I guess it just needs to be said over and over, but the churches being planted on the field do not look like those back home in the States.
We do not plant Southern Baptist churches overseas. We plant New Testament churches that are "baptistic" in their practice, doctrine and outlook. Other than the language barrier, I truly believe most S. Baptists would feel quite comfortable attending any of the churches being planted. They resemble more what churches looked like in the book of Acts, than FBC, Any-Town, USA.
These "controversial" churches meet in homes, have leadership, baptize, teach the Word, nurture one another, worship, make disciples, and are FAR MORE evangelistic than most USA churches (see below entry entitled: You pray...and God answers) and compare their 3:1 baptism ratio with the 44:1 in the SBC. They are talking less, and obeying more! No, we don't have mega-facilities with bowling alleys and waterfalls, nor multi-million dollar budgets, and paid professional staffs. But is that the standard expected for the kind of churches we are talking about? What we have here is LIFE in Jesus and a passion for winning souls.
We welcome any doubters out there to come visit us. But to save you a bundle of money in airfare, allow me a moment to walk step-by-step through a Guayaquil house church experience. Last night my wife and I paid an unannounced visit to one of these questionable churches. Judge for yourself whether or not this is the kind of churches you want to see your missionaries planting overseas:
1) 6:30 pm we began with around 20 adults and several children, meeting in the home of the church planter which also doubles as a beauty parlor during the week. All the hair dressing equipment had been moved to another room to make space for the plastic chairs that were set up in a circle around the small room. It was very hot and crowded, but nobody seemed to mind (except the visiting missionaries!)
2) We sang a cappella 2 hymns, 1 psalm, and 1 praise chorus, all chosen at random by those present from tattered song books and a few xeroxed copies. No instruments--nobody there could play, no praise band, no orchestra, no choir, no microphones, pulpit, or any of the other "essentials" that many consider necessary in order to have "church". The singing was off-key, but it was a joyful sound!
3) Several people shared testimonies of how God is working in their lives and experiences from the week. There was an open time of prayer.
4) The church planter led in a participatory inductive Bible study of Matthew 10. The focus was on persecution and how we are to confront it as Christians. There were no theologians quoted, books referenced, Greek word studies--just pure Bible, verse by verse. The illustrations were all from their own personal life experiences. Lots of participation, questions, and dialogue. The visual aid was a piece of newspaper print with the main points handwritten and taped to the wall.
5) They next served the Lord's Supper. 1 Cor.11:23ff was read, followed by several moments of silent confession of sins. 3-4 shared testimonies of what Christ meant to them and how grateful they were that Jesus had saved them. As they partook of the elements we sang a love song of thanksgiving to Jesus for what He has done for us. Here one might have reason to criticize--they used Ritz crackers and grape koolaid instead of unleavened bread and wine--but nevertheless what was done was done in remembrance of Jesus.
6) An invited guest was introduced and it was quickly ascertained she was not a believer. At that point 2-3 shared with her their testimony of how they got saved. A couple of others shared several salvation verses. One person took the lead in extending an invitation. The lady did not accept the Lord, but did ask us to pray for her sick husband. Several people did so.
7) The offering was prayed over and collected with nearly everyone putting something in the basket. I was one of the last to put money in. It looked like there was less than $5 in total. All the proceeds of the offering were to go for #8 below.
8) Announcements were about next Sunday's evangelistic blitz of the whole neighborhood. Several minutes were spent going over the details and making sure everyone would be able to participate in the door-to-door witnessing blitz. This little church is dead set on winning their whole community to Christ. The offering will help buy some tracts for the event and hopefully something left over for refreshments afterwards.
9) Refreshments were served consisting of a half slice of white bread, an empanada (fried meat pie), a spoonful of tunafish, one tiny cookie, and a small glass of soda pop. There were only eight glasses for 20+ people so most had to share a glass (we guests got our own glass and didn't have to share.) We sat around visiting, laughing, and sharing for about a half hour. One sister went over and continued to share with the unsaved visitor while we ate, still trying to get her to accept the Lord.
10) They next invited the other IMB missionary who accompanied us to share about her work with the Chinese. We learned a song in Chinese, prayed for the Chinese, and asked questions about all the Chinese who live in our city. Everyone was moved that there are so many Chinese in Guayaquil who do not know the Lord and actually are Buddhists rather than Catholics.
11) A little after 9pm we broke up, everyone hugged, kissed on the cheek and we went home happy that we had been in the "house of the Lord."
Folks, these are real churches. Is there anything above that isn't Baptist? I guess I could confess the part I left out about the tongues that were spoken since that seems to be one of the issues being raised--the whole meeting was done in tongues--the Spanish tongue! The tongue they are all positive is spoken in Heaven!