Bread for the Bride has been silent for a short time while I have been away ministering to the church in a South Eastern Asian country where Christians face ongoing persecution. During that time I (along with two companions) had the great privilege of sharing teachings, prayer and fellowship with house church leaders and members. And although we had been invited to minister and encourage them, we found it very much a two way experience.
For me the unexpected result is that I have returned home feeling somehow spiritually increased and enlarged. That’s not easy to explain but I’ll try.
I have been blessed to minister to God’s people in other places in the world on a number of occasions, weeping and laughing with them, worshiping and making lasting friendships. On this occasion however there was something intangible taking place that I can only describe as a knitting of hearts on a deeper level than I have ever previously experienced. This deep knitting of hearts is not in any way an emotional reaction, it is a work of God. There is a sense of having observed and even tasted part of Christ’s fullness that is rare and precious. These people have now become part of me at a very deep level and I am the better for it. I feel joined to them and they to me….or as someone else put it, “members one of another” (Rom. 12:5).
More than ever I am convinced that being ‘members one of another’ means much more than walking through the doors of a church building, singing some songs and raising our hands. The believers I recently met with endure state and social discrimination on a daily basis. Their villages are razed, children refused education, women raped and beaten, men and boys enslaved. Often employment and/or promotion are denied to them unless they abandon their belief in Jesus Christ. Yet, though sadness was evident in their eyes, anger, resentment and bitterness were not. Their engaging smiles flashed readily and often. Their willing feet ran to serve me at every opportunity. Their worship, devoid of electronic enhancement, large screens or celebrity worship leaders, was free and genuine and some of the most beautiful I have ever witnessed. And in their faces I saw Christ, in His sufferings, but also in His simplicity of faith and joy.
Don’t misunderstand me. These people are no super heroes. They experience joy and sorrow, fear and doubt in the same way we do. They bleed the same coloured blood as we do. But while we are deciding what to have for dinner tonight they are agonising over whether their children will eat at all today. While we are dropping our children at school in late model cars, their children face intense daily pressure at school to convert to the State religion or be denied all opportunity. In the midst of such conditions they have stood, and continue to stand, for Jesus Christ and for the truth of His gospel.
I feel as though I have been given a rare glimpse of the Body of Christ functioning as it is meant to. I have met with His Bride, been allowed to touch her and have been lovingly embraced by her. And she has mysteriously added to me a new revelation of Christ’s fullness that we are so lacking in the self-sufficient Western church.
I have returned to the familiarity of comfortable home and bed, food on the table, freedom to come and go without fear of prison or worse. They continue their day to day struggle to feed their children, share the gospel and just survive within a hostile and violent environment. Will I return? That’s a question for another day. But whether or not I return, I have tasted something I will not forget and have been strengthened and enlarged as a believer in Christ Jesus through having fellowshipped with these amazing servants of God. Jesus is bringing His Bride to the fullness of the measure of His stature (Eph 4:13).
“And of His fullness we have all received…..” (John 1:16)