Flowers Between the Cracks: 3 M’s of Church Multiplication in Mexico City
When Alejandro Sicilia came to lead Senda De Vida church 20 years ago, the building served as a bunker. Located in the heart of Mexico City in a neighborhood riddled with crime, drugs and prostitution, church-goers operated in survival mode, trying to simply stay alive.
Today, Senda De Vida has a new mentality, one that looks outward. Pastor Alejandro shares how that change came about.
- Maturity through Discipleship
In his first years as lead pastor, Alejandro led with an event-based philosophy of ministry.
“I came out of seminary driven by methods,” shares Alejandro. “We were trained to preach well, to play good music, have a nice building and make people comfortable.”
After several years producing a catalogue of church events, Alejandro’s eyes were opened to stagnation in his ministry. “The people in the church remained the same. They were learning more information without gaining the maturity that should come with information.”
“I went through a personal crisis when I realized we were not making disciples,” explains Alejandro. “The church was all about ourselves—completely inward-focused. God helped me to understand that by events alone, it is almost impossible to make disciples.”
“I encourage my brothers and sisters to think of church not in terms of events, but in terms of people who need to go through intentional relational processes to grow in their spiritual lives,” Alejandro advises.
How to Join in Prayer: A great challenge is keeping the process of discipleship healthy and alive with the Spirit, to protect it from becoming a program or exchange of information.
- Multiplication, Near and Far
As Senda De Vida shifted to a discipleship mentality, it also began to look outward at the surrounding community. Instead of seeing church as a place for members to be fed and cared for, the congregation began to see it as a launch point for community action.
“The most exciting part of this journey is seeing the people in the church getting connected with the community instead of getting saved from the community,” articulates Alejandro.
Senda De Vida now has a dozen community outreach programs, from dental clinics to homeless breakfasts, which have unfolded naturally as disciples become mature in their faith.
“We start with the discipleship process and the natural outcome is that people serve the community. We don’t launch a project and then try to get people involved,” Alejandro explains. “We provide avenues so people can plug into the community and serve.”
Along with community initiatives, Senda De Vida has a vision for church multiplication. In the past three years, they have planted 3 new church communities.
“When we think of church multiplication, we don’t envision a huge church in terms of a lot of people meeting at the same time in the same place,” shares Alejandro.
“We envision a church that is healthy rather than big. We envision a church that is constantly multiplying into groups that multiply.”
How to Join in Prayer: As Senda De Vida rapidly multiplies, there is a constant need to produce healthy leadership who will serve in new church plants.
- Messiness and Mistrust
Alejandro is quick to emphasize that while the ministry sounds dreamy on paper, it’s much messier in reality.
Mexico City is a tough place for ministry because of the deep mistrust between neighbors. If Senda De Vida tries to hand out sandwiches at a park, people grab their children and run, afraid that these do-gooders have bad intentions. For this reason, mutual connections become a much more effective means of reaching new people than glitzy programs.
Furthermore, at Senda De Vida, outreach is accomplished by the lay people, not by staff members.
“What we are seeing God doing here isn’t accomplished by a paid church staff. I’m the only paid pastor. That has two sides. On the difficult side, there are not professionals carrying out the ministry, so as you can imagine, it’s really organic and messy.”
“But on the good side, we have a lot of opportunity for people in the church to take on leadership roles that in a paid staff church just wouldn’t be available.”
In this dynamic, energetic community of disciples, the ministry moves forward by God’s grace alone.
“In this context, if someone actually opens up to you, and then opens up to the gospel, that’s something only God can do,” testifies Alejandro.
“There are flowers between the cracks in all the messiness.”
How to Join in Prayer: In a neighborhood plagued by mistrust, only God can open hearts to the good news.
Gaby Garver is a 2016 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University. Having studied International Relations in college, Gaby’s passion is refugee assistance. She currently lives in Istanbul, Turkey, where she volunteers with refugees and teaches English lessons. Her favorite pastimes are cooking for friends and camping.