I kept pinching myself. Was I not in Mexico, the land of narco-criminals, rampant police corruption, and illegal border-jumpers—a nation coming apart at the seams? Indeed, as I left to teach for a week at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary of the South East of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico, my well-intentioned friends warned me to avoid risky situations. I was 830 miles south of Houston, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, a few hundred miles west of Cancun, in a town called Villahermosa. I must say, I felt no risk, seated in a large chapel along with two thousand fellow believers, listening to a four-hundred member choir from the local churches, all in uniform, shattering the rafters with powerful but harmonious sound to the praise of God’s glory.
To be honest, I was almost as shocked when this wonderful Mexican choir of Bible-believers gave a stunning rendition of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, as the crowds were shocked in Philadelphia last Christmas when a large number of “shoppers” (actually trained singers) broke out, unannounced, in the same song, in the atrium of Macy’s downtown department store. Watching that event on YouTube, I broke into tears. Both in Macy’s and in Mexico shock and awe were evident, as Jesus was hailed publicly as the everlasting King.
I was not expecting shock and awe two days in a row, but preaching on “1 Corinthians 15:1-11: The Gospel First and Last,” in the Sunday service of a 200 member Presbyterian church, the last element of worship raised the roof. The fourteen member choir ended the service with a wonderful, professional rendering of—yes, you’ve guessed it—”The Hallelujah Chorus.”
Mexico does face serious problems of violence and systemic corruption, especially in certain regions, but readers [especially Presbyterians] will be surprised and happy to learn that within the Christian community there are two million Bible-believing Presbyterians who take church organization, high culture and theology very seriously.
My teaching here that week was strategic. All the pastors in my class heard lectures on the principles of One-ism and Two-ism, and saw their implications for the pressing issues of the Mexican church and society. The next week, many of these pastors attended the general assembly of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico, which makes important decisions for the future, especially regarding issues of sexuality and gender. My translator, Bill Green, told me that many pastors had said to him that what they heard was true and that they needed to do something about it. These servants of the Lord may well exercise a critical role next week to keep the church on track.
I stand back for a moment in awe to observe what the Lord has effected according to His all-wise agenda, beyond our wildest dreams. In the last few months truthXchange has had an unexpected, strategic influence in two major foreign denominations:
- In August, 2010, we taught in Mauritius as guests of the Anglican archdiocese of the Indian Ocean. A church facing (at home) a confusing national pluralist culture of Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity, and (abroad) a liberal Western Anglicanism, found the clarity of the One-ist/Two-ist paradigm a great encouragement for Gospel witness in the days ahead. They are planning to use us in the future in the global south;
- There in Villahermosa, Mexico, after three days of teaching, the Director of the seminary asked me to commit to a further engagement for January, 26-28, 2012—this time for between one and two thousand pastors and Christian leaders of all denominations in the vast region of Tabasco and beyond, for three days of teaching, fellowship, and celebration that will include the massed choir we heard this week!
Providentially finding themselves stuck for three days in the same apartment in Villahermosa, three guys, ex- or present foreign missionaries, heading up three different ministries had plenty of time to talk. The three were:
- Neal Hegeman, head of MINTS (Miami International Seminary), possibly the largest theological training movement in history that presently has 3000 students involved in theological training in Latin America;
- Bill Green, head of CLIR (Confraternidad Latinamericana de Las Iglesias Reformadas), which has groups in every country in Latin America;
- myself, with truthXchange.
We began to think about how our various ministries could work with the local seminary to make this coming event a significant nationwide moment for strengthening the body of Christ in this beautiful land. The possibilities are frankly enormous.
In seemingly random acts of chance meetings, the Lord has sovereignly orchestrated amazing plans for on-going, long-term ministry, all for His great glory. The only thing I can say is—you’ve guessed it—HALLELUJAH!