Thursday, April 20

What Stateside churches can learn from their Ecuadorian brethren

A report was released yesterday in the Baptist Press concerning the 2005 Annual Church Profile (ACP). "Recently compiled statistics for the Southern Baptist Convention show that baptisms...slumped again in 2005 from 387,947 to 371,850, or -4.15 percent."

Along this same theme, Thom Rainer in an article for the Florida Baptist Witness "The Dying American Church." states the following:

The facts of a 2004 research project I led are sobering. It takes 86 church members in America one year to reach a person for Christ...if the research is even close to accurate, the reality is that the church is not reproducing herself. In just one or two generations, Christianity could be so marginalized that it will be deemed irrelevant by most observers...
Compare this to the 3:1 baptism ratio as shared in one of my previous posts of the folks in our house churches here in Guayaquil. It takes three of them one year to baptize one new believer. While that is a far cry from our goal of every believer winning/discipling eight per year, it sure beats an 86:1 ratio for churches in the States! Baptisms are a key indicator to overall church health.

Why has the American church become evangelistically anemic? Thom of course gives several reasons in his article, but I would like to capitalize on just one of them, "Christians in churches often get caught up in the minor issues and fail to become passionate about the major issue of evangelism..."

I honestly believe most Stateside churches have more to learn from Guayaquil believers than the other way around!

What differences are there between our Ecuadorian national brethren and their Stateside counterparts? Why are the folks here so much more effective with their evangelism than Stateside Christians? I can identify at least seven overlapping things I see the house church believers consistently doing that isn't usually seen in most Stateside churches:

1) Praying daily for lost. Talk to any of the believers in a Guayaquil house church and they will show you their list of people they pray for daily of unsaved family, friends, neighbors.

2) Active regular sharing of the Gospel. It is a very natural part of their Christian walk to share the Gospel with people they encounter in their daily lives. Christ has made such a difference in their lives, and they cannot help but share this with those they come in contact with.

3) Planning regular evangelistic events. The house churches plan regular evangelistic events inviting those they are praying for to attend (concerts, outdoor street meetings, special programs, family conferences, DVD/Videos, invited guest speakers, neighborhood evangelistic door-to-door blitzes, etc.)

4) Visiting the sick and personally ministering to lost friends, neighbors and family in times of crisis. They are very good about visiting sick people outside of their church family, praying for their healing and ministering to lost family and friends during difficult times.

5) Not distracted by a lot of outside issues like Thom Rainer mentions above. We too have our sticky issues, but they are more along the lines of things like can unmarried couples who get saved be baptized? How to counsel people with difficult problems? How to discern if someone is demon possessed or just emotionally unstable? How to handle questions that Roman Catholics always ask? Why doesn't God always heal someone when they are prayed for? If I were to share with them (and I don't) the issues that are causing all the uproar in the IMB and SBC these days, they would shake their heads in disbelief!

6) Intentionally focus on evangelism as a life priority. Talk to any of them and they will tell you that their ministry is to win/disciple at least eight people this year. They expect God to give them these souls and are consciously praying and working to achieve this goal.

7) They maintain friendships/relationships with lost friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. They play ball on the street with them, visit them in their homes, minister to them in times of need. How are we ever supposed to win people to the Lord if we have little/no relationship with the lost? How is a Christian supposed to win lost people if they do not even know any? Folks here know plenty of lost people whom they are burdened for their salvation.

Stateside churches may be doing a lot of neat things, have wonderful church programs, great worship services and solid Biblical preaching, but if they are not winning people to Christ, baptizing, making disciples, and teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded, are they really a healthy N.T. church?

5 comments:

Donny Prater said...

What can I say, I am blown away! You are doing a huge work for the Lord in Ecuador. My prayer for you is a continued "God Thing" to happen in your life and ministry. You are in my prayers!

Wayne said...

Thanks for the post!

Anonymous said...

Please define "house church" for me. Thanks!

GuyMuse said...

Anonymous,

What is a "house church?" I would refer you to a previous post by clicking HERE. Be sure and also click on the link in the post that describes a typical Guayaquil house church meeting to give you a flavor of what it is like in house churches.

Thanks for stopping by.

jpu said...

wonderful stuff here Guy. it is convicting too. i talk to people, but i don't pray as much. i imagine community is more natural there. i need to be more intentional up here to get with believers who are focused on evanglizing the world. thanks
God is good
jpu