Last month we had two visiting American teachers who gave lessons on THE CHURCH and also on WORSHIP. The classes were very good and the Nepali preachers and our students all were pleased with the classes. When the classes ended on Friday at lunch time [Americans were flying out that afternoon], I thought that it was a very good week for everyone who attended.
Just before I went to get a taxi on Friday I found out about one problem. This concerned 2-3 Nepali preachers being unhappy that another Nepali preacher came to attend the classes. On Saturday I was informed of another problem. This problem was with one of the students. On Monday I learned about a third problem. This was caused when some invited experienced Nepali preachers refused to participate in the evening devotional services. Their negative attitude caused an awkward environment that resulted in the devotion and fellowship time being cancelled. These problems are all new for the school, are certainly not the way Christians should behave, and need to be addressed in a loving and firm way according to Christian teachings and principles.
It is not surprising that I was the last person to learn of these problems. It seems that almost everyone attending this meeting were well aware of these destructive attitudes and behaviors. Once I began to hear about them, the message was repeated by many Christians who were greatly saddened and discouraged to see these three examples of sinful behavior. We have had many similar classes for students plus invited experienced preachers, but this was the first time that 3-4 of the invited guests caused so much discouragement for the majority.
First I will address the problem with the student. Each married student receives a monthly money allowance for his wife. After four months of paying this money to him we learned that in reality his wife had left him some months before school began and was now living with her boyfriend. His DISHONESTY is SIN. He said that he was embarrassed to tell us, he repented, and we gave him another chance. None of us are perfect. His attitude, attention in class, and study outside of class was always the lowest of all the students. We had a firm talk with him and there was some improvement.
About 6-8 weeks ago we learned that there was a new lady in his life. He said that they were serious about each other, he was studying the Bible with her, and that there was no sexual relationship. She was baptized 4-5 weeks ago. During our recent meeting the leaders from his congregation informed the Nepali brothers that the student and the lady were committing fornication. FORNICATION is SIN. He has been expelled from the school. We hope his local congregation also takes appropriate disciplinary action. We will continue to pray for the souls of this young man and lady.
Another problem [#2] was that two preachers came for one purpose only. They said that they only came to hear the teaching of the American men. They did not want to fellowship and have devotional time with the students and other Nepali brothers. The American teachers were clear and firm that within THE CHURCH, part of our WORSHIP is from us to God and also from us to our Christian brothers and sisters. They discussed the benefits of Christians encouraging and building each other up in the faith. We also personally benefit spiritually by this time together. It strengthens the individual Christian and the body of Christ as a unit. One of the goals of the school is to develop closer unity, increased fellowship, and more cooperation of all the congregations in Nepal. This is all part of maturing and strengthening the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately these men did not listen and learn from the American teachers they came to hear. The message taught in our classes, and certainly the message that every preacher should know before he can honestly call himself a preacher, is one of fellowship, encouragement, edification, and peace among the children of God. Their negative behavior, and the discouraging effect it had on other Christians, should not be seen anywhere within the church. It will not be tolerated at the school where our goal is to teach, and hopefully practice, Christian character and conduct within the family of God [I Tim 3:15].
The third problem is a reflection on the attitudes that have caused divisions within the church for many years. DIVISION within the church is SIN. It is a spirit of criticism and being judgmental rather than being a peacemaker [Matt 5:9]. We know which spirit is pleasing to God and which behavior pleases Satan. Every mature CHRISTIAN LEADER and PREACHER should constantly be trying to tear down the walls of DIVISION and become PEACEMAKERS. We are separated from the denominations because of doctrinal differences. We must always have a passion for sound teaching. However, within the church 95% of our divisions are caused by personality and pride. This SIN is not limited to Nepal. The foreign missionaries all claim to have a common purpose, yet they don’t communicate with one another or demonstrate a high priority to work together to support and compliment each other’s ministry. I also need to examine myself. This will be difficult to explain to Jesus when we see Him.
