“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9–10)
I recently heard a pastor (Tony Merida) say that what makes a good preacher is not his technique or form; it’s his convictions. If the word of God is indeed God’s word (2Timothy 3:16–17), then as ministers of the gospel it only makes sense that we “preach the word” (2Timothy 4:1–2). We have no other word to offer. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ brings salvation (1Thessalonians 5:9) to sinners.
A few days ago myself and ten others boarded a plane to Ethiopia. Why? Because we all share the conviction that God’s word — and the gospel of Jesus it contains — is worth it. Indeed, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This is a message for the whole world. As a team we get to proclaim this very gospel of our Lord Jesus in two ways: word and service (1 Peter 4:11). The “word” team teaches through the gospel of Mark; the “service” team demonstrates the love of Christ and pure religion at a nearby orphanage (James 1:27). We board planes, become foreigners, embrace discomfort, and leave our families because the gospel of Jesus is worth it. And it is our joy to do so (2 Corinthians 1:24)!
One of the joys here (and there are many!) is the people. For myself as well as others, the highlight of the trip is getting to know and love other brothers and sisters in Christ here in Ethiopia. Though we may not have many cultural commonalities, we do have one thing (the most important thing) in common: through the gospel Jesus created “in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (Ephesians 2:15b). We are one in Christ Jesus. What a beautiful reality.
I was able to experience this “oneness” the other day in my teaching group — a moment I doubt I will ever forget. As we finished a long day of teaching through the gospel of Mark to other Christian pastors in Ethiopia, my teaching group naturally ended in prayer. As the prayers were finishing, one of the women in my group spontaneously started to sing a song in Amharic (if I remember correctly, a song entitled “Jesus, My Friend”). She started to sing and other Ethiopian brothers and sisters followed. Soon our entire Ethiopian group had raised their voices and were singing to Jesus. I had no idea what they were saying; but I do know that I heard some of the most beautiful worship that afternoon I can remember. I didn’t have to know what they were saying. I just closed my eyes and (tearfully) thanked the Lord Jesus that his gospel brought me to these other Christian men and woman in Ethiopia. Our unity in the Spirit beckoned me to worship the same Jesus, the Jesus who heals sinners (Mark 2:17).
Hearing western hymns is one thing; hearing Ethiopian worship is quite another. One is not “better” than the other. But I praise God because what I heard that afternoon was a sound of heaven. As king of the nations (Psalm 2:7–9) Jesus is worthy of our worship. Heaven will be filled with Christians from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). My heart rejoices that, through these brothers and sisters, I now have a little bigger view of God and his global mission. God's kingdom will not fail (Mark 4:26–32).
God is at work here in Ethiopia, and we’re glad to be part of it. Through these brothers and sisters I’ve seen theology lead to (Ethiopian) doxology - truly a sound of heaven that contributes to the concert of God’s praise. May God give our team grace to humbly minister to and learn from these beloved Ethiopian brothers and sisters as we finish the week. And may the gospel of Jesus continue to bear fruit in "good soil" long after we leave (Mark 4:9, 20).
Bethlehem Seminary Student (4th Year)