Seeing fruit in Chile: A student’s reflection on the Protestant Reformation

DNA co-founder Darrow Miller visited Chile in June 2012, establishing fruitful relationships with many young Christian leaders. Luis Aranguiz-Kahn, who helped coordinate Darrow’s teaching presentations, is a 21-year-old literature student at the Catholic University of Chile.

He writes essays for the student-led Oikonomos Study Center and yearns to see his nation reshaped by the Gospel. He has been profoundly impacted by DNA's teaching on biblical worldview.

Luis writes essays for the student-led Oikonomos Study Center at his school and yearns to see his nation reshaped by the gospel. He has been profoundly impacted by DNA’s teaching on biblical worldview.

Protestant Reform: More Than Theology

by Luis Aranguiz-Kahn

A musical event in La Moneda Palace (the federal capital building of Chile) on October 30, 2012, marked the celebration of the Protestant Reformation. The talk, however, was not about theology or philosophy, but music. In particular, the event highlighted the decisive influence of the Reformation on the musical culture of Germany. The evening featured the unlikely connection of Martin Luther and Johann Sebastian Bach.

Luther was a theologian, but his thought influenced many other areas. Perhaps his most important cultural contribution was translating the Bible into German. He believed ordinary people had the right to know the Word of God without the intervention of a priest. His vision for the German Bible involved two aspects. First, Luther is widely recognized as one of the great shapers of German language, a profound contribution to his culture. Even the notorious twentieth-century Jewish philosopher, Franz Rosenzweig, calls Luther’s translation of the Bible a “sensational fact.” But a translated Bible that no one can read is useless, which leads to the second part of Luther’s literary legacy, i.e. his efforts to educate the German people. Thus did an Augustinian friar decisively influence the education, and the overall development, of his people.

But the scope of the reformation goes much further. His theological concepts influenced many of his contemporaries. For example, Luther’s idea that human beings should not be subjugated to a religious institution led others to affirm human freedom. As a result, an emphasis on obedience was replaced by a focus on perseverance. The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm said about this: “The reformation is one of the roots of the idea of ​​human freedom and autonomy, as they are expressed in modern democracy.” Man, created in God’s image, was not to be subjugated to a highly regulated system or determinative Church. Rather, humans are created to be free in conscience and attitude. As such, they are equipped to live with uncertainty, which requires perseverance and ultimately overcoming life’s challenges through their labors.

The Reformation also brought a new governance model for society. Not surprisingly, the foundations of modern democracy are found there. The reformers had rejected the notion of ​​a pyramidal government which embodied all authority in one man (e.g. the pope). Rather,they built a congregational government in their Churches. The brothers would choose their authorities. This democratic Church government would extend to the civil arena as well.

Further observations would uncover other similar influences of the Protestant Reformation on the European worldview. But we must turn now to examine the relevance of the Reformation for today’s Churches.

Often, when the word “reform” is used in evangelical circles, we think of the need for constant reformation of the Church itself. We forget that the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation produced not only internal effects within the Church, but permeated society’s worldview and brought transformation to the whole culture.

Someone might ask: Does the Church need reform? The obvious answer is “yes.” As an institution of humans, the Church needs constant improving. However, a deeper question remains: What kind of reform does the Church seek? We have witnessed a range of reforms, from theological systems to the inclusion of electric guitars. But what impact have these “reforms” had on our society?

The Church has tried to adapt to the felt needs of modernity or postmodernity. She has sought to be more inclusive and dynamic. And maybe she has succeeded. But what cultural impacts have resulted? Sometimes the Church succumbs and adapts, rather than transforms. Is not the Church called to reforms that illuminate not only her own life but that of unbelievers as well?

At the same time, if we are to bring true reform, we must not be naive. We must consider the practical as well as the theological, etc. Luther’s German translation of the Bible would have no impact on illiterate peasants. Similarly, there is no point wishing for Church reform without a commensurate and careful consideration of the circumstances.  For example, the Church could not effectively influence communications in the 21st century without the proper management of Internet and television. Historical consciousness is required.

True reform, i.e. reform that Christians can appreciate, is that which not only transforms the Church, but the worldview of the society. Neither Rosenzweig (a philosopher) nor Fromm (a social psychoanalyst) were Christians. In fact, both were Jews. But both recognized that the Protestant Reformation was more than a change in a religion. Both acknowledged it as a transformation in history.

Will the Church reform Chile? May God, by grace alone, guide us to do so.

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These are the classrooms where Luis studies at the Catholic University of Chile.

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Luis (back row, tan jacket) and others from his church run a “pre-university” project to prepare high schoolers for their university entrance exams.

You can contact Luis at luis.arka@gmail.com.

A grand vision for Brazil, carried out by its youth

Human passion often is described in terms of fire or flames. “The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire,” said the French WWI hero Ferdinand Foch.

