It was disappointing, really.
It had been hoped that 50 would attend a seminar held at Hyderabad. Instead, only 23 showed for the 3-day study. The seminar was entitled ‘Called to Service’ and outlined God’s call to salvation, and into the community of the churches of God. However, one man was thrilled by the truth of eternal security, and knowing it was not being taught in the Godavri Delta District he spread the message. His wife declared, “He’s gone mad!” – such was the enthusiasm with which he conveyed it to fellow believers. Many were convinced, but that was not enough, for the teaching he had received about churches of God forming the house of God gripped him even more.
Today there are six church companies in his neighbourhood. I recall one meeting where he gathered believers to hear the foreign missionaries call them to ‘The way of God’ (Acts 18:26; see Acts 9:2; 19:9 etc.). At the end, individuals testified their response to the teaching. One brother said, “I have discovered about living stones being built up to form a spiritual house. I want to be part of that. The house of God is liable to judgement and must be a separate entity from the Church the Body of Christ.”
I marvelled that this revelation could be received in so short a time. That brother travelled the seventeen kilometres to the church to which he was added for some years, but had an earnest desire for souls; and it was not long before he had gathered 40 or so from his village. This community was formed from two castes and it was delightful to see the two combine in loving expression of being one in Christ. Their hearts, however, were set on the earthly unity of local churches joined together having the same pattern, and they pleaded for the planting of a church of God in their village. They met for a while in a small mud hut until a more substantial building was erected.
As is the practice, the hall was opened with prayer and all the saints marching around inside singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Then all were led outside but, in unison, the sisters ran back in and fell to their knees in prayer. That was a sight that proves hard to forget. The sisters had their own way of dedicating the hall!
Seventeen kilometres in another direction was a retired schoolmaster, who had won the prestigious and much coveted ‘Best Teacher of the Year Award’, receiving his presentation from the President of India himself. During discussions about this ‘new’ teaching spreading in the Delta, the schoolmaster had received a copy of the booklet ‘Ye that are Christ’s’, with its winsome outline of the doctrines of ‘the faith once for all delivered to the saints’. As he read the material, realisation dawned on him that he had received a copy of the same booklet 20 years previously and had been teaching its contents to his congregation for those many years. Now he could be part of the wider Fellowship by joining churches of God, and arrangements were made to spend time ensuring his congregation held the truths he delighted in. They did indeed, and a church planting soon followed.
It was thought necessary to have a hymn book in the Telegu language and the researching brother read the preface from ‘Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs’, the English hymn book used by churches of God. Perhaps from this more than anything else at the time, this brother caught a vision of a people worshipping their God as a holy priesthood. It revolutionised his approach, and he faithfully selected appropriate hymns that enhanced the worship of the assemblies in Andhra. God is still visiting the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name (Acts 15:14).