If adapting to the Argentine culture wasn't already different enough, learning to adapt to the Argentine culture of church would be a whole new ballgame. Imagine already trying to keep up being in a country where they speak a whole different language. Not only did I have to learn spanish for everyday life, but I would have the added task of learning the special vocabulary that the Christian community in Argentina uses. As well, I would become aware of the many cultural differences between the Argentine church and the culture of church I grew up in.
There are many differences and I can't highlight them all in one blogpost. As best as I can, I've tried to bring to life the world of the Argentine church through video, blogs, pics and various forms of social media. One of the biggest differences I notice in the church culture down there is that exclaiming "OMG" "Jesus Christ" as an expression in daily life isn't considered an insult or taboo the way that it would be in the North American church. If I stubbed my toe and yelled "FOR CHRIST SAKE", I might end up with a pep talk about taking Christ name in vain.
The people down there don't consider it an insult one bit. Nor are tattoos or rock and roll a sin either! However, there are certain behaviors that are quite serious in the Argentine culture of church that would be taken lightly in the North American church. What would be more or less a serious thing is if you tell someone that God is speaking to you or you have a wisdom or revelation or you've heard something from above.
When I first got to the church, I found out the pastor does not let people in the congregation go up to other people and tell them "I feel like I have a message from God for you" or anything of that sort. Instead, if someone felt they had a revelation of any kind for another person, they would have to submit it first to a leader. They cannot go to that person directly.
At first I thought that was kind of harsh that the pastor would institute such a rule but in time I found out why. A couple years ago the pastor had a famous Christian minister come and speak at the church. She started to give prophecies and messages to members of the congregation. You have to understand that the latino culture is very emotional. Although this Christian minister has a great reputation and has given many accurate messages to people in her life, she did give some messages to people that weren't accurate. The combination of the already emotional latino culture and some inaccurate prophecies resulted in alot of emotionalism happening with no real good fruit birthed in people's lives.
The pastor's heart was in the right place when he originally asked her to come. She has a great reputation in America and has a valid ministry. The pastor wanted the best for the congregation and wanted to try out some of the things we have in the North American culture of church. It was a hard lesson for the pastor so for the safety of the congregation (knowing latinos are already prone to being emotional), the pastor had to institute this rule in place that you cannot simply give out messages from God to anyone in the congregation.
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Shakespeare
"What is in a name?" is the thought that kept going through my head when I thought about this story. Which really is the lesser of the two evils? To exclaim "OMG!" when you stub your toe or to be casually claiming that you heard from God or God said something to you. And the more that I think about it, I have come to realize that the latter should be taken seriously. It is a much more serious offence to be claiming that you heard from God than for one to let out "JESUS CHRIST" because you stepped on a crack and fell.
In my church, I can see that people are very serious about when the leadership has heard some kind of message and are sharing with the people. They take their pens out and start writing down what has been said and the team strategizes on how to put those words into application. When we hear messages that we feel have some kind of divine origin, we don't just giggle and say "Thank you, I'm tickled" and then go home and forget about it.
Not to say that our church is "Gestapo" about this rule. It is simply for the protection of a congregation of thousands where anything can happen. But nobody is gonna nail your or come after you if you have a dream or feel something from your heart that you want to share. A couple of wks before Marisa and I realized we were mother and child, I had a dream about her. In the dream, she found her self pregnant all of a sudden and was totally confused. It was as if she had gotten 3 months pregnant instantly and had no clue to how any of this could have happened.
When I first shared with her the dream, I had no clue what it meant. A couple wks later, after multiple conversations with her, I then told her that I think that in her dream, the baby was actually me. Because in the dream it was as if she had instantly become pregnant with another child. And if you know our story, that is basically what happened between us. The first day that she saw me something happened within her. It took a long time for both if us to figure out exactly what but eventually we realized that in the same way animals adopt baby animals from another species, somewhere along the line I became her brood.
But when I shared with her the dream and the interpretation, she wasn't angry or upset that I had broken some kind of rule and nobody nailed me for sharing what was on my heart. The principle of first sharing a dream or vision with the leadership is in place so that things don't get out of control in a church of thousands where anything can happen.
If you happen to be visiting Buenos Aires and want to visit somewhere off the well beaten path, I highly recommend that you pop by "Parque 3 de Febrero" It is still one of my favorite places to spend a lazy afternoon in BA and get in touch with nature. The highlight of the park is the rose garden and what makes things even more interesting is that there are actually people hired to keep visitors from getting too close to the flora, fauna, plants and animals. They have uniforms and whistles and you'll know when you've gotten too close because you'll quickly hear a sharp whistle and see someone coming towards you waving their hands at you indicating for you to back away.
There is something to be learned from that in my own personal life in making it a point to be protective of all the precious resources and relationships I've been given. From what I've seen both in the church and in Argentine society in general, Argentines on one hand are very open, friendly, and casual. But I've also seen another side of them where they are passionate and serious in protecting their interests and the things that are valuable to them and that is not something they take casually.
Gotta admit that their passion, perseverance and commitment to life makes my jaw wanna drop at times and leaves me saying "Oh my GOD" :P
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