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 22:2-10When 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.