There is so much happening that there's just not enough time to write about it all.
Church Plant Update
We have now changed the location of our meeting place on Sundays. It used to be in our house, but the location was just too far for everybody, being on the edge of this giant city. The Lord has now provided a place right in the middle of downtown Guadalajara just a few blocks away from where we usually preach. It's a hotel conference room high up on the top level of the hotel, with a nice view of the city.
Here's the room with Aaron preparing to play the guitar for our hymns:
Right from the windows on the right of the room, we have a direct view of the city's chief Synogogue of Satan (the central Catholic Cathedral). We're really just a few blocks away from it. The bells go off every time our meeting is starting, reminding us of what we're up against. May the Lord lift up a standard against the lies of empty religious superstitions. May the Gospel of the grace of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ, that His work IS FINISHED be proclaimed and taught in this city boldly, and may the risen, glorified, living and reigning Christ be exalted high above the dead "jesus" who takes on the form of a cracker every Sunday to be a continual propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of those in attendance. Think about it brethren, they are worshiping a cracker and calling it Jesus Christ. We must preach the living Christ! The book of Acts says that the apostles gave testimony to the resurrection with great power (Acts 4:33). Jesus Christ is alive! If they only knew, if they only truly knew, it would change everything. If you are a Catholic and you are reading this know that I have nothing against any Catholic personally, I truly love Catholics, but the religion of Rome contradicts God's written Word in almost every way and has historically been guilty of murdering Christians for preaching the Gospel and translating the Bible. Please visit this page on our website to learn why Catholicism is not biblical Christianity. Here's the view from the window:
The Lord really opened the door for this conference room. Normally, the hotel charges 2,000 pesos per session (about $185 dollars US). But they lowered the price for us. It would have originally cost 8,000 pesos per month to rent, but they are giving it to us for only 2,000 pesos per month! Praise the Lord! It is a great bargain and a perfect location, and a nice room. Yet even still, it is another expense and we are in need of brethren to hold the rope for us. May the Lord provide and may the Lord raise up a biblical church in the center of Guadalajara for His glory. Oh brethren, you have no idea how drastically important, how utterly essential, how drastically strategic this church plant is in the center of this city. It would be a witness right in the middle of this Catholic city. And since this city is a crossroads in Mexico, it would reach the rest of the nation for Jesus Christ if the Lord would raise up a healthy strong church plant here. Please consider coming behind us on this and pray for us, oh, pray for us desperately!
We now have three weeks in the new location. A few new people have already come that would not have come otherwise. One young lady came who is on the verge of divorce and came and sought us out looking for help. After the meeting, she confessed her sin and wept and we all prayed to the Lord for her. We also had a lady return who used to come to our meetings that we had downtown in early 2009. Now that we're back in centro, she can make it to the meetings without too much difficulty (she's an elderly lady). As a result of prayer, the Lord seems to have healed her as she used to walk with so much difficulty, using a walker, but now walks without a walker and with much more ease! This is her testimony brethren, you can believe it or not, it's what she shared and we have seen there's a big difference in her. She came and testified in our meeting for His faithfulness (not only in the healing but in everything) and we all gave glory to God. It had been a long time since we had last seen her. She now went to visit family for a little while in Baja California but she said that when she gets back she is going to fellowship with us as long as we're all there. Here's a picture of us with her:
There is another young lady who we met a long time ago while preaching downtown. She started fellowshipping at our previous church and has been attending there faithfully for about a year. But since our church plant downtown is about half the distance (she used to travel 2 hours each way) she is now attending our meetings. Last Sunday she brought 2 of her unsaved family members and they too heard the Word of God.
Currently, we have two brothers in the Lord who are fellowshipping with us, Artemio and Giancarlo. There are a couple more unconverted men that visit regularly also (one of them is David, the old man who is a former Catholic -he is still unconverted and openly admits he is full of unbelief). With the elderly lady (if it's the Lord's will that she come back soon from B.C.) and the other young lady, that's two sisters in the Lord also. So with Lina and I, Aaron, Giancarlo, Artemio, and the two ladies, that makes 7 believers who are a part of this fellowship. In addition, we constantly get visitors who come and go and hear the Word of God.
Some of you may be wondering about our Ecclesiology. I hope to write it all out in more detail soon if the Lord wills. This church plant will be based on the 9 Marks model with a slight modification to the "membership" mark. That is, we're not following a traditional model of membership where one joins and writes their signature on a piece of paper making an open covenant with the congregation. However, we are distinguishing between true brethren and the unconverted in attendance, and also between those committed to the assembly as the expression of their local fellowship and those believers who are not committed in such a way. So in essence we are following that model of recognizing membership, just not in the traditional sense. At least we will do this for a time for as long as the fellowship is small enough and the communion between brethren close enough to recognize in all practical aspects the difference between "members" and non-members without a need for anything more "official" or formal.
