It took over 22 hours of travel to get there and upon arrival the heat literally took my breath away. Yet having the opportunity to witness the reconciling gospel at work at The River of Life AG (http://www.theriveroflifeassembly.org) in Mumbai, India was well worth the trip. I was invited to preach by the lead pastor, Rev. Vivek Dindorkar, after he had heard about the work of reconciliation the Lord is doing at Peoples Church Cincinnati and my time on staff there. I traveled with a pastor named Andrew Stern and a member from his church. Andrew lives in St. Louis and has been called to the ministry of reconciliation at a church named New City Fellowship (http://newcity.org), which has been an intentionally multi-ethnic church since the mid-80’s. They are a Presbyterian Church (PCA) that has been in relationship with Pastor Vivek and The River of Life Assembly of God for over eight years because of their common belief in a Rev. 7:9 church, which shows that the ministry of reconciliation will even bridge denominational divides.
I prepared a message from John 17:20-23 to encourage the church; yet when I walked up to the podium to begin my sermon, I was the one who was encouraged. In the congregation were Sub-Sahara Africans, Japanese, Korean, Indians from the Northeastern part of the country (they look ethnically Mongolian) and of course Indians of all shades. They all worshiped together in English, but for every person there English was their second language. They sacrificed worship in their native tongue so that they could worship together as one and invite others to worship with them. I imagine that the first century church worshipped in Greek for the very same reason, despite being from all over the Middle East and Mediterranean.
Pastor Vivek and his wife Adeleine began The River of Life Assembly in 1999 and only had modest success growing for the first 6 years. In India it is illegal to openly proselytize and pastors are often put in jail for converting Hindus so it is hard to advertise or go out to reach people. However, in 2005 people began to hear about a church that welcomes all ethnicities and castes of people. From that point on the church began to grow rapidly. People began to come to Christ because the gospel of Jesus loving everyone was clearly seen and new believers told their family and friends that there is a place where God loves them. The church is now holding three different services in two locations, with over 600 in attendance and is planting churches in other states. A 600-member church in a city where only 4% of the population is Christian is like a mega church in the US (Especially because a vast majority of the Christians are Catholic, and the church is under persecution by the government and other religions).
I have heard this story many times in the U.S., God pouring his blessing on a church where the gospel of reconciliation is preached and lived. And, it was amazing to see how God is doing the same thing in a country half-way around the world. God is definitely moving His church on Earth to look like the church in Heaven, and I feel privileged to be a part of the multi-ethnic church movement in the U.S. and now India. To God be the glory.