I just got back from our Southeast Asian Mission Trip. We were in northern and southern India and in Nepal. Plus, we had our leader from Pakistan join us in Nepal. After our meetings and training times we have reported over 200 churches and 110 pastors in these areas. This was the most fruitful 14 days of ministry I have ever witnessed- God is faithful!
While traveling through this part of the world one thing came up continually- the cost of following Jesus. The pastors in India had suffered persecution and the Nepal church is still underground, with many leaders being placed in jail and beaten severely on many occasions. I talked to the leader in Pakistan and he recounted the times he was beaten, disciples who were shot, and the times he saw shootings in the church and bomb blast!
The words of Jesus came to light so much clearer while over there. For example Luke 14:27, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” – this passage now has a much deeper meaning. These disciples have to be willing to die just to go to church! However, during one of my talks about suffering with the leader of Nepal, he began to share how every disciple must suffer. At first I was reluctant to receive this, I said, “Ya, but not like you!” However, as I was praying today I was reminded that he was right!
Suffering happens in every disciple’s life and the devil comes to try to get the suffering disciple to quit. I was reminded of how many times in Chicago I saw people quit on the process of discipleship and either backslide or simply compromise and choose to live a lukewarm life.
Therefore, here are some things I have suffered to follow Christ (I still believe my sufferings are not worthy to be compared to my fellow disciples):
1. Loss of Friends: When I first was saved there was a group of friends I would hang out with after church. However, when I took a stand for holiness and radical discipleship they asked me to “simmer down” or they would not hang out with me anymore. RESULT: I made new friends with senior citizens in a local church that still loved holiness.
2. Loss of Leadership: I used to go to prayer meetings where a pastor was so much fun to be around, however, he left his wife and had an affair with the secretary. Others wanted to follow him and still affirm his leadership, but I knew he was wrong. RESULT: I started Bible studies/prayer meetings on my own and left for Bible college.
3. Loss of Ministry Partners: When I was in Bible college I had fellow pastors work with me in the ministry. However, some dropped out of school, made bad decisions and were kicked out, or just turned lukewarm. RESULT: I started a church in my house by myself.
4. Loss of Denominations: I remember being in a denominational meeting speaking to all the leaders of the state saying, “I just want to be discipled, will someone here please take sometime teach me the ways of Christ?!” One older man stood and said, “Young man, it is not our job to disciple you, that is what Bible college was for… just do your job!” RESULT: I became non-denominational.
5. Loss of Church Givers: As a church planter I have noticed that many times those who give the most usually have trouble being a disciple. They believe if they help the church with their money they can “buy their way into heaven.” I remember a man once saying to me, “If you require me to do discipleship with my family we will not come.” RESULT: We have lost tens of thousands of dollars.
6. Loss of Church Attendees: I cannot count how many times people leave our church because of our standard of discipleship. The story always sounds the same, “Pastor, thanks for the help, but I feel called somewhere else.” “Pastor, I just feel led somewhere different, we will try to find another good church.” RESULT: We lose 10-20% of all the people we win to the Lord.
Though I have suffered both personally and as a pastor, I am reminded of the words of Jesus, Matthew 19:28-30, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”
Therefore, here is what I have received from the “suffering”:
1. Loss of Friends- NEW GODLY FRIENDS: Over the last 15yrs I have had the chance to make some great friends. Many of whom I met in Bible college. Plus, these friends shared the same experiences I had and thus we are closer than brothers.
2. Loss of Leadership- SPIRITUAL FATHER: Very few people can say they have had the same pastor in their life for 15yrs, however, because of God’s faithfulness He brought me true leadership that has been in my life ever since I started ministry! Plus, I have had the chance to be close to many great men of God with over 25 years ministry experience!
3. Loss of Ministry Partners- APOSTLES TO THE NATIONS: I could never had imagined that by the time I was 33 I would be working with leaders from all over the world. Some of these men oversee 70 churches! Wow, God does save the best for last!
4. Loss of Denominations- A REVOLUTION: The Metro Praise Revolution now has over 200 churches with over 110 pastors over the world in just 3 years! I would not trade what God has done with just a few for all the denominations in the world!
5. Loss of Church Givers- INCREASED GIVING EVERY YEAR: Despite losing people every year and their support, we have gained more monies every year! Thus, God always makes it happen, the church is a testimony to God’s ability to provide! We not only make up the loss, but also bring in increase! We have raised over $4,000 in just one week for missions!
6. Loss of Church Attendees- INCREASED DISCIPLES EVERY YEAR: We have doubled just in 3 months and soon we will be starting a new campus! Plus, we have more disciples than ever before. Thus, despite who gets off the bus, God keeps bringing new people to get on the bus! Just like He promised!
I pray this blog encourages the suffering to remain faithful. Do not give up during the times of suffering! You may feel like your doing something wrong or that the “grass is greener” on the other side. However, remember there are places where all Christians suffer. However, here in America it is the disciple that suffers. Jesus promised that all disciples would have to “carry a cross.” Therefore, do not quit!
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.