After a week of walking for miles around the city, meeting with ministry leaders, and teaching a church planters conference, Sunday finally came. And I thought it would just be another day of the trip, simply spent visiting at a local church. But I was wrong. It was much more. In fact, it wrecked me.
When we arrived to the small space that Life Church is renting, it was a quintessential church plant. Young people, excited about what was in store, were welcoming us. The screen and lyrics were ready to go. And as the band strapped on their guitars, I was ready to just soak in another Japanese experience.
But then they began to sing.
The songs were songs that I knew. Songs that churches in America have done a million times. But hearing it in another language, surrounded by my Japanese brothers and sisters in Christ, was a powerful moment. I stood there fighting back tears as I realized that the Church truly is the only hope of the world. That what we do every Sunday at OneLife is so much bigger than just a gathering in Knoxville. It’s a piece of a huge family, a huge movement dedicated to making Jesus famous and changing lives everywhere.
If that moment wasn’t enough, as the sermon began I noticed a young, 17-year old boy sitting to my left absolutely engrossed in the sermon. I didn’t have a clue what was being said, but this young man was hanging on every word. For the first time in his life he was attending church as a Christian. Just that week he had given his life to Jesus and was given his first Bible. He is the first convert this new church of only 7-months has seen, and already he wants to multiply. As the service ended, he came to the pastor and eagerly motioned to the front door. His mother was there. She stopped by because she was worried about her son’s new religion. But the pastor assured her that she would only see positive changes in her son from this point forward, letting her know that Jesus is in control of his life now! The whole time, this young man was beaming with joy and an obvious burden for this mother to experience the same. And I believe she will.
In a city and nation with less than one percent Christians, this is a huge deal. To put it in perspective, it would be like having only 2,000 Christians in the entire city of Knoxville. We’ve had that many people visit OneLife in the past two years! What if that was the entire sum of believers in our city?! Celebrating the one would take on a whole new meaning.
As I return, that is my biggest takeaway. That we at OneLife are part of a massive, world-wide movement and shouldn’t take the life-change of one single person for granted. Because in some places, it would be the exception – not the rule – and to be part of a church that sees lives changed every single week is a gift. A gift I will cherish and hang on to every step of the way.