If Carlos Calill Pires’ passion to see transformation in his country was a crackling campfire three years ago, today, it is a wildfire that cannot be contained. It leaps from person to person, like trees in a forest, electrifying communities and gaining momentum. The fuel that set it off was an encounter with DNA teachings in 2009.

“The DNA was an answer from God for our ministry,” says Carlos, a 27-year-old leader of the National Union of Christian Students (UNEC) in Brazil. “We realized that even our group had many Christian people without a biblical worldview. It means that we were working hard but with no great results, if we consider results as transformation of life.”

After hearing Darrow Miller speak at a conference in 2009, Carlos studied Discipling Nations, a book which continues to speak profoundly into the minds and hearts of God’s laborers worldwide. Then, he and some friends studied LifeWork, which examines how we glorify God with our daily tasks. “My life was so impacted that many concepts and ideas for UNEC were changed,” he says. “I realized that many efforts we had focused on were not effective.”

As a result, Carlos and his team contextualized the DNA teachings for their own UNEC community, requiring all UNEC leaders to be trained before beginning their work in society.

“I have a dream to see the church in Brazil discipling people to be agents of transformation in each area of Brazil,” Carlos says.

Taking it to the streets

“I can see churches nowadays worried to have a great number of people inside the temples,” says Carlos, “but they don’t worry to disciple those people in order to impact society.” To counter this, Carlos and his team equip other young people to use their professions to disciple their nation.

  • Teaching English >> While it is very expensive to study English in Brazil, knowing this language is a valuable asset. UNEC has built a partnership with a public school in the city of Belo Horizonte, selecting children from poor areas to receive top-quality education. “All the families selected to this project asked us why we do this,” says Carlos. “It is a great time to share love to the community!”
  • Discipling youth >> Through seminars and other trainings, youth learn how to practice biblical values in their homes and in civil society, choosing areas of the city to invest their gifts and start small projects.
  • Sports outreach >> 1,500 students at Christian schools learn about biblical worldview through two regional sports leagues.

Carlos’ group promotes sporting events to bring together students from various Brazilian Christian schools.

Taking it across the globe

The vision of Carlos and UNEC is so big that it busts through political borders. They are in the beginning stages of forming a Youth Leadership Exchange Program — a collaboration of Christian universities from several countries. Sharing ideas, debating global hot-button issues and critiquing each others’ work, these students of an ever-increasing global society will collaborate to become Christian leaders equipped for Kingdom work, whatever their professions may be.

Iron sharpening iron, the students will examine each others’ worldviews and form a solid web of next-generation leaders ready to transform their societies through the gospel.

Contact Carlos: E-mail cfpires1@yahoo.com.br

Teaching, encouraging and bringing God’s healing to believers in Chile

In June, Darrow spent two busy weeks in Chile building relationships with leaders at a local ministry called the Oikonomos Studies Center and engaging with about 350 university students, several pastors and about 500 women from congregations all over the nation.

At the Catholic University of Chile in the capital city of Santiago, he taught seminars titled “Facing the City: A Christian Perspective on Transformation” and “Mind, Exclusion and Poverty.” At the Alberto Hurtado University, he taught “The Christian’s Role in Contemporary Society” — all courses that speak to the local church’s role as God’s primary change-agent.

Angel Tapia (right), the executive director of the Oikonomos Studies Center in Santiago, arranged these sessions and said Darrow’s books are “a ‘wildfire’ in hundreds of young people eager to see the glory of God manifested on earth.”

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Oikonomos is a group of Chilean university students and professionals who long to see a social and cultural transformation from a perspective of the Kingdom of God. Born in 2011, the group conducts conferences, seminars and the magazine “Oikonomos” in order to summon their generation to revive the church as a change-agent in modern Chilean society.

Darrow said spending time with these young people was the highlight of his trip. “The students represent the future of Chile,” he says. “To find a group of Chilean students who have a vision for transforming their country, that was pretty powerful.”

From there, Darrow hopped a plane to the city of Temuco, fulfilling an invitation from the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Over the course of several days and while enduring a nasty cold, he taught Alliance pastors from all over Chile and presented to groups of women their true value as God’s creations–the message from his book Nurturing the Nations.

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Darrow proclaimed the truth that both men and women are made in the image of God; all have dignity and honor, and all are to be treated with respect.

For the women in this traditionally sexist Chilean culture, to hear these ideas–especially coming from a man–was earth-shaking. Many took home the Spanish version of Darrow’s Book: Opresion de la Mujer, Pobreza y Desarrollo.

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For most of these women, this was their first time hearing about God’s plan for male-female relationships and its corruption by the Fall. They learned about being co-heirs of God’s kingdom–not property of their husbands–and about the tender, maternal heart of God.

As Darrow reported, God’s work through these sessions brought up old wounds that now can begin to heal, “setting free” many women from from a great deal of pain.