I was asked to remove this post for the “unity and purity” of the Church by a high ranking official at the church I attend. I have decided to edit the post, in keeping with the ideas expressed in the original. The date listed above remains the original post date, but the new post was made December 1, 2005. I would delete the post entirely, but the comments would also be lost and should there be a need, they may add to future discussion. To any who may have taken the prior post that this replaces or even this one as a personal or institutional attack no such intent is intended and I apologize if it has come across in such manner.
So let’s get the ball a rollin’
As I said, I’ve been giving some thought to something that I’ve found a bit mind boggling. My church has planned their spring break (for those who still get spring break) mission trips to Juarez, Mexico and Trujillo, Peru. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that mission work is truly a gift to the unbeliever in need of Christ, however I have of late been noticing a growing trend, perhaps one that has been there for quite sometime that I am now just seeing, but to me it’s new and growing. I see a lot of Protestant Christian organizations finding their common ground against the Roman Catholic Church. I see a lack of understanding in some Protestants when they debate Catholics on matters of theology and doctrine. Not all, but some Protestants are guilty of intellectual injustice when they enter these arguments. There is, in my opinion, a habit to not take the time and effort amongst some Protestants to only follow the opinions and ideas of what I like to call “the denominational author of the month” that lends itself to an air of moral superiority because Rome’s bad and Protestantism is better. I urge those who do this to lend more time to reading primary source material, for often the definitions used by Protestants and Catholics do indeed differ greatly. For those who go to the primary source material, continue to do so and continue your honest intellectual debating.
That being said, it brings me back to the two mission trips I mentioned earlier.
Mexico and Peru are countries reported by the CIA Factbook to be largely Christian, which takes it’s information from many different sources to produce the most reliable and consistent data available. Now, let me make this clear, I consider Catholics to be Christian. Which may go down hard for some, however, is this a blanket statement…no, naturally there are wolves in sheep’s clothing in any denomination. Peru is reported to be 84% Christian and Mexico at over 95%. Now, as Rich asked to I think these numbers are true, I doubt it, but having never been to either country I can only go by the information reported. The factbook also reports the United States as over 76% Christian. Is that the case here, probably not, but I also can’t judge someone’s heart only God can do that. I use these as examples because it’s where my church is showing an interest, however, we can easily apply it to other churches and denominations. What I see are many denominations fielding mission trips of countries with large Christian populations. Now there may be many good reasons for this, such as the need for charity in poverty stricken areas and the true desire to get the Gospel out to those who have not heard it. However, I see another trend which I read about, see on TV, and hear about, that being the need to convert Catholics. To me it is a sad reason and only strikes me as a denominational “brand war”. I will use Peru as an example, for I have seen some things that trouble me. In Peru, it is my understanding that the denomination my church is affiliated with is registered and touted as Reformed Catholic. Yet they are not in the way many in the United States understand the term. I have seen recent pictures of ministers in Peru wearing the priestly collar often associated with Catholics and in Peru this could be mistaken as such, at least I can see how it could. Of course, it just may be a way or trying to stand out as a minister of the Word, but I wonder if it is the most honest way in a country, where even the most uneducated see this style of dress as a sign of being in communion with Rome. I also have seen pictures of kneelers in the pews, something I’ve never seen in the demonation here stateside. Is this a cultural thing? Is this another tie to disguise itself as being tied to the RCC? I don’t know the answer and though I assume the intentions are good, it may not be the best way to do things.
Would it not also be better to focus more on areas of the world in desparate need of mission work? (Ok, short term trips it’s not feasible, but long term, I’m sure there’s a need for those called to the mission field in underserved countries). Especially those in Africa, Asia, and formerly behind the Iron Curtain of the Cold War.
Are many of these mission for the betterment of the Kingdom? Yes.
Are there those who make public the agenda to convert Catholics or other denominations to their own? Yes.
It is the latter I worry about, whether here in the US or abroad. Are Christians in some instances losing sight of bringing people to Christ for the purpose of adding to the ranks of their denomination, it seems to be the case in some instances. Do some folks consider Catholics to not be Christian? Yes, I am not one of them and will respectfully disagree with those who hold that belief. Such minor bickering gets in the way of more important things. Such as, though not likely in my lifetime, the pure unification of all denominations, which may not happen till we’re all in heaven. For those who want to engage in a denominational pissing contest, go to Alaska and let the winner be the one with best penmanship. The rest of us have more important work to do.