Monthly Archives: July 2006
Something rather interesting happened here in San Bernardo yesterday where I preached to hundreds of people in the local Assembly of God Church. While we were talking with our interpreter yesterday several hours before I preached, I told the young woman that I would be preaching on the story of the prodigal son, which is one of my more popular messages( see Luke 15). When I told her that, her face lit up with a big smile. She told me that this was her first time interpreting for a preacher and that she was very nervous, but the day before she asked the Lord what I would be preaching and the Lord told her that I would be preaching on the prodigal son. She said that she had spent several hours the day before studying the story to prepare herself for the message. My did that give me confidence! Last night, when I preached the message, several people came forward to receive Christ. Many people were crying tears of repentance, including the interpreter’s cousin for whom she had been praying a long time. God used her diligence to win her cousing to Christ! Experiences like these humble me as a preacher. I am nothing more than a pawn in the master’s hands in the great chess match for souls.
The other night I preached at a church that reminded me of an inner-city Black gospel church in America. The difference was that they were Baptists, not Pentecostals. But, then again, in Brazil, as in many other parts of the world, the difference is in name only. Many of the Baptists here speak in tongues, cast out devils, and heal the sick, just like the Apostles did in the New Testament and just like 500 million Christians around the world are either doing or believe it should be done as well. Of course, there are traditional Baptists in Brazil as well that believe in none of those things, but, unlike America, they are in the minority when it comes to the religious life of the average Brazilian evangelical Christian. Here in Brazil, it would seem that even the non-Pentecostals and Charismatics would think it rather strange if I didn’t pray for the sick at an evangelistic crusade.
I remember when I attended Christ for the Nations Institute, I had a roomate from South Korea who told me that the Baptists in Korea were more Pentecostal than the Pentecostals. I have heard this from many others as well. This shows me that the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement that was one time on the fringe of Christianity is now mainstream. In light of this, the recent decision of the Southern Baptist denomination to forbid future missionaries from speaking in tongues seems rather silly, especially in the light of the admonition of the Apostle Paul, “Do not forbid to speak in tongues.” In light of this, I would say that the current bias against tongues, healings, and exorcisms in American evangelicalism bears more resemblance to the philosophy of Aristotle than to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
But, to be fair, let me give a clear warning to the world’s Pentecostals and Charismatics as well. Do not get stuck in tradition! Because just as the early Pentecostals were rejected by mainstream Christianity in their day, it would be very easy to miss the move of God’s Spirit in our day just because it doesn’t have official approval from an established Pentecostal denomination (or should I say “apostolic network?”). It appears that even the world’s Pentecostals and Charismatics may need new wineskins from time to time.
One thing I forgot to mention in my last post about Brazilian culture is the degree of racial integration. Here you do not see black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods or black churches and white churches. They are all integrated in the Church and in society. Black people, white people, and the indigenous tribes inter-marry very easily here without the social stigma that we have in America. This has produced ,in my opinion, a very good looking people of all different shades of color. Not to say that there is not racism here. There is a slight problem with prejudice here as some of the pastors and other Christians have told me. But it is not near the problem that we have in America. I think our society in America could learn a thing or two from our far away southern neighbors on this issue. It seems that Martin Luther King’s dream has largely come true-at least in Brazil.
I would like to take a moment to share with my readers what life is like here in Brazil. As I travel to different countries in the world, as I can, I would like to share what some of the differences are between the countries I go to and America, my home country. This will not always be possible because some countries I go to I will not be able to let the broader public know that I am there for security reasons. But since Brazil is a Christian country, it is totally safe for me to write to you.
