We left at 8:00 a.m. this morning in three vans to see how the church in Chennai worships. We spent about 10-15 minutes in each church:
A very large Pentecostal church (over 5000) that has grown through their deliverance ministry
A Syrian Orthodox Church – it was like a high mass in a RC church
A Presbyterian Church – The COO we met at ‘Sify” attends (large church very intellectual)
Powerhouse – a very young contemporary church – when we entered they were being led in worship by one of the best known bands in the city – they were singing David Ruis’ song Whom Have I But You…
Assembly of God - (38,000) there were three services going on simultaneously – they have many services a day – first we went into the indigenous gathering – it was very large, the music was loud and good, then we went up to another part of the building that was jammed full of young people, very Western feeling, they were sing I Will Sing of Your Love Forever, then we peeked into a third very large gathering that was like the first one in Indian.
We came back to the hotel. It is about 2:00 p.m. We had lunch and will now get ready to go to Hyderabad on the train. There are 2500 Christian churches in Chennai. We had only a birds eye view but what we saw was a very thriving, energetic church. Joyful and worshipful is how they all felt. Ray would convey to us the history of the church in Madras/Chennai after each visit. He is a church historian, it never ceases to amaze me when he can call up facts of history and then will bring a theological reflection. Chennai has been very interesting. Tim and his wife, Carol have been here since 1974. They think their time is coming to an end. They will be returning to the U.S. in the next six months. Carol’s attitude is that they will come back and have to relearn the church and the culture, much like Newbigin after he spent 30 years in India. Returning to see how much the culture has changed and then asking the questions on what that means to be a follower of Christ. I am going to pray for them. It will be a huge transition. They have been gracious hosts to us. Tim is one of the most dynamic leaders I have ever met. Very humble yet very strong. He has loved this city and Chennai loves him. This was apparent especially the few days we were exposed to city officials. Tim and Carol are coming back to the States to relearn the culture but I think they will have much to teach us in how to contextualize the gospel in our culture.