Pastor Jiovanne Del Cristo shares from his experience as a youth pastor and muscian some of the struggles in the modern Hispanic church as they try to counteract the subjective ideals and music of the world with the written Word of God.
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call with T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us. In today’s program, Tom continues his visit with special guests, Pastors Jesus Martinez and his son Jiovanne from Living Word Fellowship in Miami, FL. Now, along with his guests, here’s TBC executive director Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Today we’re going to do part 2 of my interview with Pastors Jesus Martinez and his son Jiovanne, who’s the youth pastor with their Living Word Fellowship in Miami, FL. We’ve been discussing the particular issues that the Hispanic church might have.
And, boy, I got straightened out on that. There are…talk about being assimilated into the American culture, what it used to be is not like it is now, and I supposed we could lay that off to the different media, communications, and so on.
Yet, this time, this go around, I want to talk to Jio about…if there are any particular problems with regard to the youth, this upcoming generation. You’d think there’d be a huge difference between—I don’t know what the makeup of their congregation is, in terms of age-wise, but I do know that Jio has a good-sized youth group.
So, Jio, let’s start with you. Do you see a big difference with regard to your Hispanic young people and the non-Hispanics?
Jio: You know, T.A., that’s a great question, and I will answer it by beginning with this, and right now there’s a huge debate in the country about immigration reform. And we continually hear the president and other talking heads and politicians talk about children that were brought here by no fault of their own, which I take issue with that particular statement because these politicians are also the same people who say “This is the greatest country in the world,” so why would you even use the word “fault” to come to this country? So that makes absolutely no sense to me. But those are politics for you.
But aside from that, most of these young kids that came here at a very early age, they’ve pretty much grown up in a modern-day American culture. So they really don’t identify much with what the parents left behind. They’ve been assimilated, to use your word, into this culture. But, that being said, it’s not a culture that was carried over from the previous generation. In other words, to care for your neighbor, at least have respect for God, we’ve seen all of these things now crumbling down morally. Now, what we have is atheism, which is very rampant. We also have a lot of communistic ideals coming out of the universities and whatnot, and even public schooling and just a lot of different problems that are emanating from entities—public entities, so on and so forth.
So, there’s this gap, if you will. The parents that come here from Hispanic countries, and then the kids that were raised here, there’s a huge gap as it pertains to ideology, as it pertains to viewpoints, worldview, and that’s where particularly I’m finding issue, or part of the issue, with the youth group. So what I try to do—at least, this is my own personal endeavor, and something that I’ve felt that, you know, and I’ve understood that the Lord has called me to do, is first and foremost to be biblically centered. That’s number one. We have to be biblically centered. And number two, to try to inculcate within the new generation biblical values, a biblical worldview. I think that’s extremely important to do, and of course, it’s a difficult task, but it’s not an impossible task.
So, that’s the first thing that I’ve noticed. First and foremost it’s to try to, again, via the renewing of the mind via the Word, inculcate biblical values in these young people so that then they can take that, adopt that, into the world, which, of course, is preaching all of the contradictory evidence and all of the other contradictory…or rather, not “evidence,” that’s the wrong word—just contradictory points to everything that the Bible teaches. I think that’s first and foremost, again, it is a difficult task, but it’s not an impossible task.
Tom: Right. The distinction—if there is a distinction—actually, it’s more of a similarity—Jio, you talk about the gap between parents, that generation, with the new generation…
Tom: …but for non-Hispanics—just looking at youth—you know, in our country…well, you’re in our country, but…so looking at our young people who the church was supposed to disciple transferred that over to entertainment.
Tom: You know, we’ve seen the bad fruit of that, that young people don’t know what they believe, don’t know why they believe it. Oh yeah, they call themselves Christians, and so on, but there’s a disconnect between the Word of God, which has been supplanted by entertainment.
Jio: Absolutely. And I’m sorry to interrupt you, but…
Tom: No, go ahead.
Jio: ...you bring a great point, and I want to jump in here, because it brings to mind an experience that I had a few years ago, to your point. There was a young lady down here in Miami, and she is, or was, a student, if I’m not mistaken, at Texas A&M, or Texas University, I don’t remember which particular one right now. I remember that she started talking to me about Nietzsche and dynamics and she also started mentioning to me Relativism and other terms—stuff that, you know, one as a youth pastor has to study to stay, if you will, on the cutting edge of the doctrines that are out in the secular system.
