When we visit a church in the States, we are always happy to worship in our own language. But when we hang around to talk, so many people want to talk about their particular angle on the truth. Many churches have their particular color; the word of faith, the seeker friendly, the discipleship, the Spirit only, the Word only, the liturgical, the prophetic, the dancing flags and the positive shot in the arm church. There is something to enjoy of Jesus in each one. There are only 30,000 known Protestant denominations. And in each church, there are people who want their church to be more Word, more political, less political, more prophetic or more decent. The American church, as a daughter of the European church, seeks unity of thinking, of doctrine. That is hard. Paul said in his letter to the mega church in Ephesus, we should seek the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3) that will lead us eventually into the unity of faith (Ephesians 4:11).
In our American history, with the Pilgrims and the Great Awakening, the emphasis was on the left side of the brain, the unity of doctrine, thinking the same. They followed Calvin who established a “righteous city’ imposing religious laws on everyone. They flogged or put into stocks those who slept in during church. They drowned people for believing you needed to the baptized as an adult. Women were accused as heretical or as witches for moving in the gifts of the Spirit. Thankfully, the influence of George Fox and the Quakers had more of an influence in the writing of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights that prohibits the government from making a law that establishes a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The Puritans were ticked that they could not impose their Calvinistic rules on the population but the Quakers were free to worship, as they wanted.
In South America, as in Africa and South Asia, the church leans toward the unity of the Spirit. The Pentecostal-Charismatics Christians are growing exponentially as the American -European church is shrinking. That might be a good thing. In Colombia, we are more like Quakers than Puritans. The church is advancing through influence rather than imposition. The goal is to connect people with the living Jesus instead of a particular theological grid. George Whitefield has been one of my heroes for years and I did not think too much about his theological fights with John Wesley over Calvinism verse Armisnism. Today, we don’t think it is a big deal if one emphasizes predestination over free will, but ideas have consequences. Did you know that George Whitefield, who was a hero of mine, went to Georgia when the States had abolished slavery 120 years before the Civil War? Whitefield preached all over the state and convinced them that slavery was the ways things are. He preached that some are predestined to be slaves and the South must accept that. And the States voted slavery back. If it were not for Whitefield, the Civil War might have never been. I wonder how much Calvinism with the inherent “us and you” mentality helped foster racism, the Nazi hate of Jews, and the persecution of Anabaptist and Quakers. How much of this mentality has polluted the political atmosphere in the States? The far left does not have a clue that the church of Jesus Christ loves them.
When church groups come to visit us in Colombia, I see them relieved that the Spirit gives life. They love the lack of doctrinal pinpointing and they can get back to loving the Lord. We are clear about the Lordship of Jesus because that is what the Spirit does, exalts Jesus. I tell pastors who come here that we are not sophisticated enough to discern between the fundamentalists and the Pentecostals. We don’t know why John McArthur fumes against Benny Hinn. We think they both are great. We do have our problems down here. Too many pastors are the big chiefs who control their people. Still, too many churches think holiness is no makeup and long dresses. Many churches have ushers who look more than bouncers than greeters, making it hard for new people to come, but overall, there is the Quaker attitude that all people have great value. There is no “we and you” but ” we all are in this together.” The church values all races, genders and social strata. It is hard to keep up our sophisticated differences when we are worshipping on our faces.
North America and Europe are still sending missionaries to the southern continents. But slowly the missionaries are rising from the south. The Spirit influenced people seemed more poised to win this new generation hungry for the supernatural. The millennial will fidget if you try to explain the sound doctrine of Christ. But they are dying to see the Gospel shown to them in love and power. I know a few dear brothers will cringe in fear thinking that my Holy Spirit leanings will twist sound doctrine, but I remind them that the Spirit Himself promised to guide us into all truth. I have more faith in Him than in the devil’s ability to deceive us.