My friend and Pastor, Grant Clay and I, travelled over 30 hours and 8,000 miles from our home town of Clay Center, Kansas, to Nairobi, Kenya, on a two-week ministry trip. We participated in Pastor’s conferences with ELLS International by being part of their teaching team. During one session while Grant was speaking, he looked at everyone in the room, and with passion in his voice and deep conviction, he boldly stated, “I believe the Great Commission will be fulfilled through Africa!” The Kenyan pastors erupted with applause and shouts of agreement.
Grant is a student of missions and knew what he was talking about. “Africa had ten million professing Christians in 1900—about 10 percent of the population,” wrote David Mathis, based on the research of Philip Jenkins. “But by 2000, the number was 360 million—about half of the African population. This may mark the largest shift in religious affiliation in world history.”
I have been fortunate to minister in Latin America (Nicaragua), Asia (India) and now Africa (Kenya). All three continents are experiencing a revival and awakening like no other time in their histories. What is happening on the continent of Africa though is eclipsing everywhere else.
OUR TEAM AND THE SPIRITUAL HUNGER OF KENYAN PASTORS
Together, our team of eight ministered to over 500 pastors in three conferences. Our team was Pastor Stan Meyers (founder and Executive Director of ELLS), his wife Mindy and daughter Carly Blue, Debbie Sardo, Pastor Charles Juma, Bishop Noah Pogoto, Pastor Grant Clay and myself. (Pictured L to R some of the team: Carly Blue, Noah, Debbie, Grant, me,Charles)
We met in the cities of Mtwapa, Sultan Hamud and Murang’a. Each gathering was held at a local church and lasted two to three days. The pastors travelled far distances to come, which showed their hunger to learn. One pastor told me, “A group of 14 of us drove by van from two hours away to come.” Grace, a woman pastor, said, “I came from six hours away.”
When the pastors checked in, many had in hand ELLS three ring binder, and all the previous teaching materials from past conferences. Pastor Stan and ELLS have been conducting these since 2011 and have come back several times, working through a curriculum. In 2019, many of these pastors will receive certificates of completion for the ELLS program. As I looked at one pastor’s binder, I could see it was getting a yellowish tint to it and looked tattered and worn. It was four years old and he told me, “I have taken the notes from Pastor Stan’s teachings and have taught them to my church.”
THE NEED FOR EXPOSITORY PREACHING
Throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia there are many Christian organizations like ELLS, dedicated to teaching Pastors, Evangelists and church leaders. The church is so exploding that biblical teaching and discipleship is lagging behind evangelism. ELLS has a unique niche in their focus. Pastor Stan zeros in on teaching Pastors, Sunday School teachers and Evangelists how to preach and teach the Bible through an expository method. This is a style of preaching I was trained in and have practiced for years. I describe it as the art of slicing open a passage or section of Scripture and explaining what it means that listeners might obey what God says to do. (Pictured: Pastor Stan Meyers)
The gateway into a local church for good doctrine, theology and biblical discipleship is the pastor’s Sunday morning preaching. It makes sense. I learned there were also many cultural reasons for focusing there. First, it is common for Kenyan pastors to wait until Saturday night or Sunday morning, when they might be standing behind the pulpit, before they know what they are going to preach. Stan kept hitting home, “On Monday morning begin praying about what text to preach on.” I asked one pastor, “Do you know what you are going to be preaching on for Sunday? He had been coming to ELLS conferences for years and quickly responded with a giant grin, “Yes! I prepare two weeks in advance.”
Second, when Kenyan pastors preach it is common for them to open the Bible, read from it, then set it down and preach for an hour without referring to it again. Stan would emphasize over and over that preaching loud and long does not mean you are saying anything of significance. He urged them to prepare to preach a text of Scripture in advance, and then explain the text, avoiding multitudes of rabbit trails and expounding their own thoughts and ideas. It makes me think of the Apostle Paul’s words to young Timothy, charging him to “Preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:4).
