By Stan Friedman
ESTES PARK, CO (June 29, 2011) – The church’s view of reality will determine whether or not it will minister to a broken world, Juan Martinez told those gathered for worship this evening during the 126th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
“The church is the community that presents and lives God’s alternative reality,” declared Martinez, who serves on the board of Centro Hispano de Estudios Teológicos (CHET) and attends Iglesia del Pacto in Eagle Rock, California. He also is associate dean for the Hispanic Center and associate professor of Hispanic studies and pastoral leadership in the School of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.
Martinez preached from Revelation 7:9-10, part of the apostle John’s exhortation to a church being persecuted by a world that violently rejected its message announcing a new kingdom of grace and peace.
The early Christians could have looked at the present and decided the hand of oppression was their future, but chose instead to believe the future was in the hands of God. They saw the vision John saw, and let the promise of the gospel inspire them.
It is “a world in which an uncountable multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language stands before the throne and sings, ‘Salvation belongs to our God.’ ” The church knew it would not see that vision come to fruition in its day, but still believed God was at work.
That vision still calls the church to proclaim God’s ongoing work of transformation.
“What I find interesting is that he mentions their distinctiveness and then says they’re also unified,” Martinez said. “This is not a melting pot. This is not where everything kind of looked mish moshed. This is not a vision where we all sort of blend in and become bland together. This is a vision where all the diversity is there.”
Martinez recalled that his wife’s family fled Cuba in the 1960s and sought refuge in the United States. When they arrived, they were connected with a distinctively Swedish Evangelical Covenant church.
Although people in the church didn’t speak Spanish, they “were willing to demonstrate the reality that they believed God loved these Latino immigrants,” Martinez said. “They were able to see God was doing something new, and instead of lamenting what had been and what they were losing, they could look to God’s future and they could say, ‘Amen, thank you Lord for what you are doing and what you are going to do.’ ”
Although the church eventually closed, its actions have reverberated across the country, impacting an expanding generation of Hispanic Covenanters. “The building has disappeared, but God’s vision and what God is doing continues for his glory.”
The world that is rapidly changing due to globalization is frightening to some, but it is the work of God, offering the church fresh opportunities for evangelism, Martinez said. People who never would have traveled overseas can do foreign missions by witnessing to their neighbor.
“What is guiding you?” Martinez asked. “The fear mongering of politicians or the grace of Jesus Christ?”
Prior to Martinez’s sermon, new conference superintendents Curtis Ivanoff, Tammy Swanson-Draheim, and Mark Stromberg were installed, as was Meagan Gillan as executive minister of the Department of Women Ministries. Their families joined them onstage and laid hands on the kneeling leaders during prayer.
To watch video coverage of the message, click here.