Two days is certainly not enough time to fully understand the culture of a city, so I will say that everything I write here is merely my initial perception of this region of Mexico. It seems that we are living now in a culture of confusion - religious confusion.
The city of Cancun itself is a mix of rich and poor, American and Mexican, healthy and hungry, tourist and native. It is a melting pot of people and cultures. In that way it is similar to many cities in the U.S. - New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit. But that same trend seems to be present in their religion. We are living and working with a non-denominational mission run by Baptist missionaries. Down our street to the east is a Presbyterian church. Across the street is a small Christian bookstore. Down our street to the west is a Baptist church. Across the street from there is a Pentecostal church. Beside the Baptist church is an Adventist church. And behind it is a large Catholic church. In town yesterday, we walked near another Catholic church and I went in. They were holding a service for the baptism of a young lady - maybe 16 or 17 - who had apparently converted to Catholicism. Catholicism here is so ingrained in this culture that many people here think to be Mexican is to be Catholic. Some Mexicans who have never set foot in a church will tell us that they are Christians. As I was standing outside the church, a woman approached me claiming to be a Jehovah's Witness and asking if I was as well. Thus, my initial perception of this area of Mexico is a culture of religious confusion.
However, there is at least one light shining brightly in this city (on our street, in fact!). Iglesia Bautista Cristo Te Ama, or Jesus Loves You Baptist Church, both knows and is preaching clearly the Word of God. This morning we visited this church of about 150 people with Ricardo and Devora, a dear couple that we are living and working with here. Pastor Martin Lemos was not afraid to speak out against the doctrinal errors being taught in the church right behind us! The message was a continuation of a series on salvation and focused today on Ephesians 2:8-10, how we are saved by faith alone and not by works of our own righteousness. The passage was preached along with James chapter 2 to show that while faith alone saves, good works prove the existence and validity of that faith. Examples were shown in Hebrews 11 of the great men and women of the faith whose good works accompanied their faith and proved it to be real. At the end of the sermon, Pastor Martin didn't simply close the service; he made the application very clear: "If you are one of those who say that you believe in Jesus, but you still go on living the same way you were before, your faith is dead. To believe in Jesus is not enough, for even the demons believe and tremble - James 2:19. Unless the faith you claim has changed the way you live, your faith is dead." I was so encouraged to hear a brother speaking the truth to his people - faithfully preaching the Word.
Other parts of the service included sharing prayer requests and praise reports, announcements, welcoming visitors (including us), singing hymns and choruses (led by the youth group), meeting and greeting the people, Bible reading and prayer. We will be back there for the evening service in about 4 hours and we're looking forward to getting to know these dear brothers and sisters better.
So as we minister, please pray that we will be able to keep doctrinal clarity in our preaching and be able to "speak the truth in love" to this very confused people.