Tom welcomes Pastor Jesus Martinez and his son, Pastor Jiovanne del Cristo as they discuss difficulties of leading a church within the Hispanic community as the prosperity gospel, signs and wonders, and other false teachings have gained a strong foothold.
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call featuring T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could join us. In today’s program, Tom welcomes special guests, Pastors Jesus Martinez and his son Jiovanne from Living Word Fellowship in Miami, Florida. Now along with his guests, here’s TBC Executive Director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Today on our program, and next week as well, I have the pleasure of interviewing Pastors Jesus Martinez and his son Jiovanne, and they minister at the Living Word Fellowship in Miami, FL, which is a bi-lingual Bible-centered church.
Jesus, Jio, thanks for joining me on Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Jesus: T.A., thank you for having us. It’s a pleasure to join you and your audience.
Jio: Same here. Thank you very much.
Tom: Okay, and as you guys know, I had the privilege of speaking to your fellowship on a couple of occasions through the technology of Skyping, and I know all grandparents out there who get to visit their grandbabies, their grandchildren, through the – what it is, it’s basically visual picturing of their kids. It’s the communication—I’m not going to get too technical because I’ll (laughing) I’ll blow it, but basically, it’s a visual way for me here in Bend, OR, to speak to the fellowship at Miami, FL. That was my first experience with the technology, but I have to relate this, and maybe you guys remember it, the last time we did it, you guys were having a…really…heatwave. Miami was suffering, and I remember using a video background of our snow-covered mountains here in Bend, OR, to just kind of help cool off those who were in their fellowship watching.
Gentlemen, well, you know, I sure…I hope it helped someone, but it did make me thankful that I could speak to Living Word Fellowship from here rather than there.
Jesus: It’s kind of flipped now, hasn’t it, T.A.?
Tom: Well, that’s what I’m going to get into. So, do you guys have…is there a Spanish phrase for “What goes around, comes around”?
Jesus: Not particularly that way, but we go with the biblical one, “Lo que siembras cosechas.” (Laughing)
Tom: (Laughing) Okay. Well, this is what I’m getting at. You see, on the other hand, what’s the temperature in Miami right now?
Jio: It’s in the seventies.
Tom: Ahh, the seventies!
Jio: Upper seventies…
Tom: Okay. Well, the last time I checked our temperature gauge here, it was an unrefreshing minus 6.
Tom: So, indeed what does go around does come around, and I would rather be with you guys there than I’m sure you would…
Jio: You know, T.A., I just got…I have to mention something. This morning I was going over with my son certain definitions—we are homeschooling, and we always use the 1828 version of the Noah Webster Dictionary.
Tom: Right, I’ve got it.
Jio: I just wonder how crazy Noah Webster would have gone with the word “Skyping.” (Laughing)
Tom: Yeah, but you know, that’s a terrific dictionary, and… to push that…because now you have definitions, especially, that line up with the Bible as opposed to ideas and thoughts and the way these things have been changed.
Jio: Yeah, certainly.
Tom: Anyway, Gentlemen, one of the things I’d like to get an insight from you, really, is the state of the church in your Hispanic community, but maybe for Hispanics at large.
Starting with you, Jesus, are there things impacting Hispanic fellowships that are unique, that are clearly different from non-Hispanic churches?
Jesus: T.A., for the most part, in the states we no longer have a huge gap separating the belief system of the American church, if you will, and the Hispanic church. For example, we have the psychobabble, of course, in the form of inner healing and Christian counseling, etc. We have the hyper-faith movement, the hyper-prosperity movement. We have the very popular generational curses—that is just everywhere here. The restoration of the five-fold ministry, which includes the New Apostolic movement, the modern prophet or prophetic movement, and the, of course, the theological and doctrinal reformation, headed, of course, by the New Apostolic and prophetic movement. We also have the contemplative movement, and the seeker-friendly church. So, I don’t see the gap that I once saw. I’ve been doing this for about 30 years now, and I think it’s gone. I honestly think that gap is gone.