One preacher came to the meeting late, possible on Tuesday or Wednesday. Immediately some other brother began to ask, “Why is he here?” and “Who invited him?” It became obvious to most of those attending that a small group of preachers were actively opposed to this one preacher coming to these Bible lessons. These opposing and criticizing men never said anything directly to this preacher. However, most of the other men were aware of the attitude of discrimination and partiality that was going on behind his back [Jas 2:1-9].
Friday afternoon, just before I went to get our taxi for the airport, this preacher being criticized said that he wanted to talk with me. The unfriendly gossip had been made known to him. I had not heard about it. He talked to me about what was being said and how almost all of the other Nepali preachers and students were aware of this ugly talk. I told him I was NOT surprised.
I already knew that 6-8 months ago a couple of brothers had visited his congregation and they were not happy about how they were received. Apparently they were given a distant and cold “handshake”, but were not extended “the right hand of fellowship”. During the service, as well as before and after, they felt that they had been ignored. Instead of being “welcomed”, they felt like they were intruding. I also mentioned to this preacher that he had worked for years with a foreign missionary. During that time neither he nor the American preacher, who came many times, ever invited me to any of their meetings. I went to one meeting and also felt like I was intruding. I told him to look at his part in this whole picture before he started to criticize others [John 7:1-5]. This type of behavior is so common among those claiming to be CHRISTIAN LEADERS that I am not surprised when it happens.
What SINS do we see in this behavior? These CHRISTIAN LEADERS, these experienced PREACHERS, have unresolved complaints, bitterness, and bad feelings toward one another [Jas 4:1]. They have attended many classes, many as part of “the team” of a foreign missionary, yet they don’t handle these problems in a scriptural manner. None of them followed the clear instructions of Christ written in Matthew 18:15-17. Earlier in Matt. 18, Jesus talks about humility and also helping to restore your brother to the flock. We should not treat our enemies this way. Jesus gave a parable about this in Matt. 18:21-35. The teachings, example, and attitude of Jesus were ignored in this situation. To IGNORE JESUS is a SIN. Read Luke 6:36-37. Read James 5:19-20 to see how we should act if our brother is in sin.
To GOSSIP is a SIN. To talk in an inflammatory way about others behind their back is GOSSIP. To CRITICISE OTHERS without talking to them directly in a spirit of reconciliation pleases SATAN. These are the methods of the TROUBLEMAKER who causes DIVISIONS. WHERE IS THE PEACEMAKER? The actions of the one PREACHER 5-8 months ago, and the words and behavior of the 2-3 CHRISTIAN LEADRERS at our meeting do not demonstrate that anyone was interested in peace, unity, and fellowship.
“For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, ……..that there are quarrels among you…..each one saying , ‘I am of Paul’, and ‘I of Apollos’, and ‘I of Cephas’…….” [I Cor 1:11-12]. There was SIN in Corinth. It is the same today for Nepal. It is not unusual to hear comments like, “Who is your boss?”, “He is loyal to Preacher X.”, “Whose team are you on?”, “He only works with Missionary Z”, and other such statements. You can fill in the different American names …….. Jim Waldron, Jack Ray, Mike Brooks, Bob White, Randolph Gonce, and others, including my name. The concepts of “boss” and some being on a “team” loyal to one “owner and captain” are words and attitudes frequently used in Nepal. This usually is determined by the person who pays the preacher. No American or Nepali preacher will admit that they want to cause divisions, but that is what is happening. This seems to be a natural human weakness if it spans all this distance and 19 centuries with little change. However, it was SIN in Corinth 1,950 years ago and it is SIN in Nepal today. Numerous times in the last two years I have heard that “some brothers” are asking others, “Is your boss Mike or Jerry?”, or “Are you part of Mike’s team or Jerry’s team?” The CHRISTIAN PATTERN is to be a “bond-servant of Jesus Christ” working in harmony and unity with one another without divisions. Read I Cor 1:10; 11:18-19; 2 Cor 13:11; Phil 2:2-3; Col 3:1-3. The Bible pattern is to be a peacemaker that reconciles and edifies brothers and sisters.
