Brothers and Sisters, 

A seemingly small thing like a virus has shifted the world. We have all experienced the consequences in our lives in one way or the other. For some of us in America, if not most, it is merely the inconvenience of wearing a mask. For those in nations such as India, the consequences are far greater, and far more dangerous. In the nation of India, some locations are experiencing a government mandated “Triple Lockdown”. This lockdown closes nearly all businesses, prohibits public transportation, and restricts the movement of citizens by police force. 

Due to these governmental measures, it is estimated by some that the poverty rate in India may double due to the financial strain caused by COVID related governmental decisions. It was estimated in April that the number of those in poverty could climb to as high as 623 million people in India. To give some perspective, the population of the entire United States is 328 million. And as we know, with poverty comes suffering. 

As followers of Christ, we are called to care about suffering, both suffering now and suffering throughout eternity. I am reminded of the words in James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” With these circumstances we have an opportunity to display a pure and true religion to those in affliction; a Christ centered religion that does not only involve the academic, but a religion that also involves action. 

Since the beginning of COVID-19, Epaphroditus has been in regular communication with Babu Samuel and Grace Christian Ministries (GCM) and he is humbly asking for a special love offering from all his current and past partners to assist the Church in India during these times of affliction. 

We ask that you prayerfully consider a one-time gift to GCM to assist them in this unique time of “Triple Lockdown.” In addition, we ask that you consider a regular and monthly gift to GCM for ongoing ministry needs. If you would like to financially assist, you can give online or by mailing a check to Epaphroditus, 830 Nixon St., Cascade IA, 52033. 

Lastly, above financial giving, we ask for your ongoing prayer for the Church in India. Pray that through this time of suffering, the gospel goes forward and brings about repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. 

In Christ, 

Phil Parsons
President of Epaphroditus

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Emphasis added).  This marks the first time the word church is used to describe the followers of Christ, and I find it interesting that Jesus contrasts it with the “gates of hell.”   The Church verses the gates of hell.  So what is Jesus trying to convey when he compares the Church against the gates of hell?

To begin, let’s start with what a gate is.  In first century Palestine (the context in which Jesus speaks) gates were very common.  Cities and homes were enclosed by walls for protection and gates would allow people to enter and leave.  You can see this in Luke 7:12 when it says, “As he drew near to the gate of the town…”  In this passage, the town Jesus was about to enter was Nain.  For Jesus to enter the town to preach the Kingdom of God to the people, he had to enter by the gate.  We see this again in Matthew 7:13 when Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate.”  A gate was a point of entry and exit.

The gate of a city was the weakest part of the wall due to its purpose of being opened.  Therefore, it was substantially important for a town to have a strong gate, one that could withstand a great blow from their attackers and prevent entry.  Many of you are familiar with the medieval picture of a battering ram.  A battering ram was a large object that was able to produce a great force that would burst open a gate so that the army could lay siege to the city.  So what does Jesus mean when he speaks of the gates of hell?   

First, I think we need to understand that Jesus is not talking about Hell as a physical location, like Chicago.  Jesus is talking about Hell in the sense of its power, hence “gates of hell.”  The gates of hell are symbolic of the power of hell.

Second, I think we need to understand who are the citizens of this town who are being separated by the power of Hell?  If we look at verse 13, Jesus begins the conversation with the question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  (Emphasis added).  Therefore, I believe the citizens separated by the power of hell are people in general.  The Bible, commonly, refers to these citizens as “the world.”  These people are being held captive by the power of hell.  

I think we see this in other passages such as 2 Corinthians 4:4, which says, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  Satan is the ruler of this world.  He has enslaved all of humanity (the world) in his domain of darkness.  He has shut up mankind behind the gates of hell.  And this is what Jesus contrasts the Church against in Matthew 16.  

