Dear Friends of ITEM,
Day One here is Lagos is complete. I have to admit that when I am doing a seminar here I feel a little more sense of urgency. I look at the seminar attenders, pastors, and think, “These are the men who can turn things around. We just need to convince them, by God’s grace and the urging of His Spirit, that preaching and teaching and applying God’s Word without compromise, regardless of the cost week by week, month by month, year by year will eventually pay huge dividends. But they need to stick with it.” That is our task and we got off to a strong start today.
The big picture of the week is to take a look at a vibrant, healthy church from Scripture using Ephesians 4:11-16 as the jumping off place. Then as the week moves on (tomorrow) we transition into the key role that preaching and teaching plays in bringing the church to maturity.
TODAY’S LECTURE LINEUP
Describing an Eph 4 Church (a study of Eph 4:11-16) ( Steve); Building up the Church (Joel); Principles of NT Edification (Steve); Principles of NT Evangelism (live holy lives and proclaim the gospel to those who witness your holy lifestyle; living and proclaiming are two sides of the same evangelistic coin) (Steve); Principles of NT Leadership (it’s about character and role, rather than titles) (Joel).
THE MESSAGE INSIDE THE MESSAGE
Throughout the day Joel and I kept repeating the same themes of “teach the Word,” “live the Word,” “equip the saints,” “build up the church spiritually,” and then “living a godly lifestyle and proclaiming the gospel go hand in hand,” and “the church needs to be brought to maturity.”
MY SENSE OF URGENCY
I feel a growing sense of urgency each time I come here. As I try to understand why, a couple of things come to mind. One is that there are highly qualified men helping with ITEM’s ministry in other countries. There are no others helping here in Nigeria. Second, as I’ve mentioned, Nigeria has been the breeding ground of a lot of false teaching and there is a part of me that wants to invest quality time (whatever that means) in my remaining years of ministry (whether 5 or 10 years, God knows) helping the Nigerian church get turned around. But is that my desire or God’s? Pray!
EDITORIAL NOTE: Dr. Gary Maxey, a professor at West Africa Theological Seminary, whom I will meet with on Friday, has been in Nigeria a long time and has written a few books about his experience. Nigeria was not always this way. Christianity was strong but has been taken over by the prosperity gospel preachers. You can find his books on Amazon.
IT PAYS THE BILLS
Joel told me this evening that in Nigeria, there are two (almost) certain ways to make money. One, start a school. Two, start a church. Then Michael (seminar organizer) told me that university students who lead large Christian fellowships on campus, graduate, can’t find a job, so they start a church with no training. It’s a “job,” “it pays the bills!”
We started answering questions today.
Q: The apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church (Eph 2:20). Are there apostles and prophets today? ANS: (This is asked often) When you study Eph 2:20 – 3:5 you will see that they received direct revelation from God and were them expected to teach the new believers what God told them Now that God’s revelation is written down, there is no need for anyone like that today. Thus, they were the “foundation” of the church.
Q: Are elders supposed to be the shepherds in the church? ANS: In Acts 20:17 and 1 Pet 5:1, elders are being addressed; ELDERS. In each passage they are told to “shepherd” the flock and provide “oversight.” Elders are shepherds and overseers. In the Greek, “shepherd” and “pastor” are the same word as are “overseer” and “bishop.” So, the actual title is “elder.” But the elder is an overseer and shepherd, and at the same time a pastor and overseer. In the NT they are all the same person.
Q: How can we encourage members to submit to being “equipped (Eph 4:11-12)” when the feel unfit and unsuitable for ministry? ANS: (In brief) Tell them to stop listening to people and/or the devil who are telling them that. Teach them from passages like Eph 1 and 1 Cor 12 just how special they are in God’s eyes and in time they will begin to see that they are God’s creation and that they are special in His sight. It will take time but it will happen.
Q: In Phil 3:2, Paul writes about “dogs” and “evil workers.” Is it possible to love the “dogs” and “evil workers” equally in the church? ANS: Not only is it possible, it is expected. But if there comes a time that they are causing problems and need to be confronted, do it in love. If they don’t stop, take others with you. If they don’t stop. Tell the church. If they don’t stop, treat them like a “gentile” and “tax collector (Matthew 18:15-20).
That is all for today. There were additional questions asked but I will leave those for tomorrow.
Pray for us as we continue. Pray that many of these pastors will give themselves to the Lord to be faithful ministers of the Word, to proclaim the true gospel of Christ, and to give themselves to “presenting every man complete in Christ (Col 1:28).”
By His grace,