This is another remarkable report from Randy and Jonathan as they worked together in a South Asian country that in many respects is difficult. God protected them and gave abundant grace so the Word of God could be shared in a way that will establish them in biblical principles. This report will encourage you.
“Movements are born when leaders embrace God’s Word and set out to train others (2 Timothy 2:2). We met an example of a reproducing leader who is ready to train other disciple-makers in a very difficult part of this country. Many others completed God’s Plan for His Disciples (GPHD) and are waiting for the final translation of God’s Plan for His Church (GPHC) in their native language. Jonathan and I joined “V” and his wife “A” in training key leaders from 5 denominations! (Anglican, Assembly of God, Methodist, Presbyterian & Roman Catholic). In this amazing display of unity and love, these leaders committed to complete GPHD and train at least one other person before joining us again in September!
We plan to introduce GPHC so these key leaders can train other leaders for the work among the least reached peoples. Please pray for them as they lay their lives down as a living sacrifice to our Lord, knowing that their commitment could have severe consequences. May God continue to bless and empower them for every good work! The picture above is Psalm 23 in their language.
Thank you for going along with us in prayer. Jonathan and I are overwhelmed with thanksgiving for you! Our partnership in the gospel is bearing much fruit, and your prayers fuel this mission!”
Randy returned this week from an amazing trip to two continents. This is the first half of his report and focuses on his time in Uganda.
“Rogers is one of the most winsome leaders I know. His humble, caring, yet direct ways are bearing much fruit not only in his own country but in South Sudan as well. Our ten days together were packed and full of joy. The picture shown here is our outdoor training in the West Nile. These poor and uneducated Christ-followers had completed all the work in GPHD (God’s Plan for His Disciples) and were ready for more! And the amazing thing is that they did all their work in English manuals even though they could not read English. They had someone translate into their language so they could finish by the time we arrived.
We will be going back to be with them again in January when a couple of their key leaders join us in going to the Democratic Republic of Congo. There was another amazing group who completed GPHD and are diving into GPHC (God’s Plan for His Church). Thank you for praying for Uganda! Let us keep our brothers and sisters in prayer!”
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be His name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His Glory! Amen and Amen! Psalm 72:18-19
In our weekly study, we have looked at Paul’s prayers, seeking to better understand his heart and passion for God’s work in believers and churches he had planted. There are several times when he asked those he wrote to that they would pray for him, and this is one of those requests.
“I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will, I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company” (Romans 15:30–33).
As God has opened opportunities is some place, we have discovered that these doors were quickly closed behind our visits. The purpose was clear; ‘Introduce the training material and leave.’ Why would He open these doors and then shut them? There are several reasons I will discuss later, but we ask you “to strive together with [us] in your prayers to God on [our] behalf.”
There are two things that are affecting our world simultaneously. The world is becoming more hostile to the gospel and any biblical values as well as those who hold them. At the same time, God has allowed mankind to advance in technology so that it is not necessary to always be in a place of danger in order to do His work. Be sure to watch this blog to hear of changes we are making that take advantage of these developments.
“When it comes to the mission of God (missio Dei), God bought a vehicle (the Church) by which He will carry out His mission in the world. The Church is God’s Plan A for advancing His mission in the world.
There is no Plan B.
Thus, the design and intended creation of the Church is to be the vehicle by which God (through the good news of Jesus Christ) creates a people for Himself from all peoples on the earth. As a result, the DNA of the Church is, and must continue to be, missional.
We were birthed from God’s mission for God’s mission.
Just as we want our smartphones (and the other things we buy) to operate according to their design and intended purpose, God wants the Church, whom He purchased by the blood of Christ, to be faithful to its purpose and, yes, effective at advancing His mission throughout the earth. In all truthfulness, one would think that if God’s people understood the gravity of how Jesus purchased their salvation and how their salvation relates to God’s mission and their role in it, they would be missionally effective.” (Ed Stetzer)
Opportunities continue to grow and at the same time challenge our ability to provide resources in the appropriate languages, printing the quantity needed, and training indigenous leaders who will be able to duplicate what they have learned with their own people. In addition to these challenges, our world is becoming more and more anti-Christian in policy and restrictions. This means that travel to certain areas of the world becomes more difficult and dangerous.
We know that the gospel will reach “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9 and Acts 1:8). If these restrictions continue to increase, how can this promise be fulfilled? In God’s wisdom, He has given the innovation through technology, Zoom for example, so we can be in our home office and speak face-to-face with anyone who has a computer and internet anywhere in the world. This not only saves travel expense, but also time.
No wonder Jesus told the Philadelphian church, ““‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept My word and have not denied My name” (Revelation 3:8). Is modern technology one of those open doors? I think so.
Pray for us that we know which doors the Lord has opened and that we use these opportunities effectively for His glory in spreading the gospel.