I want to confess my own sin [I Jn 1:8-10]. It is MY SIN that I have seen these attitudes and heard them expressed in words for over two years and I have not addressed them directly. I repent of those sins of neglect [Jas 4:17]. I also call attention to those misguided brothers who have these attitudes and spread division within the church. It is the duty of EVERY CHRISTIAN to rebuke this type of sinful talk whenever you hear it. I also encourage EVERY CHRISTIAN to “busy themselves in good works”. When any brother will not heed a warning, we are to “keep away from a factious man” [Tit 3:8-11; 3 John 9-11].
Jesus is very clear and very strong about the Christian’s responsibility for mercy and to forgive others. Read Matthew 6:9-15, and then read verses 12, 14-15 again. Read Mark 11:25-26. Think about how Jesus has forgiven you. Read Matt 5:7; James 2:8-9, 12-13; 4:17. Do these brothers NOT KNOW how to do right? Are these CHRISTIAN LEADERS following the leadership example of the world or the SERVANT LEADERSHIP example given by Christ and the apostles? [Heb 12:14; I Thes 5:13; Gal 5:22; 2 Thes 3:13-16; Mark 9:50] Again I ask ………… WHERE IS THE PEACEMAKER?
God has told us we will have differences. He also saw the importance to tell us how to talk and behave when these problems happen. To PREFER the way of our personal PRIDE is a SIN. Whenever we forget, “not my will, but Thy will be done”, we will always find SIN. Jesus will forgive each of us and show us mercy in the same way that we forgive and show mercy to others, especially those in the family of God.
The first and primary goal of the Nepal Center For Biblical Studies is to teach the truth. We want to “speak the truth in love”. Another goal is to be a place that all Christians can come together to learn and mature through sound teaching and Christian example. Anyone with a sincere heart that wants to “draw near to God” is welcome. None of our staff, either invited foreigners or local Christians, are perfect. Our goal is to improve [mature] in heart, mind, and behavior.
The school will NOT ignore hateful words and non-Christian conduct that can destroy the church, wither they are false teachings, gossip, or unloving attitudes and unforgiving behavior. Eph 4:29-32 is a verse that we use very often. It is obvious that these verses were not close to the hearts or on the minds of [a] any brother while committing immorality, or [b] those who prefer to ignore fellowship and devotion, or [c] those who participate in gossip with unforgiving hearts that causes division, if it is 7 months ago or recently. These actions will not be swept under the carpet and be ignored. Each of us needs to continually examine our words and behavior in an objective manner. Look at YOURSELF the way JESUS looks at you. Stand in front of the mirror and picture yourself facing Jesus. It’s better to do it now than to be surprised to hear his eternal rebuke at Judgment.
The school will continue to train all the faithful men we can find ….. and distance ourselves from those who are not committed to follow the words and example of Jesus. This is true for fulltime students and for those invited to special classes. All of us stumble. Let us also help to pick each other up and to walk side by side as we “press toward the goal, toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” [Phil 3:14]. We will continue to be “servants of Jesus Christ” and “fellow workers” with every Christian who wants to “busy themselves in good works”, “draw near to God”, and be a “peacemaker” while we build-up Christ’s church and evangelize the lost.
This is written because of a love for God’s truth and pattern, Christ’s kingdom, and all of God’s children. The school is founded and operates on this love for seeking the lost, maturing Christ’s church, and building peace, unity, and fellowship among all Christians. We pray that you also share this attitude and purpose, and are willing to WORK for it within your LOCAL CONGREGATION as well as for the CHURCH IN NEPAL. We invite you to join us in this labor of love.
Your brother in Christ ………… Jerry Golphenee