Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pastors' Conference - Day 2

Rafael and I were up bright and early and headed to Iglesia Filadelfia. We've been holding the pastors' conference at that church because it's the biggest and most comfortable church in the area. It's the church the local pastors chose to host the meetings.

At breakfast this morning, Steve joked that I'd know how yesterday went by the attendance today. Well, yesterday, we had 45 in attendance. This morning, we had 36. But, we know that some of the people from yesterday simply could not attend today. Some people had to take time off from jobs or other responsibilities in order to attend one day. So, I think 36 attendees is actually a good turnout.

I mentioned yesterday that at least one pastor had come from the city of Tipitapa, which is on the other side of Managua, about 60 miles away. It would take about 90 minutes to drive there. Well, I found out today that the pastor actually took a bus back and forth yesterday, and he did it again today. And, there's no direct bus. He had to make multiple transfers. That's a huge commitment this pastor is making to come here.

Angela wanted to know if that was enough pressure for me. :-)

Roberto, the pastor at Filadelfia, told me that they've tried to have similar seminars (as they call them) before, but it hasn't worked out well. He thinks that the pastors are far more open and willing to listen right now. So, it seems I am benefiting from good timing.

As the book of Ruth would say, "It just so happened" that the pastors were open at this moment.

So, what happened today?

In the first session, I discussed how to understand and interpret biblical narratives; those are the stories of the Bible. Most of the Bible is in the form of stories. There are stories about Abraham, Joseph, Ruth, Esther, etc. And the Gospels include stories about the travels and ministry of Jesus. And Acts tells stories about the early church.

The Bible includes other genres of writing: laws, letters, prophecy, etc. But, most of the Bible is in the form of stories.

Our first session lasted just over 90 minutes. And during that time, I discussed the role stories play in the grand story (el gran historia) of the Bible. I explained that the Bible, as a whole, should lead us to:
  1. see our need of a savior.
  2. see how God works out his plan of salvation and his judgment in history.
  3. worship God.
If that's the point of the Bible, then the narratives must contribute to that point. So, any interpretation of the narratives that doesn't include something of that main message, has missed the point. If I read the story of Boaz, in the book of Ruth, and leave thinking that God's message for me is that I need to a better, more honorable man, then I've missed the point. If a woman reads the story and leaves thinking the message is that she needs a good man to care for her, she has missed the point. The story of Ruth is there to show us God working out his plan of salvation in history, in the lives of those people.

And we talked about how we can see our need of a savior, and God's work in history, and be led into worship, through the stories of David and Goliath, Esther, Daniel and Joshua.

And we discussed the New Testament narratives, such as Acts. We talked about the message of Acts being introduced in Acts 1:6-8.
So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (ESV)
The book of Acts shows us how God worked in history to fulfill his promise and his command in the Great Commission.

Then, we took a break. And during the break, Roberto (pastor of Filadelfia), Juan (pastor of Alfa y Omega), Rafael and I discussed meeting plans for tomorrow. Originally, there was nothing scheduled for tomorrow. In fact, Roberto had told Steve and Angela, during the planning of this trip, that he thought a couple meetings would be plenty. But, he and the others have asked for more. So, it was decided that tomorrow, we will meet from 8:00-12:00 and then again from 2:00-4:00.

Gloria Dios.

After the break, we started session 2. That lasted about 2 hours. And we talked about interpreting and applying the letters of the New Testament. The letters, I explained, are intended to teach us how to live Christian lives.

I gave some principles for interpretation and application, and we looked at some examples. We discussed the need to understand the main idea of each letter. What was the occasion or situation that caused the writer to write the letter? Galatians, for example, addresses those people who claimed Christians were still obligated to follow the Law. And Romans, for example, addresses the unity of Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. And 1 Corinthians addresses a church that understood their freedom from the Law to mean there were no bounds to their behavior.

Then, I explained, once we've understood what the writer was saying to that original audience, we can begin to apply it to our own lives. So, when Paul tells slaves to obey their masters (Col 3:22), and masters to be fair to their slaves (Col 4:1), we can understand what that means for us. We are not in that same situation. But, we can see that Paul was using husbands and wives (3:18-19), fathers and children (3:20-21), and slaves and masters (3:22; 4:1), as examples of people living out his real message:
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (3:17)

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (3:23-24)
When we understand that message, we can easily apply it to a situation of a business manager and an employee, even though that situation is not actually mentioned by Paul.

Overall, I think we had a great day. Looking over the feedback forms, I was encouraged. Here are some of the things pastors wrote:
  • I learned about understanding context to interpret the Bible and this is going to be a blessing to me and my church.
  • I learned how to better understand the narratives.
  • I would like more time for the teachings.
  • Can we discuss whether or not women can be pastors?
  • I learned about the 3 elements for interpreting the Bible.
  • I would like to have more time for the seminars.
  • Today was even better than yesterday.
  • I would like to learn more about the covenants in the Bible.
  • How can I know about God's will for my life and what ministry he is calling me into?
  • I have been blessed and this has all been useful.
  • And two people actually asked for homework.
When they ask for more time and homework, I know things must be going well.

Karina, the daughter of Juan Bautista, took some pictures and video, so I might be able to add those later. But, here are some pictures I took today.

This first picture was taken before session 1. You can see a
couple places where someone pointed out that
my Spanish was incorrect and I then fixed it.

This is the group gathering for our first session.

During the break, I took this picture of the last things
I had written on the board.

Here are Juan Bautista (left), Rafael (center) and
Karina Bautista (right) talking during the break.

Here is the group gathering for session 2.

Another picture of the group gathering.

And here's Rafael translating something on the
board for me as we prepare for session 2.

And here's my stack of feedback forms.

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