One of our team received a message from a student that was in the training in Pakistan. “It was a really good time. With all the guidance that you gave us, we got to know a whole new perspective of reading the word of God.” How encouraging to know that persons who go through our training are receiving essential tools to study God’s Word on their own. This will stimulate their desire to pass on what they have learned to others.
From the country of Nepal, a dear brother traveled by motorbike to a village through heavy rain to bring an introduction of God’s Plan for His Disciples to a small church. This servant often goes to remote places in the mountains on narrow, dangerous roads so that other believers can be strengthened and established in their faith and grow in a closer walk with the Lord.
Lastly, I have a wonderful report from this work in S. E. Asia. God’s Plan for Young Disciples has been introduced to many churches so they can begin teaching children and young people the basic principles of Salvation through God’s Word. Some of these children are very young, but they are eager to learn. Imagine how God is getting them started early in a personal relationship with Him.
Please pray for each of these areas of the world that the seeds planted will be tended by the Holy Spirit who will cause each person to grow, mature, and bear much fruit (John 15:8).
In this final blog on elder leadership, I want to draw your attention to Paul’s letter to Titus. There has been a consistency with Luke (Acts) and Paul when referring to “elders” that it is always in the plural form unless addressing a specific elder as John does in his second and third letters. Peter also uses the plural form when he admonishes “elders” as “shepherds” of the flock (1 Peter 5:1-5).
Getting back to Titus, Paul had planted churches in Crete and was unable to return there to further establish them to be strong, biblical, local churches. In his place, he left his “true child in a common faith” (1:4) in Crete and with the specific instructions “that you might put what remained into order and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (1:5).
I have pointed out before, the wisdom of this requirement. God’s grace had given this wisdom to Paul so that in building the Church under the direction of Christ as Head of the Church and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:10), we might have the advantage of this wisdom. If this principle is not present and functioning in your church, I highly recommend a careful search of the New Testament and submission to the Spirit though the Scriptures.
Let us seek the glory of Christ our Head and not something for ourselves.
Yesterday’s blog was the last example in Acts where the function and plurality of elders was mentioned, but that is not the end of the subject. Paul, James, Peter, and John all use the noun “elders - presbyterous” in the plural tense when addressing leaders in the local church.
There was a point in Timothy’s spiritual walk under the mentorship of Paul (Acts 16:1-3), that his local church recognized God’s work in this young man and “the council of elders laid their hands on” him (1 Timothy 4:14). As with the church at Antioch, leadership was united in any action that represented the body of Christ. It was never left in the hands of one person.
In the same letter Paul wrote to Timothy, he gives the qualificationS for “overseers” which are similar to elders. Part of his instructions to Timothy give further details in chapter 5, “Let the elders who rule wellbe considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).
Let us never think that we are not accountable in any aspect of leadership ministry. Even Jesus modeled this principle. “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19). What a beautiful picture of divine harmony and working together.
One of the beauties of Paul’s ministry is the way he served on so many different levels. From preaching the gospel in places that put his life at risk, planting churches wherever he could, to writing letters to churches and persons, he poured his life into each. Paul took time as well to invest in church leaders, so they were developed with Christ-centered hearts and minds.
One such place was Ephesus and the elders in that church. Sensing what was ahead for him, Paul “called the elders of the church [Ephesus] to come to him” at Miletus (Acts 20:17). He reminded them that “for three years [he] did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears” (31). As you will have noted, these references to “elders - presbyterous” is plural, masculine nouns which affirms the plurality of mature leaders in any church.
Paul was aware of dangers when there is not accountability among leaders. Note his warning, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (28–30).
These words instill a healthy fear in us that we would not be a “fierce wolf” who does not “pay careful attention to myself” first. The Holy Spirit is jealous of what belongs to Christ!
The subject of plurality in leadership is such an important one that it deserves further attention. Of the 64 references in the New Testament to “elder or elders,” 61 are in the plural tense. As each reference is looked at in context, it is clear that Christ, the Church’s Head, intends that leadership be protected from one person being in control of a local assembly of believers.
One of the most significant events in the Early Church was the Jerusalem Council that Luke records in Acts 15. This meeting was called because of the gospel reaching the ears and hearts of Gentiles who were consequently saved and made part of the Church by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). Some influential Jews in the Church felt that these Gentile believers should be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses (Acts 15:5).
Thankfully, the experience of Peter, Barnabas, Paul, and others who witness the work of the Spirit in the Gentiles, realized that God “made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith” (15:9).
This question was brought before the “apostles and elders” (15:4) who “gathered together to consider this matter” (15:6). The final decision was made by “the apostles and the elders, with the whole church”(15:22). No wonder unity in the Church is a result of following this biblical model and pursuing the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:1-3).
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