David Platt is lead pastor at McLean Bible Church in metro Washington, DC, former president of the International Mission Board, and founder of Radical Inc., a global ministry that serves churches in accomplishing the mission of Christ.
Excerpted from Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need. Copyright © 2019 by David Platt. Published by Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
From my knees, I’m startled as I turn around and see that Sigs has joined me on this flat spot. He’s breathing hard but has a smile on his face. “This is a good place to stop,” I tell him as I get up, reflecting on the time I’ve just spent with God. “You can get some great pictures here as well. I’ll let you have this rock.” I pick up my pack and slide it on my back and say, “I’ll see you at the top.”
“For sure,” he answers, still catching his breath and grabbing his water bottle. “Maybe I’ll even pass you—I won’t be here long.”
“Yeah, right,” I answer. We both smile, because he knows how competitive I am—with a head start, there’s no way I’ll let him catch me!
I step out on the last half of the hike up the mountain. Buoyed by rest, I find new momentum on the trail. I can now average about 20 steps per intermittent pause, and it ends up taking about another hour to finally reach the crest. Aaron is waiting (he’s been there a while), and he’s already found a teahouse in a village that overlooks several valleys.
“This is where we’ll stay for the night,” he says, “and the timing is perfect.”
“What do you mean?”
“The only church that exists in these villages is meeting here tonight, and it looks like we’re going to be able to worship with them. Would you mind encouraging them with a message from the Word?”
“I would love to!”
“Great. For now, go ahead and put your pack down in a room,” Aaron says. “Then rest for a bit. We’ll have dinner in about an hour. Later, once it’s dark, the church will meet just across the way.”
I can’t wait! We haven’t encountered anyone who has even heard about Jesus for several days, so I’m eager to gather with people who not only have heard about him but also know him.
I find a room, set my stuff down, pull out my sleeping bag, and climb into it for a little warmth. I open my Bible to finish Luke 11 and then think about what to share that evening. But I fall asleep, and the next thing I know, Chris is punching my bag. “Get up, dude! It’s dinnertime.”
We gather in the teahouse for some bread and lentil soup. After we eat, Aaron invites us outside. It’s pitch dark now, and the sight of the stars is amazing. But Aaron hasn’t brought us out here to look at the lights above. He points to a valley where we can see a few tiny lights that are moving up the mountain toward us.
“Do you see those lights?” he asks. We nod, and he tells us, “Those are church members. Remember that grueling hike you climbed today to get up here? That’s the hike they’re making to get to church.”
Humbled, I see these tiny lights in the distance slowly making their way up the trail. I think about the stress people in our culture sometimes have over a 15-minute-or-longer drive to church. How about a two-hour hike up a narrow mountainside in the freezing cold, followed by a two-hour hike back down the same mountainside in the pitch-black darkness after the service?
Uncomfortable and Smiling
The church meets in a house about a five-minute walk from where we’re staying. This definitely is a “house church.” Picture an area in a home in the US that’s about the size of a bedroom or possibly a small living room. There’s a bed in the corner (envision a raised wooden platform with a thin mat on top of it), a couple of shelves against the walls, and a small cooking area in the corner. One light bulb hangs suspended in the middle of the room.
When we arrive, the owner of the house greets us with a warm smile. She motions for us to sit in seats of honor, either on or right next to the bed. Soon others arrive, and we’re shocked to see who has climbed that mountain to come to church. It’s not just the young and healthy. Every age is present, from babies to grandparents.
One by one they start to cram in, and cram is the right word. By the time everyone arrives, I count more than fifty people sitting on the floor, on the bed, or on top of each other. They will sit in the most uncomfortable positions with smiles on their faces for the next two hours. They will sing, clap, pray, and listen intently as I share from Scripture.
When I’d prayed earlier about how to encourage this church, I thought about its makeup: men and women who live in a very difficult environment, physically poor, in a battle every day for the most basic needs of food, water, and medicine, and persecuted for their faith.
Before the meeting, the church’s pastor had shared with me that his non-Christian parents died when he was just 15. A few years later, someone shared the gospel with him for the first time. He trusted in Jesus and was baptized, but as soon as this happened, the rest of his family abandoned him. His brothers told him to never come back, and he lost the inheritance his parents had left him.
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Source: Christianity Today