Sunday, July 8, 2012

Pastors' Conference report

This is my third trip to Nicaragua. My first time, I was only involved with the VBS activities. My second trip, I was only involved with the pastor's training. And this time, I've been involved with VBS and pastors' training.

So, what's the point of the pastors' conferences? The mission team is trying to address a need for theological education among local pastors. The Gospel Coalition calls it a "theological famine." Here in America, we have so much theological education. We have plenty of seminaries. We have seminaries offering online classes. We have pastors' conferences that last a weekend and have the the BIG names speaking.

Theology, good theology, so available in America, that just a week before our trip, Jennifer attended the Gospel Coalition's Women's Conference in Orlando, where she could hear from Noel Piper, Tim Keller, Nancy Guthrie, Don Carson, John Piper, Carolyn Mahaney, and so many more. Yet, in much of the world, this is all unimaginable. In the city of Nagarote, only one of the local pastors has any formal theological education. Their personal libraries are sparse. 

The pastors want to know more. And that's what the pastors' conferences are all about.

This week, I had three opportunities to teach a group of pastors and other churches leaders. The first meeting was about discipleship. The second was about the church's role in the world today. And the third was about church leadership. These were all topics that the pastors had said they wanted me to teach. They also had a few more topics, but those will have to wait for another time, or someone with other areas of expertise. ;-)

For example, everyone seems interested in prophecy. Even before the first meeting started, while we were all gathering together, someone asked about symbolism in Revelation. I explained that Revelation is not my expertise, but I also tried to give some basic answers. And then I decided to address it at the start of class, too.

I explained that John Calvin once noted, some things in the Bible are more clear than others. And more importantly, the most important things are the most clear. And that's how I would begin thinking about Revelation.

There's a lot of disagreement when it comes to Revelation. But, what's the main point? What is the book about? I asked for their ideas. And, sure enough, we all agreed. Revelation is about the future return of Christ, when he gathers his church and will judge evil. No matter what view you have of Revelation, you should get the same main idea.

And everyone agrees, in the end, God wins. That's important for our lives today, because as we see a world of chaos, as we suffer, as we wonder what will happen in the future, we can rest assured, God is winning, and will win. That is a message we can all see in Revelation.

After talking some more about Revelation, I talked about discipleship. We discussed the primacy of God in changing hearts. We discussed the purpose of discipleship--to become more like Christ. We discussed the necessity of church community in discipleship.

That was a great segway into our later meeting about church leadership. I didn't teach how to be a leader. I taught what the Bible tells us about the leadership of the church. I discussed the role and qualifications of pastors, and then I went through the same issues for deacons. And we talked about how pastors and deacons are both essential to a healthy church.

Now, here are a few pictures.
This is some of the pastors' conference attendees near the end of a break.
I can tell it was during a break because I was taking a picture.

 This is Karina (Juan Bautista's daughter, who was in charge of snacks)
getting some food for Carlos (my translator)

This is Juan Bautista speaking at the end of a break. He had told me he
wanted to talk to the group for a minute, but I have no idea what he said,
since Carlos, my translator, was in the restroom.

 Bicycles are a common form of transportation.

This is my dry erase board (which the mission team had given the church
last year). This is after I talked about discipleship. I had asked if Jesus is
Savior or Lord (Salvador o Senor)? Of course, he's both. But, people who
claim salvation but aren't interested in discipleship are saying they want
Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord.

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