Why We Should Be Excited About the Revival in Latin America
The Protestant Reformation began on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther defiantly nailed the 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. In 2017 we celebrated the 500-year anniversary of Luther’s act and the beginning of the Reformation.
However, according to Juan Sanchez, “The Reformation of the 16th century spread the doctrines of grace in Europe and North America, but it did not have the same effect on Latin America.” Some argue that the Protestant Reformation never came to most of Latin America. Others speculate it is happening before our eyes. Many say that the Protestant Reformation is not over, but rather has moved to the Global South. Latin Americans seem to be experiencing early signs of a massive revival. Like any movement, the early stages often contain elements that are less-than-perfect, but there are several reasons we should be excited about this revival.
It is part of the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Jesus tells His disciples (Acts 1:8) to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria AND the ends of the earth. Most scholars argue that there is a geographical order in this mandate. They were to be witnesses in their community, in their region (especially to the marginalized) and then throughout the world. As followers of Jesus, we are to proclaim the redemption of God both near and far. Occasionally, I hear someone say “We should not invest in foreign missions while we have people in our community that still need the gospel and other ministry support.” I would agree we do have people locally that need Jesus and our support. However, missions are not an “either/or,” but a “both/and.” We are to do ministry locally AND globally. We do not use global missions as an excuse to neglect our local community. Neither, do we use local poverty as an excuse to refrain from serving globally.
We need the Latin American Church. God is working miraculously in Latin America. With little more than prayer, the Bible, and the faithfulness of a small group of people, the evangelical revival is exploding throughout Latin America. There is a popular expression that “when the tide rises, all the boats in the water rise.” The revival in Latin America is not limited to a particular location or denomination. Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians and other denominations are all seeing significant renewal. There seems to be a “charismatic” ethos to nearly all of the movements. Passionate worship, prayer, authentic fellowship and often-miraculous signs are happening across denominational, generational, and economic lines. It can only be explained as a move of God. I suggest if you want to see what the church in the book of Acts looks like, go to Latin America.
The Latin American Church needs us as well. For all the excitement this revival in Latin America brings, there are challenges that accompany this explosive growth.
First, there is a lack of theological training for ministry leaders. Remote locations, expenses, and the demands of quickly growing ministries are preventing pastors and ministry leaders from obtaining critical training.
Secondly, there is a shortage of Bible-teaching ministries. Despite the growth of the church, Jariao Namnun writes that there are often no endorsed, healthy, Bible-believing churches within 100 miles of people.
Finally, many are preaching the false prosperity gospel. This prosperity gospel falsely teaches that God is the secret to a life of health and wealth. In other words, those with the favor of God possess health and wealth and those who struggle are the victims of their own lack of faith. This distorted and disturbing view of Christianity is particularly dominant in many countries that are experiencing revival. Many are only exposed to “prosperity preaching” because it seems to be the default expression of Christianity in some regions of Latin America.
Global Revival Impacts Local Revival. A stronger church in Latin America strengthens the church in the United States. Let me explain. For the last 200 years, western countries, in particular the United States, have sent missionaries throughout the world. Now, while the United States sees a decline in the percentage of people who claim to be Christian, other nations are viewing the United States as a critical mission field! Additionally, as immigration patterns continue to increase in the United States, immigrants bring their faith systems with them. Multi-ethnic, diverse churches in the United States often see more significant growth than churches comprised of people of the majority culture. So, when we share the gospel with the world, those who are impacted by the gospel globally will bring the good news back to the United States through evangelism and immigration.
If we want to assure our community knows Christ tomorrow, we need to make sure that the world is introduced to Christ today.