“Encounters” in the U.S. and Latin America

mario

by Mario Vega

The word “encounter” has negative connotations in Latin America. Some people think that Encounters are activities in which people are taken out of the cities and have to swear absolute secrecy. People are encouraged to attend and are given promises of liberation, transformation, fulfillment of the Spirit, sanctification, etc… And all this is supposed to happen in a short duration of activity–and without any major commitments from those participating, only their simple attendance.

Despite the commitment to secrecy, many people told what happened because they felt disenchanted with the results. For example, a certain encounters, strange methods were applied such as the regression that may involve acting as a baby, wearing diapers and sitting on the facilitators lap. Things can get very bizarre, which ntail the superstition and the occult.

For those reasons, the issue of “encounters” is a concern among some Christian denominations and in fact, some have made official statements against such events in order to raise awareness of such practices.

Once, responding to questions that Randall Neighbour made on the subject, I expressed my disagreement with such activities. But Randall had the patience to explain that Encounter Retreats are completely different in the United States. From that moment I was clear that in the U.S. (and probably in other countries) an encounter is an activity in which the Word of God is applied as a way to encourage people to deepen their relationship with Jesus.

However, in Latin America this type of activity has been called “retreats” for over a century. The churches have no problem in appreciating the “retreats” as part of Christian practice. But there is a high rejection towards the “encounters,” a more recent term.

These events are completely different and for the same reason, it is important to be careful with the terms used. As for Elim, we do not have retreats as part of the leadership training. Although we believe that at a retreat a person can make important resolutions in their Christian life, our emphasis is based on self-denial and on picking up the cross “every day” in order to follow Jesus.

Comments?

Mario

Korean blog (click here)

Portuguese blog (click here)

Spanish translation:

Los “encuentros” en Estados Unidos y en Latinoamérica.

La palabra “encuentro” posee connotaciones negativas en Latinoamérica. Se les llama de esa manera a actividades cobradas en las que las personas son llevadas afuera de las ciudades y sobre cuyo contenido deben jurar absoluto secreto.

Las personas son animadas a asistir con promesas de liberación, transformación, llenura del Espritu, santificación, etc. Todo ello en el corto perodo que dura la actividad y sin mayores compromisos por parte de los interesados que la simple asistencia.

A pesar del compromiso de guardar secreto, muchas personas no lo hicieron al sentirse desencantadas con los resultados. Es as como se sabe que en dichas actividades se aplican métodos extraños como el de la regresión que puede implicar actuar como bebé, vestir pañales y sentarse en las piernas de los facilitadores. Las cosas pueden volverse muy extravagantes comenzando a rayar con la superstición y el ocultismo.

Por esos motivos, el tema de los “encuentros” es una preocupación entre las denominaciones cristianas que algunas veces han hecho pronunciamientos oficiales para prevenir sobre tales prácticas.

En una ocasión, respondiendo a preguntas que Randall Neighbour me hizo sobre el tema, le expresé mi desacuerdo con tales actividades. Pero Randall tuvo la paciencia de explicarme que tal idea es completamente diferente a lo que en los Estados Unidos se entiende por encuentro.

Desde ese momento quedé claro que en los Estados Unidos (y probablemente en otros pases del primer mundo) se le llama encuentro a una actividad en la cual se aplica la palabra de Dios y la exhortación como manera de estimular a las personas a una profundización de su relación con Jesús. A este tipo de actividad en Latinoamérica se la nomina como “retiro” desde hace más de un siglo. Las iglesias no tenemos problemas en apreciar los “retiros” como parte de la práctica cristiana. Pero s existe mucho rechazo hacia los “encuentros”, término de aparición reciente.

Se trata de eventos completamente diferentes y, por la misma razón, es importante ser cuidadosos con los términos que se usan. En el caso de Elim, no tenemos retiros como parte del entrenamiento de lderes.

Aunque creemos que en un retiro una persona puede tomar resoluciones importantes sobre su vida cristiana, nuestro énfasis se encuentra en la negación propia y el tomar la cruz de Cristo para seguirle “cada da”.

2 thoughts on ““Encounters” in the U.S. and Latin America

  • We recently hired a Pastor (Pastor Walter Huezo) for our Spanish speaking service. He has planted churches and Bible schools in Ecuador. When he heard we did “God Encounters” after being hired he nervously approached me to ask what we did at “God Encounter.” Once I explained it, he breathed a sigh of relief. He had heard of “God Encounters” where people have to put all their sin in a casket and get in the casket and lay in it for an hour with it closed. He told me several things which I can’t remember, but that one was ironed into my memory. Obviously, we don’t have extreme ceremonies or practices at our church’s “God Encounters.” I like the way Joel summarizes “God Encounter” on the back of his book: Applying the benefits and victory of the Cross to every area of our life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.