So one of the questions that I asked her, knowing from what point of view she held these things in her heart, I said, “Let me ask you a question. Is the sky blue?”
She looked at me with a puzzled look, and she said, “Well, it could be blue for you, but I’m not sure if it’s blue for everyone else.”
And I said, “Are you kidding me? So even the most commonsense answer that you could give me, that the evidence is hitting you right in your face, that the sky is blue, you can’t even answer that because your professors have indoctrinated you to the point where now you say, ‘Well, everything is relative. There are no absolutes. There is no truth.’”
And exactly to your point, not only are they learning these things in universities and the public school but also from the entertainment industry—movies, TV shows, even in the music—all of these messages, these secularized messages, are constantly being pumped into our children’s ears and eyes, and they’re constantly adopting these things and taking this into the world without even understanding how this is getting into the system in the first place.
Of course, they’re allowing it to get there because they’re constantly consuming the product, but they are so dumbed down, because that’s the education system nowadays, and also entertainment system that we have in our day and age, that it makes people followers. It makes them zombies, not thinkers, not people who are self-reliant.
Tom: Yeah, I remember that a couple years ago I was in Devon, England, speaking to about 185 young people in their 20s and early 30s, and I wasn’t the only speaker—some really terrific speakers were involved, and I knew these guys, and I started off by saying, “Look, it’s a total privilege for us to be with you, but here’s our objective, here’s our goal: We want you to be able to, if you’re not doing it, we want you to be able to think biblically. That’s our goal, that’s our objective. But you know what? We’ll be satisfied if you guys just think.” It wasn’t a putdown. The whole point was…and then I encouraged them, I said, “Look, you guys have got a brain! You’ve got a mind. God says, ‘Come let us reason together.’ He has equipped you to do this, and if you’re not, you’re just blowing it big time.” And of course, we had a great time with these guys over a week’s period.
Anyway, tell me about—and you don’t have to mention any names, because we don’t want to embarrass anybody—but among your young people, where do they come in? What are their ideas? What do you look for? And how are you trying to shape them through the word? How does that work?
Jio: I think there are…let me put it this way: I come into youth ministry from this point of view, from this vantage point—I know that they’re coming in with a constant indoctrination from the secular system, Marxist, communistic, anti-biblical, anti-God system, that is constantly being promulgated through them—to them—through mass media and other points. So first and foremost, what I attempt to do once they recently join youth group and whatnot, is first we have to bring down those particular pillars in their minds. You know, the Bible tells us very clearly that we are bringing down any sort of powers and so on and so forth that they arise against the knowledge of Christ.
So first you have to lay down and show these kids how fallacious these different arguments and ideologies are. Then what you do is that you replace that with a biblical worldview. You know, you were just mentioning that it would be great for some of these kids that you were ministering to just to think. When we read Romans:12:1-2, one of the things that Paul mentions there is that our service to the Lord is a rational one. It’s one that you have to think.
I hate to quote him in certain instances, because of some of the ideas that he had and I don’t agree with them, but C.S. Lewis did say something that was extremely important, and he said, “For anybody that is thinking of becoming a Christian, beware, because God will not hold innocent the person who is an intellectual slacker.” And it’s absolutely true.
So one of the things that I think we have to do, and we try to do constantly with the youth, is to have them think, to think things over, to make sure that they’re always analyzing, rationalizing things, bringing things to the Word of God, holding it up against that light to see if it holds up doctrinally, biblically, and if not, then do what Paul tells us in Thessalonians, to just discard it, just discard it. If it doesn’t hold up to the biblical standard, then discard it.
And to your original question, they come in with a lot of different ideas. It’s so multi-faceted it’s hard to just pin down in a simple answer, but I think anything that you would see just a different spectrum of what is in pop culture right now, those are the ideas that they mostly come in with to youth group. And that is what we’re trying to…that is what we’re struggling against, and we’re trying to bring down all of that and replace it with a biblical worldview.
