Saturday, November 25

What can Stateside churches learn from their Ecuadorian counterparts?

In the 2005 Annual Church Profile (ACP), Baptist Press reports, "...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 the Guayaquil house churches. 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 four 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 their Guayaquil brethren 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 house church believers consistently doing that are not usually seen in most Stateside churches:

1) Praying daily for the lost. Talk to the believers in a Guayaquil house church and they will show you their list of people they pray for daily of unsaved family, friends, and 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 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 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 States these days, they would shake their heads in disbelief!

6) Intentionally focus on evangelism as a life priority. Talk to them and they will tell you that their ministry is to win/disciple at least four people to Christ 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?

10 comments:

Travis said...

There is no doubt that we have much to learn from work around the world. It is time for the American Church to start taking notes from what God is doing in other places. Although, be encouraged that there are some here in the USA (like us) that are dealing with exactly the same issues you are dealing with. I am encouraged to "see" something further along than we are...blessings to God's work among you.

GuyMuse said...

Travis,

God is indeed doing many wonderful things around the world today. This includes the USA. We can all learn from one another, hence my sharing. I am encouraged that you guys are dealing with some of the same issues in your midst. Share with us what you learn as well so that we might benefit. I often share with our team things I have picked up from others and many times these ideas/concepts are incorporated into our work.

Darrell said...

Thanks for the love brother! I pray for the church here that she will wake-up! God has been warning us in many different ways and from many different people that if things do not change the little that remains will be gone. Thus far my experience in warning Christians of the realties of where we are headed is greeted with a yawn. May God have mercy on us! If anyone wants more insight into the real state of the church in the USA I found a very helpful web-site: http://www.theamericanchurch.org/

For the last two years I have realized what you are saying and have done everything I can to not just learn from the courageous Christians in Guayaquil and elsewhere, but do what they do. What is extremely cool is to see that it works here! God is doing wonderful things as we have applied the principles you and others are working with.

So thanks for everything you write! I look forward to checking your Blog everyday. I always wonder what God will teach me today!

Blessings Brother! Rock ON!

GuyMuse said...

Darrell,

Thanks for the kind words. I confess things look a lot prettier on paper, than the actual working out of them in real life, nevertheless, we continue to live and learn. We too long for the day when ALL our people are as committed as those whom we write about. We are a long way from anything close to ideal on this, so we too struggle. But God is at work here, as He is in many parts of the world (including the USA), and we rejoice to see His Name lifted higher and glorified amongst the nations.

knoxalan said...

If I can add something to #7 above: many American Christians (at least the ones that I know) submerge themselves in a Christian sub-culture and separate themselves almost completely from the lost. This is something that I'm working hard to correct in my own life.
- Alan

Travis said...

Guy,

Being that I have been working at a hospital part time and just where we are at as a church, we have dealing with questions about healing. Actually, we are just trying to live out healing. God has healed people in the midst of our meetings (one last night...baby had fever and sick...we prayed over him and he was healed), but we have yet to see healing fruit in evangelism which seems to have been the MO of Jesus. I guess I'm learning to believe that God actually wants to heal as I've had to de-progam some of my religious past.

We're also learning that church is family and trying to live that out. By the way, what do you think are some of the issues that American churches are having? I'm curious...I guess we are just putting our heads down and working for the King and the Kingdom that we are somewhat blinded, purposely, to some of these issues that I think you are talking about.

GuyMuse said...

Alan,

Thanks for your visit. I saw your comment on my other post as well. Yes, I would have to include myself in the same category of needing to improve my relationships with unbelievers. That is something I admire about those we work with, they DO maintain and have good relationships with those outside the family of faith. That is why they are winning so many to Christ!

Travis,

You ask about some of the issues USA churches have? I was referring to many of the discussions on the various SBC blogs out there concerning various and sundry theological issues (eg. private prayer language, who has the authority to baptize, Landmarkism, etc.) As I mention in my post, we have plenty of issues ourselves but they are more along practical lines of ministry and service, rather than theological.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Guy,

Great insight into the clear teaching of Scripture. I was in a pastor's meeting once and suggested that we schedule an evangelism project as an association. One pastor said his church would not participate because he does not teach them to do evangelism that way. He said he taught his church members that the Bible teaches "as you go" to evangelize. I agree with his assessment, but I have seen this used by many Christians and even pastors to rid themselves of the responsibility for sharing the Gospel.

Great concept to strive for 4 souls in a year. I will be using that before long.

Blessings,
Tim

GuyMuse said...

Tim,

Indeed many fellow believers balk at the idea of setting evangelism goals, of winning a certain number, etc. But we have found if we don't have a goal we are praying for and working towards, we usually end up doing next to nothing. And the years keep rolling by...

Travis said...

Guy,

The issues you mention are what I thought you were talking about. They are so "off the track" to what God wants to do that I try not to even bother entering those discussions, but here is my thoughts. The baptism stuff (only certain people can baptize, etc.), in my opinion, is antibiblical and from a practical standpoint, can only hurt the move of God. The private prayer language issue is a non-essential to me. I think we should just be excited people are praying. Personally, I don't have a PPL, but I don't see it as anti-biblical (and I do realize the caution of extremity). I'm surprised you didn't bring up the women in ministry subject (smiles)...that is another one the enemy uses to get people arguing. By the way, thanks for pointing out what you did on my blog...i hadn't noticed that.