Tag Archives: Latin America

Toward a Gospel-Shaped Church Culture in Latin America

Bible-based, gospel-centered, Jesus-exalting church culture. Perhaps you’re used to hearing about (and hopefully seeing) that sort of thing. Not so for many in Latin America.

In a new roundtable video, Juan Sanchez, Miguel Núñez, and Carlos Conteras discuss the need for such an environment in Latino local churches.

“Though it may sound cliché, we cannot underestimate the danger of assuming the gospel,” contends Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. Whether in exchange for moralistic civil religion or unbridled pragmatism, assuming the gospel has always led to losing it. In addition to preserving the gospel’s clarity, adds Contreras, pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Juárez, Mexico, Latin American believers must fight to trust its power. Indeed, observes Núñez, a new TGC Council member, as “the image of God becomes smaller and the image of man becomes larger in our own minds,” the more tempted we’ll be to rely on our own understanding and effort rather than on God’s wisdom.

Cultivating “a biblical mind” is a particularly pressing need in a Latin American culture that often tends toward emotion. “Emotion is not bad,” Sanchez explains, but emotion “fired up by something other than truth” most certainly is.

Watch the full seven-minute video to hear these pastors discuss misguided passion, letting the gospel do its thing, and more. You can find more resources on gospel-centered ministry in the Latin American context at the TGC Spanish site, Coalición por el Evangelio.

TGC Welcomes Two New Council Members

The Gospel Coalition welcomes to its Council two new members with a track record of gospel-centered ministry in the Latin American context.

Miguel Núñez is senior pastor of International Baptist Church in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and is the founding president of Wisdom and Integrity Ministriese5c40b57797f259a21d7b0bfc529ecc1, which has the vision to influence today’s generation with God’s revelation in the Spanish-speaking world. He is author of Jesus, el Hombre Que Desafió al Mundo y Confronta Tu Vida (Jesus, the Man who Challenged the World and Confronts Your Life) and Una Iglesia Conforme al Corazón de Dios (A Church After God’s Own Heart), and co-author of the leadership book Seguirazgo. Miguel also co-hosts the television show Respuestas: Verdades Absolutas para un Mundo Relativo (Answers: Absolute Truths for a Relative World), which is transmitted all over Latin America. Additionally, Miguel and his ministry are responsible for the annual Por Su Causa (“For His Cause”) conference, which gathers thousands of Latin Americans in the Dominican Republic and challenges them to embrace historic biblical Christianity. As a physician, Miguel practiced medicine in the United States for about 15 years (1982-1997) and was a clinical professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He has been married for more than 30 years to Dr. Catherine Scheraldi, who is still in the practice of medicine.

Sugel Michelén has been an elder and regular preacher at Iglesia Bíblica del Señor Jesucristo (Lord Jesus Christ’s Biblical Church) in Santo Domingo, Dominicansugel-michelen Republic, for more than 30 years. He has a master of theological studies and has authored several books, including Hacia Una Educación Auténticamente Cristiana (Toward an Authentic Christian Education), Palabras al Cansado: Sermones de Aliento y Consuelo (Words to the Weary), He Who Perseveres Until the EndThe Christian and War, History of the Reformed Baptists in Colombia, and a children’s picture book titled The Most Extraordinary Story Never Told. Sugel is an associate instructor at Laurel University, teaches philosophy at Logos Christian School, and for 10 years has been a regular lecturer for the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) for Latin America. Sugel and his wife, Gloria, have raised three children and have three grandchildren.

Crawling Through The 10/40 Window

For more than two decades, much of the Christian world has been turning its gaze toward the 10/40 Window. Increasingly the North American evangelical church, the richest church in the history of the world, has been redirecting its missionaries and other missions resources toward the darkness within the this area of the globe. The goals are highly commendable, but are these methods prudent?

Argentine-born evangelist Luis Bush coined the phrase “10/40 Window” in 1989. The Joshua Project currently defines the 10/40 Window as those 69 countries that sit between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. This is the heart of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. It has been estimated that 90 percent of the 4.4 billion people living in the 10/40 Window are unevangelized; yet only 10 percent of our global missionary force serves there.

Why Not the West

According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, in 2010 the U.S. sent out 127,000 of the world’s estimated 400,000 missionaries. It is wonderful to see U.S. churches accepting their role as senders. However, missionaries sent from the United States may not be the answer to opening the 10/40 Window.

In the current geo-political environment the United States and its citizens are not favorably viewed by a majority of the governments in the 10/40 Window countries. Of the 10 countries in the world that are classified as hardest for U.S. citizens to receive visas, seven of those are located in that area. In much of the 10/40 Window, missionary visas are simply not granted to foreigners.

The U.S. Department of State has issued travel warnings and recommends U.S. citizens avoid travel in 23 of the countries. The Open Doors World Watch List also counts the top 10 most dangerous countries for Christians in the world within the 10/40 Window.

