If you have children of a certain age, you might well be familiar with The Magic Key stories. Three children and their dog set out on all sorts of adventures, courtesy of a magic key, helpfully attached to the dog’s collar. Unfortunately, I am a little too old to have had the pleasure of such reading material; we had stories that usually ended up with a dead giant or a dead wolf, or something like that.
If only we had magic keys to take us through life. Magic keys that would inject a bit of excitement into our sometimes mundane routines.
It has to be said that sometimes reading Christian literature and attending Christian conferences can at some level, usually an unconscious one, become a quest for a magic key. The one thing that will bring growth. The one thing that will bring revival. That elusive one thing.
Recently I spent twelve days in India. I spent time in two different locations. In one location I experienced the ministry of a city church. The other, was a mission station, though that is an inadequate description. If both ministries are not experiencing revival, then it must be pretty close to revival. If ever I had my chance to find the magic key, this was it.
So what was their magic key?
There are so many potential candidates.
For a start, the way they showed hospitality. What an incredible welcome we received. How we were honoured and cared for the whole time we were there was exemplary. In fact it was quite humbling. We were treated like kings.
The way these ministries reach out to their own communities in acts of service was also staggering. Feeding the hungry, educating children and caring for orphans. The mission station was even training nurses and ran a primary school for one thousand children and a secondary school for two thousand children and a hospital and…the list is almost endless. That was on one campus alone!
Evangelistic outreach was certainly not substituted for social action. Whether it was distributing Bibles or church planting, evangelistic outreach was to the fore. One church even decided that over the Christmas holidays – Boxing day and Christmas day included – that they would take a bus and drive, stopping to preach and sleeping wherever they could!
And then there are signs and wonders. The supernatural seems to be a normal aspect of life in India.
Of course, there was the very focused emphasis on prayer and fasting. Long lists of those committed to praying and fasting for a certain number of days during the year. Beginning the year with three days of prayer and fasting.
I could go on to talk about the dynamic, compelling worship, great steps of faith and acts of sacrifice, even to the point of laying down life for the sake of the gospel.
It was very clear that none of these things could or should stand alone. They all belonged together. It’s not all about prayer. Or social action. Or worship.
Or even evangelism. Though it has to be said that when I asked for some honest feedback about the western church, our lack of evangelism was highlighted. I might not have mentioned that, had not a missionary from Latin America said the same thing in a conversation seven months previously.
What, in my opinion, these Indian churches are doing that is so important, is that they have kept doing the things that are important since they were founded. There is no substitute for decades of commitment to the great commission.
So what’s the magic key? The magic key might just be to recognise that we have a whole bunch of keys which, if used consistently, will unlock doors and unlock God’s blessing over our churches. Perhaps the magic key is to recognise that there is no magic key.