I had an encounter with a man by the riverbank. His name is Santos and he had a Bible in his hands. I came over to him and was planning to talk to him about the gospel. Before I could begin speaking, he took me by surprise and asked me to read a certain passage from the Bible. At that moment I asked him if he was part of a church, and he told me that he wasn’t. Immediately, I realized that he wanted to teach me something from the Bible and I became suspicious. I thought the worst. There are many false sects here and I thought he was from one them and that, with seeming innocence, he wanted to “evangelize” me with his false teaching.
So, I began preparing myself mentally with my arguments and getting my doctrinal machine gun ready to fire. I said inside myself, “I am tired of seeing these deceivers blaspheming the holy doctrine and fooling the many people they cross paths with.”
But something stopped me in my tracks. I began to listen to his sincerity and humility as he spoke (contrary to the false appearance of godliness in the false sects). Later, as he continued speaking I was surprised by his simple but profound declarations of his love for Christ as His Creator and Savior. I saw that his Bible was marked up and underlined all over. His manner of speaking was that of a sincere Christian, without any theological slang or denominational promotion. And then it struck me that he was evangelizing me and that the gospel he was preaching was the biblical gospel!
At that point in the conversation, I simply listened. I was rejoicing to hear this brother speaking about our common Savior. All I could respond with was a simple “Amen! Glory to God!”
When he had finished telling me about the gospel, I asked him where he had learned the truths of the Bible. He told me, “Not long ago, someone gave me a Bible and he told me about Jesus Christ from the Gospel of John. After that, God worked in my life and I confessed Jesus Christ as my Savior. From that time, I have been following Jesus, my Lord. I love Him with all my heart.” Santos seemed to be truly devoted to Jesus Christ.
I got to know Santos a little more and found out that he was staying here in Oxapampa during the quarantine, but that he lives in a town two hours from here. The day after our encounter at the river, he came looking for me at my house and asked if I could teach him more about the blessed gospel and the Holy Scriptures.
When I asked him more about the church, he told me that he had visited several evangelical churches in his town, but his experiences in each of them had been sad rather than joyful. His disappointment, in part, was owed to the discord that seemed to exist among the members, hearing some members criticize others. Also, he said, “Someone like me without much education can’t understand the teaching there.”
When he said that, it gave me a knot in my throat as I thought about the high responsibility that we have to preach and teach with clarity and simplicity, without pretensions or a show of our theological knowledge. I thought about the many times that I had foolishly taught in a way that wasn’t understood by some in the congregation, even though, perhaps, it impressed others. Of course, I know that we need to keep studying entire books on systematic theology and biblical commentaries since this is an important part of our growth in understanding as preachers. But, we also need to ask ourselves, “Why am I wanting to gain this knowledge? Am I merely studying for myself, or in order to instruct each member in the church of Christ?” Our ministry must have the aim of evangelizing and teaching in such a way that people understand the Bible in order to obey it and receive it as the only source of spiritual nourishment in their lives.
I encouraged Santos to see the importance of belonging to a local church, even though it is imperfect (as every church on the earth is going to be to some degree). I helped him to see and understand the differences that exist among certain churches and encouraged him to look at them with love and to remember his own imperfections as well. I showed him from the Scriptures that God’s will is for him is to be in a church. I told him that it is sin not to meet with other believers in a church. I’m also giving him some literature resources and teaching him how to study the Bible more effectively.
I’m very excited for the opportunity God has given me to help Santos because it is always a privilege when we are able to guide our brothers and sisters in the study of the Scriptures and to be able to see them grow in the Savior. Please, pray for brother Santos. The Lord has taught me a lot through the example of this brother. He has a Christian character—a humility and simplicity of devotion to Christ—that I deeply admire and one that I want to cultivate in my own life.