Dear ITEM Partner,
Yesterday’s post talked about how it seems like many hear the lectures and say, “AMEN,” but don’t see the contradictions in their lives and ministries. They don’t seem to “connect the dots” as we sometimes say. I had mixed feelings. I thought that the team being formed here in Ghana was more grounded in God’s Word than maybe they are. So much so that I was questioning our involvement here. Then when I was in bed and dozing off and thinking about the situation, I had emotion come over me and with the emotion came a message.
For the past several years, the focus of this ministry has not been on “the near future.” The focus has been on building a ministry team in each country that will be used of God to start something that will be around producing spiritual fruit for generations, if the Lord tarries. And the fruit we pray that God will use us to produce is vibrant, healthy, strong, mature churches led by pastors who are godly examples, equippers (disciplers), and expositors (systematic teachers of the Bible).
Jesus started with twelve very ordinary, flawed men. He then saved and called Saul who became Paul who spent his 30 years of ministry making true disciples of Christ. In either case, neither lived (physically) long enough to see the fruit of their ministries.
When I was dozing off last night my eyes started to tear up. What overcame me was the potential harvest.
LOSS OF FOCUS
We have a team forming of men and a couple of women who are leaders (not pastors) who want to be used. But they have some flaws (don’t we all?) and some holes in their theology (don’t we all?) and some wrong ideas about the Christian life and ministry (don’t we all?). But with some time, some teaching, some nurturing, some equipping, some resourcing, and prayer, this “flawed” but eager group has great potential.
My problem was, I was reverting back to thinking short term. I was thinking about the next 2-3 years not the next 20-30. Here’s the deal. Ghana needs what we offer in our training. If we can be used of God to build a team that will be used of God to raise up thousands of pastors who are examples, equippers, and expositors, who are leading vibrant, healthy, strong, spiritual churches then the investment of time and resources now is worth it!
That is what was going through my mind as I dozed off to sleep. My attitude has changed. If we have a group willing to be trained to train others. Then, whether it takes 2 or 3 years, we are ready to do what we can to train them to train others who will train others until the Lord returns.
Bill and I continued the theme of the pastor’s call and role. His first lecture came from Paul’s advice to the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20:28-35. I followed that with a challenging description of what preaching is meant to be and what kind of sermons are most helpful (we prefer preaching/teaching through entire books of the Bible). Bill then introduced the doctrine of the church by describing the purpose of the church as glorifying God in all things, evangelism (by proclaiming and living out the gospel), edification (building up), and purification (keeping sin out of the church through the process we call “church discipline.” I finished the lectures today with one on spiritual warfare. In this lecture I try to help them think through what their traditional views are and how they compare with what the Bible says.
It was a full and fulfilling day.
Q&A FROM YESTERDAY
Q: Is it possible that every revelation from God to a prophet is in the Bible? (This might have been asked in response to my statement in a lecture that there are no prophets today like the ones in the Bible.)
ANS: There are two questions here. First, is every revelation given to a prophet in the Bible? I can only assume there were times that God gave a message to a prophet who spoke it but didn’t write it down. But I do know that in the Bible we have exactly what God wants us to have. Second, are there prophets today? Today there are no prophets like the ones that are quoted in the Bible. In Eph 2:20 we are told that the prophets were a part of the church’s foundation. Then in 3:5 it says that God revealed truth about Christ directly to the apostles and prophets. This was all before the Scriptures were written down. They received God’s revelation and spoke it to the people. Now that the Scriptures are complete, prophets are not needed to receive direct revelation from God.
Q: Some pastors misbehave towards their members or are guilty of spiritual harassment. Who called them to be a pastor?
ANS: Is he qualified according to 1 Tim 3:2-7? Would God ever call a man to be a pastor who is not qualified? No! Then who called him to be a pastor? I don’t know but I do know it wasn’t God.
Q: How can we know we are chosen to be a pastor or steward?
ANS: You need to pray and ask God to confirm His call in your heart. And you need to answer the question, “Why do I want to be a pastor?” If the answer is, “Because I need a job.” Then your motive is wrong. If it is because you want to love and serve God’s people, then your motive is right.
Q: I found two ebooks on the internet, the “Book of Philip,” and the “Book of Thomas.” Some say these were written by the apostles. But some of stories in these books are weird. Were these books really written by Philip and Thomas?
ANS: I don’t know. There were many letters and manuscripts written during those times but the early church decided, by the leadership of God’s Spirit, which books, letters, and manuscripts were inspired and worthy of being included in the Scriptures. (I then pointed them to their notes which include the five tests used by the early church.)
Q: Gen 1:1 says God created the heavens. Psalm 19:1 says the heavens are declaring the glory of God. How many heavens are there?
ANS: In 2 Cor 12:2 Paul starts to record his experience when he was transported to the “third heaven.” I don’t know how many there are but I know there are at least three. Some believe the first heaven is where the birds fly. The second heaven is the created universe. The third heaven is where God resides.
Q: What is the difference between the pastor, the bishop, and the elder?
ANS: There is no difference. 1 Peter 5:1-2 was written to elders. But the instructions include “shepherding” and “overseeing.” So the elder shepherds and oversees. The Greek word for shepherd is the same word for pastor. And the Greek word for overseer is the same word for bishop. So the elder, shepherd, pastor, overseer, and bishop are the same man in the New Testament.
Continue to pray for us as we lecture and for the participants as they listen. Pray that the Spirit of God will “connect the dots” for them and that, when necessary, they will recognize their errors, let them go, and cling to the truth.
By His grace,