So almost a week has gone by and I am still struggling quite terribly with jet-lag [Kathy and the kids seem to be doing far better though]… Yet our greatest struggle here in the Far East remains spiritual… We are desperately seeking “mutant food” in a land of plenty (think about the full array of sumptuous international cuisines), yet ironically suffering from a severe famine of God’s Word…
Last Sunday was probably one of our worst Lord’s Days in a long time.
We woke up early and eagerly anticipated hearing the Gospel in an early morning worship. We got there ahead of time and was most grateful when the worship began with Charles Wesley’s great “mutant song” — And Can It Be That I Should Gain! The reading of Nicene Creed — a bit deeper and richer than the Apostles’ Creed — was equally moving. But things went downhill from there onwards. Before we visited this particular church, I had listened to a few of their sermons and I was confident that we would get some Gospel feeding. Unfortunately, because of the church’s “2020 Vision” project — think ministry renewal + fundraising / building — the pastor worked hard to tie the sermon series on Philippians to the church’s ongoing vision.
Now that was one bad bad move.
Instead of pointing people upward to God and forward to eternity, you end up directing their spiritual sight to what is horizontal and temporal. Along the way, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was greatly diminished. What began as a promising sermon (with proper biblical background and all) ended rather miserably with the church’s “2020 Vision” which pales in comparison to the Gospel’s “Vision of Eternity.” Even our children could tell that it was not a very good sermon.
Our experience that morning made me wonder if we should have gone to the Chinese church instead. Well, I did listen to the online sermon recording afterward. And it appears to me that either way we would not have been fed very well. True to the Chinese style of sermonizing, spiritual principles were drawn, stories and testimonies were told, and people were exhorted to share the Gospel, but Christ was not preached! That reminds me of Donald Grey Barnhouse’s reply (over a half century ago) to the question, “What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city?”
Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia,
all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished,
and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians
who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing.
The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” and
the churches would be full every Sunday . . .
where Christ is not preached.
Last night, my dad asked if we would like to visit Macau or another part of China. One of my first thoughts was this, “Well, if we can be sure of a Gospel-preaching church in that town, we will go anywhere!” I woke up Monday morning at 3am, partly due to jet-lag and partly due to the discomfort I felt for not hearing the Gospel on the Lord’s Day. I felt so desperate that I emailed Chong on my phone asking him if he could quickly upload Mike Kelly’s sermon that we would not starve for another day.
The comforting news for us is that we will “soon” return home to Philly. [Still, one Sunday of not hearing the Gospel is one too many!] Nonetheless, it is disconcerting to think of the great difficulty one has in “finding a Gospel channel” in a city with thousands of churches. On that, and on this Reformation Day (it is still 10/31 in Philly), we must pray that God will be gracious and merciful to His church, and that He would bring about a true Gospel Reformation to the churches in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and the rest of the world.