Recently I had the privilege of traveling to India on behalf of the Global Fellowship which is a ministry The Chapel helped birth 18 months ago based upon a God-inspired idea Dr. Dwight Smith had nearly 15 years ago. You can find more out about the Global Fellowship at gfmission.com. While I was in India we visited three cities (Calcutta, Chennai and Bhubaneswar). In each of these cities, we met with church leaders, pastors and network leaders for that state which in turn represented hundreds of churches and thousands of believers. Each group had numerous and quite incredible stories of how God is working through His people to demonstrate and declare the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is one of those stories that I would like to share with you now, but first it is important to understand the context in which this story is being told. This story comes from a particular city with a notable reputation and significance in the tapestry of Indian history particularly as it relates to the Hindu faith.
The city in question is Bhubaneswar which is located in the state of Orissa. This capital city has roughly one million people and is located on the eastern coast of India, just off the shores of the Bay of Bengal. This region is the place where severe persecution broke out against Christians in that state around five years ago. Many were beaten, their houses burned, thousands displaced from their communities, and in addition several where killed. While the outright chaos has subsided, tensions remain, and those who come to faith in this state are at risk. For instance, at one gospel center the baptisms, which number in the thousands over the past 20 years, are typically done at night as to not cause a riot. The city of Bhubaneswar is the epicenter for Hindu Temple worship for the entire state, country and world. More than 16,000 shrines to various Hindu gods lie within its boundaries, and it has some of the largest and most well-known Hindu temples in the world. People travel from all over India, and the world for that matter, to Bhubaneswar to worship at these shrines and especially at the large temples which date back well over 1,000 years. In addition, this city is one of, if not the top, manufacturer and exporter of idols which represent the various Hindu gods for all of India. We drove by several of these places of business where hundreds of marble idols were being made and ready for sale and shipment. A seemingly present-day embodiment of Acts 19: 23-41 was and is taking place in this city. It is in and against this backdrop I met a man with an amazing story of the power of the gospel.
While on break during the conference being held there, I was introduced to a man of small stature and shy demeanor. He was reluctant to come meet me given I was the primary presenter and had been speaking to the group for most of the morning about the nature and purpose of the Church. At the coaxing of the host though, he came to say hello and for that I am grateful. His story had a profound impact on my faith, theology and passion, and I pray that it does the same for you. Less than a year earlier this man was a tuk-tuk (tuke-tuke) driver. Now a tuk-tuk is basically a motorized tricycle with a rear bench seat that you, depending upon size, can get 2 to 4 people comfortably. These vehicles typically have a soft top and marginal power. Given they are relatively small, get good fuel mileage and are quite mobile, are everywhere and the basic form of transportation in many places. (Please see photo on the left. For security and safety reasons I did not attach a personal picture of the man nor my host as you can appreciate.)
So, back to this man's story. He was a tuk-tuk driver and his life changed forevermore less than 12 months ago. One fine day, my host, let's call him Mark, needed to get into to town so he flagged down a tuk-tuk like most Indians do. Upon entering the tuk-tuk, Mark proceeded to share the gospel with the driver, let's call him Dave. Now Dave the driver had never heard the gospel story but upon hearing it knew it was truth. Before he dropped Mark off, he accepted by faith the message of hope found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ. You may be saying that is a neat story but wait there is more, much more. Unfortunately, I think the American church has become a bit too linear in its thinking. Let me explain.
Dave, the driver, upon accepting God's grace in Jesus was redeemed then and there. However, the power of the gospel was not done. Dave in the face of danger, persecution and the unknown went back to his tuk-tuk community to share the good news of Jesus Christ. For you see, the tuk-tuk drivers and their families all live in communities together to share, to work and to live. He boldly proclaimed that which he knew, which admittedly wasn't much at that point, but God was faithful and around 100 people came to faith; so, Dave planted a church mind you he himself was only a Christian a few days. Upon seeing the response to the gospel at his community, he ventured to the neighboring tuk-tuk community where he had a few friends and guess what happened? Around 100 people came to faith for the first time and he planted another church. So, here you have a guy new to the faith who by sharing his faith planted two churches in a relatively short period of time. But, the story is not done, there is more! Dave decided to go yet again to another tuk-tuk camp further still from his own and share the gospel. You guessed it, God Spirit drew in about 100 more souls who responded to the message and embraced faith in Jesus Christ. A third church was planted based upon conversion, not based upon redistribution! So, standing before me was a man of small stature and quiet demeanor who, because he was faithful to God, was used to save hundreds and will continue to demonstrate the power of the gospel. I was encouraged, humbled and convicted.
I was encouraged because of the power of God working in and through the obedience of one man. You can make a difference as can I. I was humbled given this man knew very little as it relates to things of God. He hadn’t been schooled or been in years of Bible study, but yet he shared what he knew which was Jesus Christ is the answer, the hope, the Son of God who paid for our sins so we can be reconciled and restored to God. I was convicted in my own thinking in that I celebrate in my heart and mind when one comes to faith and we should, but I have tended to stop there which is a mistake. Each person who comes to faith needs to boldly share their faith. Even though I have been a believer for many years, I was faced with the question, who am I sharing my faith with today? Dave taught me much, and I am forever thankful for the lessons learned. Isn't it interesting that while the group gathered from hundreds of miles to hear me speak, taught me perhaps the most. The words of Paul echo in my ears and burn in my soul—Romans 1:16, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes..." My hope is that Dave's story encourages you, humbles you and convicts you as it did me. While it is right and good to celebrate those who come to faith, we need to encourage, to equip and to expect them to share the gospel with everyone in their circle. Likewise, we need to do the same with those we come into contact with and those in which we have relationships. Do so and watch the power of the gospel work for the glory of God.