Tom: Yeah, and of course most of it is introduced through the media, and…
Tom: And whether they’re Hispanic or non-Hispanic, that’s the most influential way of presenting these false ideas, these heresies, throughout the church.
Jesus: Well, I think what we have here is that two-headed monster—that’s what I call it, that’s what I see at work. Number one: “I’m not responsible for any of my wrong-doings.” And to help that along, you have the psychobabble with the inner healing, like I mentioned before, and the Christian counseling, and the [generational] curses, so we don’t own up to the things that we do anymore. Somebody is to blame for that.
And my son was preaching this Sunday, and he told the congregation, “It’s funny, because we blame any and all people for whatever wrongdoings are seen or not seen in our lives, but when something goes right then we take the totality of the credit. So there’s that hypocrisy at work, right?
Jesus: And then we have the spiritualization or glorification of greed, the hyper-faith and hyper-prosperity, where God is subservient to the confessions and the decrees of our mouths. So, it’s horrible what we’re seeing, but then, again, I guess it was to be expected, right?
Tom: Yeah, this is the apostasy that the scripture talks about that is going to happen in the last days.
Jesus: That’s right.
Tom: I think about some verses that relate to that. I think the one that keeps running like a billboard in front of me is 2 Timothy:4:3: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” And of course it goes on, they’ll look for those who would tickle their ears and bring things that, as you mentioned, Jesus, that feed the flesh. Look, even for believers, we have an old nature that we battle. You know, we’re new creatures in Christ, so we’re not under the bondage of these things, but that doesn’t mean they can’t draw us away or seduce us. That’s one of the huge problems, not only the Hispanic church but the church at large.
Jesus: I remember in the last, or the next-to-the-last trip that I took to Venezuela, I looked around, and I saw many, many people that were apparently well off, congregating and listening to the teaching of the Word, and I pondered in my heart, “Why are these people here?” And you know, T.A., for a while it seemed like, yeah, they’re hungry, they want God’s Word, but when I analyzed, when I examined the situation a bit closer, it wasn’t really that they were hungering after God. They saw the changes that were coming, and they wanted a late “fix,” if you will, a patchwork, if you will, because they were going to lose their wealth, they were going to lose their positions. And so at the end lost everything--they lost wealth, positions, and everything else that they were used to. They got the socialist/Communist government, and they got nothing from God because they didn’t seek Him earnestly, honestly.
I remember many years ago pondering…I’m giving thanks. My mom, my dad, taught me to say “Thank you” any time I received something. And then throughout the years, I said, “You know, there’s many an occasion where I have said ‘thank you,’ but it wasn’t borne out of a thankful heart.” And I think believers need to develop a thankful heart because I can say “Thanks,” and not mean it. And by the same token, taking it back to the Venezuela situation, I can congregate, I can go to church, but really, there has been no repentance. I’m just trying to flee repercussions.
And I’ve seen a lot of that throughout the Latin, or Hispanic, world.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Well, you know, it reminds me, I remember Dave Hunt, and you guys—I know you know he’s [gone] home to be with the Lord, and…
Tom: ...but you knew of his ministry. That’s how you guys contacted The Berean Call the first time. We had great conversations about Dave. But Dave liked to quote Hebrews:11:6: “But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Tom: To put it in scriptural terms, what you’ve just been articulating is, as Dave had said, people stop at “…he is a rewarder of them…” okay? And they miss the last part: “…that diligently seek him.” That’s the ultimate reward. And, you know, I could speak for my own flesh. That’s a battle. Yes, I want the Lord. I want the Lord but in that battle between my old nature and the new one, sometimes it’s for me. That’s the problem.
Jesus: Yep, absolutely. And I guess when you look inside and you try to be as objective as possible, and you think you’ve seen things clearly, you must also think of David, who asked God to weigh him, to put him in a balance, if you will, and try his heart, because we can fool ourselves, most definitely we can.
