At the 1999 National Missionary Convention in Peoria, Illinois I met an elderly, veteran Pentecostal missionary to Brazil, supported by independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, and we spoke briefly. He mentioned to me that in his youth he had preached a stricter, narrower message; but that as time went on his eyes had been opened receive “even the Catholics” as brethren in Christ. He based this conclusion on the evidence of Pentecostal gifts such as “tongues-speaking” among many Brazilian Catholics. Though I would now applaud ecumenical efforts, I have my doubts about the basis for his evaluation.
At that same convention I was told by a coordinator of a mission agency of the independent Christian Churches that, in his opinion, there was no way to have a church in Brazil that was not Pentecostal. Having been among the a cappella churches in Brazil, I knew this not to be the case. Later contact with the traditional churches in northern Brazil convinced me that there is no cultural necessity for Brazilian churches to be Pentecostal. It is a theological, not cultural, issue.
There may not be any new missionaries from independent Christian Churches to the Pentecostal Churches of Christ in Brazil. At the 1997 National Missionary Convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma a lifetime missionary to Brazil told a gathered group that the Brazilian churches needed no more missionaries. This was deeply frustrating for me to hear, as I knew the need has not diminished among the Pentecostal Churches of Christ, and because he was presenting his viewpoint as a matter of fact that applied to all independent Christian Churches work in Brazil in general.
The a cappella and traditional Churches of Christ could use fresh, committed missionaries to carry on the work. Although there are Brazilian workers on the field, the task is enormous and there aren’t enough people to push into areas in which the movement has little or no presence. Futher, American missionaries can bring to the field educational and practical qualifications that the young Brazilian movement does not yet have in any strong numbers and which it definitely needs. We are at a stage where not only do new fields need to be opened in Brazil, but ministry training institutes need to be bolstered or established, and leadership must be be provided in areas where the more conservative Brazilian churches have not yet made much effort. Christian camps, rehabilitation centers, orphanages and other forms of vital ministry are in existance but would benefit greatly from material and personnel support or expansion.
As I said in the second post of this series, the point is not that missionaries need to be examined and found to be in complete harmony with the churches that support them. This is unfeasible and I do not advise anyone to make such an attempt. However, American and other churches of the Stone-Campbell Movement who are considering supporting work in Brazil need to have a clear-eyed view of the status of the churches in Brazil. If a church wants to support a missionary in working with Pentecostal churches, all well and good. They should know it will be that way, just as an a cappella congregation in the U.S. would want to know if a missionary they were considering supporting would be working with instrumental churches (not likely, but it’s an example).
What I’ve written in this series will not be acceptable to many in the movement, particularly in among the a cappella Churches of Christ, but I hope you can see that I’ve tried to be fair and honest. I hope that with more honesty and transparency, we can reduce the rancor and accomplish more for Christ’s reign.
This Complete Series:
Stone-Campbell Movement in Brazil (1-5)