My wife and I have just returned from an amazing trip to Vladivostok and Ussuriysk, Two unique cities in East Russia, in a region where temperatures fall to 35 Celsius below zero in the winter. It’s so cold that the sea turns into ice and you can actually “walk on water!” But it was here where we saw God move powerfully in a conference that touched so many lives. This followed a very successful time at the Bible College of Wales in Swansea where we witnessed the full restoration and inauguration of the famed Pisgah Chapel in Loughor and also the graduation of the second cohort of students from the College.
During this time, our church in Pakistan saw huge numbers of young people getting saved and delivered in conferences held in major cities across the nation. We had a medical missions team returning from a successful trip to Surabaya, Indonesia and another team from a youth conference in Miri, East Malaysia. Just two weeks ago, we had another team in Cambodia and another in the eastern seaboard of Japan. Welcome to a regular week in Cornerstone!
10 years ago, I read in a book that the day was coming when the success of a church was not going to be measured by how many people we have on Sunday mornings, but by how many people we’ve sent out into the nations. I believed it 10 years ago and 10 years later, I believe it even more. When God called me 25 years ago to start the church, there was only one thing He said to me, “This church must be a missionary sending church.” This was the mandate from the Lord and it was so clear to me. 25 years later, we’ve literally seen hundreds of church members going to different parts of the world each year. But more needs to be done – we need to up the ante.
An African pastor once said that the church that stays within its four walls is not a church at all. It’s a country club; it’s a social gathering but it’s certainly not the Church of Jesus Christ. Think about this for a few moments. An author once said there are over 350,000 local churches in America alone that if they came together would represent unprecedented and unlimited resources and capabilities. At the same time, there are thousands of churches in Africa and Asia that are full of poor people who struggle with daily survival.
Can you imagine how this all looks to our Father in heaven? He looks and sees this disparity and inequality and wonders why the richer members of His own household refuse to assist those who are in need. For salt to be effective, it has to be in contact with whatever it flavours. It’s time for us to get out of the comfort of these four walls and do something. It’s time we take God’s presence out of the church and into the community, into the streets where the people are! And if we’re willing to go, I’m telling you: God will begin to move like we’ve never seen Him move. He’ll provide the opportunities. He’ll arrange the divine appointments. Fresh ideas will start to flow, and things will begin to happen.
Jim Wallis, who’s the founder of the Sojourners magazine, recalled how when he was a seminary student, he and some classmates did an experiment. They went through all the 66 books of the Bible and underlined every passage and verse that dealt with poverty, wealth, justice and oppression. Then one of the students took a pair of scissors and cut out every single one of those verses that they had underlined. The result was a Bible that was in tatters that could barely hold together.
Do you know that from Genesis to Revelation, there are almost 2,000 verses that deal with poverty and justice? When Jim Wallis preaches to the church, he’d hold up that Bible and proclaim: This is our American Bible and it’s full of holes. And each one of us might as well take a pair of scissors and begin cutting all the Scriptures that we pay no attention to, and all the Biblical texts that we just ignore. If that were the case, all our Bibles would be full of holes. God’s not calling us to solve the problems in this world. That’s His responsibility. But He’s called us to care for the one. Revival has a face and it’s your neighbor. We’ve to see evangelism from a very different perspective. We’ve to begin to see people as individuals.
A fierce storm had hit a certain coastal area and tens of thousands of starfish were washed up on the shore by the strong waves and wind and if they were not thrown back into the sea, most of them would eventually die. A man walking on the beach felt helpless as he watched these starfish die slowly when all of a sudden, he heard a sound and he saw from a distance, another man bending down and one at a time, throwing the starfish back into the ocean. The first man said, “What are you doing?” To which the second man replied, “I’m saving the starfish.” The first man says, “But there are tens of thousands. Nothing you can do will make a difference.” The man smiled as he replied, “It made a difference to this one.”