There have only been a handful of people who I have met throughout my life that I was absolutely in awe of.
You know, the kind of person in which wisdom just oozes out of their mouth, love seems to be attached to every word they speak, and humility radiates out of every pore. Those people are hard to come by and its a privilege to be around them.
I was truly blessed to have the opportunity to meet such a person last week. This incredible man of God would be surprised by this description and probably embarrassed by it. He's too busy to think about how incredible he is and doesn't look at his accomplishments as something to boast about. That's what makes him so special and why God has chosen to do so much through him.
I can't name him, due to security reasons but this humble servant of God is from India and is a part of a church planting ministry that his father founded years ago. He was soft-spoken, barefoot, and small in stature but his eyes sparkled as he showed us pictures that depicted the work that the Lord is doing in his part of the world. What he shared was absolutely amazing.
He described how their ministry helps give aid to those in need, provides schools for children in impoverished areas, develops orphanages, plants churches, and holds outreach events all with the intent of sharing the gospel of Christ to those who have never heard the name of Jesus.
It's hard for us to wrap our minds around the idea of people never hearing the name of Jesus, but for even the very few that have heard of Christ, He is just another god added to a list of thousands.
He told incredible stories of how God shows His power through the use of various sign gifts, or incredible displays of the Holy Spirit, in order to lead the people to to truth of the gospel and to God's Word.
One such story was about a village where each week, for 26 or more weeks, a person had become ill and died every Sunday. The leaders were at a loss of what to do.
They learned that a neighboring tribe had put a curse on their village but after trying witch doctor after witch doctor the curse could not be broken. One week, not only one person became ill but there were two.
As a last resort, one of the leaders suggested that they invite the "Jesus man" that they had chased off weeks before to come in and try his "magic" to see if he could break the curse. They were desperate.
The "Jesus man" was brought in and he approached one of the afflicted men and offered prayer. He refused and wanted nothing to do this this man's god. The other man accepted and complete healing was prayed for. That Sunday, one man lived and one man died. You can guess which one.
The following week, two men became ill again and the "Jesus man" was called in. This time, both men were prayed for and both lived. The curse appeared to be broken so the people were intrigued.
He was given the chance to tell the whole tribe about Jesus and shared about His power over the curse of sin. He gave them the opportunity to turn from their gods and follow the One True God. The entire village made the decision to follow Christ and indeed the curse was broken.
He spoke about the challenges they have in dealing with the vast number of tribes who are traditionally forbidden to mix with other tribes, not to mention the caste system in place which keeps people separate from each other. They have found that the best way to plant churches is to pray for converts within each village who are trained and developed into leaders to serve in their own church. Having a church building built is also a necessity since there has to be a "neutral" location where people within the various systems can actually meet together.
As he shared, there was such an excitement in his voice as he described the heart of the people in India. Once someone prays to accept Christ, the next step is baptism. However, this process may take months as they work with the people to really understand what being a Christian means. Most don't mind the people accepting Christ, because he is just another god to add to the list, but baptism is another story. It symbolizes a whole different commitment.
He said that baptism is where the persecution starts.
They don't take it lightly. Something in the heart of the people understand that when a believer chooses baptism, they turn their back on all other gods and follow Christ exclusively. This is the threat they are afraid of because the people are being told that this act will bring a curse upon the land. Even with the threat of persecution, baptisms occur daily and they have baptized up to 13,000 people in one day.
Because of this great movement, Christians are being targeted for unfair treatment, violence and imprisonment. The government is threatened and are sending out their own "missionaries" to warn people about the dangers of Christianity. It has become a race to see who can reach the unreached people first.
Although these stories were fascinating and it was so great to hear what is going on in this vast country, I later reflected on why this man had such an impact on my life.
I came up with 3 things that he taught me:
1. We often make ministry more about us than about God.
As he shared his work with us and urged us to come and see with our own eyes how God is working in such a powerful way in his part of the world, he wasn't trying to "sell us" on anything. He wasn't trying to get us to support the work or to manipulate our emotions in a way to get us to be involved. He said that God always gives them exactly what they need as long as they follow His lead. He wants us to see the work so our own faith can be strengthened.
It hit me that ministry doesn't really depend on us at all because God provides, He is in control. and He does the work. God by all means invites us into it in order to be blessed by it, but it doesn't live or die because of us personally. That was a bit sobering but freeing all at the same time. This man invited us to see God's power at work and to be immersed in an environment where we could hear from God as He told us how He would like to work through us, wherever we are.
2. We have to be careful not to judge the power or the effectiveness of the God through our own American lenses.
It's so easy to believe that God is passive or that the "whole world is going to hell in a hand-basket" (whatever that means). But that seems to be the attitude in our country, especially lately. There seems to be such discouragement in the American church about the decline of morals and values and rightly so, but we can't judge the world by our own self-centered focus.
Just because we don't seem to see the Spirit of God manifesting it's power in incredible ways in our own frame of reference doesn't mean it's not going on in a lot of different places around the globe. The stories I've heard lately from India, Africa and the Middle East are crazy. God is at work. Maybe if we took following after God as seriously as these believers who know that once they are baptized, their life is quite possibly over, we would start taking the power of God available to us through the Holy Spirit a lot more seriously. There are no casual church-goers there.
3. We need to know what the Word of God says, be able to defend it, and lovingly share with others why we believe it.
This man grew up in India but lived in the United States for a few years as his wife was educated here. He hadn't been back for a while, but stated that this was the first time he really felt concerned for our country. He has seen a big decline in the moral environment and is worried since the world looks to us for guidance in many things.
I have written a lot lately about the various idols in our lives, and he used that very word to describe his concern. He said that American have too many other idols in their lives that they can easily turn to and God seems to be getting more and more pushed aside. He said he has seen how the "church" has done the same thing. That's something we need to fight against and it's so easy to put our focus on the "American dream" instead of the pursuit of God.
The beauty of the family of God is that we can learn from each other and be encouraged and motivated to do things differently. That is what meeting this man has done for me and I hope as I have shared just a piece of it, I have done the same for you.
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.
1 Chronicles 29:11-12