Ulises Solis has a plan.
The missionary wants to train Nazarene lay people to plant and organize new churches across the Central America 4 Field (CA-4), which covers Honduras, Nicaragua, el Salvador and Guatemala, in the Mesoamerica Region.
Earlier this year, Solis, who was born and raised in El Salvador, formed a church planting institute in Guatemala, in partnership with the Nazarene Bible Institute in Coban, that is designed to train 12 students at a time, who will go through 10 courses of theological education while starting one preaching point per month.
By the end of each year, each student must have officially organized at least one new church. When they graduate in three years, they will be ordained, and expected to have started 36 preaching points and organized three to four new churches. The training program is being conducted in partnership with Rev. David Ac, rector of the Coban Bible Institute.
Solis intends for the training program to prepare people to participate in the region-wide church planting strategy called Missional Zones. The participants are called Missional Zone planters.
The Missional Zones strategy was dreamed up and implemented in the region in 2008, said Bernie Slingerland, who is the evangelism coordinator for the Mesoamerica Region (a geographic area that includes local churches in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America).
Missional Zones (see related story) are an answer to the reality that in every district, there are geographic areas where either the denomination, or Christianity in general, has not penetrated. That means there are neighborhoods, cities and entire people groups that have no Nazarene presence, and some have no churches at any kind, said Slingerland.
When the region decided to implement the Missional Zone strategy in 2008, leaders knew they needed church planters by the hundreds. Regional and field leaders are looking to lay people to make up the bulk of those planters. As of December 2012, their numbers were just under 100.
And thus, the need for Solis’s training program, which is beginning in Guatemala but which he plans to implement in all four countries on the CA-4 Field. In his area alone he has been overseeing 38 Missional Zones this year, with help from an administrative assistant, Desyi Lemus.
Not just anyone can join the training program.
“[We] have a list of prerequisites,” Solis said. “They have to have a calling to be a missional zone planter…. There has to be an example of a good testimony in and outside of the church. The district superintendent and the pastors need to approve of the leader, and they’re a full member in good standing. [We] prefer that the pastor refers the person first.”
Solis brings a wealth of experience and passion to his project. He was 12 years old when he accepted Christ – a pastor visited his home and shared the Gospel with Solis’s family.
Growing up, Solis felt God’s leading to become a pastor, too. He grew in his faith through a discipleship course written by Bill Bright. That’s why, as a product of door-to-door evangelism and intentional discipleship, Solis understands that both are critical to the health of the church in his field, and should go hand-in-hand.
Now, a pastor for 23 years, Solis has also served as a district superintendent, and in 2004 he became a regional missionary; in 2009 he and his wife, Kyley Mejia Solis, became global missionaries in the Church of the Nazarene.
This fall, a micro-lending effort was added to the training program to provide church planters with a way to self-fund their ministry efforts and support their families. Each of the 10 students was given 25 baby chickens, as well as food for them. The students are expected to raise the chickens, then sell them, and use the some of the proceeds to buy more chicks, continuing the cycle.
Donors made the micro-lending project possible.