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Episode 7 - The Growth of the Latino Church


Date: June 13, 2018
Run Time: 12:55
Host: Dr. Gregory R. Perry
Guest: Rev. Will Savell
From the Series: Collaboration and Creativity to Equip Church Leaders

Program Notes

Many missiologists claim that Latin America has already been reached for Christ. Will Savell tells us why that’s not exactly true as he shares with us:

  • How Latin America is where the action is
  • The dangers of “Christ plus”
  • Where he’s going next
  • How getting theological education into Cuba got a little bit too exciting

Rev. Will Savell is President of The Grace Institute, an organization dedicated to training, equipping, preparing, and resourcing church leaders throughout the world.

Podcast Transcript

EPISODE 7: The Growth of the Latino Church
Guest: Will Savell

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries where we believe every Christian deserves a well-trained pastor. To study Scripture deeply or to learn more about how you can partner with us to provide Biblical Education. For the World. For Free. download our App to your phone or visit our online classroom at Thirdmill.org. And now, your host 4 the World, Dr. Greg Perry.


Well, we're back today with Will Savell the founder and president of Grace Institute in Memphis, Tennessee. I'm your host Greg Perry, and we're coming to you from the studios of Third Millennium Ministries in Orlando, Florida. Will, thanks for being back with us today.

Will: Thank you, Greg.

We've been talking about the mission of Grace Institute and some of the aspects of our partnership together. You know, we hear on the radio a lot, or in the news on our search engines, we read about that the Latino community is the fastest growing population segment in North America. Those of us who are part of the church have maybe heard about the growth of Pentecostalism in Latin America and how it's impacting even the Catholic traditions in those countries. But tell us a little bit about why Will Savell… I mean, that's the math of it, but what's the heart of it? Why is Will Savell involved?

Will: You know, my wife and I wanted to go be missionaries, and we didn't have a background of that, so, like, "Oh, we know these people in Costa Rica, let's go study Spanish."

Okay, so the providence of relationship.

Will: Some people ask me, do you just have a heart for Latinos? It's like I really do have a heart for the gospel being proclaimed throughout the world, but the Lord has seen fit to put us mainly in the Spanish-speaking areas throughout the world, in Central and South America. And a lot of action is taking place down there. I mean, it's moving and shaking, and so we want to be where the action is.


That's certainly true. We talk about the dynamic of what the Holy Spirit is doing in the global church, and there is a lot going on in Latin America.

Will: In Latin America they're hungry for God's word. Now, what you were saying about Pentecostalism and… I'm not even going to say Pentecostalism because sometimes it looks different depending on the church you go to. A lot of what we're seeing just take over a lot of the world is a really dangerous prosperity theology. And I would label it more as prosperity theology versus Pentecostalism.

Yes, they should be distinguished. Thank you.

Will: Because we have a lot of Pentecostals in our groups that really are conservative and they love the Lord, they might have some differing theological viewpoints. But as far as this prosperity theology, that's what's really taken over. I think we were mentioning it earlier, but it's Christ plus, Christ plus, Christ plus. And that's real dangerous.

The need for Christ alone and to emphasize that.

Will: That's right. And I think something else that's driving us to stay in Latin America like we're doing, and again, our mission is to the world, but we're staying in Latin America because there's been a big push throughout some mission agencies over the past years that Latin America is "green," if you will: it's reached, it's evangelized. A lot of what I've seen in Latin America isn't Christian. And then you have the syncretism going on. I've had friends in Peru, for example, who have reported to me that they know of a church that has a cross — because it was established by a missionary a while back, it has a cross — it has a statue of Mary, and then it has the sun god all in the same building. And on Sunday mornings they're chopping chickens to sacrifice to whoever. That's not what we believe. That's not what Third Mill believes. That's not what The Grace Institute believes. And I would not say that is a reached…

We could also talk about how that's happening here in terms of spheres we have in our own culture, in the syncretism. It looks very different from serving the Sun god, but we have our own gods, don't we? We have our own gospel plus, or our own Jesus plus, or try to add Jesus to our life rather than conform our lives to Jesus' ways.

Will: All over the place.


All over the place. Well, speaking of all over the place, I remember playing this game and teaching my kids geography: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? And now, I look at Instagram, I look at Twitter and I see these pictures from all over Latin America, and it's like where in the world is Will Savell today? So where are some of the places that Grace Institute is really engaged right now in the Spanish-speaking world?

Will: In the Spanish-speaking world, Nicaragua, we have a great and strong partnership with an MTW, Mission to the World, missionary named Tony Elswick, and he and his wife Amber, they're doing a great job down in the Managua area. And then about all the surrounding areas they have group after group after group studying Third Mill and they're planting churches. And I'm just proud of them. They're doing great. So Nicaragua, we'll be there in October. I think in September going to northern Colombia. That's an interesting place because if you've ever studied Pablo Escobar and you've seen some of the areas that he had his drug control in, that's a lot of the places where our learning centers are. And there's a gap that's been left that's been taken over by the paramilitary and sometimes you're allowed in and sometimes you're not. And so it's a sticky situation sometimes, but that's why I'm working with the indigenous, like that seminary down there, and help supporting them. They can get into those places, and it's great that way. So that's going to be September. And then Argentina in November. And you and I will be there together. It's going to be a great trip.

