What does an ongoing organic movement of the gospel actually look like in a modern culture? What kind of problems do we have to face 20 years down the line? Is an organic movement even possible in a hostile environment? If you would like the answers to these questions and many more like them, you should read Will This Rock in Rio?
In 1964 Ken Lottis went to Brazil to help his long time friend Jim Peterson start the Navigators ministry among Brazilian university students. It didn’t take them long to find out that just about everything they found comfortable about their Christian faith created barriers among the student they had come to reach. Even worse, in the highly politicized context of Brazilian universities, where most students were enraptured with communist rhetoric and felt that Christianity was the opiate of the people, Americans were viewed as potential CIA agents.
So, not only were they in a context that was Catholic; in reality among university students it was post-Catholic, even anti-Catholic. Yet Catholicism was the only Christianity that most Brazilians were familiar with. They were just familiar enough with the Brazilian Protestant church to know that it was legalistic and weird. Americans were suspicious characters and Lottis and Peterson didn’t speak the language or understand Brazilian culture. In other words, they were not only starting from zero, they were behind the eight ball.
But Lottis and Peterson had a few secret weapons. They were willing to pray. They were willing to obey what they felt God was leading them toward and they were willing to learn lessons, even if they were hard ones. Slowly but surely God began to give them what the Jesus would call men or peace or worthy men. This was not the language that Lottis uses because it is not the language they used at the time. Then from these footholds into the culture, as they began to win just a few people to Jesus, the Good News began to spread down the networks of relationship.
As the gospel spread, Lottis and Peterson learned that if they tried to take these new believers to a traditional church they would lose them. Does this sound familiar? This is certainly what I face when I win people to Christ in the US nowadays and what I faced in Spain a few years ago. So, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit Peterson and Lottis began to improvise. What could they do to give them all of Jesus, make sure that Jesus and his powerful truth continued to flow generation after generation into Brazilian society, yet not get stuck in the extra-biblical Christendom that was stopping the gospel dead in its tracks.
Will This Rock in Rio? is an exciting read. Lottis is a good story teller. But the most refreshing thing I find in this book is that it has most of the principles that Jesus taught in Luke 10 engaged, yet they didn’t find them by studying Luke 10. Instead they found them through experience. Let me state that another way. Jesus taught them his Kingdom spreading principles himself. He just used the text of Brazilian culture and open obedient hearts. So, if you are expecting to hear the current organic church vocabulary you are going to be very disappointed. If you want to see what organic church looks like without all the techniques and trappings dive into this book.
I know the Western church and even the Western organic church movement well enough to suspect that readers read such books to find “the key.” What is Lottis and Peterson’s technique which will show us how to do “it?” They did all sorts of things. Some of them might even be helpful now. But the main key is to pray, listen, obey and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to the truth. That is what they did and that is why they ended up a sustained movement of the gospel.
For other books I’ve written about see: Jesus Manifesto, Book Review: An Army of Ordinary People, and Christian Humanism: When We View Ministry as Our Effort.
- Can something that started in Brazil in 1964 have relevance for us today?
- What does the fact that Jesus lead these men to his kingdom spreading principles, apart from the specific scriptures where he teaches them, tell you?
- Do you find reading about organic movements without the requisite vocabulary annoying or refreshing?