Pastor Hector Buitrago, of Colombia, shares his experiences and perspectives as a Pentecostal Pastor in Latin America related to Social Challenges and the church’s involvement in holistic mission.
He was translated from Spanish to English by Delonn Rance (AGTS)
Here are my notes on his talk:
How can we get young people set in the church in a strategic way so they can serve?
Church needs to think in a holistic way in order to thrust out the young people.
The Pentecostal church in Latin America received a faulty paradigm. We spiritualized the physical need. We demonized social work. We were just absent in these areas in our country. We focused on the spiritual vision with good intentions but we were absent from the needs of the community.
We asked “How can we break that paradigm?”
Holistic ministry permeates the entire Bible, ministry of Jesus, and the early church. The Church needs to take responsibility.
We were mistaken in the way we did social work. We tied it to proselytization. We limited it only to assistance. We helped the needs of the poor but we didn’t go far enough. We only did helping ministry but holistic ministry goes further. We became dependent on outside funds. We said we would only do social work if we got funds from outside. We didn’t think the church had responsibility to invest in social work.
We were accused of being like the guerrillas by the leadership of the country. We were only interested in proselytization but our communities were not transformed. We needed to understand that we needed to do an integrated work in order to transform community.
Redefining leadership roles
We had to rearrange things at the level of our council. Pastoral role was primarily devotional. The Pastor prayed for the community, spoke of the needs, but he didn’t participate in meeting the needs of the community. We had to move from being simply communicators to being agents of transformation. The role of the Pastor had to change.
Our pastors were absent from community matters. Our churches were built at the edges of the community but now we understand that we need to have leaders that influence the community.
If its not part of a plan that is directed by us, the Pastors, then its improbable that our community will be impacted. It has to be a part of our language, be on the agenda of our denominations. It should be a part of our strategic plan.
How do we begin?
Columbia is marked by three things:
- Violence: society been at war for 50 years
- Drug Trafficking: created much of the violence
- Corruption: divided the country
The saddest thing is that we have lost a generation. The young people are going to guerrillas, para military, or going to some band of drug trafficking. The church can’t be absent from these evils.
Even though there is talk of a revival in Columbia, 90% don’t know Jesus as Savior.
Through FIDA international, we began to sensitize national leadership to the needs for holistic ministry. The pastors began to sensitize the congregations. They knew they needed new programs and a new presence in the social work of the country. They changed their theological paradigm and it became an obligation that the church would become sensitive and prove that they could do social work.
We had to change the concept of resources. We always thought we needed outside funds. We didn’t realize our own resources. God showed us that we could do it with our own resources. Then we equipped the church and the leaders to do the work. The church began to enter into the community and the social development.
The church has gone into social service and public service and it has begun to change the view of the church with the people.
Leading By Example
There was a Pastor in Bogota teaching a course on ethics in the world place. He was asked to teach it at a local hospital and it impacted all of the employees and began to change the principles in that work place. News spread. The Mayor got the Pastor to train all of the municipal leaders. Teachers of the schools heard of this. The pastor taught all of the teachers. News of the influence of church went throughout the city. The Pastor was invited to teach the course in the schools as well.
He went on to teach a course about domestic violence in the community. It resulted in great change in the way women are treated. The Pastor is now the advisor to the Mayor and is the most influential person in the city.
This congregation has the
- Best church building
- Best location
- Prestigious people attending the church
- And the entire community has been transformed
That model began to replicate itself.
There is a Brazilian missionary that also has a great holistic ministry. He opens a church and his pastors are the most influential. His members have filled the positions of political and civic government.
The new generation of the church must be included in the holistic ministry. They people have abilities, dreams.
If the church doesn’t empower them, other groups will come in. If we don’t take advantage, we’ve lost an opportunity. The church has to march spiritually, but also meet the needs of the people.
It has the capacity and responsibility to do it.