I apologize for the length of this post. I hope you will read it anyway and give me your thoughts.
As I mentioned in the previous post, our building project was faced with much physical difficulty. However, there were other issues to be faced that were more on a philosophical and doctrinal plane. There was the issue of the Boca del Monte church's status as a church as defined by government regulations. Also, the identity of the Church doctrinally needed to be addressed.
For us who live in the U.S.A., where we still enjoy a great deal of religious freedom, the government regulations with which missionaries serving in foreign countries must wrestle are hard to imagine. As a missionary working legally in Mexico, I had a special permit known as the FM3. It gave me legal status as a missionary to preach the gospel anywhere and everywhere in the country. There was no restriction as to the content of my preaching. Under this permit, I was required to be in the country under the ministry of a church that was recognized (registered) by the government of Mexico. That church would be responsible for my actions and I would be accountable to them. According to the government, the registration of churches was not for the purpose of government control, but for the purpose of protecting the property rights of churches, and protecting the right to freedom of religion which is guaranteed by the constitution of Mexico. Therefore, any church that I started, had to be started as a mission of the church under whose ministry I was working. Also, it had to be registered.
When I began to try to explain this to Ranulfo, well... he didn't hit the ceiling, he went through it. (It was only tar-coated cardboard.) He said,"No, brother! We will never register with the government!" Bear in mind that this was a man who had no access to history. He knew nothing of John Bunyan, nor did he have any clue as to the debates that had taken place in the U.S. over government intervention in church affairs. He didn't even know about his own country's rules on the subject until I told him.
In true reformer fashion, he declared (referring to his little flock) "Jesus died for them, the Holy Spirit called them, I'm preaching to them and we are building the building. The government can't own it!" Also, he said things like,"The government didn't call me to preach, God did. Therefore all the registration I need is in the Lamb's Book of Life!" He said a lot of other stuff too, but I think you get the drift. I was again amazed at his clarity of thought and his understanding of issues that often take others years of study to evaluate. He understood that government oversight of a church equals government ownership of a church.
I was 100% in agreement with him. I didn't like the rules any more than he did. The thing is, that he was a citizen of that country and I was not. If he wanted to civilly disobey unjust laws of his country based on spiritual convictions he could do it, just as we do in our own country. The outcome of this discussion was that it would not be a registered church.
The next issue sprang from my mindset as an IFB'er (Independent Fundamental Baptist) . What would be the name of the church? Of course, I had an agenda. I was flexible on the name as long as it included the label "Independent Baptist", or at least "Baptist". I hadn't considered that Ranulfo knew nothing whatsoever about denominational divisions among Christian believers. So, when I said, "What will we call it?" he began to suggest a variety of possible names. For example, La Iglesia de Dios (The Church Of God), or Iglesia de Cristo (Church Of Christ). I patiently listened to his suggestions and smiled indulgently, realizing that I would have to explain to him why it had to be a Baptist church. (Do you sense my gringo pride?)
My explanation didn't go as I expected. When I began to tell him that it had to be a Baptist church, he said, "Why?" I said, "It has to have the name of Baptist on it to identify it. To distinguish it from other denominations." He asked me to show him scripture for that." Well," I said, "it's not so much spelled out in scripture, but it just makes sense that you need to be identified by a statement of faith and a system of belief." He responded,"My statement of faith is the Bible." I could see that I wasn't going to get very far with that approach, so I said, "I am a Baptist missionary, sent by Baptist churches to establish Baptist churches. Any church that I establish will have to be a Baptist church." Brother", he said, "You didn't establish this church. Jesus did. So, let's just call it by His name." So, I tried yet another line of reasoning. I said," Well, Brother, in reality the earliest Baptists didn't call themselves by that name, it was a name given to them by their enemies and it stuck." "Then, let my enemies call me what they will, and if it sticks, let that be the name."
As you can see, I was not making much head way in my reasoning with Ranulfo. Being a hard-headed Independent Baptist, though, I couldn't loose the argument. After all, we have all the answers. Right? So at this point, I brought out the big gun. This would be the volley that would win the day for my point of view. I said, "Ranulfo, that is fine for right now. You are healthy and faithfully teaching your people, but there will come a day, if Jesus doesn't come very soon, that you will no longer be here to guide and to protect your people. When you are gone, if they are not identified with a sound, doctrinal name, a false teacher could easily come in and lead them away from the truth." He had a shocked look on his face. I assumed that meant that I had finally made him understand that I was right about this. I was mistaken. His response was, "Brother! Are you saying that after God chose these little sheep before the foundation of the world, sent His Son to die for them on the cross, called them by the gospel and is keeping them by His grace now; that, just because I am not here, He would allow some deceiver to come and lead His sheep away? No Brother! That cannot happen!"
The result? There is a small church in Boca del Monte. If it has a name, I don't know it. I do know this: God raised it up, and He has given them the wonderful gift of a wise and faithful pastor. O, for the simplicity of uncontaminated Christianity,