Tom: Yeah, now, I have a friend who—he was a pastor in New Jersey, and he’d retired to Pennsylvania and he is in a really small community, and the thing that…he doesn’t complain about it, but his expertise—not just as a pastor, but he has written many articles for Personal Freedom Outreach, which is an apologetics magazine, a really sharp guy, especially in the area of discernment. And when he will talk to people in his community now, his very small community, they say, “Wait a minute! What are you talking about? Hebrew Roots movement? Word-Faith? We don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Now, so on the one hand, he’s concerned that they don’t have discernment in that area, but on the other hand, it’s kind of a blessing because they don’t have to deal with TBN because they don’t get it. They don’t have to deal with these other things that are coming down the line to seduce and deceive people.
Now, my question here is: that’s a small community in Pennsylvania. How is it for you guys in the large metropolitan city of Miami?
Jesus: Well, it’s a completely different set of circumstances, I suppose, for us because for example, most of the people here in the city of Miami work far, far away from their homes. So by the time they go to work and come back, they’re extremely tired. The middle-of-the-week service has disappeared practically. They’re tired, so family time is gone and mostly spent around the television. And then we get the weekend, and there’s plenty of activities to keep people entertained in social activities, other ways of making money, and so we have a set of circumstances down here that are particular to us in metropolitan areas, and also the fads that usually start out in the big city. So we have to tackle all of these things, one at a time, and continually stay on them because otherwise believers are taken away with these things.
Tom: Yeah, well, that’s what we see. I, you know, I’ve lived in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles area. I was born in Brooklyn, so in terms of large metropolitan areas, especially now as a Christian looking back on it, there’s so much. You live in a small community, what are the distractions? You live in a large community, the distractions come from every angle, from every source that you can imagine.
Jesus: And then believers seem to be…I don’t know…asleep at the wheel, if you will? Let me illustrate this with something that happened to us recently. I had a father call, and he was pretty upset that the church had not been effective in keeping his son in the ways of the Lord. And so I let him vent as much as he needed to, and then I said, “Okay, this is the way I see it. Tell me where I’m wrong on this. You bring your son to church maybe once or perhaps twice a week. We have him for… what? two hours? two and a half hours? He sits in school for six hours a day, and he goes home and watches TV the rest of the day, he gets no other training, no other supplemental teaching from you or his mother, and we are to blame for this?
Jesus: So, you see, it’s very unfair, if you will, for parents to think—or, wrong for them to think— that by having their kids one or two hours a week we can keep them in the faith, we can keep them in Christ. I believe it starts in the home and at the end of the day, the best we can do is supplement that work.
Jesus: Encourage mom in that. Hold their hands up in prayer, etc. But this is part of what is happening to this generation, so they really can’t see the root of the problem, so therefore they can’t really tackle it.
Tom: Right. Well, that’s been a complaint that I had with the church at large. Not that I’m anybody, but the point is I recognize this, that when the church, pastors, youth pastors, when they become spiritual babysitters, or even spiritual spoon-feeders, because the people aren’t doing the work at home—they’re not into the Word, they’re not encouraged, they’re not training their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, you know, or, obviously, by the Word of God. That’s the root. And no matter what a fellowship does, no matter how good it might be, if you don’t have that at home, it’s a huge, huge loss for the family.
Jesus: And then you get pastors competing for numbers, and in the end they just turn out to be seeker-friendly churches. They’ll do any and all things to say, “Look I got a couple thousand.” Or “I’ve got seven hundred, eight hundred.”
You look for the Word. You look for sound doctrine, sound theology—nowhere to be found.
Tom: Yeah, and if they’re not preaching the responsibility that we all have as believers, we all have as parents, then who cares about the numbers? I mean, then you’re just promoting a delusion, because…
Jesus: So the problem is compounded by the church—instead of standing up for what is right, what is biblical, what is Christ-like, what is God-like, they compound the problem by saying, “This is what we’ll do to bring more people in the church.”
