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Resourcing the church in Latin America


Daniel Caballero was based in his native Peru until this year. He married Ellie in May last year, and then encountered visa problems getting back into the UK to start a PhD. He and Ellie are now based in Ireland. Here he reports on what he has been doing in Peru.


Last summer, I wrote for the GBM Annual Report, ‘I will remember 2018 as one of the most wonderful and beautiful years of my life’. This is still the case. But I would also add, ‘and one of the hardest’. A lot of things have changed since then, but I can see the Lord’s hand guiding everything.


100 days in Peru

Due to visa complications, I had to go back alone to Peru in August last year. I have spent over a hundred days alone in Peru, and I have counted each one of them! Although I did not plan to go back to Peru, and it was very hard for Ellie and me, the Lord in his providence took me back there for a reason. Over this time I was heavily involved in preaching, teaching and book publication. Last year we started a humble book publisher with the aim of translating some of the main theological works from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries into Spanish. Why are we doing that? What are we translating, and how?


Why translate, publish and distribute books that were written in a different time, language and context?


If we do not, the Latin American church is at risk of losing the gospel in one generation. The more I think about it, the more I reach that conclusion. Recent research about the state of theology in the United States among professing, baptised evangelical Christians was shocking. For instance: almost eighty percent of people do not believe that Christ is the eternal Son of God, but merely the first and greatest being created by God. This is the old heresy of Arianism. The survey found that forty-four percent of Christians believe that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behaviour doesn’t apply today. I believe that the church in Latin America is perhaps as bad as or worse than the church in the US in theological matters. I firmly believe that unless someone confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, they will not be saved, and many people, maybe the majority, in Latin American evangelical churches are not saved because they have never heard a real, theologically sound presentation of the gospel. Historical theology is the missing vaccination against heresy and spiritual immaturity in the developing world.


Let me give some reasons why it is important to translate these books. First, we need to form a theological tradition. A church’s identity and purpose is directly related to the way they see their past. It is just over thirty years since the Latin American church began to grow in the mid-1980s. Before that it was mainly an expat movement. We have not had time to develop a theological tradition, so we must form our own theological tradition upon the shoulders of the best minds of the past, and the godliest examples. This will help us to reach maturity over the next two generations.


Second, orthodoxy and heresy are primarily historical constructions. This may seem weird to some people, but though every core evangelical doctrine has its basis in Scripture, it was developed in a historical context. Each generation must not redefine what they are going to believe about the Trinity, justification by faith alone, or the deity of Christ, but must hold fast to what has been passed on to them. It is virtually impossible to have a confession of faith, or an association of churches, without having a common historical background. We will not work together until we see each other as having a common root. A number of self-identified evangelical churches in Latin America are denying some of the core doctrines of evangelicalism mainly because of ignorance of what the church has taught over the centuries.


Third, our contexts are similar. The context in which the English Puritans lived has more in common with contemporary Latin America than contemporary Britain, both theologically and politically. Let me mention just two examples: spiritual warfare and politics. The Puritans were very good at having a holistic view of theology, integrating their theology into the spiritual realm, as well as politics, finances, sexuality, etc. This is nearer to the church in Latin America than to British Christianity. For instance, when was the last time you heard a sermon about spiritual warfare or demon possession? Or, about politics, and why we as Christians should support (or not support) Brexit? Christians do not talk openly about these things in the UK. This is one of the key differences between the church in the Developing World (which is mainly Pentecostal), and the church in the First World. Some of the books that were written 300 years ago are more relevant for our context than more recent publications.


What books have we published?


We have published eight books so far, and we aim to publish one new book every month. We have just published The Mystery of Providence, Keeping the Heart and A Token for Mourners, all by John Flavel. We have published John Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, and Great Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century by J.C. Ryle, and a series of three volumes on the main theological topics of John Owen. We are trying to make links with several bookshops, churches and bible colleges around Latin America to distribute our books and saturate our continent with solid Christian literature.


How are we doing this?


We did not have funds when we started this project. It was originally run by volunteers, but has grown enough to employ three people part-time, with thirty-five volunteers from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries. Please pray that this project may be able to contribute to the spiritual formation of many pastors in Latin America.


Plans for the future

I moved to the Irish Republic in December 2018, having been granted an Irish visa after being unable to stay in the UK. Ellie and I have decided to settle there for a number of years, but we still hope to be involved in mission in Latin America in the future. I will be involved in ministry in Latin America part-time, in book publication, as well as writing articles for our blog, and also leading an online study group. I would really like to be heavily involved in ministry, preaching and teaching while I am in Ireland over the next few years. However, right now I still do not know where or what exactly I will be doing. I pray the Lord may make things clearer for Ellie and me over the next months.


We are not called to change the world, we cannot even change ourselves. All we can do is try not to lose the gospel in our generation. What a tragedy it would be if the generations to come looked back to us and said, ‘That was the generation that let the lampstand be removed from its place.’ May the Lord help us to be faithful in this generation and to give our lives to him. Maybe he is calling you to do that. Do not shut your heart to the call of the Lord.

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