After an extremely God-blessed and anointed time at the Pioneer Evangelism seminar at the Spanish Baptist Union’s home mission workers’ retreat on Wednesday and Thursday, I am now at the Spanish Baptist Union’s annual convention, which lasts until Sunday. Thanks for your prayers during the home mission workers’ retreat. God was with us in an unusual way, and I believe we are going to see some wonderful results in the years ahead from the things we all learned during this time.
Having recently attended the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro this past June, I can’t resist making a few comparisons to the Spanish Baptist Convention in Gandía. Whereas in Greensboro, there were more than 11,000 registered delegates, in Gandía there are just over 200. Whereas in Greensboro, everyone was spread out between a number of hotels, and ate in many different restaurants, in Gandía, everyone is in the same hotel, and we all eat together. An interesting cultural note is that, in typical Spanish style, there are bottles of wine automatically placed on all of the tables at the hotel restaurant (of which the great majority, with the notable exception of IMB missionaries, partake). There is also almost certainly a greater diversity of theological views on various subjects represented among the delegates and other attendees at the Spanish Baptist Convention than among those at the Southern Baptist Convention. Among the group, there are a smattering of female pastors. The great majority of Spanish Baptists have no problem with that. Spanish Baptists continue to form a part of the Baptist World Alliance, and have a hard time understanding why we, as Southern Baptists, do not. Of the churches that are growing, it would probably be a fairly safe estimate to say that the great majority are quite open regarding their stance on the practice of miraculous gifts. No entity of the Spanish Bapstist Convention would ever dream of eliminating someone from service because they admitted to having a "private prayer language." In Gandía, there will likely be no politicians giving speeches, but there is expected to be a lively debate regarding whether Baptist churches and/or entities should accept government subsidies for church-related social aid and cultural activities.
The truth is, although I have lived for the past 16 years in Spain, my personal views on many (not all) of these topics align more closely with those of the majority of Southern Baptists than they do with those of the majority of Spanish Baptists. Many Spanish Baptists are aware that, in general, IMB missionaries take a different view on some issues than they do, yet are open to cooperate with us, and respect our views, provided we remain open to cooperate with them, and respect their views. Many of my closest friends in the world, as well as servants of the Lord for whom I have a deep love and respect, are here present at the Spanish Baptist Convention.
Wolfgang Simson, author of the book Houses that Change the World, and one of the most influential leaders in the worldwide House Church movement, says some things in his book, and in person (I have had several opportunities to hear him), that are very insightful, and, I believe, helpful, as we are working to see the Great Commission fulfilled. He also says some things that, in my opinion, are a bit too radical, and of which I am not completely convinced, from the standpoint of a proper contextualization of biblical ecclesiology. However, there is one thing I heard him say on one occasion with which I am in complete agreement. Upon being asked "What is the best thing we as Western missionaries can do to help facilitate church planting movements in other parts of the world?," he responded: "Find a national believer who is on fire for God, and pour gasoline on his/her fire."
Among Spanish Baptists, and especially among the Spanish home mission workers who were at the Pioneer Evangelism seminar these past couple of days, there are a good group of men and women that fit this description. There are others from other denominations and groups of Great Commission Christians who also fit this description, with whom I am happy to work as well. I strongly believe that if we are going to see many disciples made, and churches multiplied, in places like Spain, it will not be through the efforts of Southern Baptists alone. Some of the groups and individuals God is using, and who He is going to continue to use, do not dot every "i" and cross every "t" just like we do. It is my hope, though, that we can be humble enough and strategically perceptive enough to not let this get in the way of doing what we can to come alongside of them, encourage them in their struggles, and "pour gasoline on their fire."