The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
Loida Muñoz, Director of A21 Spain: ‘We need to both be pioneers and actively support what is already working’.
In many areas, social inequalities are bigger than never before and there is a big need for deep transformation.
In the midst of this situation, what role can the evangelical churches play? Are they ready to be a key factor of transformation?
According to Loida Muñoz, director of the Christian abolitionist non-profit organization A21 Spain, “the church has all it needs to transform the society”. “It is time to believe that as a church we have the tools, and we are what the society, our city, our neighbourhood needs”, she said in an interview with Spanish news website Protestante Digital.
“The church worldwide is being a pioneer in human trafficking issues [...] It is a very strong movement that starts in the local church”, the director of A21 Spain pointed out.
The energy of the youth is key in this transformation: “They are not the church of the future, as we often hear, they are the church of the present”.
Question. Can local churches transform society?
Answer. When we talk about transformation, it means to change aspects without changing the essence.
The church not only can but must transform, and change those things that we know God wants to change. The church must bring His kingdom, His values, His justice, His love, His peace, His freedom, and preserve what He has created.
I believe that the church has all it needs to transform the society.
We know that people look for identity, and the church can give that identity. People look for love, and the church is love and has to give love; people look for a community, and the church is a community. Any social need that we may imagine, the church will have an answer for that. It is time to believe that as a church we have the tools, and we are what the society - our city, our neighbourhood - needs.
Q. Should churches start their own initiatives to improve their environments?
A. The church should be a pioneer in starting social initiatives, because as a church we represent Jesus: what He was in this earth, what He is, what God and the Holy Spirit are in this Earth.
Jesus was the pioneer in social work. Therefore, in any project or initiative of this kind, the church should always be the pioneer, the spear head. We need to be sensitive to the social realities, even to those realities that have not yet been identified - and offer an answer.
Q. Should local churches join other entities in their communities?
A. I think it is good to place ourselves in service of the community, our regional and local authorities, and other associations.
Networking is very important in social action, and we need to learn about it. We should work with other churches and associations of our city or our region.
We need to actively support what is already working, and, at the same time, to be pioneers, having a compassionate look at those situations that maybe nobody sees, and act upon it.
Q. How has the church transformed society in the past?
A. It is important to remember the history of the church throughout history, the social changes that it has promoted: the changes in human, social and civil rights.
We have to keep not only the heritage that we see in the Bible, but also the history of Christianity in different times. This will give us identity for what we will be able to achieve.
Q. What examples do you have of evangelical churches or movements which are transformative today?
A. If we talk about recent movements, about how the church is transforming society today, the church worldwide is being a pioneer in human trafficking issues. The biggest response to this still very unknown reality is coming from evangelical Christians.
That is very positive. It is a very strong movement that starts in the local church, which identifies the need and starts to give specific answers and to raise awareness.
That is a good example of how we can start and maintain movements, where we identify a need, and the church mobilises the people.
We can also join positive claims which improve certain rights or legislations that will benefit people at risk of exclusion. The church must be present, so that society will see that, as Christians we care about what is happening in our cities, and we are there for those who suffer.
Q. How can we involve the next generation in this transformation?
A. Young people are a diamond in the rough, they have a strength that we do not find in any other age group, inside or outside the church.
The Bible talks about that energy, it says that the elders have knowledge, and the youth has the energy. We need to give them space to tell us what is the social reality they live in, what new things are appearing, what social needs they see around them.
I believe that those who work with young people, not only have to encourage them to work with us, but also give them a space to express their opinions and bring that energy to the table.
I knew the Lord when I was 16 years old, and I remember that the first thing I wanted to do was to change the world, not by myself, but because of what Jesus has made in me.
That energy and excitement - what we sometimes called it innocence - is a real conviction that we can reaffirm in them, it is something that we need to boost.
They are not the church of the future, as we often hear, they are the church of the present, they have their place now.
I have a lot of hope in this generation, because I believe that they are an educated and sensitive generation. They are young people with an innocent heart, and if we encourage them for the social change, they can do it.