Tom: We know, and I say “we”—those of us who love the Word of God, you can’t find anything more exciting than the Word of God. I mean, it is tremendous, but if somebody’s not into it, if they’re just being spoon-fed, if they just hear it here and there, I don’t know how they can get excited about it. So that presents the problem. We have…I have five children. They’re between ages 25 into their 30s, and I know from just observing them that they are a visual generation. They’re biblically literate. They know the Word of God, but it’s still a struggle for them because of the visual opportunities out there, the media, and so on.
Now, so how do you deal with the problem of getting this generation, this upcoming generation, into the written Word of God?
Jio: That is a great question, and I will go back to something…a phenomenon that recently happened in our culture just a few months ago. When The Bible series was released, a lot of people thought it was a great thing, including myself. I said, “Wow, this is an opportunity for many people to experience visually the Word of God and get into it.” But I did hold some judgment, I did reserve some judgment, because then again, you know this, T.A., better than anyone, Hollywood tends to take what they call “artistic liberties.” So therefore, when I start seeing the representations of what actually was going…was being put forth, I said, Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Wait a minute! This is ridiculous! And then, this is the problem that I see with this. When you try…when you misrepresent something so much, people end up believing what they see, instead of actually going to look for the evidence. For example, when we see the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, we see that they were “Ninja angels” (laughing) with Lot and his family, and I’m saying, Wait a minute! Wait a minute! This is crazy! This is nuts! And I lost count of the amount of people who said afterwards, “This is great! This is wonderful! I had no idea that God had sent Ninja angels to defend Lot and his family!”
I said, “Are you kidding me? I mean, you’ve got the Bible right in front of you. Please read it. You have the actual evidence. This is just artistic license.”
But then again, we do live in a culture, we live in a society, that is very visually oriented, like you say. I’d like to take this back…
Tom: Let me interrupt here.
Tom: For those that missed it, he’s talking about the History Channel’s series on the Bible, and of course, that’s not the only thing out there. As you know, Hollywood has jumped into the act, certainly because of the success, financial success, of The Passion of the Christ, and now, on TV, the History Channel Bible, so they keep coming. And Noah, starring Russell Crowe—I don’t think that went anywhere, but it was a huge production. I didn’t see it, but…
Jio: Yes, well, as a matter of fact, one of the things that you hear, Darren Aronofsky, who was the director of that particular film mention that he wanted to plug into that particular film his idea that Noah was the first environmentalist. So automatically, if anybody is discerning, they listen to those words, and they say, “Wait a minute. This guy is employing a biblical narrative, history, in order to plug a fascist environmental message into it and plugging that into the Bible!” They’re taking something that is history, something that people…you know, and it’s not like if this director and this studio don’t know that Christians and many people will want to see that representation on the screen and they’ll readily pay, they’ll fork over their dollars to see it. But again, they’re very crafty in hiding their message.
And to another point that we were talking about earlier—you’ll notice that this is a trend, this whole issue of the generation being more biblically oriented than reading, especially reading the Bible. It’s something that’s been a trend in operation for some time. I’m going to quote Adolf Hitler—and of course, I don’t agree with anything Adolf Hitler did. We condemned it, and so on and so forth, but if you read his book Mein Kampf and in the chapter specifically titled “The Struggle of the Early Period, the Significance of the Spoken Word,” you’ll notice that way back in the early 1900s, he already saw the potential that entertainment, visuals, had as it pertained to propaganda. And for example, he says, and I’ll quote here: “The picture, in all its forms, including the film, has better prospects. Here there is less need of elaborating the appeal to the intelligence. It is sufficient that one be careful to have quite short texts because many people are more ready to accept the pictorial presentation than to read a long written description. In a much shorter time, at one stroke, I might say, people will understand a pictorial presentation of something which it would take them a long and laborious effort from reading to understanding.”
So people like Adolf Hitler, who were manipulators, they understand this and they take full advantage of it, knowing that there’s a new crop of individuals constantly popping up to propagandize with their evil and just seditious and satanic ideas.
