Time in Argentina will give you a snapshot of the world that is coming to North America. The trend will be that our culture becomes increasingly multicultural (and multilingual) and highly urbanized. Like the current global south, the North American gap between the rich and poor will continue to widen. Churches must learn to reframe this as not only an economic issue but a matter of how the church shares the gospel.
The Argentina Baptist Association commissioned its first missionaries, Esteban and Mariela Licatta (and twin boys Gino and Thiago — it is a whole family affair!), to plant a church in Cholila. This village of 3,000 in Patagonia is the first Baptist (or evangelical) witness within a two-hour radius. The Licattas are, brick by brick, building a very simple “temple” and establishing a community of faith. Their effective work is, for the most part, among those who live very simple lives.
I noticed that Argentina Baptists don’t talk about “the poor,” but instead “los humildes” or the humble. I like this. I certainly experienced that those whom the world deems “poor” are some of the richest I’ve met in characteristics that matter in the kingdom of God: hospitality, kindness, generosity. Perhaps the most touching experience of my stay was one family’s gift of a small pig for an asado or celebration dinner. That pig represented 5 percent of the family’s annual income. I was moved to tears.
Argentina is a G-20 emerging economy with one of the highest qualities of life in the southern hemisphere. Yet economic turbulence this millennium has resulted in crippling poverty for large swaths of its society. There are many things the church could and should do about this. One of them is to plant incarnational congregations. The humble are often the most receptive segment of society to the gospel.
A decade ago, scholar Philip Jenkins noted and predicted an emerging global “Southern Counter Reformation,” where Christianity would become the dominant world religion by 2050. He claimed that it would be so because of explosive growth of the church among the most humble in society. That prediction is looking pretty good. In terms of how we invest in world evangelization, the smart money is on the humble.
John Chandler is leader of the Spence Network, www.spencenetwork.equip.htm.