VISIT AN INDIAN CHURCH SERVICE WITH US
I thought you might like to come visit an Indian church service with us. There are many variations but I’ll describe Bethel Prayer Church in Hyderabad. We come here every year. I’ve preached at least 30 messages here. The people are very familiar and it feels like our second home church.
We walk down a very narrow, crowded alleyway canopied by nests of electrical wires and hanging laundry. We enter a small apartment building passing the open doorways of the first floor tenants. The tenants initially stare with their big brown eyes, but quickly smile when a cheery American grin appears. You can smell breakfast cooking in their kitchen just steps away. There is very little privacy in India. Life is lived in close quarters, with few open common areas. You can hear personal conversations easily.
Church is on the second floor and the roof is used for children, fellowship meals, sewing classes and special meetings. At 9am, Nancy teaches Psalm 1 to about 10 college students that understand English. At 9:50 Pastor Moses and his wife pray. Five people are present. They start singing, accompanied by tambourines, loud drums and equally loud PA system. There are no noise ordinances or zoning laws. At 10:35, 40 people are present. Slowly, people trickle in and will continue right up to about 15 minutes before service is over. There are 75 women, 45 men and 15 children 3 hrs. later. It is a small room about 700 sq. ft. There is a continual shifting forward of women sitting on the floor mats to make more room for the late arrivals. The pastor’s wife often prompts this. Somehow they all fit! Older men and women, aka Nancy, sit in the back on plastic patio chairs. The men are on the left and the women are always right (Pun intended). Spillover is allowed, if necessary. Children move about freely, but they don’t seem to distract worshippers. The atmosphere is casual but orderly. Singing and praying is exuberant!
We all stand, read Psalm 143, pray, and sing again, ending with various people standing to pray aloud. Pastor Moses introduces the visitors, welcomes everyone, there is special music (a man or group of young girls) and at 11:05 I start speaking. The children go upstairs for a lesson. I spoke about “Is Jesus God?”– Matthew 16:13-18 with Pastor Moses translating. At the close (11:50) he gives an invitation and several hands go up and he spends 10 minutes explaining the gospel to them and summarizing my message.
Every Sunday they take the Lord’s Supper. During the serving of the juice they sing “There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood” in Telugu. It’s great to recognize a tune. Next is the offering. In the early years, the offering included tins of rice. Now it is currency. Lastly, the elder reads a list of announcements.
They have a closing prayer, benediction and always close with singing “Showers of Blessing” in Telugu. They are done at 12:40.
It’s very touching to sit in the front and watch everyone sitting on the floor, cross-legged, for almost 3 hours. Small children come equipped with a bag of chips. Mothers hold babies in their arms or they manage to sleep on the floor, despite the volume. I don’t understand most of what is said, but the spirit of the people seems deeply intense and sincere. When church is over most of the people come to us to lay hands on them and pray for them. That is a great joy and awesome responsibility, one of my most rewarding times in India.
After talking, people drift away and we leave. They’ll be back next Sunday and attend church Indian style! (January 28, 2018 Hyderabad, India)
Hebrews 10:25 Do not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Are you faithful in your church attendance? Do you fully participate in all that is said, sung and done during your worship service? It’s a privilege we have in the USA that most of the world does not share!