So here goes. Besides men kissing each other and people tailgating each other on the roads (which I have already written about), there are many other differences between Brazil and America. The first thing that stands out is the food. People eat a lot here! Although they have a small breakfast, they have a large lunch and then a large dinner around 10:00 at night. The napkins are unlike anything I have ever seen in all the countries I have been to. Their napkins are just like what they use at Krispy Kreme to pick up the donuts. The grease just slips right back onto your fingers. I don’t get it. Having said that, the food is excellent! Most of their restaurants are either buffets where you choose your food and then you put it on a scale, or they are barbecue restaurants where they bring the meat out to you and you choose what you want. Either way, it’s all you can eat! I have yet to find a sit down restaurant where everyone orders just for themselves.
The hotels are rather strange in that they make you give your key to the receptionist before you leave, even if you are only going out for a few hours. Now that I think about it, that makes a lot of sense. I bet they don’t lose as many keys that way. Many hotels also have automatic lights in their hallways. That is always a little odd walking outside your room to a dark hallway until the lights turn on.
In many churches, the worship is very similar to the U.S. except that they have their own songs and they are in Portuguese. Since there are 160 million people, they have a highly developed Christian celebrity culture just like we have in the U.S. Many churches have a group of dancers at the front of the stage who wave streams and flags to the songs. It is absolutely beautiful!
Brazil is far less conservative than America when it comes to sensuality. That is a great problem here that only the Church can address. Also, although Pentecostal Christianity is growing like wildfire here, there is also a revival of satanism and witchcraft. In one of my meetings, there were two young men making satanic signs during the worship. They were trying to put a curse on us. Thank God for the blood of Jesus that defeats every curse!
On a side note, the other night I preached to a crowd of 1,100 people and several came forward to receive Christ. Several also raised their hands when I asked if they had been healed after I prayed a mass prayer for the sick. God is good!
A second side note. An evangelist from Northern Ireland today told me I looked like Boy George. What?! First Bill Clinton, then Boy George?! So who do I really look like? Feel free to leave a comment. Don’t worry, I’m a man. I can handle it.
Lastly, I want to know if you like this feature of me talking about the countries I go to. When I get back fromt the U.S. I plan to write more spiritual commentaries on everyday life and pop-culture. And, of course, as always. Feel free to ask me a Bible question. I am always up for a challenge! May God bless you as you study His Word.
The other day, Rhiannon and I had to get up very early in the morning and endure an 8 hour car ride through the mountains of Brazil to get to our next preaching location. This wouldn’t have been so bad if the Brazilian people drove like we are used to back home. But no! We were hanging on for dear life as our driver drove like he was in the Indiannapolis 500! Another thing that made it interesting is how closely cars in Brazil follow each other. What we call tailgating is perfectly normal over here. Thank God for guardian angels!
This morning, after a powerful meeting last night in a town called Alegre, Rhiannon and I traveled to the town of Cachueiro. About an hour and a half after we arrived at our hotel, I got a call from my interpreter that I was supposed to go to the local TV station to invite people to come to the meeting tonight. We were watching the movie “Little Rascals” at the time and I was in my shorts and a T-shirt. I told them I had to get dressed for the occasion first. About 20 minutes later, I was doing an interview at the TV station.
Later on that day, I asked how many people he thought had watched the program and he told me the manager told him that approximately 1 million people watch that program! Whether that is true or not, I don’t know. But it was a Sunday morning and the program was broadcast live throughout the entire state of Espirito Santo. Imagine waking up one morning and someone telling you that you will be on the 700 Club in 20 minutes. That is about what it was like. I guess the Bible means what it says when it says to “Be ready in season and out of season.”
Here is a funny story for you. I noticed that in the state of Rio de Janeiro, it is very common for men to kiss each other on the cheek. When we were there last week, I was often kissed on the cheek by pastors and other Christians. But, when I came to the state of Espiritu Santo, I noticed that nobody was kissing me on the cheek. So I asked someone if it was normal for guys to kiss each other on the cheek, he said no and that most would think that was weird. It must be a local custom in Rio but not in Espirito Santo, so I am glad I asked. Otherwise I would have been kissing guys here in Espiritu Santo and would have been thought of as rather weird. Glad I asked! That is a lesson for all you world travelers out there-follow the cultural cues and never assume!
