loren Eric Swanson: Why Layo is not celebrating 40 years of ministry

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Why Layo is not celebrating 40 years of ministry

Last week at the gathering of the Global Learning Community in Estes Park, Layo Lieva shared a devotional that still has me thinking and reflecting. Layo Lieva will not be celebrating 40 years of his ministry's presense in El Salvador. But why?

Layo has been in ministry for over 30 years so he has the long view of ministry in one country. He told us about how, when he was a student, he and his friends would dream of what their country would be like if a third of the people in El Salvador knew Christ. "What if....? grew legs as they began strategizing on reaching their country. Now, 3o years later, 32% of El Salvadorenos are believers, the country has statistically been evangelized at least three-times over and there is one church for every 700 El Salvadorenos. (The Saturation Church Planting folks suggest that one church for every thousand people is saturation.) Christian TV and radio stations abound, missionaries flow freely into the country and visiting Christian dignitaries often visit the country's president to pray with him and have their photo taken. There are Jesus marches replete with banners and bands. Layo notes that there is "a festival of Christian work." By many accounts there is much cause for rejoicing. So why is Layo so discontent? Why is he unwilling to have a celebration of his ministry's 40th anniversary in this country? Let's take a closer look...

Layo says that the mental and moral infrastructure of the country is destroyed. Nine people a day die by violent crimes. Drug use is out of control. 35% of people are unemployed. Gangs are prolific and violent. One study showed that 32% of gang members come from evangelical homes. The most common complaint to the police is "evangelical noise"...preachers who drive through the streets blaring their message from speakers mounted atop their cars. The country is much worse off now than in 1980 when there were only 5% believers. So what went wrong? Layo gives us his deliberate thought...

"We don't need to do better but we do need to do different. I'm not sure if we need any more church plants that are like the ones we have. We need a different kind of church."

El Salvador, in some ways is a laboratory for ministry methods. We can see the end game of simple saturation strategies. We can learn a lot about tactics, strategies but most important "the gospel." One might conclude from El Salvador that the gospel not efficacious. But maybe the problem lies not with the gospel, in all its fullness, that Jesus preached and what we have passed off as the gospel. Its not the gospel plus something else but a matter of unpacking the genuine gospel. In other blog entries I'll give my thoughts on this but I will tell you that from what I understand it is about the King and the kingdom; Its about Ephesians 2:10 as well as Ephesians 2:8,9; It's about loving one's neighbor as well as loving God; It's about community transformation as well as personal transformation; It's about you...and about me.


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