What is it that makes a service great? Sometimes I have preached a message that, although it was good, it might not necessarily be stellar. Then a day later in another church with the same message, the glory of God would fill the room that we are in and the service is unforgettable. Is it me? Is it them? Or is it just the way the wind blows?
We finished up the round of churches in Kontagora on Sunday morning. Some of these churches were energized by the message, but others were not. During a rainstorm on Friday night only 5 people showed up, and Iím not sure any of them understood a word I spoke. They just sat there and stared at me during the whole message. The night before, however, we had a couple hundred people and we set the place on fire.
But on Sunday night, what a service! We went way out in the bush to another village -- the kind with the mud huts and hand-drawn wells Ė and we had a service that was on fire.
When you walk through a primitive village like this, you are often left wondering what their lives are really like. Are they bored to death because they have nothing? Do they just sit in the doorway of their bare earthen hut and wait for the day to pass? Without radio, TV, or any modern conveniences, how sophisticated are their thinking patterns? How much are they aware of outside their village?
Even more importantly, does it even matter?
While they may not produce any brain surgeons or nuclear physicists, they possess something that may be of greater value. You can sense a deep feeling of community here that is unknown and almost unrecognizable in the West. There is a strong feeling of ďHomeĒ up and down these dirt paths. Kids run free in and amongst the homes with a sense of belonging that we are missing. This is their family, their tribe, their village, and life has its own sense of structure and order. You know, maybe it ainít so bad growing up here.
Services are held in a well-built church on the edge of the village and people have already gathered there and are praying down the Spirit by the time we arrive. I am struck by their promptness and order. Everywhere you go, you are subject to ďAfrican timeĒ, which simply means they will show up whenever they feel like it, but here they are prompt and ready to go on time.
I also notice that their dress is bright, colorful, clean, and not shabby in the least -- a noticeable contrast to many of the more sophisticated churches I have been at. There is also a remarkably intelligent look to their faces Ė something in their countenance seems sharp and attentive to every detail. Isnít it funny that way out here in the bush, I would find the sharpest looking congregation in Nigeria?
And the singing! With nothing but a couple of 10 year old kids on some homemade Congo drums, their songs were strong, melodic, and in tune.
Now thereís a novel idea! Everywhere else, it seems they have to find the most tone-deaf person in the congregation and hand her the microphone. Canít anybody here hold a tune?
But, hey, no problem. All they have to do is crank up the amplifierís volume to the limits of distortion so that if the screeching doesnít make you crack, the blast of loud static will bust your eardrums. But not here in the bush. No, they sound like the most sophisticated choir that I have seen during this entire trip.
Now isnít that just like the Lord?
Pastor Jude started traveling back and forth from village to village about 10 years ago, preaching the Gospel to them, steadily breaking down the walls of idol worship and Islam to gain a few converts at a time. For the first few years, there was hardly anything to show for all his labor, but it all culminated one day at a showdown with the local unbelievers.
Surrounded by unbelievers who mocked and scoffed at the idea of a Jesus who was supposed to not only save, but also heal the sick, Rev. Jude was presented with a man who had been crippled from his youth. Jude loudly defended his belief that Jesus Christ could make this man whole.
And yup, you already know what happened, donít you?
He prayed over that old man and immediately the crippled was healed and stood up and walked! That was all they needed to see Ė everybody got in line to confess Jesus Christ as Lord, and that was the beginning of the several churches that he established out in the bush. Sounds like something out of the Book of Acts, doesnít it?
That evening I preached to one of those churches that boasted of over 100 members who were sharp, in the Spirit, alive with the fire of God, and ready to receive whatever the Lord has for them.
In service after service, I am watching the Lord break through barriers in the hearts of these people. Time and time again, I hear back of how the message was like a cold shower to wake them up and transform their Christian lives.
God is doing something huge in Nigeria. He is breaking up fallow ground in preparation for a supernatural Holy Ghost revival, and I am running before the fire. When it falls, it will find ready hearts and broken spirits as dry tinder to fuel a blaze that will set off one of the greatest revivals of all time.