Mexico
United Mexican States
August 11-12
Americas


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GEOGRAPHY

Area 1,958,201 sq.km. Latin America's fourth largest country. Wide range of topography and rainfall ranging from arid northern plateau, central volcanic plateau and the southern mountains and rain forests. Only 10% of the country is arable.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 98,881,289 +1.64% 50 per sq. km.
2010 112,890,609 +1.24% 58 per sq. km.
2025 130,196,156 +0.82% 66 per sq. km.

Capital Mexico City 22.5 mill. Other major cities: (Metropolitan Area) Guadalajara 4.05m; Monterrey 3.55m; Puebla 1.83m; Leon 1.4m; Toluca 1.28m; Ciudad Juarez 1.25m; Tijuana 1.25m; Torreon 1.05m. Urbanites 72%.

PEOPLES

Figures below are approximate, but are an attempt to show the present cultural situation.

Mestizo (Spanish/Amerindian) 61.1%. Many are Amerindian, but now speak Spanish and are culturally Mestizo.

Amerindian 28%.

Spanish-speaking 20.5%, but still culturally Amerindian.

Amerindian-speaking 7.5%. Major groupings: Nahuatl (Aztec, 27) 1,564,000; Maya (Tzotzil, Yucatec, etc., 25 peoples) 1.3m; Zapoteco(60) 740,000; Otomi(15) 700,000; Mixteco(41) 445,000.

Euro-American 9%. Largely of Spanish origin; also some of American, German, Italian, Russian and Basque origin.

Afro-American 0.5%.

Other 1.4%. Arab 630,000; US citizens 600,000; Gypsy 63,000; Japanese 43,000; Chinese 38,000.

Literacy 89%. Functional literacy is much lower. Official language Spanish, the world's largest Spanish-speaking nation. All languages 298. Languages with Scriptures 5Bi 98NT 44por 76w.i.p.

ECONOMY

Oil, rapidly developing industry, tourism and agricultural products are all important. Membership of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is transforming the economy and changing the old-style protection of sectional interests of the elite, archaic land-tenure systems, unfairness of economic structures and institutionalized corruption, into one that is more modern and market-oriented. The poverty-stricken lower third of the population has yet to feel much benefit. The insidious evil of the drug trade continues to infect and corrupt society. HDI 0.786; 50th/174. Public debt 24% of GNP. Income/person $3,700 (12% of USA).

POLITICS

The sophisticated Aztec Empire in central Mexico was destroyed by the Spanish and smallpox in the early 16th Century. Independent from Spain in 1821. Much of its northern territories were lost to the USA in the 19th Century. The 1910-17 Revolution resulted in a one-party federal democracy with power centralized in the President and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Dominance was maintained by manipulation of power groups, electoral fraud and corruption, but the need for political and economic reform on joining NAFTA hastened the PRI's decline. Its control on the country only ended in the 2000 election of an opposition candidate as President. There are several small guerrilla movements in the south that promote land and culture rights for the native Mexican population (Amerindians) that cause embarrassment to the government.

RELIGION

Secular state with freedom of conscience and practice of religion. The 130-year break between the Mexican government and the Vatican ended with official relations being restored in 1992, and many restrictions on the Catholic Church being removed. Constitutional changes in 1992 also grant fairer treatment for religious minorities.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Christian 94.26 93,205,503 +1.7%
non-Religious/other 3.60 3,559,726 +1.6%
Traditional ethnic 1.79 1,769,975 -1.2%
Muslim 0.26 257,091 +2.4%
Jewish 0.05 49,441 -5.0%
Baha'i 0.04 39,553 +7.7%

A large proportion of the Amerindian population, though baptized as Catholic, still adhere to their pre-Conquest religions in practice.

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 285 6.20 6,128 +5.4%
Independent 18 1.81 1,794 +3.3%
Anglican 1 0.02 23 +2.5%
Catholic 1 89.50 88,498 +1.4%
Orthodox 3 0.05 50 +0.0%
Marginal 53 2.29 2,266 +4.5%
Doubly affiliated   -5.62 -5,553 n.a.

