Self Supporting Mexican Churches
Charles F. House
San Luis, Arizona, USA
The following material was taken from ALONG THE BORDER, a publication circulated among interested churches and individuals for the purpose of stimulating interest in the preaching of the Gospel of Christ among those of Spanish speech and heritage. Glenn Rogers is the capable editor of this fine little paper. It is published in McAllen, Texas along the great TEXAS-MEXICO border where Bro. Rogers works. You would do well to subscribe to it. Where necessary, I have changed and adapted this material to fit circumstances with which I am familiar, here along this far western U. S.MEXICO border, of Arizona and California. Thus I claim only part of the material as original, the greater portion being written by others and taken from bro. Rogers' publication, ALONG THE BORDER.
The May 1964 issue says: "The following material was prepared in response to a request by one of the churches supporting Ricardo Soto and Joaquin Blengio, for information as to when the Spanish speaking churches would be self supporting. Since it is a question which often arises, we consider it of general interest and thus we present it for general consideration." "Brethren, we have asked you and other churches to help us preach the Gospel to the Mexican people along the U. S. -MEXICO border. Our present plans are to continue preaching the Gospel of Christ in Spanish all our lives. Just how long we may continue in our present locations we do not know but when we move, it will be to other towns along the U. S.MEXICO border where we can continue starting churches of Christ among the Mexican people, help get a native preacher trained and working regularly with the congregation, then start still other congregations. We have asked churches for salary so that we might do this. Your money is not to support the "work" or a church but to provide the needs of that particular Gospel preacher who seeks support at the time. By churches and Christian individuals supporting preachers, we do not have to use our precious teaching time "making tents"; however when the support doesn't come in sufficient quantity, we all work with our hands in order to eat, and feed our families. So to answer your question, there is no definite time in sight when your help will no longer be needed. Please remember brethren, we are merely BEGINNING these congregations along the U. S.MEXICO border. The economy of Mexico causes these poor people to come and go, always in search of work. They come and go far more than Anglos (English speaking). In fact, some of our members are gone six months out of the year and more, following the harvest. The people have large families and very low income, even when they can find work. There are many differences in the Mexican work and the English work. For example, an English-speaking congregation could have six or eight men and they could possibly support a preacher and even rent or build their own meetinghouse. English speaking men usually earn $85 to $150 per week. Down here in Mexico the whole family (man, woman and all the boys and girls big enough to work) can't earn over 10 to 20 Pesos per day (80c to $1.60 American money) each, most of the time, and not that much during the winter months if we have bad weather. Because of improper eating, lack of good clothing, inadequate housing, with various other reasons there is much sickness and disease. All of these factors cause the Mexican work to be very different from the work among English speaking people."
"But again, we want to suggest that churches are supposed to support preachers. We have been preaching this strongly the last few years and that's what the Bible teaches (Phil. 4:15, 16; 2 Cor. 11:18; Phil. 1:5). We have never asked churches in the USA to support churches in Mexico. We firmly oppose institutionalism and the sponsoring church arrangement. All we do is preach.... all up and down both sides of the U. S.-MEXICO border. All of us help each other in gospel meetings on both sides of the border, and usually a night or two each in each meeting. We do not receive pay for these trips except our regular salary."
"With reference to these churches being self supporting as English speaking brethren usually think of the term, paying their own preacher, as well as taking care of all other expenses, it will be many years before this goal is realized. However, there are men in most of these churches who help with the preaching and teaching on occasions when the preacher is away on meetings, etc. Also in all of these congregations on both sides of the U. S. -MEXICO border, men have gone out to start other congregations or to preach regularly for them. If all of these men had remained in the local congregation where they were converted, very likely we would have self-supporting congregations. But as soon as our Mexican brethren become qualified, after training, by the local church, they too 'Go everywhere preaching the Gospel.' Mack Kercheville says that about 20 men have gone out from the Mexican church in El Paso, Texas in that many years--about one a year. Since its beginning in August, 1958 when Charles House and Santos Gomez started the church at Tecate, Mexico, that church has started Valle de Las Palmas, Mexico; Fallbrook, California. USA (with help of Gabriel Ortiz, formerly of El Paso, and the Fallbrook Anglo church), helped get a sound church started at Mexicali, started the church at San Luis R. C. Sonora, and Sonoyta Sonora, Mexico. Within the past two years one family went out from Sonoyta and started the church at Caborca Sonara, Mexico. Thus from its humble beginning in 1958, Tecate has had a part in the establishing of seven churches in six years. None of these churches are self-supporting, nor is it likely that they will be in the immediate future. Some of the larger, older congregations such as Corpus Christi and Port Lavaca, USA have in the past carried on for years, working and growing even though no church sent money to support a preacher among them. But now they are growing even faster because there are preachers there who receive salary from churches."
"It should be noted in particular by those of you who are interested in the Mexican work that it is very different from English work. That great difference is, that the Mexican work is begun from the very beginning. In any new English work, someone goes to a new field and begins by gathering together as many stray church members as he can find. To these, he adds Bible students from the denominations whom he is able to teach 'the way of truth more perfectly.' Although this is often thought of as a work on a new foundation such as Paul spoke of, it is far from it. Rather, it is built upon a foundation of many years of Bible Study. In the Mexican work along this U. S. -MEXICO border, a church must be built from people who know absolutely nothing but Catholicism and Indian superstition. They know nothing whatsoever of the Bible, much less of its teachings. This of course takes much more time and effort. For this reason some might say that it would be much more profitable to exert ourselves in some other direction. Yet if any inroads are going to be made at all into this vast section of humanity, a beginning has to be made somewhere. Once it is made the Word can progress from that beachhead to the building of a church economy more nearly like that among the English speaking brethren. Let no one suppose that this beachhead is going to be either quick or easy. It entails strictly 'long range planning.' It entails churches supporting Spanish-speaking evangelists not 1, 2, or 3 years in some field on a part time basis, but FULLY SUPPORTING HIM FOR AS LONG AS THE NEED EXISTS. Because only in this way can the evangelist make long range plans for the evangelizing of the Mexican people, when he knows that you are behind him all the way, holding up his hands in encouragement . . ."
When we stop to consider that the restoration movement in the English speaking society has required quite a number of years to reach its present state we should not be surprised to know that the preaching of the Gospel is NOT CHEAP as some would suppose, in Mexico or anywhere else for that matter, nor are visible results always seen in a hurry. We all need to re-think and re-study what the Master said. His statement was "Well done thou good and faithful servant." He did not require success of his people, because GOD was to give the increase as and when HE saw fit. We were and are required to be faithful, in the preaching of the Gospel of Christ in the entire world. Thus, those of us who are experiencing the same movement in the Mexican society feel honored to have a part in it. We hope you do too because as Co-laborers together with God, we ARE preaching the Gospel of Christ in hard places together."
Having recently lost some support Bro. Rogers and I both, would be interested in hearing from USA churches and individuals interested in supporting Gospel preaching along the U. S. -MEXICO border just as quickly as possible, in order to know how to definitely form plans for 1965 in our respective fields of labor. Brother Rogers' address is 612 Vine Ave., McAllen, Texas. If you would like to receive a regular monthly report of work along this far western U. S. -MEXICO border send a card or letter today, to San Luis, Arizona USA.
Truth Magazine, IX: 2, pp.19-21