I’m typing this from Bharuch, India, in the state of Gujurat in the northwest part of India. We arrived yesterday evening, after spending the previous night in Mumbai (Bombay). When we got to Bharuch, we were rushed into a Christian concert, being held in the center of town. Larry and I were recognized as special guests, and I was asked to sing a song. Let’s just say it was a humbling moment, but I trust the Lord encouraged people through it.
I’m teaching a three day conference at a “spiritual life center” in Bharuch. The center is made up of various rustic buildings, including some for sleeping, and a meeting room for 150 people. It was started as a hospital campus in the early part of the last century. For different reasons, primarily economic, the hospital had to close down in 1957, and after that became a Christian center. There are numerous wild pigs, dogs, and a peacock roaming the grounds. We’re on the edge of one of the rivers the Hindu people consider holy, and numerous makeshift Hindu temples adorn the sides of the water.
There are about 160 people attending the conference, about 120 of them pastors in churches connected to Logos Wholistic Ministries. The rest are either students or wives of the pastors. Wilson told me that probably 80% of them have been persecuted for their faith. Some have seen their church buildings burned down by others. For that reason, most of them meet in homes rather than public buildings. There are many humble, attentive, encouraging, and godly men and women here.
I’ve just finished up a day of teaching four sessions, and have spoken on What is Worship?, Why Do We SIng?, and started the message on What Do We Sing About? I am encouraged that I’m able to share the same material as in Andra Pradesh, on the other side of India, and see a similar effect. I’ve told the group that even though we have different backgrounds, speak a different language, and are from different countries, we have two things in common: we are great sinners and we have a greater Savior – Jesus Christ.
The instrumentation here is limited. A few drums, and a 24 note Casio synthesizer. They asked me to sing a song, which I did, although I must admit, I don’t think it’s ever sounded like that before. Still, the people seemed appreciative. At the end of the day, we all sang Psalm 117 with our own melody and at our own pace, accompanied by some GREAT drummers. To an outsider, it would have sounded like complete nonsense, but people indicated afterwards that God’s Word was planted more deeply in their hearts as we sang. One woman shared that her husband had died four months ago and while she has seen God’s faithfulness in sustaining her, she experienced a renewed awareness of His strength in her life as she sang. Another man shared how as he was singing God gave Him a greater faith for the day when people from every nation would bow before the throne of Jesus.
I continue to appreciate the fact that God’s Word must be our only guide as we seek to understand how to worship Him. The non-negotiables of worshipping God must be the same in every culture, if we’re to avoid confusing our preferences with God’s priorities.
As I thought, I’m learning much more than I’m teaching…