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Catholic C 5,321 46,824,339 88,498,000
Jehovah's Witnesses M 13,000 526,478 1,500,000
Nat'l Presbyterian P 5,000 700,000 1,350,000
Seventh-day Adventist P 1,545 477,813 820,000
Union of Indep Evang I 1,333 400,000 800,000
Latter-day Saints (Morm) M 1,300 370,000 740,000
Assemblies of God P 4,009 200,000 480,000
Methodist P 440 160,000 360,000
Ch of God (Cleveland) P 1,158 105,736 260,000
Ch of God in Rep of M I 917 110,000 220,000
National Baptist Conv P 1,257 82,906 160,000
Indep Pentecostal Mov't. I 2,667 80,000 145,600
Nat'l Chr Ch of AoG I 1,222 55,000 110,000
Ch of the Nazarene P 598 49,000 70,000
Ch of God of Prophecy P 460 21,362 45,000
Foursquare Gospel P 250 5,500 11,000
Other denoms [349]   28,167 1,697,000 3,188,700
Doubly affiliated     -2,938,000 -5,553,000
Total Christians [365]   68,644 48,927,000 93,205,000

Trans-bloc Groupings pop.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 6.7 6,579 +4.7%
Charismatic 12.4 12,264 +2.5%
  Pentecostal 2.7 2,695 +5.5%

Missionaries from Mexico
P,I,A 649+ in 56 agencies to 44 countries: Mexico 557, USA 89, Spain 37.

Missionaries to Mexico
P,I,A 2,140 in 190 agencies from 29 countries: USA 1,790, Canada 110, Korea 63, UK 29, Brazil 27.



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Answers to Prayer

1 The peaceful democratic change of government in 2000 with expectation for positive change.

2 The steady growth of Evangelicals along with the lowering of legal and social barriers for ministry. Evangelicals in 1960 were 2.1% (800,000), but by 2000 were over 7% (7 million). Some claim that Evangelicals are now 15-20% of the population, however this is unlikely.

Challenges for Prayer

1 This dynamic, growing nation is searching for an identity in its Hispanic and Indian roots. This has led to a fierce nationalism and demonstrations of independence from its large northern neighbour, the USA, along with its commitment to close economic ties in NAFTA. This is often expressed in anti-Protestant populist propaganda. Pray that Mexicans may find their true identity in a personal faith in Christ.

2 The election of a new government in 2000 ended 83 years of unbroken PRI control of the country. Hopes have been raised for economic, political and social reforms that address long-ignored issues such as the impoverished rural poor, the marginalized native Americans, the exploited slum-dwellers, and the massive drug trade. Pray that the government have the courage to deal with centuries of institutionalized graft and privilege, and bring about the changes that benefit all sections of society.

3 For 300 years the Catholic Church dominated Mexico. Between 1850 and 1910, revolutionary movements stripped it of much of its privilege and power, while retaining its cultural influence. During the 1990s the Church regained some of its denied privileges. The Church is in crisis – on one hand, a growing minority are regularly reading the Bible and this is seen as a threat to the traditional authority of the Catholic hierarchy, and on the other hand, nominalism and the rejection of Catholicism by young people is on the increase. Most Mexicans are culturally Catholic but still bound by sin, narrow traditionalism and syncretistic religious practices, and only 10% are regular churchgoers. Pray that the power of the ancient gods and spirit-world may be broken in the Spanish-speaking majority and, more especially, in the Christo-pagan Amerindian groups.

4 Persecution of Evangelicals has been a growing feature in Mexico.

a) At a national level the media regularly, in vitriolic terms, portray Evangelicals as anti-Mexican spies and destroyers of the culture. The exponential growth of Evangelicals has disturbed the conservative wing of the Catholic Church. Pray that evangelical growth may stimulate reform and renewal rather than persecution!

b) At a local level, and especially in the poor Amerindian-majority southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, there have been numerous incidents of mob violence, crop-burnings, destruction of churches and homes, enforced expulsions of whole evangelical communities from their villages, harassment of evangelistic outreach and arrests of believers on trumped-up charges. Pray that the believers may demonstrate the meekness and love of their Saviour when maltreated. Pray also for the full implementation of religious freedom at both national and local levels.