For those wondering, the teaching is and shall continue to be expository and also, biblical church discipline will certainly be exercised when necessary. The doctrine shall be firmly grounded upon the doctrines of grace and the cross of Jesus Christ shall always be proclaimed and emphasized and re-emphasized. The goal is to eventually raise up a plurality of elders (from Guadalajara or elsewhere in Mexico) who will govern the flock and lead in such a way that the church is autonomous and not dependent on a missionary or outside support. If necessary because of the size of the fellowship, and if there are qualified individuals, deacons shall also be appointed. If the size of the fellowship grows and the intimate communion of the saints begins to diminish because of the number of members, a visitation program shall be put in place for the leaders of the church to visit the members on a regular rotation basis in order to fellowship with them more closely and inquire into the state of their souls in order to minister to them (as per the models proposed by George Mueller and Richard Baxter). In the event of such growth if it were to occur, small groups would be implemented throughout the week to practice Acts 2:42 in the context of guided teaching with Body participation. Biblical evangelism shall be practiced continually in the city with all members encouraged (but not by using guilt tactics) to participate. As per offerings, none shall be taken up at this time. In the future if the Lord wills and the fellowship grows, eventually a small box will be placed somewhere in the back for members to give anonymously and without pressure. Training believers in evangelism will also be a major focus of the church with a short training school in place eventually. Eventually, it would be ideal to establish a biblical training school as a ministry of the church where others could travel to Guadalajara from around the country of Mexico to study the Word of God and prepare for ministry. This is the vision, the plans, and of course, everything is completely in the Lord's hands since we don't even know what tomorrow holds. This is a goal, a plan, in the event that the Lord brings it about.
Our goal is not just to see a local church established, but to see a training center raised up as a part of its ministry that would raise up and send forth preachers of the Biblical Gospel, church planters, evangelists and missionaries to the rest of Mexico. Planting a local church is the first step in this process. And the process of church planting is being implemented by aggressive evangelism and discipleship -we have no other methods.
The meetings right now start at 11 am and last a few hours. We generally open up in prayer, in hymn singing and worship, and then invite brethren to share something with the congregation (a word, an exhortation, a Scripture, a hymn, a song, etc.). Various always share something, decently and in order. Then we have the teaching, where I am currently expositing on the book of 1 John. Next if the Lord wills we will take on one of the 4 Gospels. Then we end in fellowship which may continue on in another location outside of the meeting place. (We like GCC of San Antonio's practice of fellowshipping all day after their Sunday meetings and eventually that would be ideal).
Please keep this church plant in your prayers brethren. We desperately need the glorious grace of our great God for this tremendous task before us.
John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. (John 3:27)
Evangelism, Open Air Preaching, & Discipling
Hallelujah! We have not ceased from going to the city to stand up and proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only Way! Every week, at least several times per week, the Lord has enabled us to be there preaching and pleading with souls to repent and believe the Gospel, to flee the wrath to come, to run to Jesus Christ for refuge and salvation. Thousands have heard the Gospel in the past year to the glory of the great name of our God.
We have had so many conversations, so many seeds have been sown, that it is impossible to write about it all. But a couple of testimonies I would like to share:
- As we were open air preaching day after day, week after week, there was a man that would always walk by. He always just passed by refusing to listen, figuring we were just crazy or wanted money or something. But one day, as he was passing by again, the Lord got a hold of him and he sat down to listen. He was gripped by conviction and began to sigh and cry over his abominations wondering if God could ever forgive someone so wicked as him. A brother in the Lord on our team was then able to talk with him for a while and minister grace to him and pray with him. We don't know what happened, but the finger of the Lord touched him. This is a testimony to the need of open air proclamation of the Gospel. That would have never happened if we weren't there continually preaching the foolishness of the cross. Brethren, be faithful to God! Stand up and be men! Proclaim the cross! The power of God is in the proclamation of the cross! Don't worry about the results, don't worry about the appearances of things, if we are faithful to proclaim Christ then God will be faithful to move in the hearts of men.
- Another young man, 17 years old, is a testimony to the power of the Gospel. He was a children's minister in his church (a Christian church). One night as we were preaching, he stopped to listen. Lina and I then talked to him. He confessed to us that he was living a secret homosexual lifestyle and that he had not ever told anyone, that we were the first he told. He said he wanted to repent and truly serve the Lord. After a long conversation, after pleading with him to forsake his sin and turn to the Savior and stop being a hypocrite, to fear God, to surrender all to Christ, we prayed with him for deliverance, and he too called upon Christ to forgive him. Well, after a couple of months since this encounter, we ran into him again. This time he was changed! He testified to us that since that night, he never went back to that lifestyle, that he's been delivered. He now said that he's serving the Lord and wants to follow Christ alone. He has a close relationship with his pastor now and is courting a girl in the presence of his pastor. He also wants to evangelize now and has a desire to learn how. Praise God for the power of the Gospel!
