Observations about church

In two months living in Loja, I’ve had the chance to “tour” the various evangelical churches here. A number of things have caught my interest:

  • There are quite a lot of them! Twenty churches is a big number for an extremely Catholic city of only 120 000 -odd people.
  • Praise and worship is generally livelier across the board.
  • P+W teams are largely made up of young men. Often the whole group is male; when there are women up on stage, they are always only back-up singers or dancers (I still have not worked out the point of having repetitive and not particularly creative choreography during P+W). A couple of times I have seen a girl playing the keyboard, but never the guitar, drums, or bass.
  • P+W teams are often uniformed.
  • Anyone can be a pastor. No need to go to Bible College, no need to have been a believer for many years.
  • Pastors are territorial, protective, and jealous. This is part of the reason why (a) there are so many churches (because church members wanting to plant are rejected by their home church, and so go solo); (b) Sendero has a reputation issue with churches, because pastors think we’re trying to steal their young people.
  • Many such pastors will be the type that does everything in church, because they don’t trust anyone else to do it.
  • In contrast, the young people of the churches mix well amongst themselves, through social activities outside of church, through music. There is a strong interchurch and interdenominational ethic amongst them that does not exist amongst the older generation.
  • A large proportion of Christian youth are highly motivated and ready to serve. Unfortunately, many (though not all) pastors and elders don’t believe they can do it, and definitely don’t encourage those who, with a small push and support, could be amazing servants. That said, there are some really fantastic exceptions to the this general observation.
  • Mentoring is a very new concept, it is largely non-existent apart from discipleship between missionaries and Ecuadorians.
  • There is a huge gap between highly motivated church members and those who “just attend” on Sundays. There doesn’t seem to be anyone who serves a bit.
  • Sermons are not very systematic at all. I’ve heard a couple of good messages, but event those are not quite as logical and comprehensive and academic as I’ve been used to.
  • I have become even more aware of how much one’s philosophy of education affects our way of doing theology/studying the Bible.
  • The need to distinguish evangelical churches from Catholic ones leads to some exaggerated contrasts which are not necessarily biblical – eg. the general rule of no drinking (in theory, the reality is likely another question altogether), infrequent observation of Holy Communion/the Lord’s Supper, the lively and very emotive P+W services.
  • But there are also Catholic throwbacks, such as the following: sermons talk a lot about sin (my friend D, who is trained as a pastor though he’s not currently pasturing a church, says he has a habit of counting the number of times a sermon mentions God the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Paul and Satan – and Satan and Paul always come out tops); long and pretty but often empty prayers.

Any comments, thoughts? I'd love to hear from you :)

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