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Pictured: MTW Missionary Nate Bonham

It's All Your Fault: The Reformation of a Prosperity Gospel Preacher

“So this is all your fault?” Jorge* said as he looked at us from across the table.

Typically, these are not the words you want to hear when you first meet someone, but in this case, the words came with a friendly grin. We had known about Jorge for several weeks, but this was our first opportunity to meet him in person. A few weeks earlier, one of the students at Seminario Bíblico Reformado (SBR), the Reformed seminary we started here in Arequipa, Peru, shared with us about the trouble at his church. He told us that his pastor, Jorge, needed help and prayer, and asked us to meet with him.

Their church was in a season of painful change and transition. It had been planted over 20 years ago and was founded upon the message of the so-called “prosperity gospel,” also known as the “health and wealth gospel.” As the name implies, it is a message that promises riches, good health, and earthly blessing if you have enough faith in Christ and plant “financial seeds of blessing” (i.e., if you give sizeable donations to that church). Preaching prosperity and promising lies, the church had ballooned to over 1,500 people, and Jorge was one of the pastors.

Then, around three years ago, the Lord did something incredible. Through a friend and a book by a Reformed pastor, Jorge came to realize that he had never understood, let alone preached, the true gospel of Jesus Christ. He realized he had been preaching a false message that poisons and deceives its listeners. This incredible act of providence put him on a path of exploring the true richness of God’s grace.

But, for Jorge, embracing the truth also meant real sacrifice. As he began to preach the real gospel, his church lost half its attendance. Prosperity “churches” work like pyramid schemes. Money and power are passed up the pyramid. As you can imagine, this change of message and loss of money quickly put a huge burden on Jorge.

The church leadership above him wanted Jorge to return to preaching the prosperity message, or resign. He would have to reject the truth of the gospel or surrender his job, his comfortable lifestyle, and risk not having another paycheck.

Jorge’s answer was short but powerful: “I have spent so many years preaching a false gospel. You can fire me if you want, but as long as I am here, I am going to preach the true gospel of Jesus Christ to redeem the years that have been wasted.” His act of repentance as a pastor was to preach the gospel in order to “restore the years that the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25).

As Jorge finished telling us his story, we began to share ours. We told him that when we first came to Arequipa on a vision trip, we had prayed for reformation in this city, and we hadn’t stopped since. That’s when he looked at us and said, “So this is all your fault?” He then asked us for help through his transition and to pray for the remnant of his congregation that may go with him as he leaves. Then he registered as a new student at SBR so that he can continue learning more about the true gospel in order to boldly preach it.

Jorge is one of the people we think is really going to be able to take what we’re teaching and transform hundreds of people because he has so many relationships. He’s already brought seven or eight students to the seminary and everyone just loves it. They’re just soaking it up and preaching it and teaching it.

The Lord is using the seminary in ways we could have never imagined. The school is less than a year old and we already have had to do construction to make more room for students. After only three months, we had already passed our one-year vision for growth.

Jorge’s story, among many others, has confirmed to us that the Lord is using SBR for His Church, and we are starting to hear more and more stories like his. 

People are hearing, for the first time, the true gospel of Jesus and thirsting for more. They want a real relationship with Christ. They want to learn more of His Word. They want to serve His Church. This is the purpose of SBR. The Lord is using us both inside and outside the classroom for His glory. We do not know what the Lord is up to in Arequipa, Peru, and Latin America, but something is happening. Perhaps a reformation is coming. Perhaps the Lord is waking up his Church.

*Name has been changed.

Nate Bonham and Nathaniel Gutierrez serve with MTW in Arequipa, Peru.

 

Nate Bonham and Nathaniel Gutierrez, Arequipa Peru Nov 8, 2018
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Ministry Center Manager
Evangelism and Discipleship with the Quechua
Evangelism, Farming, and Fellowship in the Andes
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Pray for the women, many of whom are not believers, who have started attending a women's Bible study in Arequipa, Peru.

Pray for church planting efforts in Cusco, Peru, where many know about Christ, but few know Him personally.

Pray for the children and staff of The Josephine House in Cusco, Peru. The orphanage is currently home to 18 children, many with special needs. 

Pray for the success of a new laser surgery business as missions ministry in Cusco, Peru, giving sight to those who need it most.

Give thanks for the church leaders that God has been raising up in Bogota, Colombia. Pray that this growth will continue. 

Each Friday afternoon, a group from the mission church in Arequipa, Peru, head to the parks to strike up gospel conversations. It's bearing fruit! Please pray for this outreach and for people to be drawn to Christ. 

Pray for our ministry in Cusco, Peru, as they put MTW values into action among the Quechua through the church, a medical clinic, discipling medical students, an orphanage, and community outreach.

Pray for the church plant and medical clinic in Cusco, Peru. Pray that believers would grow in Christ and catch a vision for reaching their city.

Pray for a Quechua family in Peru who are eager to invite others over to discuss the Bible. Pray that this group would develop into a church.

Pray for the Bonhams and the Gutierrezes as they serve and co-pastor a local church on a new field.

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