by J. Randal Matheny
The meeting was small, even by Brazilian standards. Maybe the rain and the cold kept some away. The cold more than the rain. Brazilians are used to the latter, but complain bitterly about low temperatures.
It was the second time to be at that place, at that time of year, for that purpose.
The “Flower Garden” congregation hosted the second annual Encounter of Good Ministers of Christ June 2. Home from college, my son Joel accompanied me as I attended for the second time. A day of song and prayer, fellowship and comaradarie, teaching and preaching.
Four men of God preached the word of Christ. Only one was what we call a full-time preacher. None lacked in quality.
The theme examined the character of the good minister, that we are to be righteous and devout men, as was Simeon in Luke 2:25.
The challenge is to be righteous and devout in an unjust and perverse world. No, challenge isn’t the right word. Opportunity. Mission.
The examples and stories that Joaquim dos Santos told illustrated well his lesson. One friend at work, a religious person, asked him, “Can a Christian retire?”
“Sure he can,” Joaquim replied, “as soon as every person in the world has heard the message of Christ.”
Every prayer, each song, each of the three biblical appeals to action, each introduction, was fervent. Men knew intimately the word of the Lord and were moved to speak and act from an urgent love and a white-hot zeal for the house of God.
Otavio Calegari asked if we as husbands and fathers wanted to leave a legacy of character or coinage.
The cold and drizzle failed to dampen the enthusiasm. On the contrary, the meeting of righteous and devout men intensified their resolve and challenged them to greater service and a deeper walk with God.
Several area churches were represented. Embu-Guaçu. Monte Azul. Sãõ˜˜Bernardo. São Vicente. Nove de Julho. Jardim das Flores. São José dos Campos.
These names won’t mean much to you. But, with sister congregations, they form the foundation of the kingdom of God in our area. God is working through the fingers and feet of such as these.
Sérgio Nascimento acknowledged that grabbing somebody’s class or sermon outline doesn’t work because it involves no work on our part, no application, no act of entrusting ourselves and our hearers to the Lord and his Word (Acts 20:32).
The meeting inspired us more to “love the brotherhood” (1 Peter 2:17). No one ignored the great dangers we face among the churches. Apathy toward our single mission to save the lost. Weakness from failure to know the Word and to devote oneself to prayer. Massive influence from the world to give in to passions. Wasted time on self rather than serving the family of God. False doctrines being brought in from religious neighbors and from those within the church itself.
But there was no despair, for faith spoke courageously and conviction braced each participant with confidence in the future.
There was no fear at the threats from worldliness or apostasy, for the God who holds the world in his hand was in full evidence among them.
Aware of their own shortcomings and failures, conscious of salvation through the mercy of God, and grateful for the pure sacrifice of the Lamb without spot or blemish, these men called upon the power of God for their life and task.
Those I know personally are tireless, dedicated, visionary, and patient. Limited by time, resources, funds, and tools, they nevertheless redeem the hours, sacrifice to do the work, and hunt with cats. (Brazilian saying: Who doesn’t have a dog, hunts with cats.)
Alex Soares reminded us that even something as small as a phone call can restore people to the Lord. He made a call to a Christian lady who was discouraged, embarrassed to return, resolved to give up the faith. Because of his one call she reversed her decision and repented.
I didn’t want to drive the two hours, one way, to get to the encounter. But I wanted to be with these men. They inspire me, encourage me, shame me, enliven me.
Simeon was a righteous and devout man who looked for the restoration of Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him. And I was in the presence of such men who look for and work toward the full restoration of the church of God, who are committed to following God’s pattern for life and work, who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in their hearts.
On the drive home, as the wipers swiped the rain from the windshield, and the headlights tentatively pierced the fog, I gave thanks for the opportunity to be present and came away with a renewed spirit.
For while such righteous and devoted men as Simeon still live among us today, there is hope.
An encounter of Christian workers gives reason for hope and encouragement.