It is now close to 60 years since my uncle, Mr. McCann Sr, arrived here in the state of the Rio Grande do Sul, bringing the message of the gospel. Today, there are 19 assemblies in this state, and in recent years, the work has spread into the neighboring state to the north called Santa Catarina. A national worker, Sr Jose Matos, has seen two assemblies established there. Truly we have much for which to thank God, and yet we mourn the increasing problems and very obvious weakness that marks the work in some areas. Although it is important to see the work spread, the very real need for stability and progress in existing assemblies is one of our greatest issues that we face at the present time. We value prayer for the following:
The increase in religious confusion
For centuries, Rome was the dominant religion in Brazil, but over the last century, it has gradually been losing control. Sadly, this vacuum has been filled by a vast variety of religions, spanning from Spiritism, through all shades of Pentecostalism, and other religious confusion. A recent media report stated that, in the city of Sao Paulo, every month during the past year, on average, 15 new groups were registered as religious organizations; that is one every two days! The great question is, “Do these groups preach the gospel?” The disturbing answer is that the opposite is the case. People’s minds are being filled with ideas that are foreign to the teaching of Scripture. Many of these places condone sin and deny the basic teaching of Scripture, principally, as to the need of salvation.
Coldness Among the People
When having meetings in any area, we go from door to door and invite the people to attend. As years have passed, we notice the increase in indifference. Years ago, we found homes open, and it was quite normal on any afternoon, to be invited into one or two homes, and have the opportunity of explaining the gospel. Today, this is not the case. Houses are protected due to security and normally a warning of a guard dog shown on the gate. When contact is made with the householder, and they discover what we want to speak about, we often are coldly told to leave the invitation and tracts in the letter box. Personal work by the local believers in inviting their friends and contacts is more and more the only way that we see new outsiders come in to gospel meetings.
Conversion: The need for reality among those who profess salvation
Looking back over the years that the writer has been associated with the work, one is deeply thankful for the exercise of fellow laborers to preach a clear Scriptural gospel, and seek to see genuine cases of conversion to God. When folks do profess, especially understanding the background of a society where insincerity is common, we allow time for signs of reality to be shown. Despite all of these efforts, there have been cases of disappointments. Often, those who were brightest in early days are those who later prove to have been a stony ground hearer. Nothing hinders the work more, especially in a new area, than a case of someone who professed, and then went back to the world and sin.
Conviction regarding the New Testament Assembly
If an assembly is to be established, and later to flourish, those who have been saved need to be solidly founded in their understanding and conviction as to the teaching of Scripture regarding the local assembly. It has surprised us, that one can be in fellowship for years, and yet when the test as to conviction arises, great weakness is obvious. Sometimes assembly fellowship is for convenience rather than conviction! Time and patience are so necessary among those who seek to labor, as these convictions are the result of individual dealings by the Spirit of God within each believer; this is something that is not produced overnight.
Communion with Christ
If real stability is to be known and enjoyed in the collective testimony, so much depends upon the individual development of fellowship with Christ. When this is missing, the tragic results in the assembly can be seen. Meetings become dry, exercise becomes stagnant, and criticism one of another becomes the order of the day. However, if this communion is being developed, one can sense freshness in so many areas. A believer who is warm and vibrant and making progress individually brings joy and progress to the collective testimony. We have seen so often that the collective testimony cannot rise any higher than the individual spiritual condition of those in fellowship.
Care for the flock
Of all the present issues among assemblies here, perhaps the greatest need is the raising up of shepherds in each individual company. So often those who have labored to see the work established have to accept responsibility to help with the feeding and guiding of the assembly in early stages of the work. However, as time passes, we seek to bring forward those who are showing evidence of having a care for God’s people. Sometimes there are those who want a prominent place and to have their voices heard in making decisions, yet have no real care for the assembly, or the qualifications of an overseer. This is a very real problem because sheep quickly recognize those who feed and guide them, and also feel keenly when they are without such care. Shepherds are raised up by the Spirit of God.
We are thankful that God is fulfilling His purposes despite satanic opposition and these matters that have been outlined for prayer. We thank God for large conferences held throughout the year when many believers gather, including many young people, with an obvious thirst for God’s Word. We thank God for fellow workers who are united in doctrine and in the manner in which the work is carried on. May this long be preserved to us in the work here! We highly value the continued prayers of the saints for the work here in the south of Brazil.