By Ken Yates
One of the things that GES does is take the message of grace to other countries. In almost all cases, we find that pastors and seminary students in these countries have very limited exposure to Free Grace theology. Recently, my daughter and I were able to take part in this ministry in an African country.
Catherine and Jimmy are a couple from Kenya who run a school for children up to the 8th grade. Part of the curriculum includes Bible teaching. Through GES, they asked if I could come and do a conference for pastors in Kenya. In addition, they wanted my daughter Kathryn to do the same for the wives of the pastors.
Not surprisingly, we were informed that these pastors and wives did not have an understanding of Free Grace theology. They all believed that eternal salvation could be lost. As a result, we were asked to emphasize what the Bible says about receiving eternal life.
Catherine and Jimmy had been heavily influenced by a friend from the United States. Many years ago, Catherine had been the roommate with this friend as they worked together in an orphanage. Catherine, at that time, also rejected Free Grace theology. However, after five months with this roommate and her going over and over John 3:16, Catherine believed in the gospel of eternal life and for the first time knew she would be in the kingdom, regardless of what would happen in the future.
Catherine, of course, shared this great news with her husband Jimmy. Free Grace theology plays the central role in what they do at the school. Naturally, they wanted us to share it with the pastors and wives who would come to our conferences.
Kathryn and I were able to do four conferences in February. One was for the wives, and two were for the pastors. Kathryn was also able to do a conference for Sunday School teachers. All of these conferences focused on the free offer of eternal life through faith in Christ alone. In accordance with the teachings of the NT, those who believe have the assurance that they have eternal life. They can never lose it. One of the conferences for the pastors was longer than the other. After discussing the nature of eternal life, we did a study in the Book of Hebrews.
There were a total of approximately 120 “students” at these conferences. It is safe to say that none of them had ever heard of the things that were taught.
At first, the pastors and wives had a hard time comprehending what grace was all about. Part of the problem was that they had never studied the Scriptures in context. It was hard for them to see that we cannot simply quote a verse divorced from that context. However, as the conferences continued, many of them were able to see the permanent nature of eternal life and the freeness of the offer.
Two very encouraging reactions stand out for me. In Kenya, there are “overseers.” These are what we in the States would call denominational leaders. These men have responsibilities involving a number of churches. One of these men, at the conclusion of the conference he attended, said, “We have been teaching the wrong things in our churches. We have only been teaching condemnation to our people. We need to teach them grace.”
Another overseer voiced the same sentiments. He said that he wanted Kathryn and me to return to do more conferences. He said, “Our pastors need to hear this teaching. When you come back, I am going to invite all of our pastors to attend.”
After Kathryn and I left, there was an “after action review” of the conferences. Catherine and Jimmy informed us that all in attendance said they want more of this teaching. These pastors and wives said they wanted to do it “as soon as possible.”
There were a lot of lessons learned on this trip to Kenya.
First, we in the Free Grace movement have much to be thankful for. We have been exposed to such outstanding teaching through the years. We should give thanks for such blessings. It was hard to see pastors who had never been told that eternal life was eternal and was a free gift.
Second, we can be used by God in circumstances that we think are insignificant. Catherine’s roommate at that orphanage who taught her Free Grace not only impacted Catherine’s life. She impacted Jimmy’s and the kids that Catherine and Jimmy teach. The school has around 120 students who are hearing the message of grace in a country where such a message is rarely heard.
Third, God is at work even when we don’t recognize it. The Free Grace movement is small, and it is easy to get discouraged. We see Lordship and Arminian theology seemingly running rampant, and we begin to feel like Elijah—I am the only one proclaiming the message of grace.
But the message of grace is being proclaimed in places we are not aware. Catherine and Jimmy have an outstanding library of Free Grace books that pastors in the area can check out and read. This is all going on in the middle of Kenya. Until I went on this trip, I had no idea that such a ministry existed!
Fourth, as Free Grace people, we work together and can encourage one another. On this trip it was amazing to see how others had contributed to what was done. Catherine’s friend from the US had proclaimed the message of grace and was used by God to get things started. There were Free Grace churches in the United States that supported all that we did. This included paying for the transportation and food for the pastors and their wives to attend. Others paid for the Free Grace literature that we were able to pass out to those who attended.
The message of grace is the Biblical message. As such, God wants it to go out. How exciting to know that God can and does use us to proclaim to people around the world that Jesus gives eternal life to those who simply believe in Him for it. It is a life they can never lose.
Thanks for all those involved in getting that message out!
Ken Yates is the pastor of Little River Baptist Church in Jenkinsville, SC. He teaches at Bible institutes all over the world on behalf of GES.