5 Evangelicals have grown – even under the pressures. Growth has been in both international denominations (especially Pentecostals and Adventists) and also in vigorous newer indigenous movements. Pray that the momentum might be maintained.

a) The highest concentrations are in the southern states of Chiapas (19%), Tabasco (17.5%), Campeche (15.4%) and Quintana Roo (14%), which are also where a high proportion of Amerindian peoples live.

b) Evangelicals have a higher profile after some notable conversions of entertainers. An in-depth infrastructure of Christian bookstores, music and leadership training is strengthening that growth. Yet most growth has been among Spanish-speaking populations of the lower classes, the northern border with the USA and in the Caribbean coastal states, also among the rural Amerindians, and latterly among the Amerindians of the south-east. Wealthier Mexicans and the central and Pacific states have been more lightly influenced.

6 The specific challenges for Evangelicals:

a) Unity. The Evangelical Fraternity of Mexico (CONEMEX) is working to strengthen unity, deal with the government and sponsor important events. A Pentecostal fellowship has been formed to bring together millions of Pentecostal Christians. There needs to be a more effective strategic partnership among mission agencies.

b) Discipleship and biblical commitment which impacts family life is a great need. The Mexican parallel of Promise Keepers has had considerable impact on the commitment of menfolk. Commitment needs to extend to giving – few pastors or missionaries are adequately supported.

c) Leadership training is the key to the future health of the Church. There are well over 100 Bible schools and seminaries training thousands of future leaders at all levels; from indigenous primary-level language to degree-awarding schools, as well as numerous TEE programmes. Pray that spiritual depth and evangelistic vision, as well as sound teaching, may be imparted to the students. Doctrinal shallowness, error and also moral and personal relationship breakdowns have impaired the growth of the Church. Pray also for the provision of godly pastors for poor rural and urban slum congregations.

d) Develop missions vision. Sending of missionaries by the Mexican Church has developed rapidly. An increasing number of congregations are sending and supporting missionaries. COMIMEX has provided a nation-wide umbrella with which most national agencies are linked. COMIMEX operates through nine departments – Adopt-A-People, Barnabas (cross-cultural preparation), missions education, research, publicity, music, prayer, missiology and church missions committees. Significant international agencies have been birthed in Mexico – such as PMI, with its involvement in the Muslim world. There are now over 500 Mexican evangelical missionaries in 70 agencies, 250 of which are serving abroad in 50 other lands.

7 Ministry to young people is vital. Over 50% of the population is under 20 years of age. This staggering challenge is only being partially met.

a) University Students. There are 3.8 million in over 9,500 campuses. Outreach is yielding exciting results. Pray for the wide-ranging ministries of CCC (on campuses and among churches), for IFES, and for outreach to high school students.

b) Teenagers. Few churches have targeted them; most programmes are geared for adults.

c) Street children, especially in Mexico City. There may be up to 600,000 who sleep rough and desperately need love and help.

d) Christian camping. Christian Camping International runs nearly 200 camps around the country. Many other agencies and denominations have such ministry too. Pray for this well-used and fruitful ministry.

8 Foreign missionaries' legal position was for years ambiguous and restrictive, but religious visas can now be obtained. The great majority are US citizens, so they need sensitivity and tact in their cultural adaptation to overcome the perceived disadvantages of their origin and wealth. Missionaries from outside North America are less than 20% of the total, but face fewer cultural and historical negatives. Openings are many for missionaries in children's and youth work, evangelism and church planting, and especially in leadership training. The largest agencies are SIL (235), NTM (102), IMB-SBC (101), YWAM (89), LAM (82), BBF (69), CAMI (60), MTW (48), SdA (45), BIM (44), Brethren (44), OM (37), WEC (28), CCCI (28), CMA (26), Bethany Fellowship (21), OMS (20), CRWM (18), CoN (17), TEAM (17), Action Int. Ministries (14). Pray that their ministries may assist the Church to be what God desires.

