Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mexico with Pastor Tony Gomez

In our recent trip to Mexico, Gloria and I were impressed with the vibrancy of the believers. Their church gatherings could not have been farther from a duty-driven or "business-as-usual" atmosphere.

In one poverty-filled village on a Saturday about 250 believers of all ages came together (most walked some distance to be there) for fellowship and worship. This was a monthly gathering of village churches. The location rotates between the churches each month.

The people's enthusiasm for praising God and responding to preaching was contagious even though I could only understand a smattering of words.

We arrived about 11 a.m. to find a packed church auditorium (a very simple block building with hard wooden benches) and a worship service which had already been underway for some length of time. I was the third preacher. The first two were native pastors who, of course, spoke in Spanish (about 40 minutes each). Though I couldn't understand very many words, their passion and warm connection with the audience were inspiring to sense.

Before, between, and after the two sermons there was lots of great congregational singing, choirs, randalla bands, and a missionary presentation (a church planting ministry with the native Indians in the mountains), etc.

We took a half-hour break for lunch (Wow! Delicious! It was as authentic as the Christianity), and then the the singing, special music, etc. resumed.

It was my turn to preach (Pastor Tony Gomez was my wonderful interpreter). The congregation responded with the kind of enthusiasm that shouts their love for the teaching of God's Word.

When I finished preaching about 5 p.m. (about 6 hours after we arrived) we had to leave in order to get back to Torreon for an evening meeting. As we left, the service was going strong with no sign of an approaching conclusion.

Imagine a service in the USA that went more than 6 hours! Who would stay? Rather than the kind of unabated, enthusiastic participation I witnessed, in the USA a pastor could expect a continuing exodus of those whose priorities had no room for 6 hours of meeting with God and His church. There would be the "devil to pay" if we trapped people in that kind of marathon.

Perhaps we have completely lost touch with what it means to worship. If I am subconsciously saying, "God, I've come to worship You today, but I can only spare 60-90 minutes and then I really have to be about other parts of my life," I wonder if genuine worship is even possible. It seems like worship involves giving myself totally to God -- everything, including my time and schedule--surrendering to His agenda, not demanding mine.

I understand that we must be incarnational to the culture in which we live. Ours is obsessively time conscious.

But then, time is the currency with which I purchase my real values.

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