MORE POSITIVE STEPS IN LAGOS

Dear Friends and Family,

 I had two potentially strategic meetings today, Friday. One was with our seminar coordinator about some potential doctrinal differences that could pose challenges as we move forward. The other was with the founder and Communications Director of West Africa Theological Seminary.

I went to possibly discuss the possibility of a partnership, combining their formal training with our non-formal training. But there were three issues in my mind. There is a question about theological focus, there is a question about some of their other partnerships, and they allow women into their pastoral training, we do not invite women to our pastors seminars.

Both went OK but more discussion needs to take place.

MEETING WITH SEMINAR ORGANIZER/COORDINATOR

Michael Omotosho does a great job organizing our seminars and taking care of me when I am here. A great job. He took the ITEM doctrinal exam last year and signed the ITEM team member agreement that deals with a number of doctrinal issues.

My concerns have been his leading an occasional Pentecostalish pray time during our seminars and, this week, the book he gave to me on spiritual warfare that he wrote, which sounds much different than our lecture on spiritual warfare. And the bibliography is filled with those from an extreme Pentecostal position.

My takeaway is that Michael has a good heart. He wants to be biblical. (I know, I am implying that the extreme Pentecostal position on spiritual warfare is not biblical. Yes, I am. Obviously, I could be wrong. I don’t think I am.) He looks for people to quote. He doesn’t even know who they are but finds a quote he can use. He also referred to the seminary he went to. It is my perception that he wasn’t taught theology with very much specificity.

I talked to him about some things in his book. I tried to be objective and instructive. He was receptive. I told him we could not offer that book at our seminars the way it is written and he understood. And he asked me if I would look over his future books before they were published. That is a big step and demonstrates teachability and a certain amount of humility.

Bottom line: No need to pull the plug at this point but need to keep working with him.

MEETING WITH FOUNDER AND COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR

I have a strong desire to partner with formal trainers (i.e.  Seminaries) in order to combine the two and have the two support one another. The West Africa Theological Seminary (WATS) comes from a Wesleyan tradition. ITEM’s theology is more from the Reformed tradition (not exclusively, but mostly). WATS allows women into their pastoral classes (Michael told me) and we do not invite women to our pastors seminars. Thirdly, they have partnered with the founder of an extreme Pentecostal group (Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministry) and a building on their campus is putting the name of that group’s founder on it. Apparently because he donate money to build it. Yet, the founder of the school disagrees with the founder of MFMM on some issues.

So, I am wondering if I can partner with a group that partners with others I would never partner with.

The meetings went well. With the Communications Director, I went through our history and convictions. His convictions are similar. I told him that just this week I realized that we need to provide Bible Study Methods training for pastors. He pointed to a stack of books on his desk on that very topic. He shares the same concern. He said he would like to look over our notes and I plan to send him the link tonight.

The time with the founder of the school, Dr. Gary Maxey, went OK also. He’s been in Nigeria over 30 years. He’s seen the Nigerian church at it’s spiritual peak and now at or near it’s spiritual low, due in large measure to the prosperity gospel takeover.

I did not mention any concerns. We just got to know each other. He gave me a chance to give an overview of our training, including its goals. At the end, he mentioned combining formal and non-formal. I didn’t even need to bring it up.

Gary and I agreed to keep the conversation going.

Next step

I plan to graciously “lay all of our cards on the table face up.” I am going to send them our curriculum. I am going to send them my paper on “Apostles and Prophets Today” which also covers signs, wonders and miracles. I plan on sending them my paper on spiritual warfare. And I want to let them know that we don’t invite women to come to our pastors seminars.

I will make it clear that we allow for varied opinions. We always try to be gracious and respectful of those who disagree. But we do not compromise although we may agree to disagree.

All in all it was a beneficial day.

 FINAL QUESTIONS

As I was going back through all of the questions we received in writing, I realized we overlooked a few. That happens when there is so much going on and so many slips of paper being handed to you. I am sorry that I missed one in particular. I like to use these questions to teach and reinforce what the Bible teaches.

Q: Can an illiterate person who is full of the Holy Ghost be a pastor in a church today where there are educated men and women who attend? (Parenthetically, the question implies this person is not an ordinary-illiterate. He is full of the Holy Ghost. Second, the question demonstrates that the person asking is not thinking biblically, when it comes to qualifications of a pastor. A lot of Christians today, in all places of the world, don’t think biblically.) ANS: It is not significant that this person is filled with the Holy Ghost (Spirit). Eph 5:18 says we are all to be filled and anytime a person is yielding to the Holy Spirit, that person is “filled” with the Spirit. Regarding the persons literacy level. What is the primary role of the pastor? Preach and teach the Bible. One of the qualifications is that this man is “able to teach.” To be able to teach the Bible, the person needs to be able to read and study the Bible. Or if he cannot read it and study it in it’s written form, then maybe he needs to find a way to study it using an audio device. But if this man is called to be a pastor, he must be able to teach the church from the Bible, not his own words but God’s actual Word(s).

