A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to be part of the team that organized a monthly prayer conference for pastors in the western region of Pune. This post is about the experience I had there.
Let me lay my heart open about interacting with pastors from other denominations – I used to frequent a church where I have seen a lack of faithfulness to the preaching of the one true gospel and where out-of-context sermons were commonplace. So when my job required me to be at the monthly prayer conference s with pastors from various types of churches, though I was excited, part of me was apprehensive.
Here was a chance to network with various church leaders, learn from and share with them. But would I have to encounter unbiblical teachings? What would happen if anyone in our team openly disagrees with a pastor, senior to us in both age and experience?
Such were my thoughts as Vishal our church elder, Lokesh, my dear brother and gifted teacher and I walked into the venue: a standard, low-budget hall with yellow walls and dim tube-lights. We began setting up the place as pastors and church leaders began trickling in slowly.
The meeting started with a time of singing led by two young men who made mistakes, but still did a good job- soon, we all joined in. We sang some meaningful and touching Hindi songs about Jesus Christ boisterously. After a time of praying for needs and a session on training church leaders in local churches for the purpose of church planting, we broke up into small groups to discuss a chapter from the discipleship training material that was being introduced.
I was to help the small group of pastors and church leaders before me with the 1st chapter and facilitate the discussion. This chapter was about the core message of the gospel. I looked at the chapter and then at the pastors who had by now, gathered chairs in a small circle.
Are these brothers going to affirm the gospel in its basics? Or are they going to come up with popular but unbiblical versions of this gospel? Was that pastor looking at me as if I am a museum exhibit?
We began our discussion with a good look at the book of Acts 10, where the apostle Peter shared the gospel message to the non-Jewish people for the first time ever. As the discussion went on, the motley crew of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ distilled the simple message of Jesus Christ from Acts 10. It looked something like this:
– Jesus Christ is the Lord of all .
– God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and with power.
– He went about doing good and healing people.
– The people put him to death by crucifying him.
– But God raised him on the third day and made him appear to many.
– He commanded his followers to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.
– The prophets in the Old Testament have borne witness that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
And it was then that the group began to open up and affirm how this gospel message was the most important thing to us Christians. We went on to share about how each of us first received this good news. Did we hear this complete message? Or were parts of the gospel left out for some reason?
I saw how each person in the group began to share as God’s Holy Spirit gave utterance. One middle-aged lady, who seemed a bit reserved, shared how people walk away from churches because the gospel was not shared in it’s entirety with them and they probably never were followers of Jesus in the first place. Sad fact, but true!
I also was encouraged by one gentleman, a 40-something church leader. He was quiet throughout the discussion. Towards the end, he spoke up something to this effect-”Many people come to Christ because someone tells them “Come to Jesus and He will meet your need of a car or a fan or a house.” And when God doesn’t give them those things, they show no more interest in who Jesus is. Or, after they get what they came for, they leave, because they got what they really came for! No! For us who have a relationship with Christ, He has given us eternal life! We are forgiven-what else do we need? ”.
He smiled, his eyes sparkling as I too sensed the joy that flooded our group, which was from God because truth was being proclaimed; Jesus was being made famous. Awesome! I was thrilled to hear words that placed all their confidence in Jesus Christ and were boasting about His good message that had brought light to each of our darkened lives and called us “unworthies”, saints.
Now we made His children to represent Him in our city. Wow. What a privilege to have been a part of this conference. I look forward to the next one, come agreements or disagreements. Because this is our chance to be part of Christ’s work.
Are we content to be part of our own church’s growth and largely ignore networking with other churches to serve them?
Or do we believe and plan our lives as if the Holy Spirit is actively working in all Jesus-followers in the city?