The Christian connection

rpulley@lsjournal.comOctober 18, 2013 

Pastor Fred Allen teaches a class for visiting ministers and church leaders from Mexico during a pastors conference held at Lee’s Summit Baptist Temple as part of its ministry. Hector Jiminez is serving as translator.

PHOTO COURTESY OF JERRY FINCHUM

Pastors and church leaders from all over Mexico are in Lee’s Summit this week for a pastor’s conference at the Lee’s Summit Baptist Temple.

About 50 visitors are attending seminars and worshiping at the church on Chipman Road while living with Lee’s Summit families.

Every two years the conference arrives in Lee’s Summit, with the other held in Mexico on alternate years.

Participants travel to Mexico City from far across that country and then make the 30-hour trek to Lee’s Summit on a bus. A few are from other states in the U.S.

Fred Allen, senior pastor at Lee’s Summit Baptist Temple, said the conference grew out of mission trips he and church members make to Mexico and widespread use of a series of lessons he’s written on discipleship. The first conference was in 2001.

Allen relies on translators. He doesn’t speak Spanish.

“No, I speak Spanish food and that’s it,” he joked.

Allen said his series is used worldwide by at least 3,000 churches, translated into Spanish and into three languages in India, and used in China, Africa and Mongolia.

The Lee’s Summit Baptist Temple’s Mexico outreach also includes providing literature to be distributed throughout that country.

Recently the congregation made 108,000 Spanish-language booklets that contain the books of John and Romans from the Bible. Last year it made 150,000. The printer sends uncut pages to the church, where members assemble, staple and cut the booklets for shipping.

Allen’s discipleship series begins with “Who is God,” teaches how to study the Bible, how to teach others and finishes with taking the message to the world, Allen said. It is online for anyone to use freely.

“I say copy it all you want, just don’t change it,” Allen said. “I don’t make any money off of it, I never intended to.”

Allen said that sometimes missionaries teach Christianity, but they get support from home, so aren’t the best models of how a church becomes self-sustaining. The conferences helps fill that void. He wrote the series to help people grow in their faith, which results in strong churches.

“All over the place we’ve seen churches double and triple in a matter of years, by building people,” Allen said.

The Lee’s Summit Baptist Temple’s Mexico outreach also includes providing literature to be distributed throughout that country.

Ron Baker, a church member, is one of many who have been a host for visitors to the conference, although he’s not gone on a mission trip to Mexico. Visitors, usually four to six guests at once, have stayed at his house six times. Sometimes they speak English, other times he has to communicate with gestures.

The church members develop lasting relationships with some of the people who come to the conference and learn about their challenges.

He said some churches in Mexico meet outdoors, or under an arbor.

“It puts a face and personality to the money and literature we send down there,” Baker said. “We have new perspective on their churches and communities, how limited their resources are. Not everybody is blessed the way we are. They consider it a luxury to have a roof over their head as they worship.”

Allen said Mexico and “the rest of the world is hungry for Christianity because they see what Christianity does.”

He said in Mexico many people are raised Catholic, but aren’t church going.

Yet, several hundred people would gather to hear him speak, (through a translator) not because they knew him, but because they want to hear about God.

“It’s very humbling,” he said. “You talk to them, show them you love them, and you have an immediate response.”

Allen said through the connection with Mexico his congregation experiences a deeper understanding of their faith.

He said sometimes people get the notion that Christianity should conform to U.S. culture.

“It teaches our people that God is not a North American,” Allen said. “True Christianity is the same everywhere.”

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