PRAISE IS EXPECTED
by Richard Chowning
"God is the guardian of my life and yours too," said the Alexander Bett. He stood in front of a three legged, wooden stool just inside the door of his mud hut. Smoke filled the room from a fire in a pit at the opposite side of the hut. "I thank God for giving me this day. Many hoped to see it, but they have passed on. Most of all, I thank God for saving me from the darkness - all the evil of my life."
This father of twelve had been a Christian less than three weeks. He told the small congregation, seated on cow skins, about his faith in Christ. "God wants all the people in this village to become His children. He is knocking as He knocked on the door of my soul. Let's sing number twenty-four."
The congregation sang:
"Give me food, my Savior
As you gave the people of old.
I do not yet know your words; add to me Jesus.
I want you very much, you who lives.
Our Lord says this:
'Come so that you can purchase treasures;
So I can anoint your eyes so you can see;
So that I can show you things you do not know.'"
After the hymn Alexander said, "My name is Alexander Arap Bett. I live in this village, but I am ready for Jesus to take me anywhere He finds me." Alexander squatted and sat on the stool.
Praising the Lord Publicly
This new Christian had just begun to fulfill one of the prime expectations in the Lord's church in Kipsigis. He praised the Lord publicly. There is a praise period in each meeting of the saints in Kipsigis. Many nonchristians are attracted to the gospel because of the praises given by Christians. After their conversion they find it natural to share their new found faith in the same manner.
The praise period begins when a leader announces "it is time to praise." The congregation will sing spontaneously until a Christian voluntarily stands to speak. The "praise" usually consists of statement of praise and thanksgiving to God; a scripture is read (usually from Psalms) or a hymn sung.
Often the Christian's praise is liturgical, consisting of short memorized phrases. Some talk about specifics of their walk with the Lord. The period always ends with a hymn of praise sung by the entire congregation. When a new Christian like Alexander makes his first praise it is sign that he wants the community to know how he has changed and expects to grow in Christ. He announces a new direction in his life.
I was particularly glad to hear Alexander proclaim his faith so early. The church in his home needed a spokesman for God. All of the preaching up to that point had been presented by visiting evangelists. He was encouraged to say even more in subsequent praise periods until three months latter he gave his first short lesson.
Christians Participation in the Praise Period
The expected participation in the praise period makes the church a witnessing community. Large numbers of Christians feel free to orally participate in the meetings. It allows leaders of new congregations surface and make their first attempts at sharing their faith. This expectation is a major contributing factor to growth in Kipsigis.
Once a Christian participates he gains confidence that he can tell others what Christ means to him.