Sunday, May 29, 2011


Some insights from our recent trip to Uganda…

At first glance it might appear as if we have little in common with our Christian brethren in the Masaka Region of Uganda. The most obvious difference is in color, but the differences don’t stop there. They reside in small homes, made of brick or clay, that have no power and no indoor plumbing. Their kitchens and bathrooms are outside. They live off their crops and the livestock they raise. Their monthly income is less that $50 per month. They have no television, no newspapers, no internet (unless the go far away to town to access such things). They have no health care plans, no retirement savings, and no insurance policies. They travel on dirt paths either on foot or by bike or motorcycle.

The best of their church buildings wouldn’t meet any of our building codes. They are typically built of either bricks or clay, but in one case the church simply meets under a tree. As with their homes, their buildings lack power, plumbing, and bathrooms. They typically consist of but one large room where the church gathers and meets on dirt floors where people sit on small handmade benches. Their singing is much different than ours—one instrument, drums, is all they need or use. They often times intersperse spontaneous testimonies amongst a repeated chorus. Their singing almost always includes some degree of dancing, clapping, or hand waving.

There are other differences. Most of their Pastors have not been to Bible school. They were chosen as pastor because they were the most qualified amongst the believers in a given village. They don’t receive a salary and often travel long distances by foot or bike to reach their churches or to visit church members. These pastors have no Bible study tools in their own language. The Bible that they own includes just a few cross-references. Most of their church members don’t own a Bible. They long to possess much of what we take for granted.

At first glance it might appear as if we have little in common, but that impression would be amiss. We share with them the same love for the same Savior. Pastor Bob Emrich and I were privileged to provide instruction to about 40 pastors in meetings with two separate Pastor Alliances. Pastor Bob taught on “The Spiritual Disciples.” The focus of my teaching time was “Major Themes in the Book of Ephesians.” What garnered the most visible response from the pastors was any reference to the glory of Christ in His person and work. Hearty “amens” were heard whenever we spoke of such things. One day we were privileged to visit about a dozen pastors and churches. We heard repeated testimonies of how Christ had worked to bring salvation to souls and growth to His church.

We share with them a common love for the Scriptures. At the beginning of our meetings with the First Alliance there was a time for the pastors to share testimonies. We heard repeatedly of that for which they were most thankful—for God’s provision of Bibles for their congregations. They know, as do we, that the Word of God is powerful to change lives as it instructs us in the truth of who God is, how He saves, and how He desires for His people to live. The pastors who attended the conference traveled long distances to get there and slept at night on concrete floors. But they listened attentively in our meetings—because they have a longing to better understand the Scriptures.

We share a common purpose in proclaiming the glorious gospel of salvation through faith in Christ. The pastors were burdened to share this message. They work together to take the gospel door-to-door to their villages. They look to God for opportunities and ways to broaden their ministries. Many of them have started Christian schools so that they can reach the thousands of children who make up so much of their population. Their teaching and curriculum is Christ-centered. I so much appreciated the logo on the patch of the uniform of “Arise and Shine” Christian school which said, “Knowledge Is from God!”

We share in common with our Ugandan brethren the most important things. Our homes and buildings and incomes and methods of transportation may differ, but in Christ we are united. We worship the same Savior, treasure the same Bible, and proclaim the same glorious gospel. The things we have in common are the things that truly matter. Christ is building His church and “Christ Jesus Himself (is) the corner stone” (Eph. 2:20). The “whole building (is) being fitted together (and) is growing into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21). This glorious living temple is made up of “living stones” (1 Pet. 2:5) that have been redeemed for this very purpose “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). We are intimately united in a common bond and eternal destiny.

No other Savior, no other truth, no other “religion” works to unite such dissimilar peoples in such an intimate fashion. The fact that we are bound together across such a cultural divide speaks to the glorious nature of our Savior and power of His gospel to reconcile sinners in “all creation” both to Himself and to one another (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; Eph. 2:13-18). Far too much of our time is devoted to focusing on dissimilarities and concerning ourselves with insignificant things that won’t matter at all in heaven. There will come a day, “when He comes to be glorified in His saints…and to be marveled at among all who have believed” (2 Thess. 1:10), when all such differences amongst believers will be instantly eradicated. Our focus, on that day, will be only on Him. May it be increasingly so this side of heaven as we give attention to praising Him, growing in Him, and proclaiming His gospel (Cf. Phil. 3:20; 2 Cor. 11:3; 2 Pet. 3:18; 1 Cor. 2:2).

Pastor Jerry

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