Listen to this devotional:
1 Corinthians 4:12 – We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it. (NIV)
The other night, I was watching a documentary called "Battle for Souls" on the Discovery channel. It was all about the growth of Christianity in Africa, especially Nigeria. The program focused on some of the tensions between Christian and Islamic communities which, up until the Iranian revolution in the late seventies, had been at peace with one another for about a thousand years.
At one point, the documentary showed a large Christian church in Lagos that had over 50,000 worshippers in it. People were driven to the church in buses from all over the city on Sunday mornings. Everyone who attended was ecstatic, and in the midst of sectarian violence between the two religions, this Canaan Land church, as it was called, was thriving.
What was really fascinating to me was how the Christians in the large church rebuilt their town. Schools and houses, a college, and even a gasoline station were built using the Sunday offerings. Even the church building, which housed 50,000 people, was built and paid for within a year. The pastor was very proud of what the congregation had accomplished. He said, "All of this was built without foreign aid, without a penny from Britain or a dime from the United States. The Holy Spirit is working amongst us. We are being blessed because we depend upon God."
In the midst of all the budget crunches and fiscal crises that our western denominational churches seem to be experiencing, the church in Nigeria has something important to teach us. Without the Holy Spirit, we can do nothing, but when we welcome the Holy Spirit into our hearts and houses of worship, anything is possible.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, forgive us for forgetting to let You into our churches. Forgive us for fretting over budgets and buildings, instead of wanting salvation and winning souls. Teach us the lessons of vitality and value that are important to You and made apparent in other lands. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.