Dear Friends and Family,
Today was a different day. We spent a lot of time interacting with the pastors in attendance. And some of the topics of discussion, which were actually outside the normal curriculum, ended up being some of the most instructive times today.
One thing Nathan said today that I’ve heard him say before registered in a new way with me and gave another reason for the ministry God has called ITEM to. His statement: “The pew is higher than the pulpit.”
A recurring theme from the start of the seminar has been “bringing the church to maturity.” The first mention of the week is the first lecture from Eph 4 where the pastor equips the saints who do the work of the ministry to the building up of the body to a mature man…..
The first lecture today was “Measuring Maturity.” We use 2 Pet 1:5-12 (“Add to your faith…..if these qualities are yours and are INCREASING…”) And Gal 5:22, the fruit of the Spirit….
Nathan actually had the next four (we juggled some to accommodate his personal schedule). He gave the lectures on NT Leadership (character most important feature; character over accomplishments). Next was about the church as a body. He talked about how important every individual is and none are any more important than any other. His third was on the purpose of preaching. Basically, if God’s will is that we all be conformed to the image of Christ, preaching should point people in that direction. Finally, he did Paul’s view of ministry in Col 1:13-29. Eight insights from those verses. One is that he was committed to presenting every man mature in Christ.
QUESTIONS AND DISCUSSIONS
Following our decision from yesterday to put concepts ahead of content, Nathan moved quickly through his lectures. This left a lot of time during, between, and after his lectures for questions and group discussion.
One early discussion was about how to speak to an unbeliever by asking him questions. I mentioned that we don’t have to everyone to Christ that we talk to. But we should try to “put a rock in their show” to make them think about their objections to Christianity to make them question their beliefs. Nathan told a story about as a younger man, he asked a Muslim “what is your hope?” All this did was make the man think. Years later, Nathan’s father met this same man, the man mentioned the former conversation with Nathan without knowing it was the man’s son. Nathan’s father led this man to Christ.
Q: I am to warn my congregation about false teachers. Am I supposed to name them? ANS: This led to a long discussion about naming them if necessary but be sure you have evidence from quotes and focusing mainly on truth so members will recognize error when they hear it. I brought up motives. I warned them about questioning the motives of the false teacher. They could be sincere but sincerely wrong.
That led to a discussion about motives that I came back to at the end of the day.
Q: Was Simon the sorcerer sincere? ANS: What was his motive? In Acts 8 he tried to buy the power to lay hands on people to heal them. His motive could not have been pure. He was rejected by the apostles.
Wheat and tares
Nathan pointed out that Jesus told the disciples to let the wheat and tares grow together and let God sort it out. His point, we don’t always know. When that is the case, leave it to God when Jesus returns.
Q: We are finding that teens are falling away from the faith in large numbers. What can we do about it?
There was a long discussion about how parents leave the Bible training of their kids to the Sunday School teacher. (These are Baptist pastors who try to establish a Sunday School program. Most churches here do not even have one. All kids sit in with parents learning to sing and dance and should HALLELUJAH and AMEN.) There was a long discussion about parents reneging on their responsibility as parents to train their children, to raise them up in the Lord. I talked about things I’ve read recently insisting that we not only teach kids WHAT to believe but also WHY. Nathan talked about his work with youth and said they need to be allowed to question and parents need to give them good, reasonable answers, not just “don’t question, just believe.”
Pew is higher than the pulpit
Nathan mentioned that here in Africa, people in the pew are advancing in knowledge beyond the pastor. They have phones connected to the internet during the service and they can check out what the pastor is saying in real time. He mentioned that some have Bible software on their phones and can check out the truth of what the pastor is saying. The point to be made is that pastors need to take their responsibility to study the Word seriously if they want to stay ahead of some in their congregation.
This reinforces why we do what we do and why we are re-initiating our commitment to help pastors learn HOW to study the Bible.
Q: We are told that “leadership = influence.” If that is true, was Noah a leader? He didn’t influence anyone. I asked, “Are all called to be leaders?” and “Is leadership in the church meant to resemble leadership in the world community?” We pointed out the “failure” of Noah to convince anyone. Jeremiah, also. And others.
This led to a long discussion comparing leadership in the church compared to leadership in the church. One man is doing graduate work in leadership. Steven (seminar coordinator) is writing a paper in his degree program on a similar topic. It was a healthy discussion.
At the end, I turned to Heb 13:7 which exhorted the readers to “remember their leaders” and went on to explain that the leaders are the ones who spoke the Word to them. Then it says to look at their life and “imitate their faith.” I pointed out, leaders in the church “feed” the flock from the Word and “lead” by example.
At lunch, I had an extended discussion with a couple of men about motives and being careful not to try to read another person’s motives, that is their heart. I pointed out 1 Cor 4:3-5 where we are told that God’s praise of us is based on motives not performance. I Cor 3 says our rewards are based on quality not quantity. I connected motives with quality
It was a strong day and them men were very grateful for the insights they gained by all of the interaction today.
The numbers increased today but only by a few. We trust that God brought key individuals here this week and help in moving ITEM’s ministry forward in this part of Kenya. One more day.
Thanks for your prayers.
By His grace,