested in learning about church government,” Boyle said. “He had never studied it at all, and so he wasn’t really sure how to guide his church. ‘Help me,’ the man said. ‘I’m all alone in the middle of nowhere. I lack training as a pastor.’”
Another man said, “I say I’m Baptist, but I don’t even know what that means!” He also said, “I’ve never been taught how to preach, so I just preach Christ.”
Many of the men became pastors out of necessity because as they became Reformed in doctrine, there were no churches for them to attend, so they started one. “That’s Juan’s situation,” Boyle said.
After the conference, Juan travelled back to Mexico City with Boyle and attended his Sunday service at Christian Redeemer Church where Boyle pastors.
“He was greatly encouraged by the conference and by attending our church,” Boyle said. “We hope to keep in contact with him and help him as much as we can. He is praying for the Lord’s guidance about his future ministry.”
Juan plans to visit Boyle’s congregation occasionally, and he hopes to keep in contact with Marcus Reyes and Lalo Peña, two Mexican pastors who were recently accepted under care of the FPCNA, since they live close by.
Other men came to stay with Boyle on their way to the conference, expressing an interest in learning about the witness of the FPCNA and continuing in fellowship.
Boyle asks that God’s people would pray that the conference will continue to be a help and that strong friendships and fellowship will form for the good of Christ’s church. “We praise the Lord for these contacts and opportunities to help,” Boyle said.