Has Pentecost Made a Difference in Your Neighborhood?

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What results should you expect when the Gospel takes root? Or, in other words, how is your neighborhood, city or nation different because of Pentecost? This is the “Pentecost question.”

Since 1995 I’ve had the privilege of living in Managua, Nicaragua. My ministry has been to walk alongside of the evangelical (i.e. “Protestant”) church in Central America.

The evangelical church in the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua was birthed through the work of U.S. missionaries around 1900. In the last three decades the number of evangelicals has grown exponentially. As many as one out of every four Nicaraguans currently claims a “born again” experience.

Yet many Nicaraguan evangelicals are beginning to ask the “Pentecost question.” In some respects there are clear and positive responses:

  • Superstitious allegiances to statues of Mary and the saints have been discarded.
  • Addictions to alcohol have been overcome.
  • Destructive cultural patterns such as male marital unfaithfulness have been abandoned.

There’s little doubt that many individuals and families have changed because the Gospel has taken root in their lives.

But a growing number of Nicaraguan evangelicals are beginning to ask if these are sufficient answers to the “Pentecost question.” They’re considering hard questions such as these:

  • Does Pentecost compel us to address local and global issues of injustice?
  • Should the Gospel bring visible changes in the self-serving behavior of governmental and business leaders?
  • Is it enough that the church is a refuge from society or should it also manifest the presence of Jesus in places where people are most hurt and broken?
  • Can a church that is splintered between many denominations in the same neighborhood or city be an authentic witness?

For starters, how would you answer the “Pentecost question” for your neighborhood, city or nation? Is this the right question to ask?

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Yes, Joel, that is a very good question.  This comment just adds annecdotally to the issue, at least as I see it in El Salvador.  My hosts on my trips are my former landlords; they are quite typical Christians, having been converted in one of the traditional evangelical missions, gone through two more types of congregations, and now are in one of the pentecostal mega churches.  They are self-made business upper middle class folk; the architect daughter works with her civil engineer father as associate.  When there, we talk a lot about the type of questions you raise.  On my trip last year, I cited the statistics that the local jesuit university survey had recently come up with: 38% of Salvadorans consider themselves "evangelicos."

In the light of that, I asked this lifetime 35 year old Christian: "Lets just say that over the next couple of decades that percentage of evangelicals rises to 85%, ''What changes in El Salvador"?  Without hesitation she replied "nada" (nothing)!  My increasingly radicalized interpretation of that is that the reducionist "gospel" that has been exported to Central America is so "heavenly minded that it is of little earthly good."  How to get beyond that?!  Some of us are listening... please amplify the "table talks" as analysis and patterns take shape.

Guide

What a great question, as applicable in North America as it is anywhere in the world. Hopefully we can answer that question together.

An excellent question, Joel.  One's answer is shaped by a person's experience.  I see the point of needing social justice transforming society with being "evangelical."  My experience is that the CRC really needs to get to the point of becoming much more "evangelical."