The three Os basically represent a faith that affects the head, the hands, and the heart, the head being orthodoxy — the doctrinal, foundational component of Scripture; the hands being orthopraxy — the practice of Scripture, the practical, day-to-day application of God’s Word; and then orthopathy — the affective, emotional, and soulful engagement with God, his Word, and his world. That’s the part Latinos enjoy and offer in a big and growing way today.
No Small Scandal
I would argue that historically the white church has really focused on orthodoxy, what the Word says; the black church has focused on orthopraxy, how you live out the gospel with social justice and equality; and the Latino church is saying, “Yes, but what about orthopathy?” We must make room for this. What about engaging the emotional, the affective domain? Not only what it looks like in our daily lives and in our worship services, but more so in a holistic manner that even engages our hearts, our sentiments, our feelings, our passions.
A. W. Tozer referenced John Wesley’s comments as he noted a diminishing of passion in the church:
It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the kingdom, to see God’s children starving while actually seated at the Father’s table. The truth of Wesley’s words is established before our eyes: “Orthodoxy, or right opinion, is, at best, a very slender part of religion. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions, yet right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is proof of this.”
So it’s the passionate gospel of which we speak—that is, the passion of Christ. Such a powerful gospel cannot be limited simply to right doctrines and practices; it is also given to affect right, and righteous, passions. Just as the eye can see and discern colors, so can the soul feel and discern passions.
A Spotlight on Seven Practices of Soulful Faith
Just what are the characteristics and practices of a soulful Christianity? During hundreds of conversations among Latinos in dozens of states and nations, we found a few common practices clearly discernible and broadly embraced. We have seen these common practices all the way from Los Angeles to Lima, from Barcelona to Belize. While there are many Christian groups who practice some of these, our contention is that an unusual number of Latino Evangelicals and churches practice most or all of them; they are gloriously endemic to the DNA of Evangélicos (a term used by many to refer to Latino Evangelicals) today.
Practice 1: Honoring Christ in Their Lives Daily—¡Honor a Cristo Diariamente!
Many Latino Christians intentionally engage the presence of Jesus Christ in prayer, intimacy, and passionate worship every day. In many places, this is the first part of the day and, in some, at the earliest part of the day. They practice the presence of Jesus in their lives. This practice develops a worshiping soul.
Practice 2: Centering Their Lives on the Word of God—¡Se Centran en la Biblia!
At a time in history in which many people have allowed their view and use of the Bible to diminish, Latinos are emphasizing the vital place the Word of God has in the life of a believer. This practice is the foundation of Latino passion and develops a well-fed soul. It also fuels a sense of responsibility and a desire to live a life of purity.
Practice 3: Empowered by the Holy Spirit—¡El Poder del Espíritu Santo!
Latino Christians love experiencing a faith in its fullness, in its full enjoyments and expressions. This is experienced through the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. The fullness of the Spirit grows an overflowing soul and is the Source of the passion.
Practice 4: Connected Multiethnically—¡Conectado Multi-Étnicamente!
In several places today, Latino churches are reaching out to other nationalities and ethnicities. They are looking beyond themselves to their neighborhoods and caring for others. These practices help grow a more loving soul as we work with someone who shares our passion.
Practice 5: Generationally Linked—¡Generacionalmente Vinculados!
The Evangélicos are incredibly connected to their families. They believe in honoring their husbands, wives, sons, daughters, and all relatives. Dr. Samuel Pagan confesses they are a culture that is “externally patriarchal, but internally very matriarchal.”4 Juana Bordas says, “In our homes we say, ‘The man wears the pants in the house, but the woman tells him which pair.’ ”5 The place of family, elders, and children plays a vital and deeply felt important role of passing on the passion. Strong family commitments help grow an honoring soul.
Practice 6: Community Oriented and Engaged — Orientado a la Comunidad!
The GLOBE study, a cultural survey of most nations of the world, shows that predominantly Latino nations and regions are much more collectivist than the United States (which tends to be more individualistic).6 There is a deep sense of community among Latino churches and faith groups, as well as seeking to unite their passion. Community helps grow a connected soul.
Practice 7: Transforming Their World One Soul at a Time — Transformar el Mundo!
There is an “edge” to the ministries and outreaches of Latino Christians that stands out in our world today. This edge is characterized by things bold and prophetic. In using the word prophetic, we mean something that is sharply and boldly attuned to the need of the hour or of the moment. This can be felt in Latino preaching, worship, and leadership. The prophetic edge in life, faith, and prayer helps grow a bold soul with a passion for the lost, a faith clearly mixed with expectation and hope.
Engaging the Fiesta!
One way to consider the differences of the three Os is in the context of a birthday party. Let’s say you receive the birthday invitation telling you that a celebration is scheduled and how (where and when) you can be a part of it. In a sense, that is orthodoxy, receiving the essential information.
Next, let’s say you go out and carefully select the right gift to bring to the birthday boy or girl. You put your mind and your hands to work to select and purchase something appropriate to give. That is the orthopraxy, engaging in the work needed to be a blessing at the party.
Then, let’s say after receiving the birthday announcement and picking out an appropriate gift, you fail to show up at the party. In a very real sense, you have missed something vital. You have missed the point of it all. Engaging in the party, the fiesta, is the orthopathy; it is the celebration itself. Remember, to the faithful Jesus said, “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21, esv). Another version says, “Let’s celebrate together!” (nlt).
Donald Miller captures this same idea in another way:
The whole time Jesus was extending an invitation to a spiritual marriage, our oneness with Him allowing God to see us in Christ’s righteousness rather than our own. It would be most tragic for a person to know everything about God, but not God; to know all about the rules of spiritual marriage, but never walk the aisle.