Advertisements
Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Baxter Institute’

imitastionBecause of internet issues, this post is coming out two days after returning from Honduras! Sorry. mw

I’m in Tegucigalpa, Honduras today, teaching in the Baxter Seminar at the Baxter Institute. Baxter Institute was founded in the mid-sixties and has served Latin America faithfully as an institution of higher learning since then. In addition to the college-level theological education offered to their students, a medical clinic has been opened on the 19-acre campus in the heart of this capital city in order to show the love of Christ in the community.

I’m here at the invitation of Stephen Teel, the fifth president of Baxter and a former missionary to Argentina. Let’s Start Talking worked with Teel in the mid-90s in one of our first works in Buenos Aires. His invitation to teach at this Seminar—which, by the way, is attended by over 200 Latin church leaders from not only Honduras, but also El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, and only a handful of us Gringos from North America—was very intentional.

Steve and I were talking this morning, and I was telling him about the great interest in LST that I saw in the class I was teaching. He was delighted and told me that he wanted me to emphasize how the LST strategy of helping people improve their English was especially valuable in Latin America because it tended to appeal to people who perhaps were a little better educated, a little more professionally ambitious, a little better connected to the world—in general, a group of people that have been more difficult to penetrate with the Gospel.

I recognized this need from previous conversations with missionaries in Brazil, in Ecuador, in Chile, and other Latin American countries, where many of our churches are quite poor and lack strong national leadership—mostly because of lack of education and resources for developing leaders among a social strata that is never called upon to lead.

Then, however, Steve surprised me a little by saying that too many of the churches that he is familiar with know no other way to evangelize than to knock doors, and hold gospel meetings, to which they find great resistance (naturally!), so they have tended toward medical clinics—to which they find much more receptivity (naturally!) because they are giving their neighbors something they really need.

Furthermore, Teel said that the churches here have not seen other types of evangelism like LST, so they can hardly imagine it.

I’ve heard that before in many other countries as well. People learn by imitating what they see, not by reading brotherhood newspapers or attending lectureships. When they see it in action, they can decide if it is worth imitating—or not.

I’ve often wondered why so many mission sites seem to be stuck in the 1950s! Their theology, their worship, and their activities seem all to have been inherited from the missionaries who first taught them and who first modeled for them the way to do things. That seems to be the obvious reason for a kind of spiritual stagnation that knows no political boundaries.

I have often wondered why these wonderful—usually small—mission churches have not continued to grow and to mature—all of which would, of course, imply changing—YIKES!

My single working theory for many years has been that the early missionaries taught them a formulaic Christianity. One pattern, one way of worshipping, one acceptable way of living, dressing, acting—all of which, of course, was the pattern and formula that the missionaries themselves believed to be true and appropriate at the time of their greatest influence on that church.

Now, however, I think I’m going to add another reason to my working hypothesis, that is, that these small mission churches have not had enough contact with either more mature Christians, or with Christians who have had different or “newer” experiences in faith. And, I’m afraid that when they did, they were so fearful of breaking the pattern that they were given that they labeled false and heretical ideas and actions that were simply different.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. As I was sitting in the devotional this morning with 200+ people singing their hearts out in Spanish (of which I could only pick out a few words), I thought to myself. If these were African Christians, somebody would be up moving with the music (otherwise known as “dancing.”) If these were almost any large gathering of North American Christians, someone, if not many, would be raising at least one hand in praise. If we were in Asia, the singing would be too loud. And they did not sing a single song that I recognized as translated from English—something pretty rare all over the world among Churches of Christ.

The danger is not the diverse expressions and words of these global Christians; the danger is the breach of fellowship when anything but the familiar is witnessed or experienced. Instead of fearing that person who sings a different song, who introduces a “better” understanding of familiar scriptures, who wants to do something different, we who travel between such churches, we who support these works, we who do short-term works in these churches need to encourage growth and maturing, to encourage learning, nurture good changes.

The best way to do this may not be to hold a weeklong seminar on “Changes That You Desperately Need” as if we are the Perfect Ones and they are the Ignorant Ones, rather to go in a spirit of humility and gently act out our faith—act out our worship—act out our new ways of evangelizing—act out our new ways of serving—and let them follow Paul in leaving the bad and holding on to what is good.

Thank you, brothers and sisters in Honduras, for teaching me this. I am going to do things differently in the future because of what you have taught me.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: