The following is an article written by Josué Barrios and is shared with permission. Josué Barrios serves as the Editorial Coordinator for Coalición por el Evangelio (The Gospel Coalition’s Spanish site). He lives with his wife Arianny in Santa Marta, Colombia, and is part of Iglesia Bíblica Soberana Gracia. You can read his blog at josuebarrios.com and follow him on Twitter: @josbarrios.
Venezuela has passed through perhaps the worst economic and social crisis of their history, and the Venezuelan church has not been immune. I’d like to share a few things to think about that will encourage you to bring before the Lord when you pray for believers there.
Sadly, there are no trustworthy statistics in the country that prove what follows. Nevertheless, I write according to what I’ve seen and heard from conversations with pastors and members of various churches and denominations in the last few years:
- It’s very difficult for a Venezuelan pastor to delegate responsibilities, form leaders, and disciple believers when the majority of people, especially young people, plan to leave the country or can’t congregate because of the crisis. Many Christians don’t see themselves committing themselves more with their local churches and instead go other places.
- Many hours of the day are lost to waiting in lines for food and money. There are constant failures in public services, transportation systems are on the verge of collapse, and the economic crisis affects the home. For a pastor in this social context, it is very tough ministering through visiting his sheep, praying and studying the Word, and preparing sermons. I know fewer and fewer pastors who can dedicate themselves to full-time ministry.
- Although in various churches there are serious and noble efforts to offer sound theological resources and training men for the ministry, much work and prayer is still needed. It is increasingly hard to get books teaching sound doctrine and to pay for biblical studies. Many of the scarce Bible institutes are left without professors. That’s not even taking into account that leaving the country to study in a seminary is impossible for many pastors and leaders.
- Many pastors have decided to leave the country looking for a better future for their families, leaving their churches to a new pastor, often one installed quickly. This dynamic has hurt congregations that feel abandoned at the time they most need their pastor.
- For many brothers in the majority of churches, it’s sad and demotivating see the attendance of Sunday services decrease drastically. A great number of congregants are leaving the country or don’t attend meetings like before due to the crisis (due to a scarcity of cash to pay for public transportation).
- Many churches have decreased their meetings and suspended home groups due to the crisis. This has led an untold number of congregants to reevaluate the planning of their activities, some having more success than others in continuing activities and adapting themselves to the current moment.
- The renovation of leadership in many churches, spurred on by the crisis, has been good for some congregations, especially when the new pastor is more apt for ministry and has better theology than the previous pastor. God is using this so that more churches embrace a more sound theology, thanks to the many new pastors who have benefited from the expansion of sound doctrine in Latin America due to the Internet. This isn’t always the case, especially when the new pastor was installed without being trained and tested. Either way this situation can cause, and often has brought, divisions in churches.
- Many Christians who leave the country don’t join a church in the place they move, and others decide to name themselves church planters even though nobody has sent them out for that task. There can be various reasons for this, but without a doubt it is troubling and worth keeping in prayer.
- Everything mentioned so far helps us understand a bit why each day the laborers seem fewer and the harvest greater. It would be a huge blessing if more gospel-centered missionaries came to this country, and many believers and pastors in Venezuela understand this.
- In the midst of everything just mentioned, the Venezuelan church is more privileged than you think. We have godly pastors and men who, although they’re not listened to or read on the Internet, are faithful in serving their churches in these very challenging times. God is advancing His work through many unknowns for whom we should be grateful. God has not abandoned His church in Venezuela. We should not abandon it by ceasing to pray for her and her leaders.
Learn how you can help Venezuela at HelpVenezuela.net.