How should the North American and global church pray for and serve each other?
LOPES: I think one of the ways that churches in the Global South can help the Western church is to remind them of the need to remain faithful to Scripture. I know there are exceptions, but as you look as a whole, it appears that the churches that are growing in the Global South have a stronger faith in the authority of Scripture, and they are willing to die for that and to live out what they believe is the Word of God.
I say that there are exceptions, of course. I know that the church in the West has been infiltrated or impacted by liberalism, by the ideas of Friedrich Schleiermacher about whom we just heard, and by many other ideas. Perhaps we could remind the Western church about that, even though we’re very thankful to the Western church because our missionaries first came from there.
Also, perhaps we could remind the Western church that there has been a great change in the geographical center of Christianity, a shift in the last thirty-five to forty years, when the center of Christianity—I’m speaking about number of churches, of Christians, and even financial power—has moved from the North to the South.
Now, if you want to imagine what a standard Christian would look like, it would not look like a middle class white man living in the North, but probably a woman living in a village in Africa or in a slum in Brazil. So this is going to make a huge change in what Christianity looks like, in the profile of a standard Christian in the next few years. So the Western church should be sensitive to that because these things are going on.
Another thing: for the Reformation to survive in the Global South it has to adapt to what is going on in the Global South. Much of this growth of Christianity in the Global South is due to the Pentecostal and charismatic movement. We do share some things with them: the classical Pentecostal church does believe in the Bible as the Word of God, and they do tell the members to love the Bible, and to read the Bible, and to seek God’s ways there. Of course they are a little bit inconsistent when they believe in revelations, including personal revelations. But a normal Pentecostal member of a classic Pentecostal church would say that the Bible is God’s Word—infallible and inherent even—and would go by what the Bible says. But Pentecostalism is different from the classical Protestant tradition streaming from the Reformation. They’re different as to the way of worship, and they’re different as to the way they live every day.
So there has to be an adaptation. Many many Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal Christians have come to the Reformed churches in Brazil, or they have come to the Reformed faith. They have discovered R.C. Sproul on YouTube, they have discovered MacArthur on YouTube, they have discovered all of you who have somehow been translated into Portuguese, and they say “I want to be Reformed, but I’ve been raised in a Pentecostal church. I can’t take the service in a Presbyterian church. It’s dead, it’s cold.” So how do you put together the Reformed faith and this desire for worship where you can feel something, where you can experience something, and which, in a sense, is not strange to our tradition. (The old Puritans would say something about that too.)
Just to give you an example: I think that the man who opened the door for the Pentecostals to the Reformed faith was Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Thirty years ago his works started to be translated, and the Pentecostals who were looking for more biblical teaching started to read Martyn Lloyd-Jones and say, “Here is a man who is Reformed but who believes the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second experience.”
Of course, what Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones believed about the baptism of the Holy Spirit was not the same as what the Pentecostal believed, because Martyn Lloyd-Jones would consider that as being assurance. God would give you a full sense of assurance after conversion, which was a different experience. In the Pentecostal movement the baptism of the Holy Spirit is related to speaking with tongues, which is completely different from what Martyn Lloyd-Jones said. But then these people read Martyn Lloyd-Jones and said, “See, here’s good theology, strong theology, and this man believes in something after conversion. Conversion is not all that we get. We do get more after conversion in these feelings of the Spirit, being filled up with the Holy Spirit, experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Now they don’t know what to do, these people converted to the Reformed faith. They say, “I don’t want to be a Presbyterian. I don’t want to go back to my Pentecostal church. What do I do?” And this is a problem, a huge problem that we’re facing now: what is happening to these Pentecostal-turned-Reformed? Where are they going to go? And this is the question we’re asking now.
PARSONS: That’s when they become Reformed Baptists, I think.
LOPES: I hope they do.
TONG: When Christianity came to Indonesia it started only one-thousand and five hundred years after Christ. But Muslims came at the end of the seventh century, so missionaries are too late to come to Indonesia. And then when missionaries came, they came by bringing the gospel plus cannons and warships, and they did their merchandising and their business by cheating people. But when the Muslims came, they were more honest.
So Indonesian people think Muslims are better than Christians, because Christians are labelled with imperialism and colonialism. That is our sin that we should confess before God. But after disasters like the tsunami in Aceh—Aceh was first visited by Muslims about the end of the seventh century. Sixty years after Muhammad died, already most of them came to Indonesia to preach Islam. It was only after another eight-hundred years that Christians came. They don’t believe in Christians after the Crusaders.
So in Islam they think Christianity is cheating, Christianity is invading, Christianity is a tyrant, Christianity is no love to other people. They don’t believe Christianity is loving, which is reason to preach the gospel in a country like Indonesia where the influence of Muslim has made it very difficult.
But when the tsunami came, about thirteen years ago, only Christians went to help the people of Aceh. At first they said, “These are unclean. These are pagans.” They do not even want to eat the food given by the Christians, because this is not Muslim food. This Christian food is unclean. But by and by, several months after, the good works of Christians was so obvious. Arabian aid was only three-million, and at the same time the Arabian king went on a tour in the Mediterranean Sea and used more than fifty million in two weeks. So they think Muslims are not more merciful than Christian.
So good works are very important to change their concept, their perception of Christianity, even though good works cannot bring men into the grace and salvation of Christ. But we Christians should show our good works, our mercy, and our honesty in order to regain and to change their concept.
DE CHIRICO: We have so many things to learn from you, and we’re so grateful for your commitment to prayer and to support gospel work in our region of the world. Perhaps one thing that we can share with you is the need in our generation to learn how to live with longsuffering and with patience. God’s work doesn’t happen overnight, and we live in a culture that expects short term results and immediate outcomes.
In our part of the world, you need to learn to be a minority. You need to learn to be a long-suffering minority and to be a positive Christian minority, loving your neighbor, preaching the gospel, not having antagonistic attitudes, but trusting the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to accomplish His work.
REEVES: I’m going to speak particularly to the UK situation. I think the US can help the UK by loving the church in the UK with a humble, listening generosity: generosity in prayer, in supporting faithful churches and ministries. And to do so humbly, walking lightly, listening to those who are faithfully engaging that culture and speaking the gospel into it.
And the UK can help the US in making the church aware of where things will go if the secularist trend continues, and giving some lessons on how we’re finding it is to deal with this. I wonder if a simple picture of it might be something like a spiritual Marshall Plan: you help us, and that’ll help stop the rot from coming back to you.
Lightly edited for readability, this is a transcript of Leonardo De Chirico’s, Augustus Lopes’s, Michael Reeves’, and Stephen Tong’s answers given at our 2017 National Conference. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.