Wednesday, April 14

Working with Pentecostals

Do we work with and relate to Pentecostals? Yes. They are generally, on fire believers who have a huge heart for winning a lost world to Jesus Christ. Probably more so than any other group of Evangelicals in Ecuador (including Baptists).

I have been told 80% of non-Catholic believers in Ecuador are either charismatics or pentecostals. Does that stat surprise me? Not in the least. Their passion for the lost amazes me. That is why they are exploding in growth. To ignore and disassociate ourselves from them is not only unbiblical, it is ministry suicide, and quite clearly sin if you ask me.

Elsewhere I have posted about "unresponsiveness" being one of my biggest aggravations about being a missionary. It has been a source of frustration trying to motivate, convince, inspire, and partner with our Baptist brethren to go out into the world, evangelize/disciple and start new churches. Those who are eager and responsive are, for the most part, charismatics and pentecostals. Is it any wonder they make up 80% of the evangelical community?

I would personally feel a lot more comfortable training like-minded Baptists, but when there is little, to no response forthcoming, we do what the parable of the wedding banquet says,
"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. "Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' "But they paid no attention and went off--one to his field, another to his business...The king was enraged..."Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. --Matthew 22:2-10
When the invited guests make excuses for not coming, we literally "go to the streets" and invite anyone who is willing to come to the "training banquet" and be part of our church planting. Our constituency may not forgive us for doing this, but I feel the Lord does! :)

What do you do when a charismatic/pentecostal brother or sister comes to one of our church planting trainings? Turn them away? No way! They are invited guests and treated with full courtesy and get everything the invited guests would have received. They grasp the concepts, use our Baptist materials, are mentored, guided by Baptist missionaries, and then go out and plant one or more "outreach groups" that soon become NT churches.

The end result is New Testament churches started by charistmatic/pentecostals. Are they Baptist churches? Pentecostal churches? I don't know what they are!

Why can't we just simply call them New Testament churches?

If they are NT churches, shouldn't we count them as legitimate? Just because the brother/sister who started them comes from a different church background than myself, does that invalidate their church planting? I personally do not think so. Yet, to protect the integrity of our reporting only Baptist work to our S. Baptist constituency, many of these new works end up only being counted in Heaven by the Lord of the Harvest.

Now to be honest, I myself believe these "baptistic" NT churches that have been planted by our charismatics/pentecostal brothers should be counted. We relate to them, and have trained those that lead them. A gray area for me personally is... when do they cease to be legitimate "baptistic" church plants, and clearly become pentecostal church plants? What line has to be crossed to cease to be "baptistic" and become "pentecostal"?

Most of our established, traditional Baptist churches in Guayaquil are to some degree influenced by charismatic teachings and practices. Some more than others. There are some that carry the name "Baptist" who are nearly as pentecostal in practice as any Pentecostal church around. Yet they call themselves Baptist. They are reported year after year on the annual IMB statistical reports. When does one cross the line and cease to be Baptist? Maybe I should know, but I don't. Who is it that defines these things?

Anybody out there care to share your thoughts on any of this? I have two open ears, and am willing to listen and learn.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

My mentor and professor, Bill Branter, came from a Pentecostal (Church of God, Cleveland TN variety) background. The study of Greek, caused him to rethink his theology, but it never caused him to devalue his exeperience. I can remember him in Greek class lamenting "You men can have all of your theology right and still have it be a pile of wet wood. On a cold barren day, just try starting a fire with wet wood. Give me the ready, catch fire any day and if it gets out of control, you can throw water on it, but it does not work the other way around."

I think that one of the reasons that pentecostal churches are so successfull in latin america is that they are a closer match for the culture. They celebrate with emotion, the decry sin with emotion, they dance and shout and worship and teach with passion. They are also closer to spiritual realities than many other evangelical groups are comfortable.

Should we count them. Ummm I am probably the wrong person to ask as my conservative counting was not very popular. Given the choice, though, I would rather be counted in heaven than in Richmond.

Frank Lamca

GuyMuse said...

Dear "rather be counted in heaven than in Richmond",

One of the commands of Christ most overlooked is "seek FIRST the Kingdom of God". His Kingdom is so much bigger than our kingdoms. When we find ourselves serving these secondary kingdoms at the cost of serving THE KINGDOM, then we must rethink what we are about. Of course, to do so, may mean a bit of discomfort when dealing with believers different from ourselves. But it is a joy for me to be around people who see and understand Kingdom matters differently. Thanks for your good insights!

Greg Bailey said...

Guy, I come from yet another tradition, the churches of Christ. I personally would feel a lot more comfortable if we could all drop the man made labels and just plant churches. You are on track brother! Keep preaching Jesus and planting churches that follow him with everything they have!

GuyMuse said...

Greg,

You write, I personally would feel a lot more comfortable if we could all drop the man made labels and just plant churches. So would I. I don't know why there is so much tension on these kinds of issues. In a country where 93 out of every 100 are on their way to a Christless eternity, it doesn't seem to make much sense to put a lot of emphasis on what name is on the sign outside the newly planted churches!

Aussie John said...

Guy,

In pastoral ministry in a country town which existed in a spiritual vacuum, I appreciated the opportunity to fellowship with, and spend time in prayer with a Pentecostal pastor. Fellow Baptists were far too busy for such activity.

Churches are like some products: take the label off and underneath is the real thing.

Kevin Bart said...

