Friday, August 19, 2011
"'...teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen." ~ Matthew 28:20
You will recognize the Scripture above as the last verse of the Great Commission. I purposely left off the first half of the verse so that we could focus our attention on this last, but very important, commandment. Truly, we are to go evangelize the nations and baptize those who believe. If we did not step out and evangelize there would be no one for us to teach. But, the Great Commission is not fulfilled until we have discipled new believers and taught them to go, to evangelize, and to disciple others.
The Malawi mission trip was a Great Commission ministry. My last blog told of the 23,874 souls that responded to the message of salvation. In the weeks since, several other teams have joined Joe Veal and the number is now over 59,455 with another team on the way. That is an astounding fact! God is awesome and we praise Him for His goodness. He is mighty to save!
The ministry in Malawi through You-Turn Ministries brought together over 88 village chiefs and their wives (178 total) for a leadership conference that Clint Otto, Joe Veal, and I taught. This single day of training, although brief, was a unique experience. I am not well versed in Malawi culture, but it appears that the village chiefs exert great power and influence. Malawi has a democratically elected President and government. They also have a military and a police force. Yet, the chiefs can act as the judge, jury, and executioner in their village.
The men and women that attended our leadership conference were not Jesus followers. Most have been given the office of chief without any preparation, yet they have the responsibility of leading the people of their village. Many think of African villages as being very small with only a few people and few decisions of consequence, but these villages can range in size from a few families (50 or 60 people) to several thousand people. These men face the effects of poverty and HIV/AIDS every day. It is common for death and starvation to leave orphans and widows in need of food and help. Additionally, there is drought, famine, and joblessness, as well as many other dire situations that impact their constituents.
Our leadership lessons were adapted from John Maxwell’s Equip lessons, which are based on his popular 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Yet, the Equip lessons add a Biblical dimension that is missing from the original book. I taught the lessons on “The Law of Influence” based on the life of Joshua, and “The Law of Sacrifice” taken from the life of Moses. Clint taught “The Law of Process” based on the life of Joseph. Upon finishing the lesson on “The Law of Influence” which teaches putting the interest of others above yourself and important values such as integrity and transparency, one of the chiefs raised his hand to ask a question. “I know what you have told us is true and that this is how we should live and conduct ourselves, but how is it possible to live such a life, and how do we incorporate this teaching into our lives?” he wondered. That sounded to me like an invitation to give an invitation! I told him that the drastic, lasting change that he desired would require complete access and reliance on God. I explained that they could only have access to God through Jesus and offered to show them how they might pray if they were ready to surrender their lives, repent of their sins, and live obediently for Him. Everyone in the room prayed. I asked how many of them had asked Christ to save them for the very first time. They all raised their hands. Not quite believing my eyes, I asked them how many of them were Christians or Christ-followers before today. No one raised their hands. I again asked how many of them had sincerely asked Jesus Christ to be their Savior and their Lord that day. They all raised their hands!
At the end of the day Joe Veal taught the final lesson, “The Law of the Legacy,” which uses the life of Jesus Christ as the model. At the end of our time with them, we asked for questions or comments. There were many. Some commented on the points of leadership that were taught or asked for clarification about something. Many commented on how thankful they were for the teaching because they had just been put into leadership without any training. One chief at the very end summed it up by saying, “Today I have been born again! I have also learned that we need to change the way we lead and to put our people first. We need more of this teaching, and we all should open each of our villages to have a church in them.”
The other major meeting was a two-day conference for pastors. Clint taught the Foundational Doctrine series, and I lead the pastors through the leadership lessons. These men and their wives had already been saved and called to ministry; yet, they lacked training in Biblical doctrine. The potential is great for what the Lord will do through them! Malawi needs churches that are led by strong leaders who understand and can teach the truths of the Bible. This is why discipleship is so important there. Our time with them was precious. We are praying that each of them will multiply themselves a hundred-fold and that thousands of churches can be planted through the partnership of You-Turn Ministries and Urbancrest as we work together for the Kingdom of God.
The work in Malawi is complex and will take many who are willing to go, give, and pray for them. We will have to invest much more while the fields are still white for harvest. All of the projects that Urbancrest is involved in are supported by the Faith Promise Fund. Thank you for contributing to this fund that brings life to the world. People will be in Heaven because of your sacrifice!
Saturday, August 6, 2011
The Malawi team returned on August 1, 2011 a bit tired from the 26+ hours of travel, but healthy and happy to be home. Third world mission trips are always life changing, if you let it change your life. While working in Malawi, God did four very important things through the ministry: evangelism, discipleship/leadership training, orphan care, and finding another location to begin a new Lighthouse ministry.
Evangelism, or fulfilling the Great Commission as described in Matthew 28:19-20, involves not only going, but also telling. “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”
The people of Malawi are ripe for the harvest, but before the harvest can be collected the seed has to first be sown. This was accomplished by David Livingstone as he walked the dirt paths over 150 years ago, and in that same fashion our team of 6 spent many hours walking the dusty paths from village to village, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and showing the Jesus Film each evening. Being used by God to deliver the simple message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we watched hundreds of people at a time respond. This is an amazing experience that is hard to put into words. As our leader Joe Veal says, “The Gospel works!” As nearly as we could calculate (and rounding down when needed), 23,874 souls prayed to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior!
Many will wonder how this is possible. Is it just a culture that prays because someone asks them to? Are they seeking material benefit from us as we come to them? Livingstone and others did not see such a harvest as they preached the same Gospel in the same part of the world, enduring sickness and near death for decades with very little response. Yet, there is much evidence that these professions of faith we have seen are genuine. After they received salvation, those we shared with testified about how God set them free and gave them new life. They rejoiced because their sins had been forgiven. They immediately asked for churches and training. Each time a church is planted in Malawi (335 last year), it begins with at least 50 people and usually has 300 attendees very soon. God’s is moving! The challenging part is training the leaders, which I plan to discuss in a separate blog post.
A harvest field of this magnitude is possible...
- Because of who God is. When He glorifies and honors the name of Jesus Christ, men, women, and children are drawn to it. John 12:32 states, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
- Because “nothing is impossible with God” (Mark 10:27).
- Because of the Word of God which commissions us to go preach the Gospel (Mark 15:16).
- Because of the power of prayer. “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest’” (Matthew 9:37-38). Prayer is the driving force in the harvest!
David Livingstone and others helped prepare the soil in Malawi, and we are seeing the fruit of their work today as it is harvested. Truly, we all live in a harvest field. Maybe not one as bountiful as Malawi currently is, but certainly God is at work in the lives of our families, friends, and people in our communities. According to the Word of God, the key to the harvest is prayer for the laborers; therefore, join in the prayer and prepare to be used somewhere...anywhere!