Essentially when a Christian speaks of “Freedom in Christ” they usually are referring to their individual rights to partake of something which another Christian may feel is not appropriate. Issues come to mind which stir emotions in regard worship practice, traditions or the taste of red wine. One group of believers whom I love has taken on the challenge of helping others have Freedom in Christ. The freedom which they are passionate about is the freedom from the bondage of sin and entrapment by the devil, rather than endlessly debating individual preferences. Their collective love is poured out for the people of Cambodia and other nations as well.
I am referring to a wonderful church in Owasso, Oklahoma called “Freedom Church” pastored for more than a decade by Andrew Rankin. Our bond of friendship has grown closer and closer over the years as it seems God has intentionally weaved us together from decades ago. Both Andrew and I are alumni from the same Universities and Theological Seminaries though we did not attend in the same years. We met, not in Texas or Oklahoma, but in Cambodia. On one adventurous medical trip in a remote tribal region of Cambodia during a monsoonal flood our friendship was sealed.
Over the years Pastor Andrew and his friends have helped us train hundreds of local pastors, teach in schools, evangelize using karate and they have always been thoughtful and generous. A year and a half ago God opened a great door to help orphans and abandoned kids in dire poverty. First to jump in to help the kids was Freedom Church. But why should the believers in Owasso, Oklahoma care?
Owasso is on the Northern outskirts of Tulsa. In Tulsa, it seems, nearly everyone is religious. When I listen to radio stations while passing through, it seems as if they are filled with preaching hour after hour with pastors debating and preaching against points of doctrine which other churches hold and parsing Greek words for people like me who cannot even spell propitishun. . . propitition. . . propitiation (I cheated and used F7), much less tell you what it means! In this fast growing and fairly prosperous city a group of people began to pray about another fast growing city, Poipet. They are nothing alike. Consider: Owasso has too many churches to even bother counting. They have nice roads, friendly people and fantastic barbeque. Poipet has mud and slums, human trafficking and cholera as a desert in the fly infested restaurants. They are similar in size (75,000 in Owasso, compared to 120,000 in Poipet) which is probably the only similarity.
The biggest difference is that in Owasso, at Freedom Church, they understand that God wants others to be free too and wants to use them to help others. They are not a huge church, nor are they particularly small. I would guess a couple hundred adults. When they heard about the plight of orphans in this province and town Pastor Andrew stirred the people into action. They began praying and set a financial goal of helping to build a little building. After only a few weeks, they raised enough money to nearly complete the entire center by themselves. The outpouring of love has been unprecedented. Oh yes, and they did it at a time of unprecedented financial difficulty in America too!
Freedom Church understands that they are here for a purpose. Their lives are for a purpose and the purpose is to see that others can have the same Freedom in Christ that they have. Pastor Andrew has a Ph.D. in theology too! I think he could even dream in Greek. Yet in all the years I have known him I have never heard him argue points of doctrine, or even bring them up. The only things I have heard him say are:
- “How can I pray for you?”
- “What can I do to help equip local leaders and churches?”
- “How can our people at Freedom love Cambodian’s more?”
Freedom Church is a model church to me. They are right now in a remote area of Mexico training pastors and helping the less fortunate there too. Dozens of members have sacrificed greatly to travel to Cambodia, and nearly all the members have given and prayed and they even use their vacation time to find special ways to show love to orphaned children and impoverished believers in other countries. I would say that Freedom Church is a healthier church in Owasso because of what they do in Cambodia. The lives of their people are passionate for the lost and they weep for broken lives on the other side of the earth. More than that, what sets Freedom Church apart is that they are willing to step out in faith and do something to bring freedom to those who are in bondage.
You can find out more about Freedom Church at: www.freedom-church.com