Latin America Ministry Growing Independently

( [email protected] ) Dec 05, 2003 11:37 AM EST

LIMA, Peru — Latin America is independently shaping its own ministry. The gospel was spread through Latin America by Christian missionaries from North America and Europe. Until the late 1970s, Latin America natives had been prohibited from using their native instruments or music in worship services; but now Latin American theologians and pastors are growing in number establishing firm faith of Latin America.

“The gospel needs to be rooted in the people’s soil,” said Dr. Reubén “Tito” Paredes, a Latin America Mission missionary who serves as the director of Lima’s Centro Evangelico de Misiología Andino Amazonica, a theological training school for pastors and church leaders. The school’s name in English is Andean-Amazonian Evangelical Missiology Center.

“The gospel must become ours, not a foreign religion,” Paredes said. “If it is ours, we will fight for it and we will die for it.”

“In Peru, the Christian expression has a diversity,” Paredes said. “We have the Indian groups and the Mestizo groups and the Spanish groups, but they have ignored each other and not had a good rapport.”

“The movement took off in terms of growth once the Indian leaders understood that the gospel was not a foreign gospel, but theirs,” he said.

Today, Paredes is working with other Christian leaders in Peru to provide what he describes as a holistic view of ministry and the gospel and to train churches in providing the social as well as the spiritual needs of their people.

“At (Centro Evangelico) we have developed a dialogue with the social sciences to help students look at different theories of analysis,” he said. “We look at all approaches through the criteria of the Scriptures and from a Christian perspective.”

Humberto Reyes, the pastor of Pentecostal church of Trujillo a town several hours north of Lima, is studying at the center and he is also hoping to expand Christianity through holistic ministry reaching out both the members of church and members of society.

“I have a vision of a holistic ministry,” Reyes said. “My ministry should not just involve preaching, but should include the total community.”

“There are many Pentecostal churches that want to do something about the needs of their people,” Paredes said. “They are more open to that here than are Pentecostal churches in the U.S.”

The center provides what Paredes calls a “qualified and holistic view of the gospel” to its 12 to 15 students each year.

“Many people go to seminary and study the Bible and theology, but they are lacking in social studies,” he said.

“We provide a dialog between the social sciences and theology with an emphasis on missions. We don’t just study sociology, but we make an effort to integrate sociology with the Christian faith.”

Paredes said that his ministry began out of the concerns of indigenous Christian groups in Peru and continues to focus on the Andean region. However, he has been involved in wider responsibilities throughout the region as the general secretary of the Latin American Theological Fraternity.

He plans on giving up that responsibility, however, to devote more time to study, writing and research. He studied at Fuller Seminary and UCLA and has written “El Evangelio: un tesoro en vasijas de barro,” which integrates the disciplines of anthropology and theology.

“I’m interested in studying more about the Charismatic movement,” he saod.

Paredes wife, Joy, is leading a discipleship program for women by holding five or six retreats through the year.

“We live in a society where women are not appreciated as they should be,” Paredes said.