Q: Was Uriah destined to die prematurely the way he did?  (Uriah was Bathsheba’s husband. David got her pregnant and had Uriah put into the front of an upcoming battle, had the army vacate him, leaving him to be killed so David could cover his sin by the now widowed, Bathsheba.) Was there anything he could have done to avert the tragedy? ANS: I asked Joel about this. It seemed like a strange question. Joel pointed that it included the words “destined” and “prematurely.” I let Joel answer it. Some believe that when you do something wrong, it is your destiny to die prematurely. Joel quoted Pslam 139:16b, “And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” If I had answered it, I would have asked the questioner, “How do you know it was premature?”

NEXT STOP, KENYA

Things have been wrapped up here in Lagos, Nigeria. We’ll be planning a Bible Study Methods seminar soon. Tomorrow I head back to Kenya. Sunday and Monday are off. I’ll have planning meetings. Then Tues to Thursday we’ll do this same conference there. My final weekend on this trip I’ll be heading to Mombasa, Kenya to meet with the leading Southern Baptist pastor in Kenya.

PRAY for good traffic going to the airport. Traffic here is terrible and can take hours to go blocks. It can be that bad. Hopefully, Saturday will not be that way.

PICTURES

I could have taken a hundred revealing pictures today. The “Marketing of the Church” was on full display with poster after poster, banner after banner trying to “one up” the one right next to it. Maybe I’ll talk about that tomorrow.

Only one new, not so flattering, picture of me (framed). They gave this to me today as a gift. A pic taken here last July.

CLICK HERE to see it and be prepared and keep small children away!

By His grace,

Steve

CLARIFYING OUR NEXT STEPS IN LAGOS, NIGERIA

Dear ITEM Partners,

The Lagos seminar has ended. It was a fun day and a good day. After excitement on Tuesday, followed by questions and concerns on Wednesday, God provided clarity, I believe, today. But the real fun was a belated 70th birthday celebration!

TODAY’S LECTURE LINEUP

Joel started the day with a lecture on the Power of Preaching from the book of Jonah. I followed with The Pattern of Biblical Preaching, using Nehemiah 8 as a model (Ezra read the Law to the people. Then explained it so there was understanding.) Joel was next up with Passion for Biblical Preaching from 1 Tim 4:13-16. I took the fourth hour of the morning; Expository Preaching Defined and Explained. We as a ministry are “sold out” and uncompromisingly committed to the systematic teaching of Scripture week by week from the pulpit. We believe it is highly critical here in Africa where there is so little actual knowledge of what the Bible actually teaches.

After the fourth lecture and before lunch, they brought out a birthday cake for me and there was a HUGE celebration with about 1000 pictures taken with individuals, with groups, and just me.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME

From what Joel told me, what turned this into a big bash was that I just turned 70 (January 2). Birthday’s are celebratory anyway, in this culture, but those ending in zero especially 50, 60, 70…get very special attention and the larger the number is before the zero, the bigger the deal.

So, they brought out the cake and made me put on the huge “coat” over my shirt and trousers. (See the picture album.) Then they started singing happy birthday and it seemed like they sang it one time for each year…70…they sang it over and over and over. Then I posed cutting the cake (See the picture album.) And people wanted to be photographed with me. And that went on. . . . well, a very long time.

Then there were speakers who honored me with kind words. The seminar organizer read the history of ITEM from our website. Then I was presented with a financial gift, their birthday present to me.

After 30-40 minutes of celebration they asked me to speak. I told them that if this is how they treat those who turn 60 and 70, then I am coming back when I am 80. They laughed and cheered.

GOD PROVIDES CLARITY

After Tuesday, I was considering giving additional attention to Nigeria and even Lagos in particular because of the impact Nigeria and Lagos has on Africa and increasingly to the world.

Then after seeing to content in the spiritual warfare book that our seminar organizer wrote, I felt like I had stepped into a very cold shower and had to take a step back.

Critical Review

Well, today, while Joel was lecturing, I looked (again) at the potential lecturer exam Michael (seminar organizer) took after our first seminar here last July. For the most part, his answers were right on. Honestly, some were almost too good, like he was just quoting out of ITEM’s notes. BUT I will assume he was answering on his own.

Then I considered that he has signed the ITEM Agreement for team members which has a long list of things he must affirm and deny (all doctrinally related). So, in the big picture, the only current concern (assuming his signature is good) is his book on spiritual warfare and his tendency to lead a Pentecostal-style prayer time.