In contrast to the people of the world, the Church is an assembly of God’s chosen people, called out of the world to trust and follow Jesus their Savior King.  The Church is an army of fellow soldiers serving Jesus Christ.  And Jesus has given his people the means to make entry into the great city of Babylon (the world) to free those who live under the power of Satan.  In verse 16 Peter answers the question of who Christ is by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  To this answer Jesus says, “On this rock I will build my church.” (Emphasis added).  The “this” is not Peter, it is the revelation of who Christ truly is.  Believing in the truth of Jesus Christ, his life, death, and resurrection is the key that unlocks the gates and frees those living behind the gates of hell.

And as Jesus says, “the gates of hell shall not prevail.”  This means that the Church is not defensive, it is offensive.  The Church is moving forward as soldiers advancing into the fallen world and expanding the kingdom of God.  The Church is to be a battering ram bursting down the gates of hell and sieging this world for our King.  

Currently in India, there are over 1.3 billion people.  It is reported that only three percent are followers of Jesus.  From the outside, it appears the gates of hell that surround this nation are strongly fortified, even appearing indestructible, but that is not how Jesus sees it.  He has declared that he, not Satan, will claim final victory over the nation of India.  And it is our commission to use the keys of the gospel to break down the gates of hell and free the captives.  So join us as we partner together as soldiers of Christ to lay siege upon India with the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.  You can do this by praying, giving, or going.  Check out our website for more information.    

“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.  For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.”  (Psalm 22:27-28).

My oldest daughter, Alex, is currently playing basketball for Pekin Middle School. As a father who enjoyed basketball as a kid, it is simultaneously fun and frustrating to watch. It takes a great deal of self-control not to make a fool out of myself while watching and “encouraging” my daughter. My wife may argue that I fail at this more than I succeed.

One aspect of basketball that can be frustrating for parents, and coaches alike, is the absence of total commitment. Too often you see players merely go through the motions. To correct this halfhearted behavior, a coach my yell “Leave it all on the Court!” The idea behind this phrase is that players should not hold anything back. They should use all their heart, mind, and strength to win the game; being willing to sprint back on defense, dive on the floor for loose balls, and mix it up in the paint…blood, sweat, and tears.

The reason behind this reckless behavior is the desire to accomplish the primary goal, to win the game. Interestingly, being a Christian is not terribly different.  

When Christ came in the flesh, he came for one purpose, to save sinners. He didn’t come to go through motions. He didn’t come to build wealth. He didn’t come to climb the corporate ladder. He didn’t come to create a Pinterest life. Jesus took on flesh, lived a sinless life, and died on the cross to achieve the goal of seeking and saving the lost. As disciples of Christ, our purpose is not different. You can see this in the calling of the first disciples.  In Luke 5:4-11 we read these words:

“[W]hen he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”

In verse 10 we see Jesus tell his disciples that they will be catching men.  This was their new purpose as followers of Jesus, to look out upon the sea of faces in this world and throw out the net of the gospel and draw men to Jesus. Peter, James, and John are the first Christians, and in their calling, we are given the first example of what it means to follow Christ, to partner with Him to seek and save the lost.

But how do we do this? It begins with a commitment to leave everything on the court. Notice verse 11, “And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” Let that sink in…they left everything…everything; their boat, their source of income, their dreams, and even their dad. At this moment they were giving it their all, literally.  

Now…it is time for some self-evaluation. How do you stack up? Do you view yourself as a Christian, as a disciple, as a follower of Christ? Has Jesus called you to be catchers of men? Have you accepted that call? Have you committed yourself to the primary mission of seeking and saving the lost? Have you given it your all? Have you left it all on the Court? Or are you going through the motions?

Remember, when Christ calls you, it is not into passivity, but activity, and it is an activity of total abandonment. Later in the Gospel of Luke Jesus says these words, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33).

Christ calls us to leave it all on the court, to give everything we have, blood, sweat, and tears to the God glorifying, eternal, gospel centered mission of saving sinners.