We'll be there together. Looking forward to that.

Will: Great trip. It's so exciting what's happening.


You know, setting up learning communities or doing theological education, that sounds pretty tame. But then you've already talked about some stories in San Salvador and now in Colombia about the dangers of it and just the different challenges that you run into. Maybe tell us a story that got a little bit too exciting. And tell us why prayer support and prayer cover is really so important for our ministries.

Will: Wow. Okay. Prayer is just important. Period. Cuba was the one that really made me sweat a whole lot. And when I got back people said, "Was it exciting?" No, it was not exciting. I was terrified. But it was when we were trying to get all the education into Cuba, all the Third Mill courses into Cuba, for enough of the pastors to get started on these tablets. We had a system where people from all over the United States, churches, would take tablets in one by one, and then we had a meeting at a hotel, gathering the tablets, stockpiling, waiting for the day we started. But a lot of the groups that were going into Cuba, they didn't want to take the SD cards with all the information on it. Nobody did for whatever reason, so I decided to. I got there in line. They were all in my backpack.

So you're going through Customs?

Will: Well, yeah. On the airplane, I feel bad, because I had cut all these little compartments in my backpack to hide them. About all of them. And I felt this overwhelming conviction on the airplane, going to Cuba thinking… You remember back in Russia the boxes of Bibles, and the blindness and, you know, they got right through.

The Cross and the Switchblade, right.

Will: I'm like, if God can blind people's eyes to Bibles, he surely can little microSD cards. So I have these baggies of microSD cards, I just take them from the hiding places and put them in my bag and said what's going to happen happens. Well I get up to the front desk and they take my passport and a red light comes up, and he goes, "Go over there," and he keeps my passport. And I meet my first "friend" that takes me to the back, starts interviewing me. I'm talking about a 20-minute-long interview: "What are you doing? Family members?" He takes my camera. "What pictures are you taking here?" All sorts of things. He takes everything out of my camera bag and my backpack and moves around the baggies of microSD cards, and just moves them around and never says a word about them, like he never sees them. He takes me through the gate, and a big metal gate, magnetic, opens up and I go through the x-ray machine. Nothing. But I go on the other side of the x-ray machine and there's, "Mr. Will." And there's another big guy with a big gun. I'm already sweating.

Right, your second "friend."

Will: Second friend. Second interview. The exact same one for about 20 minutes. He takes everything out of my bag just like the first one except the microSD cards with all the education. To speed this up a little bit, third time, same thing, same interview, same search. Nothing. The fourth time it was a lady — this is over an hour — same interview, same search. I finally said, "Is there anything wrong?" "Hold on one second." She brings the first guy in, they compare stories, compare all of the interviews to make sure it was legit, and I go out. Then my friend who was there, he's waving at me, and I'm like, you know, don't talk to me! Don't talk to me! And I just go, and I stand in the parking lot. A car comes and gets me; we go off to the church. When I get there they said, "Did you bring the education?" I said, "Yeah, I've got it." And they said, "Well, let us have it." I started bringing baggie after baggie after baggie out with microSD cards, and that's when they told me… They were like, "¡Oh, dios mío! ¡Oh, dios mío! How did this happen?" And I'm like, "I don't know. You asked for the education. I brought it in for the people that you said that you had in the program." And that's when I found in you can bring in five blank memory cards per person. And they went, "How many did you bring?" I said, "720."


Will: Right. They never saw them. And you know, I literally attribute that to not my hiding places that I had because they weren't hidden, but the Lord wanting the education somewhere and he got it in, and their eyes were shut to it. I was terrified. And you know, I never want that to happen again. I'm not a thrill seeker in that way. But that happens all the time, whether it's that or big DVD duplicators in Nicaragua, and the only bag they don't ask for is that one with the duplicator in it after it goes through the scanner. They've obviously seen it, and they don't ask for it. You just get things through. There's a lot of people out there wanting biblical education and needing it, and now there's a lot of seminaries out there that are saying, "We have these networks, giant networks, and we don't know how to get to them. Can you help just get to them and help us with that?"

Hunger for the Word of God. But not Jesus plus.

Will: Not Jesus plus. They are blown away with a theology that says it's in Christ alone.

Amen. Thanks for your time, Will. Appreciate your being here.

Will: I enjoyed it.

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries where we are reimagining biblical education for Christian leaders in a global church. Each week we bring you conversations to cultivate your curiosity about God's word, to inform your intercessions for God's people, and to equip your efforts in God's mission for the world. Our host is Dr. Greg Perry. Our sound engineer and editor is Christopher Russell. Our web designer is Ra McLaughlin. Production assistance is provided by Stephanie Mathis. And I'm your announcer, Cindy Sawyer. Today's podcast was brought to you by The Grace Institute and by listeners like you. Thank you.