Tom: Yeah, well, that’s the way it is. The visual media is the most influential medium that there is. People see a film—and I know guys back before I was a Christian who watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind and that transformed their life, it changed their life. Billy Budd was another film back in the ‘50s, late ‘60s—or early ‘60s, I think. Anyway, film has that way of affecting people. Now, I’ll give you a little side note here. I was in Russia, and I was speaking at a pastors’ conference actually in Vladimir, which is about 300 miles NE of Moscow, and young people—and these were great young people. They were not illiterate when it came to the Bible, they were pretty sharp. But as we were sitting at a meal together, it came up about how much they enjoyed The Passion of the Christ. And, you know, since I wrote a book about that, I was…I said, “Okay, guys, let me do this with you. I know about the film. I’ve seen it a couple of times, and I just want to run some things by you.” I gave them eight scenes from the movie, and I said, “What I want you to do—you can do this collectively—tell me which of the eight were biblical and which were not.” And I described each scene.
Well, they had put their heads together and they finally decided that three were nonbiblical, but the other five were biblical. Guess what. None of them were in the Bible. None of them.
So, it can have that influence, and so on. Plus it’s a subjective medium as opposed to…this is why we’re talking about the written Word of God, the objective, written Word of God, that we can sit down with somebody and come to a conclusion about what a verse means, what it doesn’t mean, hermeneutics, you know, by applying our reasoning to it in logical ways. But that’s a struggle, isn’t it? To get young people into it?
Jio: Definitely, and to your point also that this is why so many people have so many problems with the Bible in our culture and our day and age. Why? Because they’ve constantly been preached from the cradle subjectivism, relativism, everything is subjective, there is no such thing as absolute truth, there is no objectivity. Everything is subjective to your own experiences, so when they go to the Bible, they take that mindset, and they say, “Oh, yeah! I see. There aren’t any verses in the Bible that speak specifically of homosexuality as a sin.” So then they begin to interpret things into the Bible instead of taking it as God’s literal Word. You have to be very careful, and this is something that we have to take out to the youth consistently, so that they can adopt a biblical worldview.
Tom: Now let me get onto an issue that you’re going to have to talk to because I’m out of my league on this, although I recognized super problems with it. What about music as a seducer of your young people?
Jio: Well, it’s an interesting subject matter, T.A., and I always put on two different sets of lenses or glasses for that particular subject matter because not only…
Tom: You mean, you mean earphones, you mean stereo earphones (laughing)
Jio: I’m sorry, yes, especially the $400 ones that they only pay $10 to produce in Cambodia or somewhere (laughing). You know, I look at this from the privilege of being a youth pastor but also of the privilege that the Lord has given me to be a musician. When I see the way that the music industry works and how they try to promulgate what they or their interpretation of music is and how they promote it and so on and so forth, you begin to see that there’s innerworking—there’s a reason why they do everything. Of course, it’s always the bottom line that’s affected, but the decisions are always there to try to eliminate any gospel mention. There are a few. There are a few specific singers, bands, that they’re still Christ-centric. But most of the time when these bands—they’re neophytes—they get signed to a contract, a lucrative contract, they say, “Oh great! This is awesome! They’re going to give us all the liberty that we want to, you know, pen lyrics and to put music together….” That’s not the case. So immediately they send them into the studio and you’ve got a producer on you saying, “That’s not the way this is supposed to sound. This is supposed to sound like this, because if not it doesn’t fit into the mix, and it can’t get into top-ten radio,” and so on and so forth. “And not only that, you have to change the lyrics. That ‘Jesus’ thing—we have to eliminate it. We have to appeal more to the masses and more to the mainstream.”
Notice the words that they use, and they say, “Eliminate any mention of Jesus. Let’s just talk about ‘You’ and ‘Him,’ making it very generic.” So now, we’ve got Christians, instead of being salt and light, now, even those that say, “In the name of the gospel, we’re going to minister via music,” what they’re doing is they are assimilating, they are compromising, the message of the gospel and they are looking more and more like secular artists, what they are called, or bands, or singers, where there now, there is no distinction. You can’t tell one from the other. They look exactly the same. So, now, you’ve got youths, Christian youths, who are trying to look for music that is Christ-centric, that also brings them some sort of repose away from just the evil lyrics that they’re listening to in the world, and now you can’t even find that, because the Christian lyrics are very, very generic in nature.
