When it comes to the truth of God’s people in the world, there are two ditches we can fall into. The first ditch is one of self-pity and defeat. I’ve met those who feel so alone in their spiritual journey. They are an island unto themselves. They feel like they are the lone voice crying in the wilderness, the only one standing for God in a godless environment. Most people respond to this perception with despair and depression. Nobody likes to be utterly alone. The other ditch is one of pride and arrogance. These people seem to think, “Hey everybody! Look at me! I’m standing alone for the Lord! Nobody else is doing it. Just me! Wonderful old me!” Obviously, this perspective is just as dangerous as the first. Where the first perspective is destroyed by depression, the second perspective is destroyed by pride.
The solution to both of these woefully inadequate perspectives on the people of God is to realize that, no matter when or where you are, God has his people.
One of my favorite Old Testament passages is about the prophet Elijah who wins an amazing spiritual battle against the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18). After such a great victory, Elijah runs away like an emotionally-drained mad man. He basically sulks for a while, wondering why God has put him in a position to stand for Him alone. Elijah wishes that he didn’t have to be the only one who loved God and stood for him. God corrects Elijah, snatching him out of his pity party. He tells the prophet that God has seven thousand men of God in Israel, all who have not bowed their knee to Baal. Elijah felt alone, but God had his people. God always has his people.
Doing missions helps us see that truth lived out before our eyes. It looks like pastors who live on $40 a week. It looks like parents who sacrifice to send their kids to a Christian school. It is people who give and sacrifice to see their church expand. It takes many shapes and sizes, but each depiction reminds us of the same truth: God has his people.
This year we had the privilege of playing a part in two special services. Both were firsts for me. We got to return to areas where we had previously worked and dedicate two new church buildings. On previous mission trips, I had led teams to serve in Ventinilla and in Linao. Both areas were new outreach points – places where little or no evangelical ministry was ongoing. In both places, I had the privilege of preaching the Gospel and seeing many people make decisions for the Lord. As time passed, those new believers were discipled by diligent pastors who conserved the fruit of the harvest. They taught bible studies, baptized new converts, and helped people navigate the land mines of a new life in Christ. People learned spiritual disciplines like prayer and bible study. They learned how to share their faith with their loved ones. New converts were made. And the process would repeat itself all over. Now, after time had passed, these places were blessed to have actual houses of worship.
In Ventinilla, Pastor Manny was elated to tell us of the work that had been done there. Last July, a small group of people determined to form a church held a Bible study under a mango tree. On July 26 they held a 24 hour fast for a building, trusting that God would supply their needs through His grace. A few short days later, on August 1, construction began on a simple chapel that would soon be their home. Within about a month, they had their first worship services in the new building of Ventinilla Baptist Church. Just a few days ago on January 21, they baptized 9 new converts! Today, they are proud of the new work that God has done there. They are still praying for some basic needs. They borrow chairs every week from their neighbors so that they will have a place to sit. They also don’t have quality musical instruments or a sound system. Most interesting to me, they are praying that God will provide doors for their church! They have a make-shift barrier that they put up during the week to keep out thieves and critters, but on Sunday, the church stands open, welcoming people, dogs, and chickens – all of which often wander through the sanctuary!
I was in Linao for the first time in 2013. We had met Pastor Ferdie for the first time on that trip. He is from a fundamentalist Baptist Church where they sing in choir robes and preach from the KJV – a little different than I’m used to to say the least. But we became quick friends as his love for Jesus shone through everything he did. I was deeply impressed by his commitment to the Gospel and to the mission of our Lord. When we did a clinic and a crusade in Linao, a barangay just a few miles from his home in Pura, we saw more than a hundred people saved. Since that crusade, Pastor Ferdie and his son Jeiel have worked diligently in that community to disciple the fruit from that crusade. I believed so much in what they were doing that I led my church to put up the money for a new building there. We sent them money last summer. A construction project ensued that was monumental. Their men dug footers and stretched those dollars a long way. The result awaited us on February 9.
When we arrived, the building was packed. They let us look around for a few minutes before they cleared the building, asking everyone to go outside for the ribbon cutting. After cutting the ribbon, we went inside to dedicate the building. Unlike Ventinilla, this was the very first Sunday this building was in use. They had been working on it up until the 11th hour. As I stood and preaching from Psalm 127 (“unless the Lord build the house…”), God began to do an unusual work in that place. When I was done, Pastor Ferdie came up behind me and asked me to preach some more. Strangely, that has never happened to me in America! He told me that there were many lost people there at that moment that they thought would be there later for the crusade, and that I should shift gears and preach another evangelistic message. Never one to shy away from preaching, I ramped up again. The end result was God miraculously saving a number of people that afternoon! What a great start for a first day in the building at Linao Baptist Church.
I’ve been in contact with Pastor Ferdie since returning home. I wanted to know how his first day preaching on his own in Linao went. Check out the exchange below…
I wonder if that would happen in your church? Members stand during the worship so that guests could have their seat? I hope it would. After all, it’s when the Body of Christ acts this way that we all see the truth – God has his people!