Critical Question

If we are committed to leading pastors to preach and teach the Bible in context and systematically, then they will need to know how to study effectively to discover the meaning of a passage that they will preach from.

So, I asked how many had attended any classes on how to study the Bible and less than 10% raised their hand. No wonder there is so much bad preaching. If you don’t know how to study the Bible, you have to rely on what others tell you. The result? Bad preaching and bad theology keeps getting handed down.

Critical Clarity

The next step now seems obvious. Bring in men who are serious about wanting to bring the believers in their church to maturity and teach them how to study for a sermon and create and preach edifying, faith building growth causing sermons. We have already started the discussion.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Q: Does the Holy Spirit leave a believer that backslides or continues in sin? ANS: In John 10:27-29 Jesus says that He gives His sheep eternal life, they will not perish, no one can snatch them out of His had or His Father’s hand. In Romans 8:29-30 Paul writes that those whom God foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ, He called them, justified (saved) them, and glorified them (brought them to heaven) all in advance. And  vvs. 38-39…NOTHING will separate us (believers) from the love of Christ. I also took time to explain passages like Heb 6:4-6 and 2 Peter 2:20-22. I could have gone on to Mark 4 (souls) and John 15 (vine and branch) but didn’t want to take the time.

Q: 1 Tim 4:1-4 and 2 Tim 3:1-8 describes people’s behavior in the end times. Are we in the end times? ANS: Yes. In fact, we have been in the end times since Paul wrote these verses because he was describing people Timothy was dealing with.

I will stop here. There are still a few questions I have not passed along. Tomorrow is an off day (sort of) an I’ll pass on a few more tomorrow.

IMPORTANT MEETINGS FRIDAY

Tomorrow, I will be meeting with Michael and talking about the future of ITEM here in Lagos. I need to talk to him about our very different views of spiritual warfare and a couple of other things. He is already referring to himself as ITEM’s SW Nigeria Coordinator but we haven’t affirmed that. He is a great organizer but he we need to be compatible doctrinally and philosophically (ministry wise). I hope to hear that tomorrow. PRAY FOR THAT PLEASE.

The second meeting is with Gary Maxey, founder of and prof at West Africa Theological Seminary, Nigeria’s largest non-denominational seminary in Nigeria, and the school’s provost. I will be seeing if there is some way we can work together, combining their formal training with our non-formal training. PRAY FOR THAR ALSO PLEASE.

THANKS FOR PRAYING

I want to thank those of you were remembered to pray about my health. I think I mentioned that at the end of the sessions yesterday I was very light headed, feeling slightly dizzy. I was hoping it was the extreme heat and maybe a lack of nutrition. I improved during the night. The put a fan near the pulpit today. I had them buy some nuts I could snack on during the morning. And things returned to normal, best that I can tell. THANKS for praying and THANKS to God!

By His grace,

Steve

CLICK HERE FOR FUN PHOTOS OF STEVE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY IN LAGOS

 

 

 

NIGERIA’S CHALLENGE REAPPEARS

Hello Everyone,

Operation Lagos, Day Two is done. If yesterday was an upper. Today brought me back to reality. The questions piled in. And 1 Cor 4:6b set the tone for the day.

TODAY’S LECTURE LINEUP

I gave the first two lectures of the day to finish up the lectures on “Ministry (i.e. what makes up a healthy church?).” First, The Church as a Body (each and every believer is gifted to be productive in the body and every member needs every other member). Second, How to Measure Maturity. I use 2 Peter 1:5-7 (i.e. add to your faith moral excellence, knowledge, etc, if these are yours and are “increasing…”) and Gal 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit.”

Then Joel gave his two. The Purpose of Preaching (to bring people into the image of Christ) and Paul’s View of Ministry (Col 1:24-28), “. . . labor and strive to present every man complete in Christ.”

Then I gave the final lecture of the day, The Priority of Biblical Preaching (i.e. “teach the Bible,” that’s the priority).

STICK TO WHAT HAS BEEN WRITTEN

Much of the emphasis in extreme Pentecostal contexts (which Lagos is) are special messages from God either by dreams, visions, or revelations. How are we supposed to handle those claims? We can’t say, “No, you didn’t have that experience.”

When I get up to lecture, my objective goes beyond just communicating what’s in the notes. Knowing what I know, I am always looking for opportunities to correct wrong thinking or point out dangerous beliefs.

In one of my early sessions, God brought 1 Cor 4:6b to mind, “. . . that you may learn not to exceed what is written.” That became my “battle cry” all day. “Stick to what is written.” “Do not go outside of what has been written.” “Stay within the boundaries of the written revelation of God (Scriptures) and you won’t have to worry about being deceived by the enemy.