Third, it is common for Kenyan pastors to not have connecting themes in their messages from week to week since they might wait until the last minute to prepare. Stan and Grant encouraged them to preach though entire books of the Bible, which is a rare practice among their peers.
Fourth, it is common for Kenyan pastors to have a sense of pride in their ministry titles and positions like Bishop, Pastor or Evangelist. Pastor Stan, the Ugandan Bishop Noah Pogoto, and all of us on the team kept hitting home that when we rise to expound God’s Word, we should do so with humility and in a spirit of service for the glory of God.
In my role on the teaching team I spoke seven times over the two weeks. I was assigned areas related to evangelism.
One teaching I gave was titled, “How to Preach Expository Evangelistic Sermons.” In it I answered the question, “What is the gospel?”, because to preach evangelistically requires an understanding and focus on gospel content. Bishop Pogoto came up to me afterwards saying, “Powerful! We needed to hear this. Too often in Africa, evangelists preach miracles, not the gospel.” (Pictured: Noah and me)
FOCUSING ON THE GOSPEL AND A TRANFORMED MARGRET
I often had opportunities to preach in the evening services following the day’s conferences. One evening I could sense the Spirit of God settling on us during the powerful time of worship music. When I preached I spoke on Genesis 22 about the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac. A theme of worship rose out of the text. As the message progressed I could sense God’s Spirit all around, so I simply stopped, became silent and quietly prayed as I scanned the room. Then I felt led to end the message and call everyone to prayer, along with some perfectly timed words by Bishop Pogoto. As everyone prayed, pastor’s voices from all over the room rose in unison before heaven. One man observed, “I looked behind me and I didn’t see anyone in their chairs. No one. They were all on their knees.” One pastor wept profusely as he laid his head on the chest of another and gloriously shared, “I came with a burden over things going on in my church. Tonight, God has lifted that.”
During another conference I preached outdoors at a location near the church and two intersecting roads. Over 75 pastors walked the quarter mile, uphill to the site. Cars, trucks, motorcycles and people were all moving back and forth. After the music and testimonies, I climbed on the platform to speak. My goal was to model expository evangelistic preaching and to share the gospel with the lost. Before I began speaking on the story of Zacchaeus from Luke 19, the pastors and I gathered the nearby children and prayed for them, then we prayed for God’s blessing on all the shop keepers and their businesses. Through those prayers God laid the ground work to minister to the hearts of the people. After preaching, the invitation was given to turn to Jesus. One pastor was speaking to a group of children, while other pastors were having one on one conversations in different places. A woman pastor began talking with Margret who stood nearby. Margret placed her trust in Christ then walked the quarter mile to the church where I met her. Then I met her again when she came to church on Sunday, a new creation in Christ!
WHAT GOD TAUGHT ME
For me personally, God has given a renewed understanding of the power and authority of His Word. My job as an evangelist is not to rely on my delivery, personality, reasoning or persuasion skills. My simple, yet profound job is to hold high the Scriptures and to explain what they mean, that hearts will turn toward Christ.
My eyes were also opened like never before to equip others. This has been a growing understanding of mine for the last couple of years. Ephesians four has become a regular part of my prayer life, praying that God will use me to equip, strengthen and encourage His church in rural America and around the world. Over the last 28 years God has taught me so much, and as I am getting older I am feeling a greater need to pour myself out to build up other pastors and evangelists.
Thank you so much to all who enabled me to go. It was a miracle it happened. With a little over a week to go I had less than half of the funds needed. I prayed, fasted and trusted in the Lord that He would provide, and He did in abundance. The month of June is typically one of our lowest giving months. This year though, it is the highest month to date and we received the most donations ever for June in our 14-year history. I think of Job’s words who said about God, “I know that you can do all things, that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). (Pictured: A beautiful view in the morning of the Indian Ocean near the city of Mtwapa. Just up the coast several hours is the nation of Somalia, one of the most unreached nations on earth)
Since I have come back, my eyes are set on 2019 and seeking where God wants me to go next. Pray with me, that I will hear God’s call and see the open door to the people He wants me to serve across the world.
Slave of Jesus,
President & Evangelist