On being an ‘aleluya’

I’ve been in Mexico six years, and I’m only just beginning to grasp the stigma in the minds of locals associated with being an evangelical protestant. Catholics and other non-evangelicals in our area often use the term ‘aleluya’ to refer to an evangelical. For them this is a somewhat derogatory term, whose origin is in the fact that local evangelicals are prone to frequently saying, “Hallelujah!”

Three weeks ago when the new church group had its first Sunday meeting, I asked those present what their vision for the group is. Several people, especially those who have less experience in evangelical churches, referred to the stigma as a reason that many people here don’t want to ever attend an evangelical church service. Our local friends want to create a group that doesn’t have the kind of baggage associated with it that keeps Catholics from participating. That this point was emphasized so clearly during the discussion made an impression on me.

Then came the meeting this past Wednesday. Among those in attendance was “Grant”, an auto mechanic invited by Henry and Nancy. Grant is interested in the things of God, though he’s not exactly a believer yet. This is what he said: “Nancy invited me yesterday, and I said I would come. When she called me today to follow up, I realized I couldn’t get out of it, so I came. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to come, because I thought, ‘I don’t want people to call me an aleluya!’ I’ve asked myself before whether I would be more ashamed to be passed out drunk on the street or to be seen as an aleluya…[pause]…and I’m not sure.” Five minutes later he repeated that last sentence.

Certainly some of the ideas locals have of evangelicals are unfair and unwarranted. But the stigma is very real nonetheless, and is carries lots of implications for our work. What to do when people want to know God, but don’t want to have anything to do with a traditional church? My current sense of things is that more people around us possibly feel this way than I’ve ever imagined. It has us asking ourselves tough questions about what is and isn’t absolutely essential when it comes to following Jesus and being the Church. How can we leave as much unneeded baggage by the wayside as possible, in order to bring as many people as we can along on a journey of knowing and being transformed by Christ?

What would you do if you were in our shoes? What is and isn’t necessary when it comes to being Jesus’ Church and His disciples? Do we have to attend a “worship service” each week? Is it necessary to call ourselves ‘Christians’ or ‘evangelicals’ or some similar term? Other thoughts?

Serving in a cross-cultural context has opened our eyes to many challenging issues we may not have grasped otherwise. The interesting thing for those of you living in the USA is that we’ve created such a distinct Christian subculture there that you too have to do cross-cultural mission work if you want to reach the lost. So jump in and join the conversation as we discuss the issues!

4 thoughts on “On being an ‘aleluya’

  1. Monia

    Interesting thoughts. Its crazy to learn something so deeply concerning to a group after you’ve earned their trust. How awesome that they were open enough first of all to share this deep harbored feeling with the group.
    I think that is a key question of what is essential? We sure have added on a lot thru the ages with denominations, traditions, and our own preferences.
    It’s food for thought that has me examining my church, words, and way of living it out….of what is most essential? Love is the first to come to mind…the rest….yet to be determined……:)

  2. Chris Post author

    I like the attitude! I think the question of what is essential is an important one for the Church in this season. It seems like God is wanting to realign some things.

  3. Landon Schott

    I loved your blog post as I stumbled upon it because I am interested in the unreached people groups of southern Mexico. I think that no matter where you go in the world Christians will be called derogatory names. As I recall, the name “christian” was a name those in Antioch called the first disciples, probably by some fellow Antiochans who where tired of hearing about this Christ. Funny thing is that these disciples adopted the term, embraced it and made it their own. For my part I am glad they did so rather then reacting to the persecution by refraining from using the word “Christ”. It sounds like being called an ‘aleluya’ in southern mexico is just another way of being called a Christian.

  4. Chris Post author

    Landon, thanks for chiming in. It’s awesome that the least reached groups of Mexico are on your heart, we have that in common!

    I probably didn’t articulate this really well in my post, but in my mind the issue is less about persecution and names that evangelicals are getting called and more about the extreme stigma associated with pursuing God, because people think they would have to become an evangelical (or an “aleluya”) in order to start pursuing God together with the home groups we’re a part of.

    People are hungry for God, but they want nothing to do with being an aleluya because evangelicals have often so poorly represented Christ and because of all the religious baggage that comes with being one.

    I’m with you in that when believers love Jesus and bring His kingdom on earth, some people will always persecute and ridicule them, and that’s just part of following Christ. When people look at believers, though, and say, “If following God looks like that, then I want nothing to do with pursuing Him”, that’s a significant problem.

    Landon, do you live or are you planning to live in southern Mexico? If you want, shoot me an email with a website or any info you have, I’d love to hear more about you!

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