QA 4: The OVERreached People Group

Candace writes, "How well do the people of Honduras accept Christianity (Baptists)? Is it a shame for them to come to church/accept Christ?" Another reader, Mike, refers to the strong Roman Catholic tradition in Central America, "How are you able to get past traditions and get Catholics to engage in Gospel discussions without seeing everything through a Catholic lens?

Most church-going people have heard quite a bit about "unreached people groups" around the world. There are millions who do not have a copy of the Bible in their language and have never heard Jesus' name. Honduras does not fall into this category. What we have here could be referred to as an overreached people group.

Before arriving on the field, we heard statistics from various sources calculating Roman Catholicism to be the religion of somewhere between 97-99% of the Honduran population. We soon discovered that there are two very different kinds of Roman Catholics: those who adhere to the teachings of the Catholic church, attend mass, and pray to Mary; and those who simply claim to be Catholic because their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were. I was surprised by the large percentage of non-practicing Catholics. Once on visitation when I asked a young man if he attended church anywhere, his quick reply was, "Oh no, I don't go to church--I'm Catholic."

Then we found that this group of non-practicing Catholics has been largely proselytized by other religions. The Jehovah's Witnesses flood our city with door-to-door evangelists. We have counted 16 Mormon churches in the city limits of El Progreso (population: 100,000). There is a "Four-Square Gospel" church that teaches a works-based salvation to its followers. We've also seen a Christian Science headquarters, Seventh-Day Adventists temples, and Pentecostal churches. Without a doubt, there is no shortage of religion in Honduras. They've been reached by nearly everything but the truth.

What this "overreached people group" is missing is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We've found that even the most skeptical Roman Catholics who attend our services are drawn to the "warmth," the "excitement," the "genuineness." Most can immediately see what they've been missing. One such man was Orlando Rice.

As I hurried to sweep the porch and set up for the Men’s Meeting in January, I was surprised to see a stranger approach the gate. “Is this Iglesia Bautista El Faro?” he inquired.

“Sure is. Are you here for the Men’s Meeting?” Since we wouldn’t start for another hour, I got him some iced tea and we chatted while I finished setting up.

His name was Orlando, and he was the brother of one of our ushers, Roberto. Having seen the changes in his brother’s life, he wanted to find out more about our church. I asked him about his background, and he replied, "Well, I'm Honduran, so I'm Catholic! We all are!"

He attended a few services and asked to meet with Robbie at our house. They talked for several hours; Robbie showed him from Scripture the differences in what he had been taught all his life and Biblical truth. Orlando realized that he was ineffectually relying in his good works to save him, adhering to the restrictions of an empty religion. What he needed was a relationship with Christ.

Praise the Lord, Orlando left our house a changed man that day! He trusted Christ as his Savior and been growing ever since. We are excited to see how God uses his life.

Orlando prepares to follow the Lord in baptism.

I haven't found a formula or strategy to win a Roman Catholic to Christ. Many are deeply entrenched in their faith and are very difficult to talk to. But if they are honestly, open-mindedly seeking the truth through careful examination of the Scripture, they eventually do realize the futility of empty rules and regulations. We have seen them turn from their idol worship and rituals. Some trust Christ within a few weeks, others after many months of searching. The key is the Word of God.

There is alienation, to some extent, of those who convert from Catholicism. They feel conflicted about attending family funerals, weddings, and other events that involve going to a Catholic mass. Many times their stand for Christ cuts them off from family and traditions.

Although there are hardships, the other side of this decision is freedom. Miriam, a lady I am discipling, was recently telling me of the joy she has found in her relationship in Christ. "Christine, I used to follow a procession on foot for miles and miles every January to pray to the Statue of the Black Jesus. Once, my mother crawled the last mile on her knees, aching and bleeding just to be guaranteed an answer to prayer. But now I know I can simply pray and God will hear my prayer."

Robbie once explained to a man in discipleship the history of the true church. He drew a diagram on a board to show that we did not split from the Catholic church. Rather, we can trace our lineage back to the New Testament church. Pilo studied the diagram thoughtfully, then turned to Robbie: "Yes, I understand that we are the true church and our doctrine is biblically sound. I know what you are saying is true. But...what took you so long to get here?"

It's a haunting question. If we have the truth, why are we the last ones to arrive to El Progreso? It's a question for all of us. What are we doing with the truth that we have?

Roberto and Suyapa, who were devout Catholics, trusted Christ. Several family members have followed their example.

Sandy and Cinthia (middle and right) both have Catholic backgrounds. After many months of hearing the Word of God, they both trusted Christ as their Savior.

Josselyn (right) came from a Catholic family; she is now a teacher assistant.

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. -II Corinthians 4:6
4 Responses
  1. Ricky Says:

    Praise the Lord for simple saving faith in the Person of Jesus Christ.

    Salvation is "by grace through faith alone." Leave that last word out (alone) and even the Catholics will subscribe to that kind of "saving" faith, because then it is still faith plus works.

    "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost..." - Titus 3:5

  2. Gwen Says:

    Isn't it a blessing to serve a God Who cares about people all over the world and makes a way to send them the gospel! I'm so thankful that you answered the call!

  3. Jennifer Says:

    This is a very interesting article. This definitely helps us to know how to pray for you.

  4. Kimberly Henderson Grainger Says:

    My husband's family was saved out of a Catholic background, so this really touches us, too! What a powerful God we serve! We who "hold the ropes" will pray for God's continued blessing on your ministry.

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