Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Prayers answered at the Conference

While at the Mission conference held by the IMB in Alabama, God answered at least two prayer requests in a pretty forthright manner.

Of late, God has been working on me to trust Him for my needs more than I have been doing. I am reading of how Hudson Taylor would not even remind his employer when his paycheck was due but took it to the Lord in prayer and trusted in God to move the heart of his employer to remember to pay him. Really, that only scrathes the surface with him. He was a man of faith like few others!  It has been real convicting reading his biography, The Spiritual Secret of Hudson Taylor, because it has shown how little I trust in God. I trust in my own means to accomplish almost everything. I think that is common amongst us American Christians, who have so much. And I think this is a major reason that God withholds His mighty right arm in so many cases...because we trust in ourselves-our strength, our wisdom, our finances, our retirement, etc.

Well, while at the conference, we came to a time when we were about to break for the day. The night before, they had provided dinner but tonight they would not. However, they were drawing some names out of a hat for gift cards to restaraunts around the area. After a few other people (over 200 in attendance) won some gift cards, a sudden spirit came over me to turn my attention to the Lord and ask Him to meet our need for dinner. So I took it to the Lord and received a confidence like few other times in my life.

So the hand went into the big hat, and came out with a little name...."Tony Salgado" (the person I came with). I was not even shocked, but joy did fill my heart. Then the man asked how many were with Tony and he replied that there was one (me) so Tony and I ate dinner for free that night! God is good! But I want to clarify some things before I just leave it at that. First, I am not intending to create the idea that God is some kind of divine butler, or a genie in a bottle. I think many would like Him to be, but that will never be the case. The motive I had for asking was pure. It was so that God would receive glory by being my Jeovah-Jireh (God the provider). It was so that I could learn to trust Him to supply my needs as I will have to when living in the D.R. (Phil. 4:19).

If you read my last post, Update! We're back from the Mission Conference, you know of the reason I had for wanting to speak to David Platt (who was speaking the last day of the event). I will not elaborate here as a result, but suffice to say, I was burdened to talk to him. The likelihood of having a meaningful conversation with him did not seem good (I figured everyone in the place had a question for Dr. Platt like we did, and I had never been good at being in the right place at the right time), but we prayed for one nonetheless. The night before David spoke, Tony and I earnestly took our request before the Lord, and we continued to pray throughout the next day.

After the first speaker (who was real good), and before Dr. Platt spoke, a break was scheduled. I slipped out of my pew and headed for the back of the sanctuary to exit so I could go to the bathroom. On my way out, I glanced to my left, and none other than David Platt was skooting out of his pew. I kept walking and then paused and turned when I left the sanctuary. I could not believe my eyes when Dr. Platt was right behind me with not one single person around him.

I introduced myself and asked him if he would mind answering a few questions I had. He said, "sure man" but that he first needed to go to the restroom. I told him I was on my way there as well. Afterwards, we (including Tony) had a great 10 minute or so conversation. He is a real down-to-earth, humble guy. A brief summary of my question and his reply is on the other post.

I am thankful to have a God Who listens to us and cares for His own as He does. I would encourage anyone reading this who doubts His willingness to lend you His ear, to first ask yourself why you want Him, and if your motive is pure, to simply seek him until He be found which He promises He will (Mat. 7:7).

Update! We're back from the Mission Conference

Tony Salgado (another missionary to the D.R.) and myself went to the Mission conference held by the IMB at First Baptist Trussville, Alabama last week.

We were pleased with the general sessions, as well as the break outs. But more importantly, we developed some beneficial contacts. One in particular, Jeff Palmer, works with "human needs" and has a lot of experience at helping people with their physical needs while simultaneously helping people with their spiritual needs. His angle is akin to the old Chinese proverb, "Better to teach a man how to fish instead of giving him a fish." He has learned the hard way of how simply "giving" can actually be detrimental in many circumstances. He also has a lot of good contacts in the D.R., which will be great for us. There are a lot of physical needs in the areas we will be in, and I am looking forward to mobilizing willing churches to help out in this area in a long-term beneficial way.

The need for discipleship was reinforced at the event. Many officials admitted that the IMB had dropped the ball in many situations around the world due to their desire for speed with church planting. This went hand in hand with a book on missiology that I just read, called Reaching and Teaching: A Call to Great Commission Obedience by David Sills. I feel since the week God called us to this mission (2 years ago), He has shown us the need for discipleship amongst the Christians in the Esperanza area. The confirmation that we are receiving in this is great!

However, all was not well at the conference. Tony and I, as well as a few other attendees (from a church in Jax), and at least two IMB officials noticed the strong (overtly) emphasis that was being placed on the newest and best strategy/plan to fulfill the great commission. The arm of man is clearly being trusted in more than the arm of God in many cases. This is something I constantly pray we will avoid. The desire to do this is strangely tempting, and can sneak up on you as you hear the facts about numbers, and sociological reports, and what is working and what isn't. Before you know it, some phrase similar to, "If only I did this, the church would grow..." will enter your mind. However, I am convinced that many (not all) of these latest and greatest schemes are created due to the lack of prayer and trust in God's Holy Spirit and Word.

Another topic came up regarding oral learners. 70-80% of the world are oral learners. Most are illiterate due to choice or circumstance. Effective ways of communicating to oral learners are through story telling and catechisms. Oral learners are unfamiliar with the American's way of presenting sermons in points and deductive reasoning. We feel that a few of the places we will be ministering to are considered to be populated by oral learners, so I was all ears (no pun intended) when it came to this break out session. Everything was going great until I asked the presenter where this left expository preaching. His answer was basically that it left it back in the States. Now this disturbed me, because I greatly appreciate the need for the "exposing" of God's voice in preaching. I find expository preaching to best do this. Furthermore, I wondered how some of the Pauline epistles could be taught in story form. I asked many people afterwards in the hall ways, at lunch and throughout the day how they thought story telling and expository preaching could mesh, but I was not satisfied with any answers. I knew there would be someone at the conference the next day that could probably answer my question...David Platt.

That night I prayed for the opportunity to speak to David Platt (who would be there the next day to wrap up the conference). I knew the crowd would throng him, and everybody would be having a question for him like we had, but Tony and I still prayed. The next day, after the first speaker and just before Dr. Platt spoke, we had a break. To make a long story short (which I tell in the post, Prayers Answered at the Conference) we got that chance to speak to Dr. Platt before any other person in the whole place! And better yet, he gave me the answer I had hoped for and thought was God honoring. Basically, he said that both could be done, but that in some of the meat of the N.T. (amongst other places as well), the preacher needs to trust the power of God's Word by "exposing" the text. He did not think story telling was as beneficial in these areas. I honestly felt my heart flood with relief with his answer.