Tom: Jio, let me get more specific about this. You know, your dad mentioned in our program last week about Word-Faith, New Apostolic Reformation, he didn’t mention IHOP, but there are certain things going on within the hyper-charismatic, or whatever you want to label them, the Manifest Sons of God, Latter-Rain, all of those things—we’re talking about organizations, or churches, like Bethel in Redding, CA, Bill Johnson, IHOP –International House of Prayer, Mike Bickel in the St Louis, or Kansas City area—anyway, here’s my question: It seems the Pied Pipers of these movements would be Hillsong United and the Jesus Culture. What do you say to that?
Jio: I’ve seen a few of the undertakings of these particular entities, and they’ve disturbed me a great amount. There was one particular video—I don’t remember what specific band that was, I think it was one of the two that you previously mentioned, where they went almost half an hour repeating the same phrase over and over…
Tom: Right, I’ve seen that myself. Mm-hmm.
Jio: …yeah, over and over again, and when you see that, when you bring that to the youth, a lot of the youth are saying, “Wow, that’s great, the Holy Spirit was moving.”
But I said, “No, no, no, this is usually the practice of enchantments,” so on and so forth, and you try to get into the history of that, and a lot of times, unfortunately, the youth can’t see that. But I always try to spell it out for them. You wish you wouldn’t have to. You wish that they would see it by themselves, but one of the things that I always tell them is, “Look, these are the characteristics of, for example the world’s religions. And if you see any of these practices infiltrating itself into the church via music, or teachings, or anything other such, be aware, be very, very careful. Because usually what they are is they are crafting these particular practices after entities which are anti-biblical, anti-Christian. Be very careful with these things.”
So, I think if a young person is going to be discerning about the music that they listen to, I think my advice to them would be “Listen to the lyrics. Listen to the lyrics. If the lyrics are Christ-centered, then you’re onto something.”
Not only that. My second advice is, “Don’t always go to what the record companies are putting out there. Look on the Internet. We have this great tool called the Internet. There are a lot of independent bands and musicians and singers that they’re not subject to a record label and they’re not subject to the stringent rules that are placed upon them by the record labels, and they try to minister the talent that God has given them. Look for them. They’re out there, and you’ll see that you will be ministered by the music that God has endowed them with.”
Tom: Right. Now we’ve got about a minute and half left, related to some things that we talked about last week and certainly that you’ve mentioned, Jio. I guess I could speak for you guys, we don’t see revival or reformation down the line, do we? But doesn’t this…you know, just briefly, do you guys see this as overwhelming? And then, do you see our job, my job, your job, as those who would want to edify the body, and so on, isn’t this simply a rescue operation—for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear?
Jio: I do believe so. I do believe that this is a rescue operation. I look at this very closely also just by the seven letters that Jesus writes to the churches in the Book of Revelation. I do believe that those are prophetic in nature. They talk about the future of the church, and two churches are co-existing with each other, Laodicea and Philadelphia, and you see that there is a great apostasy going on, specifically also when Jesus mentions in Matthew 24 and other places. So I do see that there is a great apostasy that is on the horizon, and in fact, is already here. So I think that we as Bible-believing Christians have to do everything that we can to rescue whomever we can and not worry too much about masses and numbers. Jesus, God, will take care of the numbers. That’s not of our interest. Of our interest is to make sure that we go out and we preach the gospel to the nations just like Jesus told us to, and to quote Noah Webster, “The heart should be cultivated with more assiduity than the head.” Don’t worry about the numbers, don’t worry about any of these other extraneous things, focus on the heart, focus on the heart. The gospel changes, transforms, the heart and the minds.
Tom: Jesus, do you give your son a big Amen to that?
Jesus: Amen to that, absolutely.
Tom: Gentlemen, thank you. Hopefully we’ve given our audience some things to think about. And in particular, most importantly, to pray about. God bless you guys, and thank you for being with us.
Jio: Thank you for having us. We really appreciate the opportunity.
Jesus: 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, OR 97708; call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at thebereancall.org.
I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could join us, and we hope you can tune in again next week. Until later, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.