Authentic friendship

Meet local leader Nicolas Fuentes, church planting in Santiago, Chile

Nicolas Fuentes, a CMS local partner, has been involved in leading a new church in Puente Alto, Santiago, for approximately three years. The rapidly growing church has a strong focus on building relationships.

Having undertaken ministry and spent time serving as assistant pastor in his home church, Nicolas and his wife accepted the challenge of a call to plant this new church in early 2015.

We caught up with him to hear how it is going…

Why did you choose to have such a strong focus on authentic friendships?

Throughout most of my Christian life I was in a church context where the main focus was on “ministries” – married couples’ ministry, youth ministry, children’s ministry, social ministry, etc. These are very good and necessary, but personally I felt that our church life was based more on ministries than on relationships between believers. People just took part in activities, without forming deep friendships with sisters and brothers. The result was that there were lots of people in church but on another level most of them were completely disconnected.

When we started out in Puente Alto we wanted to focus on creating a church where the main dynamic would be authentic friendship. All we do in our church seeks to promote and strengthen deep friendships in the gospel.

Group of mixed ages sitting round a domestic dining table
One of Puente Alto’s mission groups: “The time we spend together in the week has helped us develop real friendships, to apply the Word to our lives and to understand that Christianity develops not only at a specific moment on Sunday but in all parts of our life every day. Seeing how being a Christian life is a part of our daily lives has been a significant part of growth in our church.”

In a world where time is so scarce and relationships so superficial we thought it was essential for the church to model what it means to be a Christian in all aspects of life, without the need for special “ministries”. We felt this could happen by simply sharing together, encouraging each other in the gospel, being intentional with non-believers and inviting them to see our daily lives. In other words, following the pattern of Jesus and his disciples.

How do you connect with new people?

We encourage each believer in our church to be intentional in making friends with non-believers in their own social circle. This includes their workplace, neighbourhood, out shopping, in their children’s school, on family occasions, etc. Everything we do on an ordinary day is an opportunity to start a new friendship with someone who is not a Christian.

Non-believers come along to some church activities, such as family retreats, Christmas celebrations and the women’s groups. We also set up activities related to the needs of the church and our context to get involved in our culture. For example, a breakfast club for women, board games with friends, coffee afternoons, celebrating our national festivals, etc. But always in line with our main focus on friendship evangelism.

Group of people outdoors under a shelter

The church community at Puente Alto gathered to celebrate their first year

Do you run any other events or courses in addition to your regular gatherings?

As well as our regular Sunday meetings, the main pillar of the ministry is our missional communities. These are small weekly groups where the church gathers in different homes to grow in the Word of God. There’s no more than ten people in each group, which helps to create a more intimate atmosphere where we pray for each other and apply the Word of God to our lives. These are good spaces for us to invite new people to get to know our church and for us to get to know them better.

How do you balance discipling those who are already believers with evangelism?

Right now we focus on three main aspects in developing discipleship and evangelism.

Firstly, discipleship in our weekly missional community groups, which provide an opportunity to challenge and disciple believers. Secondly, we are attempting to create a space for discipleship and evangelism at the same time through smaller, more informal groups of no more than three people, where we go deeper into issues based on the Word of God. Thirdly, we are looking for mature Christians to disciple others in the community one-to-one, so that everyone has at least one other person encouraging their personal growth.

What are your dreams for how the community might develop in the next few years?

In the short term, we would like to see our church self-supporting, with administration and finances separate from the church we came from. I would then like to see the church planning its own new plant and training more leaders.

My longer-term dream is to see a great multicultural community, growing both in numbers and in Christian maturity. A community focused on the gospel and attracting new people with its way of life, with different relationships and friendships influencing the culture in every part of life, for the glory of Christ.

Published 2 October 2018
Latin America

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