I also was drawn to Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Also, James 3:1, teachers received stricter judgment. I used all of these to (hopefully) put the “fear of God” in their hearts. I want them to know it is a huge responsibility to open the Bible and teach it. One day, preachers will have to give an account for how they handled that responsibility. I wanted them to really think about that. I hit the theme pretty hard all day.

LIKE A COLD SHOWER

I was excited yesterday about the challenge and potential here in Lagos and Nigeria as a whole. I was asking God how I should respond. Should we put even more effort into Nigeria since Nigeria is key to Africa? Today, God answered, “Not so fast. Know what you would be getting yourself into.”

Unbiblical prayer

The first douse of the cold water of reality was the morning prayer time. Last July (here) the prayer times were very LOUD, SHOUTING Nigerian-Pentecostalish. I didn’t see that yesterday. I was encouraged. Well, it was back in force today. Not only was it loud, I mean LOUD, it was unbiblical. They were being told to pray to God to give the Holy Spirit to them. Romans 10:2, zeal without knowledge.

One pastor pulled me aside. We had to go outside to talk, it was so loud. He pleaded with me to correct them regarding this, and I did. I called their attention to their “unbiblical prayer.” I tried to be instructive. I told them that our prayers should be biblical as much as our preaching.

Incompatible doctrine

In God’s providence, in God’s perfect timing, just when I was wondering about next steps in Lagos, our seminar organizer handed me a gift; a copy of a book on spiritual warfare he wrote. I glanced through it and it was obvious he approaches spiritual warfare from an extreme Pentecostal position. I have included two examples in the pictures I added today. If he is settled in the position he takes in the book, it will be very difficult for us to work closely together.

New pictures here.

Disappointing endorsement

The preface of the book on spiritual warfare is the Provost at the seminary I will be visiting Friday. I was hoping to find compatibility doctrinally but apparently, in this area, there is none. He endorsed the book after reading (he said) every word on every page.

And apparent inability to “connect the dots”

Finally, the thing that disappoints me is that most don’t seem to know or care that what we are teaching (in some cases) is opposed to what they teach. They seem to think it is all great. Or are oblivious (I say that respectfully).

A FEW QUESTIONS

This is already pretty long so I’ll only give a couple and leave the rest for tomorrow or even Friday when there are nor sessions.

Q: Can a pastor specialize in a ministry of interest like missions or student work while focusing on the ministry of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4)? ANS: The ministry of the Word and prayer must be the pastor’s primary focus. They can’t be neglected. If there is anytime left in the week, he can devote it to some other interest. Joel added, “Concentrate on the ministry of the Word and prayer and equip others to do the other ministries.” He gave examples from his own ministry.

Q: Can I set a target for maturing a believer? Jesus took three years to “mature” His disciples. ANS: Growing to maturity or bringing another believer to maturity is a never-ending process. No one will be 100% mature until they reach heaven. Whether you are preaching to the church or working with one person or a small group, you are helping them mature in their faith.

Q: Why is the territory where Paul did his ministry mostly Muslim today? ANS: It just happened. It is not unusual that areas that are strongly Christian turn from it eventually. Consider Europe during then after the Reformation. Consider the United States, where we are heading and where we will probably be in the next 10-20 years. But there are new areas of revival and growth like Korea and even Africa. And there are many reports of Muslims coming to Christ. There are many reasons to be encouraged. Christ promised to build His church and nothing will stop Him from doing that.

Special prayer: By the end of the Q&A session I was light headed and feeling dizzy. I assumed it was because of the heat (92 outside no AC near the pulpit inside). I still think it was. Pray things will be different tomorrow. I am going to ask for a fan near the pulpit.

And keep praying for minds to be impacted for we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Thanks.

By His grace,

Steve

Check out my new clothes. See the pictures. Click here.

 

 

 

 

OPERATION LAGOS: CALLING FOR AGENTS OF CHANGE

Dear Friends of ITEM,

Day One here is Lagos is complete. I have to admit that when I am doing a seminar here I feel a little more sense of urgency. I look at the seminar attenders, pastors, and think, “These are the men who can turn things around. We just need to convince them, by God’s grace and the urging of His Spirit, that preaching and teaching and applying God’s Word without compromise, regardless of the cost week by week, month by month, year by year will eventually pay huge dividends. But they need to stick with it.” That is our task and we got off to a strong start today.

BIG PICTURE

The big picture of the week is to take a look at a vibrant, healthy church from Scripture using Ephesians 4:11-16 as the jumping off place. Then as the week moves on (tomorrow) we transition into the key role that preaching and teaching plays in bringing the church to maturity.