Women account for a disproportionately large percentage of U.S. missionaries, with single women outnumbering single men 4 to 1 on the mission field. While our culture views the involvement of women in missions as a blessing, much of the rest of the world disagrees with us. In fact, many of the cultures contained within the 10/40 Window are hostile to women—especially Western women.

The United States and its missionaries are simply not welcome in much of the 10/40 regions. But this doesn’t mean Americans should fold up our missions tents and ignore the billions of unsaved in these parts of the world. Jesus promised us hard times: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). John Piper echoed this same sentiment when he wrote, “If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full.” Nobody said missions was easy. Still, there may be a better approach.

Sending from the Global South

In recent decades we have seen an eruption of evangelical churches in Latin America and Southern Africa. New churches and individual conversions are emerging in the Global South. Many of these newer churches now have a generation or two of spiritual maturity and are sending out their own missionaries.

As churches in the Global South have developed, many U.S. missionaries and churches have changed their approach to these regions and are beginning to transition into supporting roles. Churches in Latin America and Southern Africa are now seeking theological resources, biblical training, and assistance in forming seminaries. In many of these countries, U.S. missionaries are focusing more on discipleship and theological training.

Already missionaries are going out from these regions. But why not send more? Compared to those from the United States, missionaries originating from the Global South can gain easier access to countries in the 10/40 Window. For instance, Latin American passports can gain access to countries that U.S. and Western European passports can’t. It may be time for our churches to embrace the shifting landscape. Rather than sending missionaries from our home country, we can send to the 10/40 Window our brothers and sisters from the Global South.

Embracing Evolving Dynamics

The lives of our U.S. missionaries are no more valuable in God’s eyes than our Latin and African brothers and sisters. But the issue is not about danger or ease of passage. This is about wise use of the resources God has given us. Churches in the United States possess wealth unmatched in Christian history. Those vast resources could be effectively used sending U.S. missionaries into the Global South and providing discipleship and theological training to our brothers and sisters in Latin America and Southern Africa. Let’s give the churches in the Global South the training, resources, and financing they need to reach the 10/40 Window. Churches in the United States and churches in the Global South can partner together to evangelize the billions of lost souls in regions that need to be evangelized with ferocity.

After decades of taking the lead, we in the Western world may need to take a more supportive role and let our brothers in the South handle the face-to-face evangelism. What matters most is that we work together as a global church to find a way through the 10/40 Window in order to share the gospel with billions of the lost who are not being reached. In the end, what matters most is not who was sent but that God will receive the praise and the glory.

TGC Announces a New Site En Español

Through our website, The Gospel Coalition aims to circulate excellent, gospel-centered biblical, theological, and pastoral resources. Our site, which attracted more than 31 million pageviews in 2012, enables us to deliver these essays, news reports, books, videos, sermons, and much more for minimal cost. But the website also gives these resources a global audience. Last year more visits came from Sydney, Australia, than any other city except Chicago. London and Singapore also appeared in the top 10. The main factor limiting our reach has been language. Until now.

Working with friends around the world who share our beliefs and priorities, TGC now hosts a Spanish-language website filled with editorial content provided by pastors, theologians, and other church leaders in Spain, Latin America, the United States, and elsewhere. We don’t propose to simply translate English resources into Spanish. Instead, we hope to highlight and assist the incredible Spanish-speaking men and women already serving the church by producing and distributing thoughtful, faithful resources.

Two men in particular have been and will be instrumental in guiding this new initiative. In Spain, Patricio Ledesma, part of Iglesia Bautista Reformada of Palma de Mallorca, handles logistics. And from the Dominican Republic, Jairo Namnún, part of Iglesia Bautista Internacional led by Miguel Núñez, deals with content and editing. They oversee a growing group of translators and collaborators, all pastors or seminary professors committed to the sufficiency of Scriptures and with knowledge of the doctrines of grace. Right now the 12 regular contributors come from Mexico, Spain, Dominican Republic, Colombia, and different parts of the United States.

“At coalicionporelevangelio.org we understand that the Spanish-speaking world is lacking, in general, good resources and good voices with good theology, with a passion for God’s people and for the lost,” Ledesma and Namnún explain. “We do have good preachers, and good ministries, but we feel the need for a hub in the web where people who love the Lord and share the theology of historical Christianity can find fresh content and get to know like-minded ministries.”

Even as we launch this new initiative, we continue to seek other ways to equip the Spanish-speaking church. We’re excited about the Spanish-language track of three workshops and one focus gathering at our upcoming national conference in Orlando, and we will provide live Spanish translation at the main sessions. And through TGC International Outreach, we will continue to provide Theological Famine Relief by donating physical resources for those particularly in the Global South with limited access to the internet.

Through all these efforts, we seek to foster a network of Spanish-speaking Christians who can stamp the next generation with gospel-centered resources for the global church. May the Lord himself strengthen his blood-bought church through the faithful proclamation of the gospel.