Yesterday, while making my rounds in the small community of Mindo-Ecuador, I witnessed a baptism. The folks participating in the baptism were not from Mindo, but from Quito, one of Ecuador’s major cities. They were using a public swimming area and there was many other activities going on there simultaneously. They were dressed very well, but their attire was certainly not the norm for people coming from outside to enjoy Mindo’s biodiversity and abundant tourism activities.
I watched as they prepared for the baptism. Two men with suits and ties minus jackets, stood in the river’s water with their bibles and ‘preached’ before receiving the candidates for submersion. I listened to the words they were saying very carefully and didn’t hear anything that struck me as strange. They explained what baptism signified to them and paused for some music now and again.
I became curious about what church they represented and decided to ask one of the people on the river’s bank. I approached him, greeted him, and asked. He looked at me, dwelled on my tattoos, earring, and the clothes I was wearing and decided not to answer. “Maybe he’s deaf” I thought, or maybe my Spanish was a bit off. I repeated my question annunciating very clearly. He looked at me again and then I knew. He wasn’t going to talk to me because of who I was, because he had made a judgement about my character, my life, and what he thought I represented. I’ll have to admit, THAT caught me off guard. In fact, it made me just a bit angry. I got over it quickly. No big deal.
Not to give up so easily, I crossed the river and circled to the other side where the bulk of the people from that congregation were standing. I asked another gentlemen the same questions; “What church do you represent?” and “Where are you from?” Initially he gave me the same sort of Star-Trek scan, but decided to answer. His answer intrigued me. He said, “We represent a church that is expanding greatly in this region.” “A bit cryptic,” I thought, so I pressed a bit. “What denomination do you represent?” Then he told me what I already knew.
They were members of an Evangelical Apostolic Church. That’s code talk for “Oneness Pentecostal,” “Jesus Only,” Sabellians” or “modalists.” In a nutshell, they teach that there is only one God, but deny the tri-unity of God. In other words, oneness theology does not recognize the distinct persons of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The core doctrine of ‘Oneness Pentecostal’ or ‘Jesus Only’ is that Jesus is the Father and Jesus is the Spirit. There is one God who reveals Himself in different “modes,” or manifests himself in whatever form He chooses appropriate to the moment. Modalism teaches that God operated in different forms or modes at different times—sometimes as the Father, sometimes as the Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit.
I thanked him for answering me, smiled, and spoke peace over him. I then returned to other side of the river and watched as the baptisms continued. That’s when I experienced some inner rage. While trying to calm myself, I heard one of the preachers say “it is through this baptism, that we are saved.” It was then that I became mad as hell. For a moment, I wanted to ‘crash the party’ and start some preaching of my own. I had envisioned climbing to a high rock and delivering some angry apologetic. I didn’t. I internalized my frustration. I screamed to myself, “They’re worshiping a another God,” they’re preaching another Gospel,” and “There is another spirit besides the Holy Spirit at work here.”
The man I spoke to was right, their ‘church’ was expanding greatly in this region. “Why???” I thought. “Why do these people want this false religion, false god, and why do they embrace this bastardized gospel? Harsh, I know, but I’ve seen the fruit of that gospel. I’ve seen it’s destructiveness. I’ve seen how it robs people of their freedom and peace and joy in Christ. Yes, I was getting more and more angry as time went on.
So there I stood fuming. I’m not one to get overly angry about things like this, but this got to my core. I had to take a step back and analyze my thoughts and ask God to reveal the source of this anger. Here’s what I perceived;
I was mad because of their ‘success’ in penetrating many communities here in the Cloud Forest Region.
I was mad because the people settled for it.
I was mad because they were forming/planting churches all over the place.
I was mad because their twisted gospel was spreading like a dry forest’s fire.
I was mad because I believed they knew they were choosing falsehoods, religion, and superficiality over genuine faith.
I was mad because they seemed more faithful than me in getting out their message then I was at getting out ‘my’ message.
While thinking these things I watched as those who were baptized were brought up onto the river bank afterwards and ‘expected’ or ‘pressured’ to manifest an ecstatic display (speaking in tongues) to ‘prove’ that they were really saved. It was after seeing this that my anger became sadness. I prayed that God would bless this group with His truth, peace, and grace. I also asked Him what He wanted me to do about it. The answers came immediately. And while there was no new insight these words came to mind; “Stay in motion.” “Keep preaching ALL of the gospel.” “Keep pushing gracefully forward and under MY power.” “Don’t jettison your calling.” “Don’t be jealous of the successes of religion.” “Persist through trial, love people, don’t become a peddler of religion for personal gain.” “Keeping speaking the truth person by person, life by life, and encounter by encounter. “Answer every honest question, to the best of your ability, that hints of ME working in their hearts.” “Avoid the desire to win arguments or souls.” “Make Disciples.” “Oh, and one more thing… be ready to give a defense OF THE HOPE within you.”
With all of this in mind, I’d like to ask you a few questions…
Does being wrong about the Trinity (The Triune Nature of God), disqualify a person from having a relationship with Him?
Are people who deny God’s triune nature worshiping another god, preaching another gospel, and operating under the power of another spirit?
When it comes right down to it, do you believe that people willingly choose to accept the lies or are truly deceived?
Was my being ‘mad as hell’ justified?