Remember that the purpose of this visit shouts: edification. When we set our sights, aiming at India from America, we saw a clear target, namely, equipping men by furnishing them with the truth. The goal was to build them up in the faith.
Far from lacking ideas about what all that entails, I arrived loaded to bear, convinced I knew the needs of India. And many of those assumptions proved correct, not surprisingly, since God has provided one Bible for every nation, tribe and tongue. We cannot equate knowing the Bible, however, with knowing the particular needs and blind spots of a given people. The Scriptures are lucid, but the mind is dim. What portions of Scripture are unclear to them? What specific challenges intimidate them? What conundrums need solutions? What knotty matters of church practice need to be untied? We do not discover the answers by osmosis or mystical messages. Until someone informs my ignorance, I am restricted to conjectures, and the questions go unanswered.
My class material communicates to them what I deem important, but their questions reveal to me what they find confusing or consider pressing. In other words, they teach me about where they need support and help.
Questions open vistas of insight into their world, creating a panoramic vision of church life and ministry here. If the aim is edification, then count this as priceless. It hones our ability to speak the Word profitably into the demands of their spiritual environment.
You will be intrigued to know that while some of the questions bore unique Indian twists, many represented the same questions raised back home. In fact, it turned out that most of the questions, though not all, pertained to interpreting specific passages of Scripture. Their minds were churning over how to accurately understand and communicate the Bible.
A small specimen of questions similar to home included: Who is God describing in Genesis 6:1-4? What is the sin against the Holy Ghost? Why did Jesus tell Mary that she could not touch or handle him after the resurrection? What does the mustard seed and tree refer to in Matthew 13? They also proposed practical questions about the role of women in the church, the application of the ordinance of church discipline, the cessation of special revelation . . . and on and on it went. Do any of these sound familiar?
The hour and a half whizzed by, leaving me with a yearning for more. I suggested to Nish that they amend future class syllabi to always include at least one entire Q&A class for the profit of the men. He agreed, acknowledging the value — and the fact that he enjoyed it as much as I did.
“Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine . . . Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that heart thee. (1 Timothy 4:13-16)