As the title says, we recently have gone through a major transition. To get right to the point, as of July 2 we are no longer missionaries with CCC! If you're shocked, imagine our shock after 29 years on staff (as of July 1, 2009), in my case, and 26 years, in Aïda's!
Now, you are probably curious as to what happened, so I will quote from an e-mail we sent out to several pastors and missions committee leaders of churches on our support team:
Dear Pastor _______,
After coming to the conclusion that differences in ministry emphases between us and Brazilian CCC were too serious to be ignored any longer, we started the process of transferring from this important nation to Jamaica - with the goal of leaving Brazil by the end of 2010. One ministry emphasis difference, for example, had to do with our style of ministry, which is that of "slugging it out in the trenches" on campus alongside our staff and students; the leadership here, however, wants all campus staff to take a more supervisory role that doesn't fit our personalities and strengths as well.
While we were deciding the best time to announce our transfer plans, unbeknownst to us the CCC leadership here had requested that CCC-U.S. terminate our ministry here in Brazil due to our ministry emphasis differences. Sometime while processing our mutual transfer requests - ours and that of CCC-Brazil - someone in the CCC Human Resources department in Orlando read my blog and concluded that we had incorporated something "incompatible" with CCC into our philosophy of evangelism: that of Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron's THE WAY OF THE MASTER (WOTM - www.wayofthemaster.com ). We didn't agree that WOTM is incompatible with CCC because, here in Brazil, we have seen a great need to make the issue of Law 2 of THE FOUR SPIRITUAL LAWS ("Man is sinful and separated from God...") as clear as possible. For example, most Spiritists (Brazil is the world's largest Spiritist nation.), not to mention students in general, do not believe that man is sinful. So, in an effort to make the gospel as clear as possible by clearly explaining man's sinfulness, we have used some of WOTM's material. We were told that in CCC the focus is on Law 1 ("God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.") and not on Law 2. That was news to us!
We've discovered that in the U.S. there have been some problems on some campuses between CCC students and some students who have adhered to the WOTM philosophy. So, in a way we can understand CCC's concerns; but Brazil is not the U.S. In fact, most Christians here have never heard of WOTM and its emphasis on the use of God's Law in evangelism and biblical conversion via repentance and faith. But since we were trying to transfer to another country as U.S. staff, the American policy on WOTM became the main issue in our case.
As a result of all this, we were told that our philosophy of evangelism was incompatible with CCC's and that we were being "dismissed" due to "our disagreement" with CCC's philosophy of evangelism. We don't consider it so much a "disagreement," but a desire to make the issue clear. Oh well.
One other area that the Brazilian leadership team mentioned as problematic about us was that we were too concerned about the truth (of God's Word). They said that we were, as a result, being "legalistic." We believe that what was really behind their criticism was the fact that we pointed out some of the Emerging Church trends and authors adopted and promoted by some of the leadership here. Since we both got M.A.'s in Exegetical Theology (from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, OR), we'd like to think we have a little more discernment than the average CCC staff member regarding some of the heresies that go hand in hand with the Emerging Church. We found this trend among our leadership truly disturbing, but understandable in light of their church backgrounds and the little information available in Portuguese on the Emerging Church.
Now, being dismissed was obviously a hard pill to swallow at first. We've been serving with CCC since 1980 (in my case) and 1983 (in Aïda's case)! You may be finding it a hard pill to swallow too. But you know what? We are actually glad that this happened now! Why? Well, we feel freed up now to pursue God's call in some needed areas here in Brazil - but now as missionaries with another mission agency.
Because we see some really great needs in Brazil and because we have a heart for evangelism and discipleship, we believe that the Lord is not yet done with us in Brazil. We welcome your input on our situation and future, but we are seriously thinking about starting a ministry with another mission here in Brazil with the following emphases:
1) REACHING , EQUIPPING and MOBILIZING students, professors and young professionals for the worldwide spiritual harvest;*
2) Training Christians in Bible study methods, theology, Christian worldview, apologetics and "Intentional Evangelism;** and
3) Teaching faithful men to do the same (i.e., spiritual leadership multiplication - 2 Tim. 2:2).
I (Bill) am planning a trip up to Houston at the end of July for the purpose of meeting with our ministry partners there to explain in person what we see as the next steps that God is directing us to take. I also hope to replace any lost support due to our transition at that time, as well as gather resources and form partnerships that will help us launch our new ministry once back in Brazil!
One more thing: Although we will be planning out our new ministry over the next several weeks and months, we don't want to give you the idea that we won't be doing evangelism, discipleship and training. On the contrary, we hope to do get something going at a local private university (where Campus Crusade has never ministered), while developing or translating the training curriculum that we will use to equip students, professors, professionals and churches in the areas mentioned above. Believe me, we'll have our hands full as we try to start something from scratch! Exciting times!
* REACHING: through what we call "Intentional Evangelism," which is flexible in style and methodology while remaining faithful to biblical content. Of course, "Intentional Evangelism" includes one of Bill's area of expertise: open air preaching; EQUIPPING: via one-on-one and small-group discipleship and training; MOBILIZING: through accountability to one's ministry goals, short and long-term missions, etc.
** Most Christians here have no idea what a Christian worldview is and do not have the basis to defend their faith; Systematic Theology and Bible study are really weak areas here.
Well, there you have it! This is where we're at now. It's kind of sad to see CCC's leadership reject WOTM, but in light of some of the problems that have been caused for CCC, it's actually understandable. When CCC had problems with zealous tongues speakers back in the 70's, it established a policy for its staff stating that one would have to suspend the public and private use of the gift while on staff. Although CCC never took a theological position on the issue of tongues, it took a practical position on it. In the same way, CCC seems to have clamped down on those staff into WOTM without taking a theological position against it. Hopefully the day will come when WOTM will not be seen as so controversial and will be assimilated into CCC's ministry philosophy. That would be my prayer, at least.
What is ironic in all of this is that all that Ray Comfort did was research into how evangelism was done pre-20th century, bringing back an emphasis on the use of the Law and on biblical conversion via repentance and faith. Although these emphases have been labeled WOTM by many, they actually were the emphases of the Church throughout history - until the political correctness of the 20th century Church.