Peru Report — December 2009

It is always exciting to see God move in ways that you neither plan nor expect.  That is exactly what happened last week in Peru with our little team.  We saw the power of God and the power of the Gospel in ways that we did not expect.

One of the things we had been told from the beginning of the REAP strategy was that the going would be slow and we should not get discouraged because we don’t see a lot of people coming to Christ in the early stages of our involvement.  We are dealing with a people, who by and large, have no understanding of Christianity.  What little information they have has been mixed with their ancestral religions dating back hundreds of years.

The early Incas, and most of Peru, worshiped Pachamama (Mother Earth) and El Sol (the Sun god).  They believed that when these two came together they bore a son and he was the First Inca, the emperor.

When Spain began their conquest of South America they did not have enough money to finance their endeavors to conquer the lands and keep them, so the Vatican agreed to help finance part of their efforts in return for a share of the bounty and the use of the Spanish soldiers to “bring the gospel to the pagans.”  In many cases this was done by the sword not by persuasion.  The Incas were given a choice, convert or die.  So the converted, as least in words.

The Roman Catholic Church did not have enough priests to serve/teach the large numbers that had converted by this “mass evangelism” so the Native Peruvians simply changed the names to fit the Catholic church and then brought many of their practices and superstitions into the church.  They continued living as they had, they were just using different names for their gods.  Thus, Pachamama (Mother Earth) became the Virgin Mary; El Sol (Sun god) became God the Father, and the First Inca became Jesus; and then the regional and local gods (of which there are many) became the Saints.. But their way of thinking did not change.  Their false religion simply became mingled with the Catholic church and no clear gospel has ever been preached in these parts where we are working as far as we can determine.

One of the problems/barriers to Christianity in the Chancay River Valley has been that there has simply not been Bibles available.  We went there hoping to get some of the people to take a Bible from us. What we didn’t expect was to have people literally begging us for Bibles.  And we gladly accommodated them.  One of my favorite pictures (see left) we took is of an elderly woman, after receiving a Bible on Thursday night, sitting on the side of the street reading it.

We have seen three people come to faith in Christ in the short time we have been there. We do discipleship Bible study with these when we are there.  We also discovered that there is at least one group of believers (who believe in Jesus alone) in one of the villages.  In several conversations we had people tell us that they believe in the “image” or worship the Saints.  But God has called out a group to worship in Christ alone and we look forward to helping them become a vital church.

This is the season when we celebrate the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.  It is also the time as Southern Baptists that we emphasize International Missions through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.  God is giving us the opportunity to make an impact for the Gospel on an international scale.  Both through the LMCO and also through our work in the Chancay River Valley of Peru.

Let’s be faithful in both our giving and our going during this season.  Tell someone in Somerset about the great Gospel of Jesus Christ this year.

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How Important is the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions?

(THIS IS AN UPDATED AND CORRECTED POST)

How Important is the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions?

Someone asked me that question a few days ago so I thought I would try and put in perspective the importance and value of this annual offering we take this time of the year.  Last year Grace Baptist Church gave $13,075 to the LMCO.  Every penny of this went to the mission field.  It went to buy specific things that the missionaries need to minister in a foreign country.  Many of them, like people we know, minister in lands that are not friendly to the Gospel

Most Baptists are people who believe in international, as well as home missions.  We are very conscious that our Lord gave His commission to the church to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  At Grace we not only give to mission offerings but we personally are committed to taking the Gospel, not just sending others.  Thus we have adopted the  Chancay River Valley in the Andes Mountains of Peru and we expend money, in addition to LMCO and Cooperative Program, to reach these people with the Gospel.

The importance, indeed the urgency, of the LMCO becomes even more apparent when you realize just how little of our Cooperative Program money gets to the International Mission Board.  And of that which does get there a significant portion goes to administration stateside.  But ALL of the LMCO goes to the international field.

So you may ask, how much of our CP dollars actually get to the International Mission Board (IMB)?  This year we will give about $68,762 to the Cooperative Program.  It is sent to the Kentucky Baptist Convention in Louisville where it is split with the Southern Baptist Convention.  The KBC keeps 63% of our money and sends 37% on to the SBC.  That means $43,320.06 stays in Kentucky and $$25,441.94 goes to Nashville.  There the budget for the SBC is administered.  The IMB gets 50% of the SBC budget. So that means that 50% of our $25,441.94 goes to the IMB.  That is a total of $12,720.97.

The LMCO gives us a chance to more than double the money we send throughout the year to reach the nations with the Gospel.

This past summer at the annual meeting of the SBC, President Johnny Hunt appointed a Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.  They are charged with examining how we are spending our money as Southern Baptists and how we can get more to actually go to missions.  In my humble opinion, it is about time!!  We have some bureaucracies that will rival the Federal government for waste and inefficiency.

Don’t get me wrong . . . I love the Southern Baptist Convention.  I believe that we do missions better than most.  I believe we have a good system in place for doing missions in the Cooperative Program.  But I do think we need to do a better job.

So you see the LMCO is indeed very, very important in the cause of International missions.  So as we come to this time of year, and the standard Baptist joke is, “Are we ever going to pay Lottie Moon off?”  The answer is . . . Not until Christ returns or the nations are reached with the Gospel.  Pray and give above your tithe this Christmas season, that the nations may hear about our Lord Jesus Christ.

Worship is What We Do . . . or should be!!

WorshipWorship is what we do when we gather together each Sunday.  We do that for a lot of reasons, not least of which is because God has called us to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).  There are other times when we do other things.  We have times of fellowship and play together.  There are times when we get together to have some entertainment, such as the annual youth event, Blast from the Past.  But when we enter the sanctuary on Sunday we come with the focused  purpose of worship.  We sing, read God’s word, pray, and study God’s word; and not much else.  Again, that is by design.  Once we hear the call to worship (usually Scripture) at the beginning of the service until the benediction at the end, our focus is on God and His Being and truth.  You say, Bill, that’s a given, what else would a church do?

I ran across something in my study this week that was shocking to me, in that it could have been written last week.  It was written in the early 1900s by a man many of you have perhaps read, A. W. Tozer.  He said:

“The church that can’t worship must be entertained. And men who can’t lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment.”

I am amazed at the churches I see across the nation that have become more entertainment centers that places of worship.  I wept when I saw that a former church that I poured over 10 years of my ministry into, feeding them on the word of God, had a “power team” in to “wow and dazzle” with their feats of breaking bricks and boards and tearing phone books in half.  I watched on TV last week a “Christian comedian” in the pulpit during the time set apart for worship. Was he funny? Yes.  Did he handle the Word of God seriously? Absolutely not!!  I talked with friends this week who were lamenting the fact that the church they have just left (they are moving to another state) now evaluates everything as to what is the “wow factor”, whether signs in the buildings or sermons.

Twenty-five years ago a young preacher in Chicago went door to door and surveyed his neighborhood as to why people didn’t go to church.  The number one answer:  I get bored.  Bored!?!  Then something is seriously wrong.  As I read the scriptures I never find boredom a reaction when coming into the presence of God.  Fear, trembling, weeping, amazement and awe, but never boredom!!

Perhaps, and I’m only speculating here, the problem is in where the focus is.  If we focus on meeting with the living God there will be no boredom, I don’t think.  May God keep us focused as we worship Him each week.  As the writer of Ecclesiastes states, “To every thing there is a time and purpose . . .”  Let’s never forget the purpose for which we gather each week.