TODAY’S LECTURE LINEUP

Describing an Eph 4 Church (a study of Eph 4:11-16) ( Steve); Building up the Church (Joel); Principles of NT Edification (Steve); Principles of NT Evangelism (live holy lives and proclaim the gospel to those who witness your holy lifestyle; living and proclaiming are two sides of the same evangelistic coin) (Steve); Principles of NT Leadership (it’s about character and role, rather than titles) (Joel).

THE MESSAGE INSIDE THE MESSAGE

Throughout the day Joel and I kept repeating the same themes of “teach the Word,” “live the Word,” “equip the saints,” “build up the church spiritually,” and then “living a godly lifestyle and proclaiming the gospel go hand in hand,” and “the church needs to be brought to maturity.”

MY SENSE OF URGENCY

I feel a growing sense of urgency each time I come here. As I try to understand why, a couple of things come to mind. One is that there are highly qualified men helping with ITEM’s ministry in other countries. There are no others helping here in Nigeria. Second, as I’ve mentioned, Nigeria has been the breeding ground of a lot of false teaching and there is a part of me that wants to invest quality time (whatever that means) in my remaining years of ministry (whether 5 or 10 years, God knows) helping the Nigerian church get turned around. But is that my desire or God’s? Pray!

EDITORIAL NOTE: Dr. Gary Maxey, a professor at West Africa Theological Seminary, whom I will meet with on Friday, has been in Nigeria a long time and has written a few books about his experience. Nigeria was not always this way. Christianity was strong but has been taken over by the prosperity gospel preachers. You can find his books on Amazon.

IT PAYS THE BILLS

Joel told me this evening that in Nigeria, there are two (almost) certain ways to make money. One, start a school. Two, start a church. Then Michael (seminar organizer) told me that university students who lead large Christian fellowships on campus, graduate, can’t find a job, so they start a church with no training. It’s a “job,” “it pays the bills!”

QUESTIONS

We started answering questions today.

Q: The apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church (Eph 2:20). Are there apostles and prophets today? ANS: (This is asked often) When you study Eph 2:20 – 3:5 you will see that they received direct revelation from God and were them expected to teach the new believers what God told them Now that God’s revelation is written down, there is no need for anyone like that today. Thus, they were the “foundation” of the church.

Q: Are elders supposed to be the shepherds in the church? ANS: In Acts 20:17 and 1 Pet 5:1, elders are being addressed; ELDERS. In each passage they are told to “shepherd” the flock and provide “oversight.” Elders are shepherds and overseers. In the Greek, “shepherd” and “pastor” are the same word as are “overseer” and “bishop.” So, the actual title is “elder.” But the elder is an overseer and shepherd, and at the same time a pastor and overseer. In the NT they are all the same person.

Q: How can we encourage members to submit to being “equipped (Eph 4:11-12)” when the feel unfit and unsuitable for ministry?           ANS: (In brief) Tell them to stop listening to people and/or the devil who are telling them that. Teach them from passages like Eph 1 and 1 Cor 12 just how special they are in God’s eyes and in time they will begin to see that they are God’s creation and that they are special in His sight. It will take time but it will happen.

Q: In Phil 3:2, Paul writes about “dogs” and “evil workers.” Is it possible to love the “dogs” and “evil workers” equally in the church? ANS: Not only is it possible, it is expected. But if there comes a time that they are causing problems and need to be confronted, do it in love. If they don’t stop, take others with you. If they don’t stop. Tell the church. If they don’t stop, treat them like a “gentile” and “tax collector (Matthew 18:15-20).

 That is all for today. There were additional questions asked but I will leave those for tomorrow.

Pray for us as we continue. Pray that many of these pastors will give themselves to the Lord to be faithful ministers of the Word, to proclaim the true gospel of Christ, and to give themselves to “presenting every man complete in Christ (Col 1:28).”

By His grace,

Steve

PICTURE ALBUM LINK

 

REACHING NIGERIA THRU LAGOS

Dear ITEM Partner,

Today, Monday, I made my transition to Nigeria. This is going to be a strategic week. It is our second time to be in Lagos. Although Abuja is the capital city, Lagos is very strategic when it comes to the spiritual climate in Nigeria, all of Africa, and increasingly in the world. So, this week can have a significant impact moving forward.

NIGERIA IS KEY

There is little debate about the impact the Nigerian church is having on other countries in Africa and now in other countries around the world. Unfortunately, much of what is being exported is, quite frankly, heretical.

5 OF 10 RICHEST PASTORS: NIGERIAN

One study revealed that 5 of the 10 richest pastors in the world are Nigerian and when wrongly motivated pastors from other places see that, they come here to learn the “secrets” to success.