9 Sections of the population and peoples with few committed Christians:

a) Evangelicals are only between 1 and 2% in the central states of Zacatecas, Jalisco, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Colima, Michoacán and Querétaro, and between 2 and 4% in the states of Baja California Sur, Sonora, Sinaloa, Durango, Nayarit and Mexico.

b) Indian peoples are largely Catholic in name but pagan in practice. The old pantheon of gods and spirits have been given Catholic names. It has been researched by COMIMEX that of 296 people groups, 26 are without a viable Christian witness, 104 have a church that still needs help from the outside to finish preaching the gospel in their group, and a further 12 are inadequately researched. Vital discipleship and church-planting ministries must be expanded to build on the impressive Scripture translation programme of SIL. Pray for the expanding work of several mostly new national and international organizations like NTM in five tribes as well as for the extensive work of the Assemblies of God, Baptists, Presbyterians and others.

c) The many conservative Catholic and animistic towns, cities and groups where evangelical witness is limited and introverted, need to be reached.

d) The wealthy elite. There is a strong atheist-agnostic current among them reinforced by an education system designed to dilute the influence of the Church.

10 Mexico City is a major challenge! Its growth rate has slowed because of its air pollution and inadequate infrastructure. The Metropolitan Area is still one of the world's largest urban agglomerations. Only about 1.9% of the population is actively involved in one of the 2,300 or so evangelical congregations. Pray for:

a) The 1,000 or so neighbourhoods without an evangelical congregation – especially needy are the upper-class areas.

b) The slum-dwellers. Of the 18 million poor, over 7 million live in squalid housing as squatters in desperate economic conditions. Christian ministry to them is fraught with difficulty and challenge. Few are prepared to commit themselves to it.

c) The million Indians representing nearly every language of Mexico. Very little is being done to cater for their spiritual needs.

11 Bible translation and distribution. Despite centuries of social and cultural pressure, use of indigenous languages is vigorous and varied.

a) Translation. The role of SIL since 1936 has been remarkable, with involvement in translation programmes in 126 languages. There are at present 235 workers committed to 76 translation projects. There are 16 languages with a definite translation need and a further 32 where the need has yet to be clarified. The translation of the Yucateco Maya Bible (UBS) was completed in 1991. Pray for the achievement of New Testament and Bible translation goals despite virulent and scurrilous propaganda and agitation for the expulsion of all SIL workers by anthropologists, political factions, and even some Catholic leaders. The great need is to tie in translation work to church-planting and church-based literacy programmes.

b) Printing and distribution. The Bible Society has played an important role in production and distribution of Spanish and indigenous Scriptures in Mexico and for the whole region, as has the Bible League. Pray that the dissemination and reading of the Scriptures may transform individuals, congregations and the nation.

12 Christian support ministries for prayer:

a) Christian radio. Christian broadcasting was denied Evangelicals in Mexico in 1980, but constitutional changes in 1992 have made it possible for some programmes to be aired locally. There are numerous international broadcasts beamed towards the country with a total weekly input of 1,000 hours.

b) The JESUS film has been extensively used as a film and on TV. Viewers are now equivalent to over half the population. The film is in use in 54 Mexican languages and being prepared in a further 6. Pray for effective strategies for its use in large cities and for multiplying congregations.

c) Cassette recordings. GRN have messages available in 240 languages and dialects. It is a vital tool in the complex linguistic situation. Pray for recordists, new recordings, wide distribution and eternal fruit.

d) MAF has a key role in the mountainous and inaccessible regions of the southern part of the country.

e) Christian literature. Prisma magazine, published since 1969, has been used in evangelism and edifying believers. There is a growing number of Christian magazines and Mexican-authored books. Pray for a literate, well-taught Church to be the result.

13 Migrant Mexican labour in California and other US border states has long been a feature of national life. Their numbers are unknown, but may be as many as six to eight million (many illegals). There are many opportunities for them to hear the gospel. Pray for evangelistic and church-planting work in Spanish by CAMI, GMU and many denominational workers in these areas.

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