CAIRO: The Church and the Challenge of World Evangelization
By David W. Virtue in Cairo
Oct 10, 2016
Many Christians are caught up in the "Jonah Syndrome"; they get angry easily and have the same attitude as Jonah to Nineveh. They become too afraid to go out to approach those who have HIV/Aids, immigrants, refugees, people in the midst of corruption, said Southern Cone Archbishop, Tito Zavala, at this week's gathering of Global South Anglican leaders at GS6, in Cairo.
"Jonah failed to leave to fulfill God's mandate. We prefer to opt for comfort rather than take the challenge of God to go," he said.
"Do you recognize yourself in the image of Jonah? Many have the same attitude as Jonah to Nineveh. Where are our Ninevehs? Nineveh is wherever we are called to go. When we do not want to go is when we are in trouble and having difficulty with God. Who will go for example to drug addicts? We often prefer to be in pleasant areas."
Zavala said that many who speak about mission have not planted a church in twenty years. We ask "What are your 'touch-points' with society?" If you have none, then your church is isolated. A church's budget will show us its heart. The budget speaks aloud. A budget that is always the same is a maintenance budget. There is nothing new. If a church of 300 people has not planted a new church, that church is in maintenance mode. Proclamation means new life, and new people coming to the kingdom."
The lively Southern Cone primate exhorted his hearers, saying, "Our God is a missionary God. The best evangelist is Jesus Christ. Are you a mission minded person or a maintenance minded person?"
"Jonah was the only prophet to go outside Israel. He was to announce a great disaster to Nineveh which was a violent city. But he went in the opposite direction to Tarshish (Spain). However he forgot that God is omnipresent. An abnormal storm blew up. Jonah recognized his sin and was thrown overboard. The sailors cried to their own gods. They were afraid of divine messengers and feared Jonah's God."
Zavala said the lesson was that God wanted His love to be extended beyond Israel. "Jonah thought God was soft with sinners. The Lord answered him by asking "Should I not have concern for that great city of Nineveh?"
"The irony is that the prophet disobeyed the Lord, but in contrast with his disobedience, the pagan sailors did what was required. Jonah repented and was sent again to Nineveh.
"Jonah did not want to share his songs with Nineveh. The King of Nineveh proclaimed a fast in repentance so the Lord decided not to destroy Nineveh. Jonah then became angry because his prophecy was not fulfilled.
"God is in charge of everything. He is Lord of the world and of the nations. We have never to give up in our evangelistic efforts. We are often in danger. It is often hard to love those we are serving. But we have been called to love our enemies. God has the victory. We are only his servants."
The History of the Anglican Church in Chile.
In the 1820's, English chaplaincies were established. The only official religion was Roman Catholicism, so Anglicans were closed communities, small and dispersed. They started work among the indigenous and the oppressed. In 1958, a resolution of the Lambeth Conference declared Latin America a pagan continent and encouraged missionaries to go to its main cities. The first Anglican church was planted in Santiago in 1969; there are now twenty-two churches in Santiago and a hundred in the country. In 2000, the churches were truly nationalized. In the 80's and 90's, much mission was done in the Universities. Then university professors became pastors. Now 95% of the leadership is Chilean. 95% of the budget comes from Chile. Any financial help from outside is to plant new churches. Assistance is given over six years; in years 1-3, the pastor's salary is paid from outside; in year 4, that drops to 75%, in years 5 and 6, to 25%. In year 7, the church pays the whole salary.
Since 2000, we have opened 18 churches and have 34 priests. A delegation from Chile went to Mexico with a team to plant a church. After two years, they refused to receive contributions to their budget.
One of our Santiago churches became weak as people moved away. Some wanted to close it. I responded that we have not been called to close churches. The people were depressed. There were seven remaining. In 4 years, they have grown to 300. The 'touch' point was marriage encounter. In Chilean society, marriage and family are important. When a marriage breaks it is a tragedy. In the Marriage Encounter weekends we talk about relationships and about Jesus, and have testimonies about how life had been without Jesus and how Jesus changed their life. At the end of the weekend, we invite people to receive Jesus as Lord. Many receive that invitation as a good answer to their situation. We also have Youth Encounter and Men Encounter.
We teach people to engage in lifestyle evangelism. Everything must be done in an evangelistic way. Barbeques are very popular in Chile. We hold evangelistic barbeques where people are prepared to share about Jesus.
We also plant churches in the USA where there are 50 million Hispanics. We want them to experience what we have been blessed with. A Chilean team of 15 couples is going to Mexico to take Marriage Encounter.
Be creative in the way you do evangelistic work. What will be your 'touch point' with society? Do not be divided or distracted by Satan.
What kind of church will we pass to the next generation? When I retire, I want to be remembered as the bishop who made every effort to enable people to meet Jesus.
Everyone has a Jonah in their heart. We need to be transformed Jonahs. Mission without proclamation is not mission. Be creative in making Jesus Christ known in your country.
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