On a more serious note, the other night I preached to a crowd of about a thousand people in a park outside a hotel. The title of my message was “The God of Second Chances.” I illustrated the story of the prodigal son and told stories of both Biblical and non-Biblical characters in which God gave someone a second chance. Many people came forward to receive Christ for the first time. As an evangelist, I was delighted! Interestingly, I shared the story of Johnny Cash, how he had lost everything in his life and how God had restored him. My interpreter told me that one of the guys who came forward was a man who had just arrived in the city and had lost everything in the city that he came from. He said that was the first night he had come to a meeting to hear about Jesus. I am so thankful that our God really is a God of second chances!
I am in Brazil right now in the state of Espiritu Santo, which in Portuguese is the word for the Holy Spirit. How cool is that!
Today, Rhiannon and I left our hotel at 5:30 in the morning, rode in a car for an hour and a half to get to Rio de Janeiro, and then took a six hour bus ride to get to where we are right now. Every day we get up, eat, drive to the next city and preach again. Last night I preached in another church of about 800-1000 people. Rhiannon shared her testimony as well and it was powerful. Several young people came forward to receive Christ after I preached a message on forgiveness. It was really great to see the hunger for God among the young people.
Speaking of hunger for God, that is one thing we have noticed about the Christians in Brazil. They are passionate in their worship! The other night while I was standing on the platform during the worship service, I noticed how fervent all the people were in their worship of God. I thought at that moment that, even though I was the guest speaker, no one knew who I was and no one really cared. I was being upstaged by Jesus Christ. If I were a motivational speaker or a politician, I suppose that I would have been rather jealous. But as an evangelist, I was thrilled beyond measure.
That night a lady who had a shoulder infection and had been in therapy for several months received her healing as well as a man with an ear infection. Both testified that they felt the fire of God come over them during prayer. I´m not sure if it was my faith or theirs that allowed them to receive their miracle, but then again, maybe it doesn´t really matter. When the King of Kings is present, who needs the ambassador?
It is Saturday July 15th and my wife and I just arrived in Brazil yesterday. We are in the town of Petropolis and will be preaching in a different town and city every night for the next 16 days straight. This is something neither of us have ever done before, so we appreciate all the prayer we can get at this time.
Last night, we ministered in a church of 1,000 people. My wife shared her testimony for the first time. Many people do not know this, but at one point in her life, she thought that suicide would be the only way out for her. My wife used to suffer from terrible fear and low self-esteem. Her story gives hope to women everywhere who are also dealing with the same issues.
As far as the church, it reminded us a lot of Christ for the Nations Institute where we went to Bible School. The worship was passionate and beautiful-like the Brazilian people themselves,
I really enjoyed talking with the pastor afterwards. After telling him that we have been married for almost five years, he asked us if we had any children. After I told him no, I thought I would get the typical I´ll pray for you response, but then he proceeded to tell us that he and his wife did not have biological children either and that he and his wife had adopted two abused and neglected children. He said that sometimes we pray for miracles and God asks us to be the miracle. What an encouragement to us considering that Rhiannon and I are going to be taking classes in September to qualify us to be able to adopt through the state of Missouri´s foster care system! Isn´t it wonderful how God sends people along to encourage us along the way? Have you said a kind word to someone today?
On a side note, the evangelist Dario Luiz, the man who is hosting us, told me yesterday that I looked like Bill Clinton. I thought that was funny. People have told my dad that, but never me. I guess I have a lot to look forward to over the next 20 years!
Just to let you all know. I am leaving for Brazil today. My wife and I are going to be preaching revivals in churches throughout Brazil for the next two weeks. We are very excited. Between the two of us, we have traveled to every continent except for Antarctica. Who says following Jesus is boring? I will try to make a post or two over the next two weeks, so feel free to leave questions or comments. We’ll be back on August 2nd. Keep us in your prayers.