By Ralph Kurtenbach, Special to ASSIST News Service
ECUADOR (ANS – December 22, 2017) — You might expect Carlos Scott to break a couple of rules. He did after all, have people dancing at a missions conference in Ecuador recently. “First we step to the right; then we step to the left,” he coached after gentle cajoling three conferees into joining him on the platform.
The Argentinian preacher’s illustration might have seemed edgy in evangelical circles. During the last half century, evangelicalism in Latin America has grown up with considerable influence from North American missionaries, schooled to deem dancing a distraction at best and at worst, sinful.
However, Scott — with his arms around the shoulders of Andres Stäubli, Cecibell Suarez and Carlos Sarango — pressed on and made his point: The task of world evangelism will require of Christians collaboration across denominational boundaries. Christians need to live in community, as do God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. “How interesting that the Cappadocian Fathers, to describe the Trinity, used the term perichoresis,” Scott related. “And the term describes a Trinitarian dance.”
Scott fit his message — including its concept of the Trinity considered by some as controversial — into the Unidos en la Misión (United in Mission) conference where it seemed to communicate well. The Quito event was organized this fall by HCJB Ecuador together with a dozen other mission entities.
The event’s 300 attendees came primarily from Ecuador; others came from different countries across Latin America. A parade of participants carrying in multicolored flags launched the conference.
Using biblical texts from the books of Genesis and Acts, Scott drew word pictures of two opposing spirits at work within the contemporary church. He referred to these as a self-laudatory spirit of Babel (in Genesis) that rejects those who differ, and a God-honoring spirit of Pentecost — “a celebration of diversity.”
Churches that lean toward a Babel concept would seek to grow in numbers at all cost, for example, even if such growth forced a compromise of its gospel message.
“What interests those of Babel [spirit] is the growth of their church — nothing but the growth of their church,” said Scott. “What interests us in the spirit of Pentecost is the extension of the kingdom of God to include every tongue, every people worshiping the Lamb [Jesus].”
He gave other examples, comparing two streams of thought about evangelism that compete for the loyalties of Christian leaders. “Mission is not anyone’s private project,” he explained. “Mission is from God, and then He invites His church to join His mission, using a church as an instrument but not with a church as an end in itself. The church exists for others. It exists for extending the kingdom of God.”
Scott drew distinctions between attempting to build a religious empire and an approach that seeks to expand through the Holy Spirit’s involvement in people’s lives. Relationship is cast aside in the spirit of Babel, treating “Jesus as an idol — something that can be manipulated,” he said.
Likewise, this diabolical system parallels the world of marketing, adapting its message to the felt needs of “clients” who fill the pews. By contrast, “in the spirit of Pentecost, God is God,” he summarized.
“In the spirit of Babel, triumphalism is upheld, in which success is defined by results. In the spirit of Pentecost, success is, ‘Father, I did everything that you directed me that I had to do,’” he continued. “Faithfulness, brothers and sisters, faithfulness.”
With foundations of true Christendom in place, there is diversity, according to Scott, who pastors within a belief that spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues continue to be operational. Other Christians believe the use of tongues stopped after the event of Pentecost, recorded in the book of Acts.
Imploring his listeners for tolerance among followers of Jesus, Scott said, “Receive [others]; love them.” He added that Jesus, following His resurrection, did not push the idea of church growth but instead taught on living as one of His followers.
“The biggest scandal in the Church,” Scott said, “is the contradiction between what is said and what is done. We need to get to a point where people say, ‘I want to be like them.’ That is the spirit of Pentecost.”
Afterwards, Stäubli continued the dance metaphor that Scott offered. “Let’s continue learning to dance with each other,” he said, acknowledging that “some denominations say dancing is not good. I challenge myself to dance with those of the Christian & Missionary Alliance, with the Baptists, with a Pentecostal and with an Anglican. We can move forward by learning to work together and leave aside differences to take care of the work of the Lord.”
At the end, Suarez took the microphone and invited attendees who felt God’s call on their lives to serve in missions to respond to Him. Some 65 people surged forward. Then dozens of others stepped up to say they would support these individuals in prayer and/or finances.
“Have mercy on the Ecuadorian church,” prayed Suarez who directs the Cooperación Misionera Evangélica Ecuatoriana (COMEC or Ecuadorian Evangelical Missionary Cooperation), an organization that encourages evangelicals to minister together. “Help us to focus on that which is so simple — the Great Commission.”
“There is more work to be done. We will continue to plan and follow up with these young men and women in equipping them for the mission ahead of them,” concluded Reach Beyond missionary Matt Parker. who directs HCJB’s online radio station, Control Z.
Photo captions: 1) Carlos Scott demonstrates a Trinitarian dance with (left to right,) Carlos Sarango, Andres Stäubli and Cecibell Suarez, at a missions conference in Ecuador. 2) Carlos Scott speaking. 3) Andres Stäubli. 4) Worship at the Ecuador conference. 5) Ralph Kurtenbach at the microphone.
About the writer: Ralph Kurtenbach, a missionary journalist, works with Reach Beyond, where he has been an English-language newscaster and program host on the international shortwave radio station, HCJB The Voice of the Andes. He now blogs at www.calloftheandes.wordpress.com and helps to mentor Latinos who want to join in taking the gospel to other parts of the world. He may be found on LinkedIn and his e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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