Dear Church Family,
I have just returned from a trip to Kenya. It was a trip to visit the many faces of Kenya from the slums of Nakuru, to the Betty Mavity Roberts Education Centre, which is a boarding/day school for about 150 students up to high school age. Our mission team at Long’s Chapel has been involved in the past by sponsoring students at this center. We also visited the school in the slum area called The Hill. This school also received material and spiritual help from Long’s Chapel. Many of these children are refugees with no parents as the result of recent tribal wars. Our team was blessed to feed the children, gave out many hugs and kisses, distributed gifts and clothing, and offered our hearts in love.
As we moved among the children, as well as the adults, we heard the testimonies of radical transformation. These beautiful people were eager to talk about how their lives have been changed and how they live by walking in the light and guidance of Jesus’ teachings. They are not hesitant to give Jesus credit and to call out His name. They desire to grow in their faith walk and to learn more about Jesus. One pastor asked if we could send him a Bible that he could read to his congregation so they would understand better. The church is growing in places like Kenya, although there is a lack of non-essential things that we think of as essential for growing a church. No beautiful buildings, accessible transportation, smooth roads, or staff support and salaries for pastors.
I believe the reasons that these people in disadvantaged countries are being transformed relates directly to personal decisions after hearing the simple plan of salvation. It is the power of Jesus’ name that saves people and turns their lives around. They believe in the authority of Scripture even if they do not understand it in its entirety. Scripture becomes primary to how they live their lives. They begin to understand what they believe about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and that there are essential beliefs and some that are non-essential. They experience transformation and new birth without the benefits and advantages offered in our American churches. They are growing without the over-sized wasteful bureaucracy, which is choking the very life out of our churches in America. It seems we have organized the Holy Spirit right out of our Wesleyan movement.
Several years ago, a young African pastor was asked how and why the churches in his area were growing exponentially. He said, “We put a church in each village and do four things in each church. We teach the people to read, we teach the people to raise food to feed themselves, we provide basic health care, and we share Jesus with everyone!”
So, where does our denomination and Long’s Chapel fit in to all of this? We need to reform the way we do church by getting rid of the top-heavy institution that is draining the life and resources out of the local churches. We need a simple vision and delivery system that can meet the physical and spiritual needs of those within and without the church. We must become missional once again, just as Wesley began the reformation and revival that changed the world.
How can we here at Long’s Chapel make a real, lasting difference to those in our pews and those outside of the church? We must refocus on Jesus. Institutions do not save people, right theology will not save, winning the most votes at General Conference will not save or reform; only Jesus can save and transform. We also need to reclaim Scripture as the primary way to make decisions and live our lives. We cannot live as Christians believing that we can change Scripture to fit our present context, or conveniently choose the parts that support how we have decided to live, or how culture has influenced us to believe.
Focusing on Jesus as not only our Savior, but also the Lord of how we live, and claiming the authority of Scripture are necessary beginnings for a church that is determined to renew its vision to reach others for Jesus.