For 5 years, I had the privilege of being the missionary pastor of the Baptist church of Badajoz, the largest city in Extremadura, and for another 5 years, leader of the church planting team in Mérida, the capital city. God blessed my family and me in some special ways during our time in Extremadura. We are thrilled to see the congregations in both Badajoz and Mérida continuing on and growing in grace. But one of the greatest blessings of our time in Extremadura was what God taught us there regarding the unity of His people expressed in very practical ways.
Scattered around Extremadura, there are about 20 small evangelical congregations of various groups and denominations, including Baptists, Pentecostals, Plymouth Brethren, Presbyterians, Non-denominational Charismatics and Non-denominational non-Charismatics. There are a total of about 500 evangelical believers. Although there are occasional differences of opinion and misunderstandings, there is a degree of fellowship and unity among practically all of the various evangelical workers and churches, that I believe serves as a shining example to the Body of Christ around the world.
-One Saturday every two months, under the auspices of the Evangelical Council of Extremadura, the great majority of the various pastors, missionaries and Christian workers in Extremadura get together for a day of sharing God’s Word, prayer, and reporting what God is doing in their various congregations. Simultaneously, there are also adjunct women’s meetings. The location of the meetings rotates among the various churches. At midday, everyone goes out to lunch together at a local restaurant.
-On one special day in early September each year, the members of the various churches get together for an all-day picnic and time of fellowship, complete with preaching, singing, fun, games, and celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
-Once every two years, during Easter week, there is a region-wide retreat with the participation of all the churches, with special guest speakers, and programs for the youth and children.
-During our time in Extremadura, on several occasions, believers from all the churches came together for the Extremadura-wide "March for Jesus," giving a public testimony of both our unity and love for Christ.
-In both Badajoz and Mérida, there are monthly pastors’ prayer meetings, in which the pastors of the various churches get together to share personal and ministry-related prayer concerns and lift them up together before the throne of the Father.
-During the several years I had the honor to serve as Council Member in charge of Ministry to Pastors, I was able, together with a planning committee, to organize a region-wide retreat for pastors and wives, with the participation of Campus Crusade Family Life ministry, as well as the Spanish Baptist Union home missions director. I was also able to sponsor a special all-day meeting in which each pastor, missionary and church leader had the opportunity to present their plans and goals for church planting, and dialogue regarding how to make the best use of our shared vision and resources for reaching Extremadura for Christ.
As a result of all of these different activities, but especially thanks to the friendship and fellowship of many precious brothers and sisters in the Lord, I today am a richer man.
I believe that what I was able to experience in my 10 years in Extremadura serves as a wonderful model for how the unity of God’s people can be expressed in very real and practical ways. I imagine there are certain settings and circumstances that are more conducive to this than others. And I am sure that God will work in different ways in different places and among different cultures. But I am also sure that God’s will for his people is that which is expressed in Psalm 133:
How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.