by Diane and Ernie Koop
Guadalajara, Mexico–What would a prayer team member see when they come to the city of Guadalajara to see the EMC church plant here?
The first thing they would see is that there is no building. This is intentional—we are trying to start house churches or cells. So, the gathering is not in a church building. The various groups meet in different homes. Sometimes missionaries host, at other times the various group members do.
About every two months we try to bring all the cell groups together. Usually it is at a terrace that someone has access to, or at times it has been at a park. For us the church is not a place, but a group of people.
Traditionally, in Canada, Chihuahua, or Nicaragua, our churches have met on Sunday mornings. In Guadalajara we hold church on various nights. We have a group that meets Sunday morning, two that meet on Wednesdays, one on Tuesdays, one on Thursdays or Fridays. Each group has chosen a day that accommodates its particular members.
Traditionally Sunday School is 45 minutes, and is either before or after the service. The worship service typically lasts 60 to 75 minutes. Outside of the singing, the morning service is not overly participatory or interactive. This may be for various reasons, but numbers may be the biggest.
Our services here look very different. We generally sit in a circle, designed for interaction. Our (Koops’) groups meet around the dinner table and we begin by sharing a light meal. We catch up on each others’ lives and build community. Most of our groups begin around food and community.
There is no order of service, no formality; everything is very casual. The sharing of the Word of God is done in community with everyone participating. Questions are frequent, bunny trails are allowed and encouraged; it is exegesis in community. These services, or gatherings, go late into the night. It is common for a group to start at 8 p.m. and end at midnight.
When we get all our groups together it looks different yet. Whether it is Sunday morning or afternoon, time is irrelevant. We all know it will go for several hours; it will be done around food. There will be much interaction and participation. It looks somewhat like a church picnic event! It is community. It is family.
Are there challenges or struggles with our chosen model? Of course. One of our big challenges is trying to build connectedness between all the groups. Each group has some form of common connection with others in their group. That same connection isn’t automatic with people from other groups. But this is our expression of church in Guadalajara. Christ-centred, organic, informal, and multiplying.
Ernie and Diane Koop (EFC Steinbach) are part of the church planting team in Guadalajara, Jalisco state, Mexico.