Another testimony: Recently, brother Giancarlo, the young man we have been discipling on a regular basis, open air preached for the first time! Lina and I were on our way to the city to meet up with the team, but were very late getting there (in part because we ran into a gangster on the street and preached to him for a while), so Giancarlo just started preaching without us! He continued to preach even after we arrived. He is considering and praying about dedicating his life to the ministry. Please keep him in your prayers. He still has a lot to learn before taking such a step and needs much more discipling, but he has shown a lot of fruit lately and tremendous growth since we met him. You would rejoice to see what God is doing in him.
OK, just one more testimony: There's another brother who recently began to meet up with us wanting training in evangelism. He met up with us various times, and we showed him the entire Way of the Master DVD training course. Then he left to Chiapas (a state in Mexico in the southeastern part of the state bordering Guatemala) and has been open air preaching and evangelizing there in the capital city. He plans on returning to Guadalajara in January, and then if it's the Lord's will, wants to unite a group of his friends that also want to evangelize so we can train them.
May God raise up more preachers of the truth to proclaim the glories of the Savior in this land. Don't forget Mexico in your prayers, brethren! We've already received some requests from believers around Mexico wanting training in evangelism through our website, www.cristianismobiblico.com and Lord willing, may travel a bit starting in January to train some of them using the WOTM course if the Lord provides the funds for us to travel. I have another website in the works right now in Spanish that is solely about evangelism and will feature video testimonies (of salvation and of believers getting their feet wet in evangelism), teaching articles, sermons and videos about evangelism and the true Gospel, evangelism resources, and also, it is our intention to distribute tracts, booklets, DVD's, and other evangelism resources through it -all in Spanish of course. May God raise up an army of soldiers of the cross and establish a beachhead for the Gospel right smack dab in the middle of the Circle of Silence!
But speaking of God raising up preachers of truth, we have also seen preachers of lies being raised up by Satan lately. The adversary doesn't just lay down and slumber, he's busy roaming and devouring. Recently, one devoutly Catholic man has now become fed up with us. So he decided to start open air preaching now also. He now has a loud speaker and microphone and spouts off heresies of a superstitious and ritual based, counterfeit way of salvation that promises purgatory but leads to Hell. His goal is to preach Catholicism, to defend the Roman religion, and to discredit us and other Christians as being a "new sect". Many people stop to listen to him, sadly. Where are the real preachers of righteousness??? Oh Lord, raise up an army of preachers of truth in this land, for Your great name's sake! Vindicate your holy name in the sight of this people!
Recently, when Aaron was OA preaching, this man decided to contradict and shout against us like a madman. He is doing everything he can to try to hinder the progress of the Gospel in this city. May the Lord deal with him. If only Christians were as zealous for the living truth of the Gospel as this man is for dead Roman tradition, we would have a revival on our hands. He's in the middle to the left of Aaron in the blue striped shirt:
Violence in Mexico
Mexico has got to be one of the most wicked and violent countries in the world. Decapitated bodies laying in the streets, highway road block robberies, drug cartels with firepower that puts the military to shame, and kidnapping (of adults for ransom) abounds. While Guadalajara isn't in a major hot zone for all this activity, it certainly does happen here. Just within a couple blocks from our house the authorities found out and closed down a kidnapping ring. But recent violence has given us a couple of opportunities to preach the Gospel...
Earlier this month, Lina went to a woman's Bible study near our home with the church we worked with. After the study, she came out and discovered that just down the street, on the very same street where the church meets, 3 men had just been gunned down in broad daylight.
Lina and another sister in Christ immediately went to the scene where they found a large crowd gathered around the bodies. Not wanting to miss the opportunity, Lina stood up and open air preached to the crowd. She shared the Gospel and they gave out tracts. She talked about death and eternity, and Christ as the only way of salvation. Some listened, and one man seemed deeply impacted. What happened was a tragedy, but at least the Gospel was preached. Please pray for Lina as this has affected her, seeing a body laying on the street with the head mutilated by bullet wounds.
The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face. (Psalms 11:5-7)
When you see what violence does, how it destroys and harms, you really understand why the Lord hates it. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, it is not for the children of men to take it into their own hands (Rom. 12:19). The one who takes vengeance into their own hands is robbing from God, and will face His jealous fury if they don't repent.
Several weeks later, as all of us were coming out of our Sunday morning meeting and walking through downtown, Guadalajara, we stumbled right into an open street brawl between two gangs. They had chains and fists swinging furiously, with probably about 10 young men on each side. It was a war zone. They fought and showed no mercy. Several were full of blood, and one was pretty severely wounded.
