Progress. It is a word that denotes an idea of forward-moving, but it also seems to admit that it may be slow, a bit awkward and not at all comfortable. If that is how you think of progress, you may know a bit more about how I feel.
It is not normal that you teach pastors that have more life experience in their little pinky than I might know in my whole life. It is not normal that youth teach the aged (especially in Africa). And it is not normal that I might be a mentor to those that should (and are) mentoring me.
But, such is my lot. There are 16 pastors who faithfully give up potential work hours to study the Bible three times a week. They come from all over Lusaka, arriving at the 3 o'clock hour, with smiles and joy and tiredness and some looking a bit ragged. Whether they are building houses or welding fences or teaching students, they all have jobs to support their families. They also pastor churches and train leaders and somehow still have time to study the Word. They are thrilled to have this opportunity to study and learn for free. And, so I study and pray and hope that God shows us somewhere between my words to make this time worth their while.
Last Monday, before class, I asked students, "What are you preaching on?" And, one by one I went around the class and I heard what they were preaching on. They shared not only about what they were preaching on but also couldn't help but preach it up a bit right then and there. Peter preached on Genesis and the flood. Bruce preached on reaping what you sow. Pastor Ngoma and Pastor Martin preached on money. Pastor Alfred preached on Mark 2 and the Healing of the Paralytic. The other Alfred preached on Isaiah 55 and how the Word doesn't come back void. Pastor Jere preached on Acts 1:8-10. It was great to get into their worlds and churches a bit to hear what and why they are preaching what they are preaching. We discussed for a while afterwards about how and why they preach what they preach and it was good discussion. We are making progress.
Later that class hour, I was teaching on Ephesians 3:14-21 on the prayer of Paul for the Ephesians. I was talking about love and how when we are filled with the fullness of God, love is the result. Joseph began sharing from his heart about how this passage, like what we were studying right then and there, made him realize that he needs to forgive his church. See, he had been hurt by his church, and he left as an associate pastor, and their were some hard feelings there. He is still reeling a bit. And, yet, in class, God was working real life change that affected not just the head, but also the heart. That came at the tail end of a class time that I was feeling a bit discouraged by. Class by class, I am seeing progress. Tracy shared with me how one student confided in him how much he appreciated the bible school and how much he was changing. It is slow and uncomfortable and suprising, but we are seeing progress.
I have shared before how the Pastor Resource Center is up and running, but last Wednesday, we made real progress. We got the MP3's loaded with sermons and they were all checked out in a matter of minutes. Pastor Ngoma got Tim Keller, Patson Sakala got Mark Driscoll's Genesis series, and others got John Piper, Bryan Chappel and C.J. Mahaney and Josh Harris' Pastor round table discussion. We have a long way to go with ironing it all out, but I must tell you, it was pretty cool showing these pastors how to turn on an MP3 player, how to forward to the next sermon and turn up the volume. These pictures capture it all. It was a cool, sweet moment. Progress, one step at at time.
I met with Peter, Joseph and Alfred for our first small group. It was great just catching up on the last year and reminiscing a bit about the inductive bible study that I taught last year. I have to be honest when I say that I was really grateful for their words of encouragment about how much inductive study has helped them know how to study the word. The progress continues...
Lastly, Tracy passed out certificates of accomplishment for completing the first module of Veritas which is part of what makes up Action Bible Institute. Not only did most of them complete it, but they also passed the facilitator testing which enables them to teach others which is part of the whole point of teaching the Bible. That was encouraging progress.
I am so thankful to be learning under Tracy. His wisdom and experience and pastoral heart has been a real blessing to me. Through his leadership, I am seeing progress in my own life. He is helping me in my weak areas as he gently guides and encourages me. He lives what he preaches and I get a front row view each week. It is a blessing.
Thank you for your prayers for our family and Action Bible Institute. We have high hopes that our investment in these pastors week after week will not only bear fruit in biblically trained pastors that change the culture of churches in Zambia and beyond, but also in the humbled and grateful teachers who can't believe they get to be a part of this ministry.