Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A lesson learnt...

Today after our prayer meeting, one of the regular attenders asked about how we gain salvation.

My response was to ask him a few questions to find out what he means by that. Round here, it often means "how to get rid of the problems of this life".

He seemed to have a proper understanding, so we moved on to explaining the gospel. This is in a very basic way, as he was much more comfortable in Swahili, and mine is rather crummy. Thankfully another church member was involved! It is thrilling to explain the gospel, even at a very basic level, in another language. And my hearer was not very educated, so very basic was what was needed.

Anyway, after we had talked for a bit and there was nothing more to say except for him to go away and hopefully digest and respond to it all in the presence of God, I offered to pray for him.

Even as I offered, I was a bit concerned that he might have the common Kenyan understanding - that the "pastor"'s prayers were what would now bring him salvation. Then he might go and tell people he was saved - because I prayed for him! But, I figured, I could make it clear in the prayer that we were praying that God will help him to find Christ, not that we were actually somehow wonderfully bringing Christ to him - which, as I say, is what people think pastors have the power to do. (And, once the prayer is over, now assume is actually done, with the predictably disastrous results of "churches" full of unsaved people).

My really big mistake was to ask God to give him help by the Holy Spirit.

What was that I just said?

Mmmm, that sounds a bit heretical. Don't quote me! Anyway, you see, as soon as those words had departed from my lips, there was a crash. We opened our eyes... to find the fellow lying on his back on the floor. He'd fallen over backwards.

Because in Kenya, people generally believe that when you receive the Holy Spirit, you fall over backwards. Really.

I'm not sure which Western con-man to thank for originally bringing that doctrine in, but I only wish we could spread the Biblical doctrines quite as effectively as his followers have. I really hope that by now anyone who's been attending our church for a while realises that we think such teachings are ridiculous and dangerous tosh. But again and again I am humbled by realising how slowly spiritual light dawns, no matter how clear we try to be on what the truth about salvation is.

Did our friend think he had to fall over to show us that he was believing the things that were spoken, i.e. sincerely? Or was his whole expression of interest phoney, and he thought we'd be impressed or taken in when he fell over? I'm too far separated from the thought-world of people like our friend to be able to make a guess about what he was thinking.

The floor was concrete, and our friend did not seem very compos mentis after that. I'm not sure which bit he landed on, as I had my eyes closed - but given the crack, I wouldn't be surprised if it was his head. We tried to explain to him that the real work of the Holy Spirit is in making people hate their sins and trust in Jesus alone - nothing to do with strange phenomena like falling over! And then I had to dash home, because it was almost dark and it's not safe to stay out after that.

Acts 14 shows us what Paul thought when the people of Lystra started to make sacrifices to him. I felt today like I could understand a little bit - you try to make the gospel plain and simple, and people yet have something quite different in their heads. How we long that God would dispel the darkness in their minds and shine his light!

1 comment:

Darla said...

I had to laugh a little when you said your seeker fellow fell over, and I truly hope he is okay and not injured. As for thanking a westerner, you can probably thank Benny Hinn. He was turned away at the airport in the UK last year. Here is a clip from the article.

The Benny Hinn “fire conference and miracle service” was scheduled to last three days. Among the “miracles” the Texan preacher performs are those in which he instructs participants to “let the bodies hit the floor”. The routine is featured on YouTube videos that show the devout falling down backwards, “slain in the spirit”. Here is the link: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article6859240.ece