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Andres Garza – Live Deeply

I’m Andres Garza Ayala, Director of Redeemer City to City (CTC) America Latina, and I’m guest preaching at CSPC Sunday. Here’s how I’m living deeply. 

“When you’re a leader working with other leaders, like I am, you always want to go very fast. Get results, right? After all, our role is to plant churches in Latin America. But last December, we decided to slow down for 2024. That was because I had started to reflect on one question: What are the real changes we’re seeing? We can keep planting a lot of churches in a lot of cities, but if we don’t see changes among society, culture, even the Church, what real fruit are we actually producing? After nine years, we’d trained almost 600 church planters, but we weren’t seeing enough of that fruit. Something was missing. So we began to talk to some of the church planters, and that was when I realized there was a gap between training and coaching. About half of our church planters weren’t paired up with one of our certified coaches! Our church planters were finishing their two years of training with us, then graduating and starting churches, but then nothing happened. We were too slow in connecting the coaches with them. So we said, ‘This is not right. We need to continue with them and be with them for several years to make sure they are doing okay and have what they need to grow their churches and impact their cities.’ With CTC, we believe our job is not just to train and send church planters, but to walk together with them. We need to experience what they are experiencing, care for their marriages, walk with them as they raise their children and shepherd God’s people. So we are slowing down in 2024. We were growing too fast, now we need to go deeper in our understanding of the church planting movement in Latin America. Yes, we want to develop movements where we’re seeing the multiplication of churches, but we also want to honor our partners and make sure they’re healthy- because an unhealthy pastor is unlikely to successfully grow a healthy church. It’s not only about planting churches but planting GOOD churches that are bearing fruit and transforming their communities.

Slowing down is something that goes against my personality. I’m a city planner and architect- I naturally want to move forward. But I felt the Lord asking me: ‘Well, why you do want to plant X number of churches? Why do you want to move so fast? Do you want a better name- or success for yourself?’ These questions caused me to say in my heart, ‘Oh God, really, forgive me. We need to be looking for your glory in the city, that your name be there.’ That’s one way God has really used this season to grow me in my relationship with Christ. And not only me, but some of our key leaders. We were together recently and everybody was praying, ‘Lord, thank you for humbling us. It is your name that we are looking for, not our name, not the name of CTC, but your name.’ Yes, we obviously need to know how many churches we’re planting. But now we’re also focusing on the deeper metrics: Are marriages changing among your community? Are drug addicts finding hope? How do you see your ministry flourishing? It reminds me of the process for the church I planted here in Monterrey, Mexico, where I was born and raised. I was a city planner and architect for almost 20 years. Then I received a call to ministry, went to seminary in the U.S., and came back to Monterrey. But I didn’t want to become a pastor immediately- instead, I wanted to reach out to my friends from work. I started small- a Bible study with two other men that eventually grew into twelve. And then seven of them decided to become the core group for the church my family and I planted. CTC has always favored this relational ministry approach. One thing we commonly hear is, ‘What you are explaining about God makes more sense.’ That’s because, unlike some of the Catholic teaching people here have grown up with, we don’t separate the spiritual from the secular. God cares about and is active in every area of peoples’ lives, and so are we. When churches here are healthy and blessed by God, this is why people in Latin America open their hearts to receive Christ: because they’re finally connected to a Gospel they can relate to.

The growth God has been accomplishing in me has been a result of more reflection- not only believing God, but spending time reflecting on God. We at CTC America Latina are reflecting on how He’s moving, what He’s stopping, and how He’s showing His presence. So I’m sure that, by slowing down, we will be in way better shape to keep growing next year as God expands His Kingdom in Latin America. I also passed through a very complex last year with my family- which also forced me to become still and more reflective before the Lord. Our adult daughter, who seemed very healthy, needed to have two major surgeries. She went in for a simple blood test that ended up leading to the discovery of a problem that could have killed her! There had been no symptoms- but it was serious enough that she ended up needing to have three feet of her intestine removed! And the surgery for that issue led to the discovery of a growth in her esophagus, which was later removed before it could turn into cancer. This all left her very, very tired, but at the same time, we saw God’s hand very, very clearly. She’s doing well now and is on the path to recovering her full health. My wife Ruth has also gone through a trial- since developing COVID three years ago, she has lost all sense of taste and smell. This has been an enduring stress that we never could’ve seen coming. But we’re hopeful. She has just begun a new treatment, and we’re praying God may use this to finally, fully complete her recovery. (I’d appreciate it if you would join me in bringing both my wife and daughter before God!)  In all this, the Lord again has caused us to slow down and reflect upon who He is and how He works- He’s helped us to see how much we depend on Him. In that way, this past year -though filled with hardship and some disappointment- has been a great season of coming closer to Christ.” 



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