Tom: Right. Now, again, speaking about the Hispanic community, and your fellowship in particular, what about the background of those who come to your church? Would it be mostly Roman Catholic and do you find that you’re constantly having to correct the baggage that they may bring because of…that’s what they grew up in?
Jesus: Well, T.A., well for the longest time, that was the main set of issues that I had to tackle in their lives, because most of them were from that Roman Catholic background. But now, believe it or not, I have to tackle a lot of issues that are related to atheism because some of these people are, or have been growing up in socialist or communist countries.
Tom: Oh, I see.
Tom: Wow. That’s an interesting insight. We wouldn’t think that way. Or I wouldn’t think that way, because I have a Roman Catholic background, and I tell people [that] after I became a believer, if I had written out my theology, maybe four months to a year afterward, I would have stoned myself as a heretic. It’s just… And for some, if I’ve offended some with regard to Roman Catholicism, I take a back seat to no one when it comes to being empathetic and loving Roman Catholics. But the issue is, they don’t have the gospel. They have a gospel of works, which won’t save anyone. You know, that’s just the truth of the matter. So if somebody wants salvation, they want eternal life with the Lord and want to know it now that they can have that, it’s not a matter of waiting…Archbishop O’Connor said in New York: “Nobody can know, the pope can’t know, no one can know if they’re really saved. They have to figure out at the end if they’re going to be in the state of sanctifying grace,” and then more than likely, their best hope is Purgatory, and so on. And that’s not the Bible. That’s not what the Bible teaches.
That’s our encouragement. And I’m sure you always have to come back to that, even though maybe not so [much] as of late, but certainly it’s an issue, isn’t it, Jesus?
Jesus: Well, again, if I can rewind a little bit here, if you look towards Latin America, right? You look at Venezuela, you look at Ecuador, you look at Cuba, of course, you look at Bolivia, Argentina—these are socialist countries, and so their schools are being run by socialist ideologues and socialist doctrines. So we’re fighting that idea, that mentality, in the young people that are fleeing their countries not because of biblical or religious issues; they want a better model, financially, that is, and so now they’re…they find themselves here in this country, they don’t really understand the language, they don’t necessarily understand the culture, and so they start seeking churches to help them—financially, at the very beginning; that’s what most of them are seeking. And then you take the opportunity to share the gospel with them and, lo and behold, they come with their questions: “Yeah, but if God really does exist, then…” and they set their ideas in front of them, and you go, I’m not dealing here necessarily with a Catholic background situation or issues, I’m dealing with the atheist issues.
Tom: Then, my next question for you guys is, going back to…well, let me back up to your point. So you have people fleeing these countries, basically. They want the better life—materialism, it’s covetousness, and so on. Again, Jesus, that’s a real insight, at least for me. But as I’m kind of rolling this across my head here, the Catholic Church really gave most of the impetus for this with their idea of “liberation theology.”
Jesus: That is true.
Tom: The whole idea of liberation theology was to make their life better, to bring about these things, which never played out, so under that idea of liberation theology along with the socialism in some places, communism in other places, and so on, they wanted a better life, so in effect, that’s what you’re talking about.
Jesus: Absolutely, we’ve had some of our people go down to Chiapas, Mexico, when that was really boiling over, and it was the Catholic Church behind all that activity that was persecuting, harassing, and killing Christians, and, lo and behold, at the end, it turns around and it’s egg on their face. They get booted out, like is happening in Venezuela, like it’s happening in Ecuador, and in Bolivia. And the problem with all of this, if I can just respond on this a little bit more, is when they reach the States—all of a sudden, they hear this message of greed, because that’s really what it is, but of course it’s “prosperity,” and it’s the word of confession, and you have the “power to decree” these things with your mouth, and they go, “Oh! It’s that simple!” So instead of looking for true, biblical, sound doctrine, they flee to these churches, or they run to these churches, and it compounds the problem.
Tom: Right. Now, these issues that you’ve been describing, Jesus, what’s the antidote for your sheep to protect them from being seduced by the apostasy—we know the scripture says this is going to take place. And it’s just overwhelming. What’s your antidote for your fellowship?
