International (LWI/ANS) — At this time of year we are hearing and thinking about joy and being joyful, and even singing songs of joy and rejoicing. But what is it that brings real joy into people’s lives? What can we do to bring joy to others? What is it that brings joy to the Lord?
These are important questions to ponder.
I have had the opportunity to look into the eyes of children, women, and poor people in various parts of the world over the years who have very few of this world’s possessions and privileges. And I have seen genuine joy in their lives that many in the Western world are missing. While many in the more developed countries of the world have more than enough of everything, there are still more than two billion people in the world who do not have enough of anything, yet many of them have more joy than some of the rich and privileged of the world.
While we as followers of Jesus should be responsible to share what we have with those in need, it would be important to realize that we can learn from and receive from them. God is at work in all places, at all times, and it is a challenge to all of us to recognize His redemptive activities, many times in the most unlikely people and places.
One of my mentors years ago, the late Manley Beasley, used to say, “One of our greatest challenges is to find out what God is up to, and get in on it.” Henry Blackaby has said we need to identify the activity of God, and join Him.
There really is no greater joy than being God’s instruments to carry out His purposes and advance His kingdom. Think of all the ways you can do that on a daily basis. God has placed each of us in a mission field, made up of our families, neighbors, co-workers, and friends. And there is another category which I call “all others.” With today’s resources and technologies, we are able to communicate and share with people around the globe.
We in Living Water International have the privilege of helping communities acquire access to clean, safe drinking water in Jesus’ name. However, there are many ways of demonstrating the love and truth of Jesus that result in saving lives and changing destinies. It is transformational when we recognize that each of us can be agents of change and bring joy to those around us and those around the world.
A friend of mine, who has participated in LWI’s Orality Training Workshops and is now conducting orality training himself, shared some of his recent experiences with me by phone.
He was on a mission trip and had the opportunity to lead an Orality Training Workshop with 25 underground pastors in one of the creative access countries in Asia. He was encouraged at how excited these pastors were to learn a method that they can use anywhere, which is not dependent on literate or technological resources. They were equipped with stories and methods that are reproducible, with just what is in their heads and hearts that can be reproduced in other people’s heads and hearts.
They were amazed and surprised at how effective their orality training can be in sharing Jesus and making disciples, even in some of the most difficult circumstances.
It was exciting to hear the joy in this brother’s voice as he shared about his experience on his mission trip. Then I began to think about our being on mission with God, every day, wherever we happen to be. If we take the time to ask God to open our eyes to those opportunities, we will be able to recognize divine appointments that God will orchestrate as we make ourselves available to Him.
Just being alert to the people around us, and looking for ways to connect with them, can create amazing opportunities to share Christ. Making eye contact, smiling, and greeting people, can open the door to engage in conversations that can result in saving lives and changing destinies. We sometimes make things more complicated than they need to be. Simply asking questions, listening, and telling our story can lead to telling God’s story.
We don’t have to be great storytellers, because we have great stories to tell.
There is power in the Story of Jesus, the Living Word of God, and the Holy Spirit will touch hearts and change lives as we simply share with others. We want to make sure our message and methods are biblical, understandable and reproducible. Of course, our best example is the Lord Jesus Himself as a communicator, trainer and disciple maker. It is important that we realize that the same God who lived in Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago, now lives in each of us who is born again by the Spirit of God.
It is true that God seems to use the most-unlikely candidates to accomplish His most significant work. (see 1 Cor. 1:26-31). It seems like many in the Church world today are looking for or trying the most sophisticated, complicated, and complex strategies and programs. There is a tendency to look for the best and newest thinking. Yet, when we think about the fact that the Good News of Jesus spread throughout the entire populated world in the first century, we should consider how that happened.
It was primarily by simple, ordinary people telling the story and sharing the love and truth of Jesus. It’s not complicated. Someone has said that the Early Church is becoming the model for the Modern Church. It has also been said that the Twenty-First Century Church may look a lot like the First Century Church.
One of my mentors used to say, “God did not intend for us to become something, but to contain someone.” Of course, that someone is the Lord Jesus Himself, by means of the Holy Spirit.
It is the indwelling Christ that equips and enables us to be part of bringing transformation to individuals, families, and communities. It is the Spirit of Jesus working through His Body, the Church, that saves lives and changes destinies. We simply have the privilege of being His instruments, His containers, His dwelling place that expresses the Glory of God to those around us. And, we have the calling and responsibility of taking Him to the rest of the world, the ends of the earth and to every people group.
It is encouraging that increasing numbers of church leaders are now having conversations about some important kingdom issues, such as:
* What is a church?
* What does a church do?
* What is a disciple?
* What do disciples do?
* How does a person become a disciple?
* How did Jesus make disciples?
* Can we make disciples the way Jesus made disciples?
* When does a person become a disciple?
* Where can we learn the best lessons about these and many other important questions?
* Why is the church in some parts of the world growing and healthy and not in other places?
The important thing is to find answers to these questions, not based on some religious tradition that has been developed over the past few hundred years, but based on what we learn from Jesus and Scripture. Many people today are looking for answers, without asking the right questions.
When we ask the right questions, chances are better that we’ll eventually discover the right answers, especially if we are looking to the Lord and His Word.
One of the encouraging things about the Orality Movement is that almost anyone can participate. We don’t have to be scholars or theologians to tell stories and ask questions. When stories from the Word of God are told, and the right questions are asked, the Holy Spirit often gives people deep insight into His truth and how it applies to our lives. It’s not just about information and knowledge, but it’s about experiencing the truth–experiencing God in a personal and intimate way.
A friend who recently participated in an Orality Training Workshop later said, “You have to experience it to believe it.” And, there are many things in life like that. We can read about, hear lectures and sermons, or watch videos about something, but it is not the same as engaging and participating in it. We can read instructions about swimming or riding a bicycle, but until we do it, we have not experienced it. Scripture speaks of being doers of the Word, not hearers only.
It is amazing and encouraging to see the growing passion and excitement among pastors, mission leaders and others as they become familiar with the Orality Movement. Those who take the time to learn and participate often have a transformational moment when they see its impact.
Article by Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International
Special to ASSIST News Service