Dear Friends and Family,
My brief stay in Liberia is complete and I feel as if the mission was accomplished. I met with the newly formed team for several hours today and from the questions and responses I received, I feel good about the team. But you might be surprised about a primary highlight was. I’ll get to that in a moment.
NEVER DIE CHURCH
Pastor Michael Allen, newly appointed Liberia Coordinator, brought up the topic of registering ITEM in Liberia and the advantages of doing so. This same process is in its final stages in Uganda. Michael explained that it establishes a relationship with the government and that way they know who you are, what you are doing, and that you are not a cult of some kind.
That led him into his discussion of the “Never Die Church.” The Never Die Church was established here in Liberia and wanted to live on earth as believers will live in heaven. And since there will be no marriage in heaven, sex will not be limited to just husband and wife. You can take it from there. The Never Die Church was a “have sex with anyone you want” organization. I think Michael told me they were shut down by the government.
I told Michael I’d approach the ITEM board about it.
TODAY’S AGENDA: REVIEW, DISCUSSION, SURPRISE
PURPOSE: TRANSFORMED CHURCHES LED BY TRANSFORMED PASTORS
We spent the first part of the day reviewing ITEM’s purpose and mission. In recent years we’ve moved away from an organization that exclusively “trains pastors,” or even “trains pastors in basic Bible and theology.”
We’ve learned that a trained pastor (define that anyway that you want) does not equal a vibrant, healthy, spiritually growing church. We are told that there are some 600,000 seminars a year in sub-Saharan Africa conducted by westerners, yet the African church, we are told, remains “an inch deep.” Why? We are convinced it is because the Word of God has not taken root in the church at large.
So, our purpose and mission now is to come along side pastors using seminars and small group mentoring to equip them and lead them to become transforming agents in their churches.
The goal is that they become biblical examples, equippers (disciplers), and Bible expositors, and that the believers in their churches become equipped and involved, mature in their faith, and no longer deceived by any of the false teachers that blanket the continent.
We spent most of the rest of the day reviewing the ITEM Bible / theology seminar they each attended last July. We have a doctrinal exam for potential ITEM lecturers that get them to interact with the material in the lectures and ITEM’s position on certain, potentially dividing subjects like, “is new revelation being given today?” One of the participants today heard someone say “the written Bible is not the Word of God but it contains the Word of God.” What? Yes, there is a teaching that says “what is written is not the Word of God but the ideas behind the written words is the Word of God.” We also talked about ITEM’s position on women in ministry, certain spiritual gifts, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the filling of the Spirit, principles of Bible interpretation, and more.
Their questions and comments demonstrated that they had already studied some of these issues and this was a reminder. They said so much. Of those in attendance, 3 had seminary training, 3 did not but were still above average in their Bible knowledge.
SURPRISE: PRACTICE PATIENCE AND GRACE WHEN OPPOSED
The surprise of the day came at the beginning of the day, actually. I started the day with a discussion of Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Tim 2:24-26. “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition. . .”
I told them that these verses must define who we are as an organization. We will be working with the whole body of Christ and will be encountering a wide range of beliefs. And some are going to disagree with us. But I insisted that we do not argue, we respect everyone, we show patience, kindness, gentleness, and hopefully humility while leading those who disagree with us to see what we believe the Bible teaches.
Michael, the coordinator, perked up and confessed he has not been applying those verses. He believes he is teaching the Bible and tells people, “If you don’t want to hear what the Bible teaches you are free to leave.” And know what, many have.
I told them that we welcome everyone to our seminars and pray that some will have their eyes opened to some of the things they have believed that are not biblical.
Michael told the group, “I believe God sent Steve to us so I could hear that. I will change how I speak to those who oppose what we teach. Instead of rebuking them, I will try to teach them.”
NEXT STOP: NIGERIA VIA KENYA
Saturday, 14th, I’ll take a dinner time flight to Kenya. With stopovers and layovers, I will arrive at 5:40AM Sunday. Monday, I head to Nigeria for a seminar that starts next Tuesday. More about that later.
Thank you for praying. It was a worthwhile stop.
By His grace,
New Pictures added to the album today.