Sunday, January 29, 2006

Evangelical Baggage in the Native Community

Defining Evangelicalism & Baggage

Hear is an article defining evangelicalism (not "evangelism"). It
should help all of us to understand how this term came about.

Evangelicalism is probably a word that has so many meanings that it
regularly leads to brawls and barfights. But it is primarily an
American movement rooted in the revivalism of early America, although
the term literally began with Martin Luther, a Catholic monk who
reformed the Catholic Church.

In Canada, Canadians primarily define themselves as "not-Americans".
The best definition for them is to define themselves not by who they
are, but who they aren't.

Evangelicals seem to define themselves this way as well:
-- not Catholics, and
-- not Liberals.

To the average Evangelical, both are wrong.

Today, Evangelicalism is everywhere, not just North America. The
Evangelicals have spawned many thousands of denominations all over the

Evangelicals emphasize:

--"correct doctrine" over "unity in the Body of Christ"
--"total depravity" over "man is made in God's image"
--the "Word of God" referring to the Bible over "the Word became flesh"
--the "salvation event" over the "salvation process"
--the "Good News" over "Good Works" (social gospel = evil)
--theology as the means of our faith

Evangelicalism emerged to reform Catholicism. So if you don't consider
yourself Catholic, then most likely you are Evangelical. Evangelical
includes Baptists, Charismatics, Methodists and many more.

Even though many of us fall into the category of Evangelical, there
are some immediate struggles that we encounter if we ministering
within native culture and especially within a native worldview.

Natives emphasize:

--"unity of God" and tolerance over "individual doctrinal stands"
--"Creator made us good like Him" over "total depravity"
--"Jesus himself is the message from Creator" over "the Black Book"
--the "salvation journey of a lifetime" over a "onetime event"
--the "Good News" and "Good Works" are 2 sides of the same coin, not
--prayer (worship/ceremony) as the means of our faith

So there you have it, vinegar and baking soda, just sitting there
waiting to be mixed. Who wants to go first?

Now one reason that someone could say that they can't be an
Evangelical is that the can't support the emphases that define

BUT, we have to remember that Evangelicalism did not emerge to teach
natives about Christ, but to correct the 99 Catholic Flaws (the 99
Theses nailed by Luther to the door of the Wittenburg Church). So
don't judge Evangelicalism for being the wrong answer to native
ministry -- it was never designed to do that -- it is simply a
historical legacy of the church. This is how theologies develop, out
of crises and conflicts. And that is also why today, "native theology"
is emerging on its own, distinct from all the other theologies.

But let's say that you are Ingariko from Northern Brazil with no
contact with the Catholic or Protestant churches. Are they
Evangelicals? Do I need to teach them church history to prove to them
that they ought to join the Brazilian Association of Evangelicals? My
own thoughts run to "no", although at some point I will want to share
the history of the church with them. Last time we were there, we
talked about the Moravian 100 year prayer meeting and "Chief
Zinzindorf". They laughed and laughed over Count Zinzindorf's name. I
wonder what the anthropogists will say when the Ingarico describe the
early Moravian influence on missions by Zinzendorf... that will mess
with their heads...

Here in our area in BC, Christianity was unknown to many bands even as
recent as 30 years ago (ask Mark & Babe Smith in Lillooet about that).
So we need to consider the question of "baggage" whenever we walk into
a new culture.

What is the Good News that we are to bring? Must the Good News always
be either Catholic or Protestant? Or is there Good News that is
independent from the almost 2000 years of church history since the
time when Jesus first shared "the Good News"?

Currently I am struggling with the Brazilian native definition of
salvation. "Recieve Jesus as your personal savior, don't drink, smoke
or dance, and avoid Catholics."

Can you say "baggage" with me?

Thanks for listening....

your Jesus-brother and servant