What a day!
We spent day 3 in a village about 2 hours by car from the Baptist Missionary Center. According to our local guides, we were about 30 kilometers from the Bay of Bengal in an area of islands. There were about 200 families in this village with slightly more than half being Christian. We spent the first part of the day – after tea in the house of a local pastor- at the small village Baptist church. Yep, you read it correctly – Baptist. In an age where the political correctness of the USA is motivating many churches to drop the name of Baptist from their church name – these people of a poor mud hut village were proud to call themselves Baptist. And this is in a country where folks are persecuted for their faith – and by persecuted I don’t mean not allowed to be members of the country club or shunned at the donut shop. I mean real danger, personal danger and family having problems in the greater community persecution.
There were a lot of things about this church – and by church I do not mean the small masonry building with incomplete roof and floor in need of repair – I mean the people who meet together for corporate worship and to support each other that are impressive. The first was that about 15 young men who serve as the deacon body met us at the church. When was the last time you saw the deacon body all show up to greet some strangers who were visiting your village. Not only did they greet us, thank us for coming, serve us fresh coconut juice straight from the coconut, but they gathered and prayed together that our visit would be encouraging to the village and people would be drawn to God because of our visit. Then they had a couple of beautiful songs – without accompaniment- songs of praise for the Goodness of God in their lives. Did I mention they were having this praise service in a masonry building that could use some repair or out under a tree in the yard? Yet they were praising God for His Goodness.
Then the entire group plus several more men walked with us all over the village and prayed for people at their homes who had needs. They had needs like sickness, pain, loss of loved one, stiff joints to name a few. Some of the people prayed with were as our guide put it, “.. Just good people in need of encouragement..” What a concept!
After praying with folks for a couple of hours, we gathered at the home of a local pastor for lunch. Now I will confess I really do not like Indian food and this was about as Indian as Indian food can get. But I am also aware of the rules and the rule is you eat what you are offered without complaint or worry. So we asked Gods Blessing on the food and the home and the hands that prepared the food and ate. It was a very good meal, and it was pretty traditional Indian food. What a day!!!
After lunch we gathered at the church for a service. It seems here they can ring the church bell and have church whenever the mood hits them. I guess the mood sure hit them today because WE HAD CHURCH!! What a church service. The building was full of people who we had just seen around the village except now they had on their best clothes. It was obvious to everyone that the lackadaisical approach to a dress code – which in my own option is simply not showing proper respect and honor- that the Churches I have been attending are espousing was not the dress code here. And the singing – man you have never heard such singing. Everyone joined in, full voice, and praising with the men leading from where they sat. And – I know you are not supposed to start a sentence with and, but there are a lot of ands here- everyone brought an offering. All participated with their tithes and offerings. Yes the men of this church body fully understand their role as leaders and responsible parties and they embrace their role.
We had a couple of folks from our team share their testimony and a short message, then we got down to real faith based Christianity. An altar call was given for any nonbelievers. Before anyone really had a chance to respond, our team was directed to the front of the church to pray with anyone who wanted prayer. We were told they would come to the front and man did they come to the front. We split up, men of our team on one side and women on the other. We prayed in groups of two, groups of three, singles, for healing, for families, for pain, for student’s exams, for sick children, for families that suffered loss, we prayed. And not a person in the room did not not expect to have their prayers answered by a gracious Heavenly Father. We prayed for a while, one of our lady team members said every woman came up for prayer. I saw two men that did not come forward for prayer. Pretty much the whole church membership came forward to ask and believe that God would intervene in their personal life.
What made this even greater is this day was the Hindu Holi festival or as it is called on college campuses across the USA, the festival of colors. It is a national holiday and there was hardly anyone working anywhere we went today. But we had a church house full of committed Christians praying, singing praise, listening to testimony, and worshipping. And- here I go with the ands again-the village did not know we were coming until that very day. This was not a planned celebration, but a spontaneous gathering of Christians – who filled the church. What a day!
I have heard it said and likely I have said it that the church is stronger where there is persecution. We have grown soft in the USA. Things are too easy. We complain about nothing – and by we I mean me – if it hits you as well so be it. Maybe Mark of Freeset, Steve of Oakwood, and Helmut of Prem Dan are right and we do come on mission for what God can accomplish in us. I know I got a lesson in what church is supposed to look like today. Fortunately for me I had seen this same ideal of a church service as a boy in rural west Texas. But what about the folks that have never seen what church should look like. It is time for a revival, a return, a renewal of what a simple Spirit-filled church service should look, feel, and taste like. And the only folks who can make it happen are the regular folks like you and me, not the folks my friend Mike calls “ professional Christians,” just you and me – regular church going, Bible believing, followers of Christ. I am not letting the professional Christians off the hook, the example for dress and tithe was set by the young pastor- who by the way lived in this village but pastured in another. He was in his finest dress and placed his offering in the bag with no show or fan fare just a matter of fact reflection of his normal practice.
So I challenge all of us to get real in our worship, act like we really believe what we say we believe, and get about the business of the church which should be first and foremost to praise and worship the Lord and second to equip the Saints in serving their own personal call on their life. I know a guy who wrote a book titled “ It’s all about Leadership” What I saw this day was the leaders leading with no apology for the standard they set.
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him. Phil 2:13
For we are Gods masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the Good things He has planned for us long ago. Eph 2:10