By Dr. John Ed Mathison
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries
40 years ago David Mohan started a church in Chennai, India. That church has continued to grow until today it is one of the leading churches in the world. Each Sunday he has 14 worship services beginning at 5:00 am. In September, I preached at the 10:30 to 12:00 worship service and the 4:30 to 6:30 afternoon worship. They average between 4,000 to 7,000 people at each worship service!
The best way to describe worship is WOW! The sanctuary seats 5,200 people. Every seat was taken with people sitting on the floor and many standing around the walls. A fire marshal in the U.S. would have been extremely busy at New Life in Chennai.
The first overflow auditorium that seats 1,200 people was full. The second overflow room seats about 900, and it was full. They have screens set up outside for people who can’t get into any of those three venues. They had over 42,000 people attend worship that day!
Worship isn’t convenient for the people. The church has only one and a half acres. There are no parking places. People come by public transportation. As I left the 10:30 worship service, outside the building it looked like a college football game. There were buses lined up to give transportation for people who had been attending church. There was another huge set of buses that were bringing people to the next worship service.
In traveling from the hotel to the church at 10:15 on Sunday morning, we suddenly encountered a traffic jam. I asked the driver if there was a wreck up ahead. He comment was, “No, the church is about a quarter of a mile away and the traffic jam occurs at the ending of each worship service and the beginning of the next worship service.” They have a lot of policemen directing the traffic and allowing the people to get to public transportation.
I also preached at the 4:30 worship service. It started raining pretty hard about 4:00. Since many of the people travel on motor scooters, I figured that the rain would deter a lot of people from coming to worship. I was wrong again. Rain didn’t seem to affect the attendance.
New Life has sent out 150 missionaries from the local church in recent years. They came back for a missions’ conference in September. I had the opportunity to speak to the missionaries on Saturday, then speak at their missions’ rally on Saturday night. The New Life Church took pledges to support their missions.
The witness of the missionaries were so compelling I felt it a privilege to make a financial pledge for their mission work! The missionaries taught me something about prayer. It wasn’t just something that they casually do. The first prayer request was from a missionary who said his two nieces had been kidnapped by terrorists.
They had been given three days to pay a ransom or the girls would be killed. The missionary asked for prayer. Wow! There was intense prayer. The other requests centered around fellow missionaries who were in prison, some who had been beaten, etc. They actually had a special time to pray for all of the churches around the world that are being persecuted.
On Monday we began the Pastors’ Conference. There were 1,140 pastors who came for training. Like the pastors in northern India, they listened intently, took copious notes, and were eager to learn. I’m scheduled to go back to teach 3 more times in the next 2 years.
It took me about 33 hours to go from Montgomery to Chennai. You lose a lot of sleep and don’t eat much, but my life was refreshed by Christians who really know what it means to live out Christian commitment and to be faithful to carry out the Great Commission.
John Ed’s blog posts appear each Thursday in For His Glory.
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