“Be completely humble and gentle: be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3)
I feel like I always say this, but it has been extremely busy in the ministry. We are waiting for it to slow down a little. But it would actually be better if we simply had a bigger team to do all that is happening. We rarely give a report on all that is happening, and I will continue in that tradition. While the details of the happenings at our community center, in our sport program and in many of the smaller discipleship relationships are extremely exciting, the most exciting development is the continued growth in the unity of the pastors we have pulled together and their rapidly growing use of the conference center we have been building on the farm, with your help. This is something so much bigger than us, so we are excited to give you a closer look at the power of humility and the Holy Spirit.
We started about 6 months ago when we pulled together a small group of pastors from 5 churches, all of them struggling in their own ways, yet fully committed to their call. Over time, we have selectively allowed two additional pastors to join us for a total of 7. We actually have about 10 wanting to join us but we are holding off on enlarging the group as we first want to solidify the group that we have. Nathan, Alvaro, Ezekiel and I have made a huge investment in time and energy to encourage, pray for, pray with and otherwise support these pastors in so many ways during this time of growth. We have organized several activities, some of which I will describe below.
I hate to admit it, but pastors, of which I am called one, struggle with the same issues of pride, insecurity and self-preservation that almost everyone does. So getting pastors to work together has been an insurmountable challenge until now. Every year we try to pull them together to see if we can get some momentum, and then drop it until the time is right. Well, this year has been different. We started in March with a humble meeting as we invited them to the farm for lunch and to talk about the possibilities.
Every single one of them expressed their doubt on it being able to work, simply based upon their lack of trust of each other. Funny isn’t it that pastors can’t trust each other. And many people feel they cannot trust them either. Why is that? This reflects the problem in the church today, both in Nicaragua as well as the United States. If a pastor reflected the love of Jesus to his congregation above all else, and they reflected this into the community at large, there would be no lack of trust. Unfortunately, love is the not first work people think of when they think of the church.
In order to get over this trust issue, we had to challenge them to follow the command of Romans 12:18 “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” We held a conference for the 5 pastors and invited their wives. Now that was something new as well. Their wives were never involved in anything and were not an active part of their ministry. Gosh, how contrary this is to our ministry where Jennifer is the heart and soul of everything we do.
At this conference, we taught and discussed the 4 main themes we teach in our ministry: Humility, love, forgiveness and unity. If you have humility, love, and forgiveness among any group of people, you cannot keep them from being unified. The initial meeting was electrifying. They embraced the need for these qualities in their lives, their ministries and amongst themselves. So they agreed to move forward.
Now what. There is so little creativity among the churches. So we suggested some very simple activities. We first held a unified blood drive at the community center that attracted 55 donors from our churches. Journey mentioned this in her last update. The Red Cross told us they never had an event where they did not have to walk to streets in the neighborhood and solicit donors. They were so excited to work with us because we had such eager donors. What a great way to show the love of Christ to the community!!!! This was a simple little win together that gave us a shot in the arm. (Get it?)
We are now gaining momentum. In the last 2 months, together we have:
- Hosted a youth conference on the farm
- Hosted a marriage conference on the farm
- Begun praying together weekly
- Had a successful blood drive
- Done two combined church services with all members from their churches
- Shown 6 movies in several of their churches
- They have now each preached at least one of each others’ churches
All of this in less than two months? Could you ever think this is possible? Over the next month we have planned another combined church service, a leadership conference this coming Friday and then an evangelism workshop and another marriage conference in October. We will be doing a talent show and other activities before the end of the year.
So where are we now? To start with, these pastors are extremely excited. What a change!!! They are now experiencing the benefits of this group. If one can’t preach, they call each other or myself to fill in quickly. There have been some serious problems among them and they show up at each other’s houses to pray with and encourage each other. In other words, they have friends. Trusted friends. They never had friends like this because it is very hard for pastors to have friends.
And guess what, their churches are growing. The love and humility they now show to each other is naturally flowing into their churches as well. In all honesty, some of these churches were already growing. But now they are exploding. They are no longer worried about competition among each other. They are eagerly helping each other, demonstrating a servant’s heart, love, and humility once again. Their people feel it and notice it. Things are changing.
People talk about revival all the time. We have been talking about it for 5 years that we felt the Lord would bring it here one day. But most misunderstand the word. They think revival means church growth. It does not. By definition, it means to revive. Which means it was alive and is now not doing so well. That was the state of the local church. Revival begins within the church. It begins when the Holy Spirit touches and changes hearts. Then when the church is alive, the natural effect is that it will naturally grow. We believe that we are in the beginning stages of a revival. We have a saying in our ministry. God needs to “work in us before he works through us.” And that is what the Lord is doing. He is working in the pastors’ hearts first, then working through them into their churches and the communities.
These men and their wives allowed the Holy Spirit to humble them first, and then teach them to love and serve. As the Holy Spirit fills us up, we now truly reflect Jesus Christ to each other and the community in which we serve. Praise God. And thank God for the team that we have here. Nathan, Alvaro and Ezekiel have been instrumental in this work. Our own team being united has helped us to love, serve and guide this team of pastors. We are excited to see what the Lord has for this city over the next year. With many pastors waiting to join and work in loving unity, this could “infect” the rest of the churches, most of which are still struggling in the way our churches were just 6 months ago.
Did I mention that we are all praying? Our whole team is praying. The pastors are praying. We pray individually every day, and we gather together many times a week to pray together. None of this would have happened without the Holy Spirit directing everything in response to prayers that humble and open our hearts. We are excited about the future and we are grounded in prayer. Today and every day.
So what about you? Do you need to examine your heart? How is your humility? You can do good things without being humble. You can do acts of service. The humble and loving heart is not only the prerequisite that Jesus calls for, but it also empowers those acts of service to have a lasting impact. We want to encourage everyone towards humility, love, forgiveness and, prayer.
God bless you all. Please pray for us and please let us know how we can pray for you.
Scott and Jenn