There are local ministries in Brazil that are becoming increasingly acquainted with the doctrines of grace through the publication in Portuguese of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ works. The book Preaching and Preachers immediately and completely revolutionized the ministry of one of our acquaintances who is a local pastor. The writer can certainly testify that sitting under the ministry of such a servant of God was the greatest blessing he received since his conversion.
What I had learnt from the doctrines of grace transformed my life and gave me an understanding of how the gospel should be rightly presented to magnify God and debase man. I have come to love and teach such truths. They have provided a solid basis for evangelism in a land where gimmicks and radical Arminianism are so frequently the order of the day and where, in many churches, great pressure is exerted to bring sinners to accept Christ out of an avid concern to see and report numerical success. For example, one would hear the invitation, ‘Raise your hand and get your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!’ Then, after the service, those who had complied and were about to leave would be greeted with words of congratulation for having done exactly that. Is it a wonder that such DIY conversions did not last long? Then also one might hear the invitation being made to a sick person to accept Christ in order to get well.
This was the situation that confronted us in our first ministry, in the Amazon area. It was an understanding of Reformation truths that enabled us to bear the taunts of the evil one and persevere in situations of almost alarming discouragement. I remember once when the number of adults present in the church could be counted on the fingers of one hand. This happened soon after the coming of Pentecostals to our town, when we lost a large portion of our congregation to their vivacious attractions. Obliged to make new professions of faith and be rebaptized, they thus became members of that work. Despite doctrinal weakness, however, we know that there were many among them that truly loved the Lord.
Notwithstanding a small beginning with small numbers (which often characterizes Reformed ministries), we thank God for those who did learn and appreciate the truths we tried to teach. Though we saw no great blossoming of the fig tree it was these truths that sustained and helped us to rejoice in the Lord, even at a time when he was pleased to remove suddenly from us two members of our family.
Our next sphere of service brought us to the state of Sao Paulo. Through the witness of a missionary by the name of Bill Barkley, who was a member of Westminster Chapel during Dr Lloyd-Jones’ ministry, the Lord used Banner of Truth publications to clarify to a fellow missionary, Richard Denham, the doctrines of grace. Each of these men is now involved in the ministry of Reformed literature. The latter founded a local church in Sao Jose dos Campos in 1986.
This church started when encouraging numbers were attracted to hear God exalted through sovereign grace teaching. On two occasions it was necessary to procure larger premises. One of the first to become a regular attender there was a girl of about sixteen who picked up a Bible in the street. This had been left by an evangelist in one of the homes he had visited. Evidently regarded as pernicious literature, it was thrown out into the street. The girl took it back to her father and he, finding inside a tract with the church’s address, began attending the services with his daughter. ‘Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee’!