Paul, as an Apostle of Christ, was instrumental in establishing the early Church. He did this by the grace of God and instruction of the Holy Spirit. One of my favorite verses is found in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

Despite Paul’s God given grace and work ethic, Paul was still a man. He was limited by space and time. He was limited. He needed help, and help he had. Paul was almost always in a group. Very rarely do we see Paul alone in ministry. Some of the men that were a part of Paul’s ministry were Timothy, Luke, Mark, Barnabas, Silas, and Titus. However, even this group was limited. As the gospel spread through Judea, Samaria, and the Ends of the Earth, this band of brothers just wasn’t enough. Similar to Paul, they couldn’t be everywhere at all times. So what was the solution? Pastors.

“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—”Titus 1:5

The Apostle Paul commissions Titus to appoint elders. Elder is just another name for Pastor. For the early Church, Pastors were crucial in the expansion of the Kingdom both in depth and in breadth. Over the years, nothing has changed. It is still God’s desire to have Elders in every town, including the towns in India.

This is one of the goals of Epaphroditus and Grace Christian Ministry (GCM), to have Pastors in every town in the nation of India. Having said that, this is easier said than done, for a Pastor is more than a warm body, despite what you might see in American pulpits today. Titus 1:9 tells us that a Pastor “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”.

Pastors must be trained up to know and to teach sound Biblical doctrine, and this is one of the primary focuses of GCM, to train up Pastors to instruct and rebuke. GCM achieves this is two primary ways, a Bible College and Learning Centers. It has been GCM’s past practice to not charge a tuition for their college or their classes so as not to put an obstacle in the way of men who feel lead to become a pastor.

And this is where you come in. Epaphroditus exists to act as a messenger between GCM and the Church in America. It is our purpose to present needs that exist on the front lines of gospel ministry in the nation of India, and then allow God to move in hearts as He wills. One of the primary needs in India is financial support for training up Pastors. It takes only $30/month to support one Bible college student. If God is calling you to support this endeavor, please partner with us to provide an elder in every town in the nation of India.

Grace Christian Discipleship Training Center — Bihar, India

We exist to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20

Continue reading “GCM Missions Report (July 2018)”

We are continuing our Get to Know India campaign and are focusing today on Christianity in India. As we have stated in previous posts, Christianity is the third largest religion in India with approximately 26 million adherents. This number seems large until you compare it to the national population of 1.3 billion. This equates to only two percent of the population identifying as Christians.

The 26 million Christians in India are located in Christian pockets. Some city blocks, towns, and even some States within India are considered Christian. Generally speaking, many of those Christian pockets are located in Southern India, while the Northern States tend to be more anti-Christian and adversarial.

Continue reading “Christianity in India”

As Jared mentioned in the previous post’s overview of India, the population of India is 1.3 billion, making it the second largest population in the world. With so many people you would anticipate a diversity of cultures. It is estimated that within India there are 2,550 People Groups.

It is claimed that the Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of four of the world’s major religions; namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Freedom of religion in India is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 25-28 of the Constitution of India.

Continue reading “Main Religions in India”

For the nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living. – Revelation 18:8

It is day two of our trip to India. The route that we have always taken leads through Dubai. There is no place like Dubai. If there is one word for it, it is luxurious. It is home to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. The goal of Dubai is to become the center of the world. As I sit in the airport, it appears that they are doing very well reaching their goal.

As I walked through the mall of the Dubai airport I pass people from many nations coming and going. As we walk we are surrounded by extravagance: fine wine, cigars, sushi bars, jewelry, expensive coffee, you name it.

Continue reading “Babylon”

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20

I love how God works. I have needed to write a blog post for Epaphroditus for some time. I have put it off for weeks. However, the verse above was a part of my Bible study that I was preparing for today, and God has laid it on my heart to stop procrastinating.

The guy who wrote 2 Corinthians 5:20 is my hero. His name is Paul. We don’t know a lot about Paul’s appearance except people said that “his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” (2 Corinthians 10:10). Paul referred to himself as a jar of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7). Tradition says that he was a small man, bald, bow-legged, a long nose, and eyebrows that met.

Continue reading “Ambassadors for Christ”