Guy, we have worked with and helped &/or trained about 50 churches in Brazil so far to share Christ in their communities. One of our main projects that has grown alot is speaking & sharing Christ in schools, and we always work with churches so they can do the important follow-up work of integrating the new believers into the church and discipling them.

Most of the churches we work with are Baptist churches, but we have worked with 4 or 5 evangelical/ pentecostal churches. I agree that they generally are more enthusiastic about reaching out to the lost and doing the follow-up work and in making disciples. Some of the Baptist churches have done a good job, and some have dropped the ball, especially in doing the follow-up work. The evangelical/ pentecostal churches have all done a great job, and done it with passion and enthusiasm. It is a blessing and a privilege to work with any church or group that is passionate about Jesus and about joining God in His work.

debbiekaufman said...

Wow Guy. What food for thought. Again.

GuyMuse said...

Aussie John,

I used your Churches are like some products: take the label off and underneath is the real thing. quote for my Facebook status update this morning. A lot of truth in that statement!

GuyMuse said...

Kevin,

You write, It is a blessing and a privilege to work with any church or group that is passionate about Jesus and about joining God in His work.

This has been our position for many years. We will work, train, mentor, encourage, anyone in the Kingdom who is willing to get out there and make disciples of the nations. The task is far too huge to just limit ourselves to the handful of like-minded brethren.

GuyMuse said...

Debbie,

Thanks for the kind words. As Aussie John says above, God isn't interested in the labels we wear, but in what is underneath those labels!

Steve Pennell said...

Guy, I've learned a lot from my charismatic friends over the years. Not everything they do and teach is incorrect. When all is said and done, I would rather hang out with charismatics than cessasionists.

As for me, I've decided that I want what the Bible actually teaches -nothing more, but certainly nothing less.

I've sure grown to appreciate your thinking as we've reconnected on FB.

Blessings, my friend.

Steve Pennell

BParsons said...

I know this is a peripheral issue, but I wonder why so much is made of the phrase "New Testament Churches?" I've heard all sorts of groups, especially those who thought they were the restorers of "pure" Christianity who called themselves "New Testament" churches.

Let's consider a few of them. There's the New Testament church in Corinth, where a young man was living with his father's wife. There was the New Testament church in Galatia, which had been "bewitched" by the Judaizers.

There's the New Testament church in Ephesus, which had lost its first love, and the one in Laodicea, well, we won't go there.

Sometimes we are tempted to see the "New Testament" churches as pristine, untainted, and identical to the righteousness and teachings of Christ.

Yet I find them to be flawed, messy, and some of them completly obnoxious. When I think of the Corinthians, tolerating incest, drunken at the communion table, and fighting over their favorite factions, I realize that they were not much different from us today.

It is interesting that the vast majority of New Testament books were written to address a flaw, a crisis, or a false teaching among the Christians of the first century.

That's why I'm not in favor of a "restoration" movement to bring us back to our original state, much like the disk that restores a computer to its out of the box factory condition. I would rather see us as the church of our own time and place, hopefully wiser through the experiences, errors and persecutions of our ancestors, and willing to be molded by the Lord of the Church for His service at this time and place in history.

I would not want these comments to be seen as a condemnation of any group, Pentecostal or otherwise. We all want to see our churches improved and purified. I just don't think the "New Testament" label fills the bill.

GuyMuse said...

STEVE: One of my newer favorite quotes is A cessationist is often someone who's just not been to the mission field. -Mark Marshall Thanks for the kind words. I too have been blessed by our reconnecting.

GuyMuse said...

BRUCE: I hear you loud and clear. Good thoughts. I just finished Neil Cole's "Church 3.0" which says basically the same thing. There is no way to restore the 1st Century church. As you point out, would we even WANT to with all the problems we find in the pages of the NT that describe her! Cole's 3.0 is building upon the best of what we can glean from our understanding of Church 1.0 (1st Century church) and 2.0 (church after Constantine to present) to get to 3.0 which is what the book is about. It is an interesting read and been very helpful in our CP work as we have made some changes in the past three months. I hope to blog on this in the coming days.

Espen said...

I wonder why this question is posed, is it because of a perceived superiority of baptist theology or just because it is more comfortable to work with like minded people (or both)?

To me it seems that when it becomes important to define a church plant as "baptist" or "pentecostal" it is because the kingdom we build is "baptist" or "pentecostal"...

GuyMuse said...

ESPEN: That is precisely my point. It seems we are both saying the same thing! If we are to "seek first the Kingdom of God", is there any room for labels?

Espen said...

:) I think we would be better off without labels, but the world we live in (including the "christian" world) uses it wherever it can.

But it is important to realize that a label (or denomination) is not above another (eliminates arrogance, competition) and that Jesus was neither a baptist nor a pentecostal (nor even a protestant, and can I say it :-), not even a christian ...). What is important is what level of intimacy we (and the persons we want to work with) have with the King.

[BTW the book of Joshua has a passage dealing with what label God carries (Jos 5:13-14), notice how the angel just responds "no" to Joshua's question.

And this is a very interesting prophechy dealing with the question http://www.christisall.org/2005/12/23/disarming-the-irregulars-by-wolfgang-simson/]

GuyMuse said...

ESPEN: If I am not mistaken, this parable/prophecy/story is also shared in a slightly altered form in Wolfgang's "Starfish Manifesto." Again, I think we are basically saying the same thing about this matter. As Aussie John says above, Churches are like some products: take the label off and underneath is the real thing.