Preaching in the Big Tent
January 29, 2012
On Sunday I spoke twice at the big tent that the local church had erected. To get there we wound our way through the city until we suddenly turned onto a compound owned by the Methodist Church. In the morning I preached to a few hundred. At night the crowd was considerably larger.
Benny arranged things both times so that Josh and I arrived at the tent after the service had already started. This is done mostly for security reasons because it is better if we are not there for an extended period of time. In the morning we listened to an enthusiastic singer who moved the crowd. Translated from Hindi, the song says, “Jesus, I give my all my life to you.” The congregation was demonstrative but not boisterous, from time to time saying “Amen!” and raising their hands. Benny announced me as an author who also has a radio and TV ministry, and then said that he often comes to the Keep Believing website to find sermon material. More than once on this trip Benny has said he “steals” my sermons, but I tell him that’s not possible because “there is no stealing among friends.” We just share what we have with each other.
I preached this morning on Why Is Life So Hard? from 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. The folks really perked up when I did my rendition of holding Josh as a child and singing “Good little boys don’t cry, cry, cry” while trying to get him to go to sleep. It was doubly fun since Josh was sitting on the side watching me do it.
Benny picked us up at 8 PM for the evening service, which is late by American standards but it works here because people can eat supper before coming to the service. A huge crowd filled the tent. I enjoyed listening to the children from Alpha Bible Church sing with great joy. The children are beautiful to behold and beautiful to hear. Pastor Cherian Mathews and his wife (Mother Grace) both addressed the crowd. Because they pioneered the work in India many years ago, they are well known and greatly loved. Benny’s brother Davis pastors the local congregation. This is really a “family ministry” that has now spread by God’s grace across India with hundreds of churches planted, schools started, clinics established, orphans and widows helped, and multitudes of young people trained for the ministry. When you are here, you get a “Book-of-Acts” sense about the work they are doing.
But it is not without risk. Hindu militants have been active against Christians in many parts of India. Because Christians proclaim Jesus as the only way to be forgiven and go to heaven, those who come to Christ often face opposition. Sunday morning a new believer wanted to come to the service but could not because her husband beat her with a hockey stick. Last night we prayed for her by name from the platform.
Persecution remains a stark reality for many Indian Christians.
They listened intently as I preached on Joseph and the Providence of God, noting how a deep belief in God’s faithfulness frees us from bitterness and gives us courage to go on. At the end when I said, “Fear not! Keep Believing!” the crowd joined in with me, repeating it several times. It was a very moving moment.
When I stepped down from the platform, Josh and I were whisked away in a car and taken back to the hotel. It’s better for us and better for the people that we not hang around after the service. As we drove away, I could hear Pastor Davis exhorting the people that “God is faithful! He can be trusted!” The appeal faded into the background as our car drove away, engulfed by the nighttime sounds of India.
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