GOD, JUST A GAME TO SOME

I have a video taken at a church where a young pastor is “building his own kingdom” by performing miraculous signs and healings, and supposedly casting out demons. His church cheers for him as they would cheer or a conquering hero. Then the cameras follow him into a meeting where he is meeting with a room full of proteges and he says to them (and this is a quote from the video), “Men, God is a game. And guess what? The game is easy!” The untaught and naïve church goer sees this man as the one who will protect them from the evil spiritual powers around them (a teaching most grow up with). I hope to have more about this throughout the week.

WE TAKE ANOTHER STEP THIS WEEK

This week we are bringing back pastors who attended our Bible and theology seminar here last July. This week the subject matter focuses on the marks of a mature and healthy church, and the pastor’s role as Bible teacher and Bible expositor. At the end of the week we will be inviting these men to join mentoring groups where they will meet with other pastors, learning how to take what they are learning and using it in their ministry to bring their churches to maturity.

OUR ULTIMATE GOAL

Our ultimate goal is to see the true gospel take root, to see believers mature, churches become strong and healthy, and to see Lagos become a place where Christ is truly honored and the true gospel is being exported, not the false gospel of fame and fortune.

PRAY

So, please pray for us this week. Pray that God will raise up an army of pastors who will pledge themselves to being a part of the solution.

As always, thanks for praying, and to those who are able to help financially, thanks for that also. We, together, are making a difference.

By His grace,

Steve

SEE TRIP PHOTOS CLICK HERE

TRAVELING INSIDE AFRICA? EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

Dear ITEM Prayer Partners,

I am in Nairobi, Kenya at my home away from home, Mayfield Guest House (see the pic in the album). Tomorrow (Monday) I head to Nigeria and start a seminar on Tuesday, Lord willing.

The move from Liberia to Kenya was a little stressful, to say the least.

THE PLAN

I told Michael, Liberian Coordinator, I wanted to leave for the airport at 2pm so I could be there by 3, leaving a lot of time before my 5:45pm flight to Nairobi via Accra, Ghana. He thought that was quite early but I told him I like a lot of extra time just in case something happens along the way. Those words proved to be prophetic.

THE REALITY

At 2:20pm Michael had not showed. I had my host at the guest house call. Michael said he was finishing up “some little work” and he’d be there. At 2:40 he showed up at the gate and the car was there shortly thereafter.

The host at the guest house said it was 45 minutes to the airport on a good day. It was not a good day! It took us just under 90 minutes. Arrived at 4:15, one hour before i expected to board.

SURPRISE SURPRISE

Check in, including passing through luggage inspection and immigration, went well enough and they invited me into the first class lounge, a privilege for frequent flyers. It was about 4:45 then, 30 minutes until I expected to board the plane.

At 4:50ish, the announcement was made, “Kenya flight is boarding!” The flight departed THIRTY MINUTES EARLY; 5:15 not 5:45.

It is a good thing I didn’t know that was their plan while we were on the road in traffic! My stress level would have been quite elevated.

COLD ARRIVAL IN KENYA

After a 90 minutes stopover in Ghana we headed to Nairobi and arrived about 5:30AM. Well, when I hurriedly gathered my things back in Liberia when boarding, it dawned on me that I left my jacket on the taxi in the parking lot in Liberia.

My ride in Nairobi was late so I got to stand in the cold, damp, breezy air in Nairobi for about 30 minutes with just a pocketed T-shirt covering my torso. BURRR!

COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE

At times like this I remind myself that although this was an unpleasant trip on several fronts, it was not as harrowing as some we’ve heard about!

PRAY

Pray for tomorrow’s trip – no delays, transportation on time.

Pray for the men I just met with in Liberia, that they will continue to be excited and motivated.

Pray for the seminar ahead. Lagos, Nigeria is a “major hub” for false teaching in Africa. It might be THE main hub. I think it is, myself. Pray those in attendance will give themselves to being agents of truth and change.

Pray for my health. The heat and humidity, coupled with the AC in my room brought on a sore throat, which can lead to a loss of my voice. Pray it doesn’t

Pray also for what is becoming an ongoing issue. More often than not, when I am I am in a plane at altitude, i develop sinus issues on one side of my head that leads to days of a watery left eye an runny nose. I take antihistamine as we take off, which helps some, I think.

Thanks for coming along and for praying. If you have any questions, write to me at steve@iteministries.org.

By His grace,

Steve

CLICK HERE FOR NEW PICS Some were actually taken last year when I was in Liberia but are worth seeing again, I think.

 

LIBERIA ITEM TEAM MEETS WITH ITEM FOUNDER FOR THE FIRST TIME

Dear Friends and Family,

My brief stay in Liberia is complete and I feel as if the mission was accomplished. I met with the newly formed team for several hours today and from the questions and responses I received, I feel good about the team. But you might be surprised about a primary highlight was. I’ll get to that in a moment.

