No, we’re not talking about the (best) Hunger Games sequel; we’re talking about “when faith catches fire,” the title of a reading plan based on a book by Samuel Rodriguez and Dr. Robert Crosby that I recently read (available on YouVersion bible app).
Recently, Pastor Keith highlighted the importance of uniting our church, our community, and Christians together in love, incorporating all our diverse backgrounds into the platform of Christ to win over more people and start a fire in our community (“Being Knit Together”).
To continue this idea—and demonstrate our support of our Latino brothers and sisters in Christ during Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15)—we have dedicated a blogpost to praising elements of the Latino Pentecostal movement and incorporate them into our larger community and family of Christ.
(To see the overwhelming numbers of Latin American Pentecostals and Latino Pentecostals in the United States, as well as some explanations of why our faith is so attractive, check out this previous blogpost).
“Whether blazing logs under a living-room mantle or encircled by stones at a campsite, a fire quickly becomes the hearth, and heart, of a family or a community. It keeps people warm, illuminates their interactions, and becomes a focal point that brings people together.”
“And a fire is an ideal metaphor for passion, a burning and consuming force that is unquenchable. It is also a fitting image for faith. When belief moves from the mere mental assets to a deep, convictional belief, it does something powerful. Faith catches fire.”
This metaphor has been adopted by Pentecostals across the world, to describe something larger than ourselves. But what does it look like? What happens when our faith catches fire?
“Our beliefs turn into boldness. Our desires turn into desperation. Our prayers turn into soul cries and intercessions. The written Word of God in our minds becomes the spoken Word of God to our hearts. We move from knowing about God to becoming intimate with God.”
Sounds great. How do we get that? How do we fan the flames of our faith?
Well, the Latino Christians who “are leading the way [in this fiery movement], not just by sheer demographics but also through their purpose, passion, and promise,” have an answer. Firstly, there’s a focus on both horizontal and vertical growth. Vertical means “we look up to God, and it’s about God and His kingdom,” while horizontal “means it’s about our families and communities;” it’s about reaching out.
Moreover, there is:
- “a deep conviction […] that the only way to experience power in your life and ministry is by engaging deeply in practices of prayer
- joy-infused singing and worship
- a passion in preaching the gospel that is underscored by a sense of prophetic immediacy and urgency
- a powerful but natural merging of evangelism and compassion, of help and of hope, of giving people the gospel, and the kind of assistance of a good neighbor”
While our church might practice some of these—or strive to—the Latino churches in the community do a great job also of demonstrating these role-model traits.
This is why I remind you to fan into the flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. (2 Timothy 1:6)
So what are we doing wrong? How does the flame of our faith, our church, get snuffed?
- “Neglecting the person of God and the practices of faith—God, prayer, and worship.
- Centering your life on yourself.
- Dependence on natural talents and abilities alone.
- Ethnic exclusivity.
- Overlooking and dishonoring the generations.
- Disconnecting from community and relationships.
- Conforming to the world, one compromise at a time.”
For the sake of this blogpost, let’s focus on the last four points, which concern the church as a whole, rather than individuals. Do they speak to you? How might these prevent us from unifying the Church and how might we go about fixing this?
For Pastor Samuel Rodriguez and Dr. Robert Crosby, the answer is clear: “building unity for us means learning to draw circles honor” around those in our community. “When you [do], something powerful happens. In a culture quick to dishonor, you refresh a soul by seeing the person the way God does: as someone made to reflect his image […] It is the glue of true community.”
To do this, it requires praising our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of linguistic, cultural, racial, ethnic, or other distinctions (like this blogpost itself!). We’re not talking about empty, meaningless compliments that we toss around like a toddler flower girl tosses fake rose petals. True honor is “sincere and authentic. It affirms the good in people and brings out the best in them […] Ultimately, honor is something that flows from God Himself.”
Then we’re one step closer to singing the song that God desires of us, together “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelations 5:9).
We will not be divided by race, but will sing together as the “multiethnic, multi-generational, kingdom-culture choir washed in the blood of the Lamb […] Denominations will become much more multiethnic and racially diverse or they will continue to diminish in size and influence.”
This is not a threat, but rather a hopeful promise! This is the kind of unity that we should strive for. Together, we will be the fiery movement “transforming people to rise to places of service, opportunity, and identity.”
Maybe the first step could be offering our prayers and donations to help alleviate the devastation in Puerto Rico. The Church of God World Missions would love to receive your donations to help the residents of Puerto Rico.
Rodriguez, S., & Crosby, R. When Faith Catches Fire. http://whenfaithcatchesfirebook.com/
Shockley, K. “Being Knit Together.” http://anchorcog.com/sermons/being-knit-together/