In a recent posting I mentioned how encouraging it was to be at the Lausanne Movement’s Cape Town 2010 meetings, outside the USA’s celebrity culture. A good case in point is Finny Philip.
I had corresponded with Finny about a trip I was planning to India. I knew only that he had his Ph.D. from Durham University, and that he taught at Filadelfia Bible College in Udaipur, India—a school I knew nothing about.
When I met him in Cape Town he wanted to pick my brain about starting a magazine. I asked him about the Bible College.
He proceeded to describe its origins. In 1981 Finny’s father-in-law, Thomas Mathews, attended a conference led by the missiologist Donald McGavran. Mathews and some of his evangelist co-workers began to pray fervently about reaching people who had never heard the gospel. While they were praying they became convinced God wanted them to go a remote place in Maharashtra state—where they knew no one and had no contacts.
When they arrived after a long journey, a man approached them at the bus station. He asked whether they were the people who were coming from Rajasthan. They said yes, but how did he know? He explained that he had had a vision telling him that five men were coming from Rajasthan—though he had no idea where Rajasthan was. He had come to the bus station to look for them, and recognized them by their suitcases.
This very simple man welcomed them into his home, where they stayed for the next several months. By the end of 1981 they had baptized 500 new believers, most of whom had no background in Christianity and knew next to nothing about the Bible. Beginning an informal educational program, Mathews began to train pastors and leaders. The program has grown as the church has grown, to the point where Filadelfia Bible College became an accredited school offering programs up to a Masters degree. Finny is the principal.
A few days ago I got an email from Finny in which he mentioned that their church had just completed its annual convention. 45,000 people attended for 6 days of worship and study on the theme, “Your Kingdom Come.”
“Very refreshing,” Finny commented.
If such a thing happened in Florida, we would all know about it. Thomas Mathews would have his own TV show, his books on miracle faith would be best sellers, and many pastors from all denominations would be attending his week-long church planting seminar in Orlando. (Special Disney World discounts included in registration fee.)
I have never met Thomas Mathews and I barely know Finny, so I can’t vouch for these stories. I can tell you that one hears such tales all the time at an event like Cape Town 2010. God’s church is vital. Most of its life happens without publicity and without much if any western involvement. It makes me happy to be part of it.