NEVER DIE CHURCH

Pastor Michael Allen, newly appointed Liberia Coordinator, brought up the topic of registering ITEM in Liberia and the advantages of doing so. This same process is in its final stages in Uganda. Michael explained that it establishes a relationship with the government and that way they know who you are, what you are doing, and that you are not a cult of some kind.

That led him into his discussion of the “Never Die Church.” The Never Die Church was established here in Liberia and wanted to live on earth as believers will live in heaven. And since there will be no marriage in heaven, sex will not be limited to just husband and wife. You can take it from there. The Never Die Church was a “have sex with anyone you want” organization. I think Michael told me they were shut down by the government.

I told Michael I’d approach the ITEM board about it.

TODAY’S AGENDA: REVIEW, DISCUSSION, SURPRISE

PURPOSE: TRANSFORMED CHURCHES LED BY TRANSFORMED PASTORS

We spent the first part of the day reviewing ITEM’s purpose and mission. In recent years we’ve moved away from an organization that exclusively “trains pastors,” or even “trains pastors in basic Bible and theology.”

We’ve learned that a trained pastor (define that anyway that you want) does not equal a vibrant, healthy, spiritually growing church. We are told that there are some 600,000 seminars a year in sub-Saharan Africa conducted by westerners, yet the African church, we are told, remains “an inch deep.” Why? We are convinced it is because the Word of God has not taken root in the church at large.

So, our purpose and mission now is to come along side pastors using seminars and small group mentoring to equip them and lead them to become transforming agents in their churches.

The goal is that they become biblical examples, equippers (disciplers), and Bible expositors, and that the believers in their churches become equipped and involved, mature in their faith, and no longer deceived by any of the false teachers that blanket the continent.

REVIEW

We spent most of the rest of the day reviewing the ITEM Bible / theology seminar they each attended last July. We have a doctrinal exam for potential ITEM lecturers that get them to interact with the material in the lectures and ITEM’s position on certain, potentially dividing subjects like, “is new revelation being given today?” One of the participants today heard someone say “the written Bible is not the Word of God but it contains the Word of God.” What? Yes, there is a teaching that says “what is written is not the Word of God but the ideas behind the written words is the Word of God.” We also talked about ITEM’s position on women in ministry, certain spiritual gifts, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the filling of the Spirit, principles of Bible interpretation, and more.

Their questions and comments demonstrated that they had already studied some of these issues and this was a reminder. They said so much. Of those in attendance, 3 had seminary training, 3 did not but were still above average in their Bible knowledge.

SURPRISE: PRACTICE PATIENCE AND GRACE WHEN OPPOSED

The surprise of the day came at the beginning of the day, actually. I started the day with a discussion of Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Tim 2:24-26. “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition. . .”

I told them that these verses must define who we are as an organization. We will be working with the whole body of Christ and will be encountering a wide range of beliefs. And some are going to disagree with us. But I insisted that we do not argue, we respect everyone, we show patience, kindness, gentleness, and hopefully humility while leading those who disagree with us to see what we believe the Bible teaches.

Michael, the coordinator, perked up and confessed he has not been applying those verses. He believes he is teaching the Bible and tells people, “If you don’t want to hear what the Bible teaches you are free to leave.” And know what, many have.

I told them that we welcome everyone to our seminars and pray that some will have their eyes opened to some of the things they have believed that are not biblical.

Michael told the group, “I believe God sent Steve to us so I could hear that. I will change how I speak to those who oppose what we teach. Instead of rebuking them, I will try to teach them.”

NEXT STOP: NIGERIA VIA KENYA

Saturday, 14th, I’ll take a dinner time flight to Kenya. With stopovers and layovers, I will arrive at 5:40AM Sunday. Monday, I head to Nigeria for a seminar that starts next Tuesday. More about that later.

Thank you for praying. It was a worthwhile stop.

By His grace,

Steve

New Pictures added to the album today.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO ALBUM

ARRIVAL IN LIBERIA

Dear ITEM Friends,

It is late afternoon Thursday here in Monrovia, Liberia. It’s hot and humid and the power is out so there are no fans moving the air around. That is just the way it goes in this part of the world. For those of you ready for the clouds and rain to disappear for awhile in Oregon, I wish we could switch places right about now! Enough about the weather.

FLIGHTS: ON SCHEDULE, UNEVENTFUL

My itinerary took me from Portland to Amsterdam to Freetown, Liberia to Monrovia, Liberia. Everything was according to play. Thank you for praying. Thank you, Lord, for answering!

LIGHT’S OUT, PAY UP

Our newly appointed coordinator for Liberia picked me up at the airport about 10pm Wednesday in Monrovia. His old Jeep broke down coming to the airport so he grabbed a taxi. The taxi had only one headlight working. He got stopped at a police stop on the road. Mentioned that in the US we get a ticket and have to pay a fine and asked what they have to do. “We pay the police whatever we have and he lets us go.” I asked if he kept the money himself. Answer? You guessed it: “OF COURSE!”

