Often when leaders return from mission trips, they exalt the areas of strength in the churches they just visited over the apparent shortcomings in their own church. Sometimes this comes across as a form of manipulation to get their church to “behave correctly,” but other times, that difference stands as a contrast and a helpful, convicting reminder. My intent here is to highlight that reminder.
PRAY LIKE YOU MEAN IT
For me, the strength of the Ethiopian church that blew me away was the seriousness of their prayers. They pray like people who truly know and believe God listens and works his will through their petitions. For example, when a church planter would say, “Pray for me,” there was this murmur of prayer immediately after his request—the church was praying for him right then and there! It was a beautiful sound to hear, and an interesting thought to engage with. In our culture, when someone asks us to pray for them or when we say, “I’ll pray for you,” we often do not. I have been guilty of this and it is absolute insanity to think that we have the ability to petition the living God, the God of all Creation, to bring our cares to him, and then not do it.
Perhaps the most moving time in Ethiopia for me was an extended time of prayer we had on the last day. We were all exhausted, most of us were or had been sick for a few days, but this time of prayer brought an amazing encouragement to all who were a part of it. When the time for prayer began, everyone in the room got up from their chairs and got onto their knees, women with their faces to the floor in humility, and men with heads bowed. They began by asking the Lord for a great and glorious favor on the forward progress of the gospel. On my knees with no distinction between me and my brothers and sisters in the Lord next to me besides the color of my skin, one could not help but weep and cry out to the Lord of all to ask him for a renewed favor on his church and his people. It was truly a moving and deeply encouraging time.
BE UNIFIED IN THE GOSPEL
As we were welcomed by the church and the elders, we were blessed to be given a seat in the front row. To our left were seated the elders of the church, men who had served the Lord faithfully together for 25–30 years, men who had served time in prison for their faith, men who had prayed together for the Ethiopian church weekly for 30 years. Behind them sat 2,500 pastors, church planters, evangelists, and wives who were the fruit of their amazing ministry together. Thirty years of committed, unified, humble, prayerful ministry.
Oh how sweet it is when brothers dwell in unity, cries David. And how the kingdom is advanced through the faithfulness of a few men. The New Testament church of Jesus Christ started with 120 faithful leaders and now, more than 2,000 years later, it is the biggest movement on the face of the Earth in all history. This small group of faithful men in Ethiopia, committed to the gospel and each other over 30 years, can look out at over 2,000 pastors and evangelists who are changing the face of Ethiopia for the glory of Jesus Christ. May God be gracious to us and grant us the same legacy.