After a minute or two, the fight stopped and the brawlers ran in opposite directions. So brother Aaron stood up in the middle of the scene with his amp and preached the Gospel, using what had just happened as a springboard. Again, it was tragic to see such violence, and grieving to see all this wickedness, but thanks be to God that the Gospel was preached. Later that day, Lina and I ran into the men from one of the gangs, and were able to preach to them. They were all mockers and laughed at us, with the exception of one, who happened to be the most aggressive fighter. He seemed to get convicted and listened.
My blessed Lord Jesus was right when He said that in the last days it would be just like the days of Noah (Mat. 24:37). Genesis says that the earth was corrupt in God's sight and that the earth was filled with violence (Gen. 6:11). We are in the midst of it brethren. It's time to get serious about serving the Lord. How I long for the day of entering that blessed Kingdom of my Savior, that land where perfect peace dwells.
A Visit from Ecuador
We were privileged this month to have a visit from a brother in the Lord from Ecuador (South America) named David. He's an evangelist and works with Open Air Campaigners and came up to minister and stay with a friend of ours named Misael. It was encouraging to fellowship with him and to learn that there's a solid preacher of the biblical Gospel in Ecuador. For a couple weeks, David was preaching the Gospel hot and strong in and around Guadalajara on the streets, in churches, in schools, in a hospital, and anywhere the doors opened up.
Here's a picture of him preaching in downtown Guadalajara using the sketch board technique.
You can watch a video of this open air meeting here (in Spanish).
He also preached to the patients waiting for service at a hospital that we may go back to if the Lord wills. Here's a pic of inside the hospital:
And outside the hospital...
We met up with David and Misael several times to fellowship and to preach the Gospel in this lost, dark and dying city. I was also able to load brother David up with a bunch of solid literature from Chapel Library and give him a book of Grudem's Teología Sistematica to take back to Ecuador with him. He seemed very eager to read it, and in fact, already had read a portion before he left! He also said the sermon he read by George Whitefield from Chapel Library was the best sermon he's read. May God raise up Whitefield's in Latin America who don't bow down to man but would rather suffer the loss of all things for the sake of the cross, that Christ may be proclaimed! Like Moses:
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)
Marketplace Business and Ministry
We were able to purchase the spot in the street market every Thursday near our house. We started a juice business in it (it's only on Thursdays) in order to try to get some more funds. What we make there on Thursdays is about one seventh of our monthly expenses so it does help but doesn't go too far unfortunately. But the best thing about it is the ministry opportunity it gives us to testify to the vendors around us who see us all day on Thursdays and also to the customers. Numerous of them have noticed the difference between us and the rest of the vendors and have asked us about why we're so joyful or show so much care for people. Of course, since they ask, we tell them about our Lord! One lady who was (or maybe even still is) a devout Catholic, even participating in the idolatrous marches with the idol statues of Guadelupe, has opened up tremendously and even was in tears as Lina talked with her, acknowledging the truth. She had a huge turnaround in her attitude towards us and we're praying that the Lord would convert her to the truth of Christ.
Also in our 6 meter long booth, apart from the juice stand, we have a Bible table where we give out Bibles, tracts, booklets and more to all the people walking through the market. We've been able to give out a bunch of Gospel literature here to the people of our community. A few sisters from our previous church have been coming every week to occupy the booth and share the Gospel. They are excellent at it and really know how to engage people in meaningful conversation and share the Gospel with them. Last week, a sister was testifying to a blind man for a long time. Eventually, he came inside our booth and listened intently for a long while. I also was able to give a Bible to one lady who was extremely grateful for it, wanting to pay for it. The people can't understand why we give them out for free and they are confounded by it. Many think there's a catch to it and are skeptical. But this lady even came back later thanking us again and saying that she was going to read it and use it to teach others what she read! The sisters have had many more conversations and hopefully will write out their experiences soon so we can share them. They have much more to share but Lina, Aaron and I are mostly busy while they're preaching with the juice business.
We are still in contact with the Christian orphanage here, visiting from time to time. This month the Lord has provided a little bit of support for them, including some money that a stranger who said he's a Christian insisted on giving me after an open air sermon (he seemed to get offended that I didn't want to accept it so I was constrained to accept it, so in the manner of Whitefield, the money given in an open air meeting will go to the orphans). Also, a couple is now helping to support them on a monthly basis. We are grateful that the Lord is providing a little bit for the support of these abandoned children.
Trip to the USA
November 29th - December 13th we plan on being in the USA. Our current itinerary very likely includes stops in Texas in the following cities: Laredo, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Arlington, and possibly Austin also. We will also be spending the weekend of the 4-5 of December in Springfield, Missouri. If you are in any of those locations and would like to meet up with Lina and I and we have not yet contacted you, please let us know ASAP. I am also available to share in churches and fellowships about our mission in Mexico, or to preach, but let us know immediately so we can plan the trip.
In Christ - Josef Urban