I recently spent nine days in Kenya (July 30-August 7). While there, I was given the opportunity to preach in three different churches. At another church, I was asked to lead a Bible study of people who have been exposed to Free Grace teaching and had believed in the Biblical gospel of grace. I just wanted to share my reflections on what I experienced.
The people in Kenya speak Swahili, but most also speak English. Since their native tongue is Swahili, however, I had an interpreter each time. I was asked at the Bible study to teach on the parables of the Lord. The study lasted four hours. The people wanted it to last that long. There were about 90-100 in attendance, and some of them had traveled for hours on public transportation to be there. After the study, they would spend the same amount of time traveling back home.
This was one of the highlights of my trip to Kenya. These people had grabbed hold of the grace of Christ and wanted to hear more. They were genuinely interested. It was exciting to see the commitment they made to hear it and see the questions they asked. It was also convicting. Would I make such an investment to get sound teaching for just one day? I don’t think I am alone when I say that I am not sure I would.
Preaching in these churches was also an eye-opening experience. None of the three pastors had ever had the opportunity to receive theological education. Their churches were extremely humble. There was no running water. There were no windows. The churches all had dirt floors with no heating or air conditioning. The people either sat on plastic chairs or crude wooden benches with no backs. Two of the churches shared restroom facilities with others in the community. In one case, I was told not to use such facilities, that it would be better to “hold it.” I took that advice.
Two of these churches had had little or no exposure to the message of grace. In both cases I spoke on the woman at the well. After the sermon, both pastors and some of the people commented that they now knew they had eternal life. It was difficult to determine if they were being polite or if the light of grace had reached them. Of course, I hope for the latter.
The third church was another highlight of the trip. The pastor had been exposed to the Free Grace message through a Free Grace ministry in Kenya. When he found out I was going to be in the country, he asked if I could speak at the church. I addressed the gospel of grace, but my focus was on some more mature teachings, such as rewards and the importance of good works in discipleship. I spoke for about an hour and sat down.
The pastor asked that if after a time of singing, I would preach another sermon. I thought the people would revolt at such an idea, but they all agreed to stay. It was an unprepared message, but it was over the same ideas.
The reason this was a highlight was not because I was asked to give another sermon during the same service, which had never happened to me in the United States. It was what happened afterwards. The pastor stood before the congregation and told them that he had been teaching them false doctrine since he had been there. He said the bishop of the church had as well. From now on, he said, he would teach the assurance of salvation and that works deal with discipleship and not their eternal destiny. I can’t comprehend how hard it was for that man to do that. It certainly reflects a great deal of humility.
I don’t think it is possible to go through something like preaching in those three churches and teaching in that Bible study, without coming to certain conclusions. Whatever term we want to use, such as “blessed” or “fortunate,” that is what we are. Probably everyone reading this blog has at his fingertips sound teaching. God has brought such teachers into our lives in various ways. We have discussed with knowledgeable believers the meaning of passages like James 2, Matthew 7, salvation in the book of Philippians, the Judgment Seat of Christ, and on and on. We know people we can call to discuss them even further. If we want theological education, we can even study the original languages of the Scriptures.
We go to comfortable churches, where refreshments are served, and we can then go out to eat at restaurants when it is all over. Imagine trying to preach every Sunday when you don’t have these advantages. Imagine telling a room full of people that you have led them astray theologically, but you will make it your goal to rectify your serious error. Imagine a church service where it is better to “hold it” than use the restroom. Imagine being so starved for healthy teaching that you would spend 6 hours traveling in order to attend a two-hour Bible study. You don’t even know the teacher, but simply know he is going to teach about Free Grace.
What responsibilities do you and I have? To whom much is given, much is expected.