Before our team leader John was expelled, the work of the foundation had brought us into contact with a poor family in an outlying part of the city. The Smiths were an older couple who had seven adult children, five of them living at home.
They showed an interest in the gospel and we made frequent visits there to share more. Over time a number of the family members made commitments to Christ and we began to have meetings in their home on Sundays.
As most of the “old timer” workers had left our city, we were invited to join in with the little local fellowship and brought some of the Smith family with us.
As new workers came in, we sat down together to talk about our theological commonalities and differences. If we were going to work together, it was important to know how we were going to blend our methods and beliefs.
There was a wide spectrum of theology among the few workers in the country. On one end were reformed baby baptizers and on the other end were charismatics who believed that if you didn’t speak in tongues you weren’t saved.
We took the doctrinal statement of our group, which is a non-charismatic group, and went through it point by point with the other workers in the city. Amazingly there was only one point of disagreement, in the area of future events. So after discussing everything, we made an agreement that in the founding of a fellowship, we would teach the basic truths of Scripture, but would not teach for or against charismatic positions. We also agreed that no one would practice speaking in tongues or any other of the charismatic gifts in the fellowship.
This agreement allowed us as charismatic and non-charismatics to work well together for many years and to see a strong and solid church begin. Later on, some of the newcomers from other groups were either not informed of this agreement or didn’t accept it and brought in their own teaching, but amazingly had little effect on the local believers theology. But in the long run all worked out.
As new workers began arriving in our city, we made it a point to get to know them. The two most significant ones in our future work were James and Woo.
James and his wife, Leanna, were the new leaders for OM. He was English and she Scottish. James and I became very good friends, being kindred spirits in spite of his being charismatic and my not. He was an excellent preacher both in English and the local language and a man of clear integrity.
Woo was a Korean brother who had a scholarship to study for his doctorate here, researching the common roots of the local languageand Korean. He was a strong leader with very definite ideas from Korean culture. He also was gifted as an evangelist and had lots of energy.
Since Woo could not speak English, when the three of us began to work together in the little fellowship, we had to do all of our planning in the local language. This was complicated by Woo’s pronunciation. He had a great grasp of the grammar, and a marvelous vocabulary, but his pronunciation was lacking. As a result, in the beginning I could only understand about thirty per cent of what he was saying.
When the three of us began to work together with the little fellowship we’d inherited, there were only two regular attenders: a girl who was a college student, and a middle-aged man, named Burt. Both of these had been in the fellowship for several years. A lot of us had doubts about Burt, but no one could put their finger on any specific evidence to confront him with.
There was a regular stream of visitors and enquirers, people seeking more information about Christianity, but none of them ever stayed long. We prayed for God’s guidance in the situation and were both surprised and gratified with how God answered.
One day Burt brought a fellow to me who had a financial need. This man wanted me to give him $3,000! I told him I was not a bank and could not do it. After fruitlessly putting some more pressure on me he and Burt left and I thought that was the end of it.
However, in a couple of days he was back at my door and wanted to talk again. After the formalities of tea and a bit of chatting, he leaned forward and said, “Burt told me that you get $10,000 a month to give to us locals, but that you use it all for yourself. Why can’t you give some of that to me?”
“Burt told you that?!!” I sat back amazed. “If that’s true, why am I driving a fifteen year old car, and have an apartment furnished with used things, including the refrigerator?”
Now it was his turn to be surprised. “Well, all I can say is that’s what Burt told me!” he repeated.
I thought for a moment, “Are you willing to go with me and talk with Burt about this?” I asked.
“Sure,” he replied, probably hoping this would lead to some money. We called Burt and set up an appointment. Another worker and I met with them in a tea house, sitting around a small table.
“Tell Burt what you told me,” I said to my informer. He repeated the story of my getting money each month to give to Tu.rks. I turned to Burt, “Is that true? Is that what you said?” I asked.
“Yes it is. I thought that all you foreigners got lots of money and used it on yourselves.” Burt replied.
“Absolutely not and you know it! Look at the economic level I live on. If I had $10,000 a month and used it on myself, I could live like a king.” I paused. “Have you told other people this type of thing?”
He admitted that he had been talking to all the visitors and enquirers about this, feeding them lies about money and many other things.
I leaned forward and looked Burt in the eyes, “You have, with your own mouth accused yourself. We are putting you under discipline. You are not to come to any more meetings until you show true repentance. Is that clear?”
I got up to leave. “If you understand, then don’t come.”
As we walked away, Burt stood up and called after us, “But you are supposed to love me!”
It was clear that he did not understand biblical love, which would confront and deal with sin. And he did not realize how unloving he had been to so many, chasing them away from truth.
We found out that Burt had also threatened seekers and the police themselves later told me that he had worked for them as a spy. In addition, it came out that he was a Jehovah’s Witness and a drug addict. He had been very clever in hiding all this from us over the years, but now the Lord had brought it out.
In one way it was understandable that no one ever confronted him. When you are working in a society without any believers, every single person who shows interest is a great encouragement and you don’t want to lose anyone who comes to the meetings. And when one claims to have come to Christ, as Burt did, you tend to overlook a lot of negatives, blinded by the desire to see a church start.
Burt’s exit was a significant impetus for progress in the little fellowship. Locals can sense when an attender is suspicious or dangerous, and so they will no longer come. This was obvious with all the seekers who came and went while Burt was attending. Now that he was gone, people felt safer to come to the meetings we held in homes and forward momentum began to build.