WHAT DEMONSTRATES GOD’S FAVOR?

Pastor Michael Allen, ITEM’s new coordinator here, told me that the “Prosperity Gospel” is out of control here. “The way people know the pastor has been ‘anointed by God’,” he explained with some urgency in his voice, “is if he has a big house and drives a nice car.”

Michael has been praying a long time for someone to join him in doing something about the situation in his home country and believes ITEM is the answer to his prayers.

WHO IS MICHAEL ALLEN?

Pastor Michael came to our initial seminar last summer. (They don’t have seasons here. They have dry season and rainy season. We are transitioning right now from dry to rainy.”) After almost every lecture he’d corner me and state, “This is exactly what we need in Liberia and I want to work with ITEM.” After interaction with the man who invited me in the first place, we appointed Michael as our coordinator.

Michael’s grandmother was a sorcerer. He grew up as a nominal Muslim. He was left handed and was beaten during a Muslim holy season for using his left hand. He was told that the left hand was evil. He was also told that Arabic was the heavenly language.

By God’s grace, an American Christian sponsored him to go to a Christian school then a college then a Bible school. And now God is using him. He is the principal of All God’s Children Christian School and the pastor of New Life Bible Church. He’s a humble man with very little. His church is made up mainly of students from the school. And week by week he is teaching them the Bible verse by verse. I believe he is the right man for the task of leading ITEM’s efforts in Liberia.

AGAPE FELLOWSHIP MEETING

The only business on today’s agenda was for Michael and I to be sure we were on the same team and meet with leaders from the pastors’ fellowship who, after the last seminar, offered to partner with us here in Liberia. Michael is not an official part of that fellowship do to some doctrinal differences. We want them to be involved but do not want them to be put in an eventual teaching position where they would be expected to teach doctrines they aren’t yet in agreement with.

Besides that meeting, pastor Michael took me by his home and church.

TOMORROW: MEET AND ORIENT THE TEAM

Tomorrow, Friday, I’ll officially meet the team Michael has assembled and try to ground them in ITEM distinctives, philosophy of ministry, ministry priorities, core values, mission and vision.

PRAYER:

Please pray for us as we meet. Getting a team up and running has been a 3 year process in the past. We hope to find a way to shorten the time without sacrificing the quality of the preparation we normally give our teams.

PICTURES were placed in the online photo album. CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO ALBUM

Thanks for praying.

By His grace,

Steve

LEAVING TUES APRIL 10

Hi Everyone,

This trip has crept up on me quickly. I leave tomorrow, April 10, for a three nation trip. My first stop is Liberia where I’ll meet the newly formed ITEM team there and take them through ITEM’s strategy, Core Values, Doctrinal statement, and Philosophy of Ministry.

From there, I’ll transit through Kenya on to Lagos, Nigeria where I was last summer. I will be involved in the second of two seminars there; the ITEM Conference on Ministry and Preaching. Joel Yaji, ITEM Coordinator (Nigeria) will be assisting me. This is the final seminar for these pastors. The next step for them will be ITEM mentoring, helping them to become examples, equippers, and Bible expositors. I also expect to have a strategic meeting with Dr. Gary Maxey, a long time resident of Nigeria, and staff/faculty of a seminary in Lagos. I have been told that the Provost of the school will be there also. We’ll be discussing ministry in Nigeria, among other things. 

After that I will head back to Kenya for this same seminar (ICOMP) in Nairobi. We had the first seminar there last summer. In this case, Dr. Nathan Chiroma, a special assistant of mine, will participate with me. After that I head to Mombasa, Kenya, to meet with the head of the So Baptists in Kenya. We will discuss the possibilities of working together to train their pastors.

I expect to be home May 1.

As always there will be picture album. Here is the link. Maps are up now showing the itinerary.

Please begin to pray for safe flights with no major glitches along the way; for health, and needed rest, comfortable beds, ability to sleep on the planes, clear communication of each lecture, open minds and hearts, and a desire for each pastor in attendance to desire to be mentored in order to become an example, an equipper and a Bible expositor.

Thanks!

By His grace,

Steve

THE ITEM E-4 CHURCH STRATEGY

In an E-4 Church (Ephesians 4:11-16), the pastor is equipping the saints to do ministry (vv. 11-12). Saints are doing the ministry (v. 12). The church is growing numerically/spiritually (v. 12). There is a growing understanding (unity) of the Christian faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. The body is being brought to maturity (v. 13). And the members are growing in discernment and are, therefore, no longer easy victims of false teachers promoting a false gospel for personal gain (v. 14).