Jesus: For the longest time, I’ve been somewhat persecuted in this city because I feel it’s my obligation to teach the Word of God and to point out error no matter who is preaching it. And of course, I get the letters and I get the phone calls, saying, “How dare you? You’re not walking in love. If you were walking in love, if your walk was Christ-like, you wouldn’t be calling out these things. You’re dividing the body of Christ.”
And I said, “Wait a minute! So whoever gets to the pulpit first and says whatever they want to say, there’s no rebuttal to that. We must all just say Amen to that, and that’s the end of the story?” And so I said, “No. If somebody has the opportunity to use the airwaves or write books, they expose themselves. They say, ‘This is what you people should be feeding on.’ Then I also have the responsibility and the obligation and the privilege to say, ‘No, this is wrong, because…’” And then you outline the reasons why. And so, at the end of the day, it’s just showcasing God’s Word, make sure that you teach it with integrity, and I don’t know, T.A., I don’t believe in end-time revivals. I believe that what the Bible clearly showcases, or teaches, is apostasy towards end-times. So we go after individual hearts, and then we try to do the hard, very difficult work of discipleship, which, as you know, is not a matter of weeks and it’s not like constructing something in an assembly line. It’s a shaping of and it’s a teaching, it’s an encouraging, and picking people up. It’s a very difficult and tiring job, but it’s what I believe keeps believers in line with God’s Word.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Before we went on line to record, I mentioned to you guys, both you, Jesus, and Jio, as a youth pastor there, that this to me is the most difficult calling that there is. People say, “Well, Tom, wait a minute. You know, you’re in the trenches, you’re in the front lines, you know, you have been with Dave Hunt for years and years.” But no, I’m not trying to be facetious here, because I think the reality of it is that part of what you have to do, to me, is a little bit like herding cats, okay? You mentioned earlier that you only have them for a couple hours here and there, and then they’re off doing whatever. And many of them, I’m sure, are listening to TBN, picking up Christian media, whether they’re on the drive back home or to work, so how do you handle that? I know what you’re saying here. And we have the same problem here at The Berean Call—that the best we can do is encourage people to get into the Word. The Bereans—they searched the scriptures daily to see if these were so, Acts:17:11. Well, every believer has that responsibility to check out what I say, what you guys say, and so on. And wouldn’t that be…we’ve got about a minute left here, but wouldn’t that be what you want, what you desire for your fellowship?
Jesus: Absolutely! At one point Miami was known as the cemetery of ministry, or the cemetery for pastors, because we had no radio, no television programming. I remember reading, holding a letter in my hand from Paul Crouch saying, “If Christians in Miami want to hear the gospel via television, let them learn English.”
And so, it compounded the issue. It made it even more so that Miami was the cemetery for pastors. Now we have many radio stations. We have Enlace, which has its connection to TBN, by the way, through […]. And lo and behold, you think, Wow! Now we will prosper and the gospel will be heard in every corner. It’s not true. What we do have is a lot of churches that are seeker friendly and the rest of the things that I mentioned in the opening of your program that are not really teaching God’s Word, so nothing has really changed.
If the church had truly been effective, I believe, T.A.—I could be wrong on this, society being the condition that it’s in, because we are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. And so, obviously, the effectiveness is not there.
Tom: So, it comes down to the B-I-B-L-E, the Word of God, that we have to know and then have to live out.
Tom: And that’s our prayer for all believers and for those who would come to Christ, as well as your fellowship and other fellowships out there.
So, we’re out of time in this segment, but Lord willing, we’ll pick up again next week and we’re going to get to talk to your son Jiovanne about what are the issues with regard to being a youth pastor, similar to, well, in your place, in your fellowship, and in your community. So we’ll get to that next week. So, thanks, guys, for being with us.
Jesus and Jio: Thank you, T.A.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019 Bend, Oregon 97708; call us at 800.937.6638; or visit our website at the bereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael, thanks for tuning in and we hope you can be here again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.