What role will Protestants play?

"What role will Protestants play?" Continued...

Issue: "A warmer Chile," Nov. 9, 2002

Those numbers in a country long dominated by Roman Catholicism seem hard to believe until visitors see Chileans pouring into the Catedral building, conveniently located between the train station and bus depot. At the Catedral on Sundays, some 12,000-14,000 people pack plain wooden benches beneath signs proclaiming Dios Es Amor and Esta es casa de dios y puerta del cielo ("This is the house of God and doorway to heaven"). Attendees on any given Sunday represent one of the four quadrants of the church-north, south, east, west-with those from the other three attending smaller services throughout the metropolitan area.

Why has this denomination achieved such numerical success? "The church preaches the gospel," says Manuel Faundez Maturana, 65, head of Catedral Evangelica's press department. Mr. Faundez, in the Chilean air force for 30 years and then employed training pilots and stewardesses to recognize people with drugs, knows the lowest of the low. He also speaks of the only way for most to rise: "When the man who is a drunkard, an addict, a criminal hears the gospel, he changes." Changed beliefs lead to a willingness to work, and congregational contacts create a network of opportunity: "Church leaders compile a list of jobs available and needed, so a brick worker can be matched to opportunity. Those who want to get interviews can get them."

Pentecostals have generally not built social-services organizations and do not feel they have to; their informality of organization is the exact opposite of Catholic hierarchy. "We have no special programs for employment," explained Jorge Vasquez, a member of Catedral's ecclesiastical tribunal: "In every church those who know teach others about computers, or electricity, or other areas." Addiction and alcoholism? "We have no special programs, because Jesus does the job. In a few weeks, a few months, they change their way of living. We tell them you have to work. God says you have to work. In a few weeks, a few months, they come to understand."

It seems too easy, and the long-range results of living without much of an organization chart are not yet known, but the excitement of rapidly spreading Pentecostalism in Chile is unmistakable. Right now, instead of demonstrating at La Moneda, the presidential palace, some poor Chileans on Sunday afternoons are a few blocks away on downtown streets such as Salida a Nueva York. At one 2 p.m. gathering 70 people (half men wearing ties, half women with dresses to their ankles) waved Bibles and plunked guitars. Men and women took turns speaking about Jesucristo and how His grace changed them-and all the compadres said amen. The mood was relaxed, and visitors could wander over to La Moneda and enter without having to show identification or go through metal detectors.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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