Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. 5 You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials 7 so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9 (HCSB)
This morning I’m reflecting on the very few things I know and the increasingly massive volumes of things I know not.
With joy I stand with the Apostle Paul. When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. 2 For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2
There are precious few things I know that I know for sure. The most precious is Jesus, His sacrificial death and resurrection in my place and for my eternal good. I know Him and I know that, by grace. Nearly everything else is up for review.
I’ve had the privilege of teaching leaders of Jesus’ Church in Northern Uganda and Northern Tanzania over these past three weeks in two one-week stints. The settings were quite different. The pastors in Gulu, Uganda tend to be older, with significantly less access to education than the pastors in Terime, Tanzania.
Our team of pastors from the St Croix Valley LEAD Team (SCVLT) of churches in Western Wisconsin (Converge Great Lakes) have had the privilege of working with this group of leaders in Uganda for the past three plus years. We have grown to love one another. Over the past few months I have transitioned from my role as Lead Pastor of Faith Community Church, New Richmond, WI to join the staff of Training Leaders International (TLI). This was my first trip in my role with TLI, but a trip to a familiar field and a familiar team, the SCVLT. In Gulu, we were teaching Galatians, a course from our (TLI) non-formal curriculum. The art of teaching/learning became a prime topic of discussion for Larry Szyman, Steve Holsteen and I as we struggled to help these leaders grasp the process of determining the main point of a passage, supporting ideas from the text, and communicating those truths in sermonic form. These are very bright people. I have come to think (though I confess, I do not know) many of our struggles land in the clash of textual learning as opposed to oral learning. On this trip I read a book about oral learning and found it very helpful. I may have learned the equivalent of a cup from Lake Victoria. These leaders are working hard to learn, I am too. Lord, open my eyes.
The setting in Terime, Tanzania was significantly different. My class at the East Africa Christian College was made up of eleven Swahili-speaking younger men in the certificate program of this two year old college. While we had none of the preexisting relationships I enjoy in Uganda the connections began to form quickly. I was faced with the task of teaching a class on Christian Leadership. Our first morning we shared the dreams of what we want those who know us well to say on our last day on earth. Each man in his own way, expressed his desire to serve the Lord faithfully. At the end of that exercise, I challenged the men to look each other in the eyes and recognize, we trusted each other with our greatest dreams. God has given us the opportunity to serve one another to bring about His glory. The rest of the week was largely invested tracing the faithfulness of God in the lives of flawed leaders from the span of the Scriptures.
One of the things I changed from the week in Uganda to the week in Tanzania was a reflection of the book on oral learning. In Tanzania I shared more stories. One of the lessons of oral learning from the book I read, was inviting learners to report their learning by repetition. I intentionally asked the men to repeat key points I wanted them to hold onto. Lessons like, “The ultimate leader of every faithful church is… Jesus Christ.” And, “The measure of success for every godly leader is… faithfulness.” I have confidence the men will hold onto those things. I will too as they taught me.
The men were thoughtful, kind, and I think, genuinely grateful. After class Wednesday, Stanley came to me to tell me he wanted me to be his spiritual father. His parents both died when he was a child. He grew up with grandparents and an aunt. He said he was asking God to join us. I told Stanley I would do all I could to serve his growth in Christ. At the end of the week he asked me to greet his momma, brother and sister.
So, I have returned home more secure in what (better, Who) I know and more challenged to learn what I don’t in order to honor Him. Thankful to serve His Bride, the Church. To know servants of Jesus a half-world away, but destined for the same Home.
This was a very long, hard three weeks. I have yet to calculate the total miles, and hours. But, I’m celebrating that this old body handled the challenge remarkably well. I know that can change in a heartbeat, but as my heart beats today, it beats for one reason…
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!
How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways!
34 For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?
35 Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid?
36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36