NTS recently interviewed Pastor Carlos Castillejos, of La Fuente Iglesia del Nazareno (The Fountain Church of the Nazarene), in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, a city in Chiapas, Mexico. Castillejos is a 2016 graduate with an MA in Theology.
Tell us how you decided to attend NTS.
I was 22 and still in college. I was a business major in Mexico. But during that time I thought God was calling me not to the business world, but to preach. I was praying more, I started fasting; I was really involved in the local church, and I was working in different ministries, like Nazarene Youth International. One night they invited me to preach, that was the first time I preached… to 80 or 100 young people. That night, I knew God was calling me to preach.
When I finished college, I wondered where I should attend seminary to prepare myself to serve God in a better way. Three people told me, “Why don’t you think about NTS?” I didn’t know anything about NTS. I watched a couple of the videos and saw all of the information on the website. I sent in my information. I was praying at this same time, “God, if you want me to go there, open the doors.” By the end of the summer, I knew God wanted me to go there. I said, “OK, God I trust you.”
Describe your experience of studying at NTS, including challenges and blessings.
I moved to Kansas City without knowing anybody. I just moved there. I was excited.
At the beginning it was hard, but then I started to meet people and make good friends. I’m still in contact with them. I had three roommates, really good people that helped me to be part of the community and we became really good friends. All the professors really knew their students.
NTS gave me the opportunity to make good friends outside seminary. I had the chance to be involved in the local church.
At the same time, my English was developing and improving a lot. The Hebrew books were in English, so you needed to know some specific grammar in English to understand the Hebrew. That was hard for me. The professors, all my friends, they were willing to help me.
I had the blessing and the opportunity to work in the library while I was a student there. I had a great boss, Debbie Bradshaw. Working on campus helped me to be more connected to the NTS community.
What was it like to be an international student at NTS?
Being away from your country, you’re in a different environment. That means a different culture, different point of view. You’re away from your family. Sometimes you want to go and see them, but you’re far away.
The weather where I’m from in Mexico, it’s really warm all year. In Kansas City in winter it’s snowing and it’s gray. That’s tough. Being away from home, sometimes you miss your family. But I was part of the student leadership team. I was really involved at Kansas City First Church. I had a lot of friends. I started to feel like this was my family.
After you graduated from NTS, you served for three years in several associate pastor roles in the Chicago area, alongside teaching Old Testament at Olivet Nazarene University as an adjunct professor and working in administration at the Nazarene district office. Then you sensed God leading you back to your hometown of Tuxtla Gutiérrez to plant a church. Tell us more about that.
I know God wants me to be a senior pastor. That’s my dream. I was discerning that God was leading me back to Mexico. I started talking to my parents about the idea of going back to my country but it was hard. I was in a fasting and prayer retreat, two and a half days of prayer—not eating anything, only praying and reading the Bible. It was in the prayer retreat God answered me that it was time to come home and plant a church. I told my three bosses I had in Chicago. The three of them said, “Yeah, if that’s the place God wants you to be, we support you. We want you to be where God wants you to be.” That was a sign from God.
I moved back May 29. I planted the church September 22. So everything was really fast.
Describe La Fuente Iglesia del Naz, and your vision for this new church.
We’re called to pray and to fast. A church that seeks the Lord through prayer and fasting will experience the power of the Holy Spirit in amazing ways. But also I want new people at the church. I don’t want to take people from other churches.
We did a family weekend; it was an evangelism dinner and breakfast. We wanted people who were not believers. We want to make more and better disciples and I want to develop leaders.
Tuxtla Gutiérrez is the capital of the state. It’s a middle-big city of about 750,000 people. Right now the church is meeting at the Nazarene Seminary. We are in a really good location, on the main avenue of the city. We have a mall, all kinds of businesses; we have a lot of people walking by. It’s a middle-class area. We average about 70 people for worship, and we are aiming for 100 by the end of the year.
How do you see your education at NTS shaping your current ministry?
NTS, first of all, helped me to develop and to really shape my theological thinking. You grow up in the church, you learn in your Sunday school class but NTS helped me to improve and to develop and to shape my theological thinking. It really helped me to interpret the Bible in a deeper way.
It really helped me to understand and to learn the foundation of the Nazarene Church — how important it is to keep preaching holiness; how important it is to teach the new generation the importance of living a holy life. And now that’s what I preach.
NTS also taught me to learn different points of view from other people and other denominations.
I have people come and say, “I love the way you preach, how simple you do it. We can actually understand what the Bible is saying in a simple way. It has power.” I remember Dr. Thomas Noble, taking Doctrine of Holiness with him. I remember he told me, “Carlos, if you want to teach in a simple way, if you want to make things simple, you have to study a lot and you have to learn. If you do that, you are going to be able to teach the Bible in a simple way.”
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