Friday, March 14, 2014
The Transforming Power of Water and the Word
Out of the Darkness, into the Light
By Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International
Special to ASSIST News Service
HOUSTON, TX (ANS) -- A pastor participating in an Orality Training Workshop in a West African country told of how his first nine children had all died shortly after they were born. The witch doctors and idol worshipers in his community told him he must make more sacrifices to the idols if he wanted his children to live. Then someone told him the story of Jesus of Nazareth, and he decided to become a follower of Jesus and worship Him instead of the idols.
Many of the pastors in this region of West Africa have never been to school, and some have never learned to read and write. However, they have experienced the transforming power of Jesus. They know what it’s like to be in bondage to darkness and the joy of being delivered and set free from the powers of Satan, witchcraft and idolatry. These pastors and their people have learned stories of Jesus and tell them to others, who in turn tell others. They are a wonderful demonstration of the reproducing life of Jesus Christ, in and through the redeemed humanity of forgiven sinners.
These churches have very little of this world’s resources--no buildings; no Bibles or hymnbooks; no musical instruments other than the drums, beads and instruments they have made themselves. Most of the people have never learned to read. These followers of Jesus have very little of the resources that churches and ministries in the modern Western World and North America enjoy. However, they have Jesus, and they have passion for Him and His kingdom. They have had life-changing experiences with the Living Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. They experience the power of the Holy Spirit on a regular basis, and they have a passion for sharing Him with others.
I would say that these people are pretty wealthy in terms of the things that really matter in life and for eternity. There is a lot we in the Western World can learn from them and from the life, Spirit and teachings of Jesus and the Early Church.
In the 1990s, Mother Theresa, during a visit to the United States, observed that this is a nation living in relational poverty. The good news about relational poverty is that it is a solvable problem, and the solution is not complicated or expensive. The solution to relational poverty will not be found in financial success, bigger buildings or institutions. Nor will it be found in technology or modern innovations. The answer, of course, will be found in the person and work of the Lord Jesus and a personal, intimate relationship with Him -- following and obeying Him.
It is liberating for many who experience Orality Training and realize that one does not have to be a great storyteller, because we have great stories to tell. We don’t have to have all the answers to effectively share the message of Jesus. As we simply and accurately tell biblical stories and ask the right questions, we see how the Holy Spirit touches hearts and changes lives.
There was a man who learned the story of the blind beggar, known as Bartimaeus, from Mark chapter 10, in an Orality Training Workshop. One of the discussion questions about the story was, “What do we learn from the fact that the blind beggar threw off his coat (outer garment) and came to Jesus?” After some reflection, the man said, “I see that this blind man’s coat, or outer garment, represents idols in my life, and that I should get rid of all my idols.”
Witchcraft and idol worship are very common among this people group. However, when we think about it and consider what the Bible teaches about idols, we realize that idolatry is a worldwide problem that is just expressed in different ways in different cultures. Idols in the modern Western World can take on many forms of expression. The Holy Spirit might speak or reveal to people about forsaking other things that could keep us from the Lord and His plan for our lives. Actually, we might think of idols as being icons or statues, but in our culture, they could be careers, money, status or any number of other things that would take the place of God and the Lordship of Christ in our lives.
The seed of God’s Word will have great impact when it is planted in fertile, receptive hearts. It is a joy to see the reproducing and multiplying effect of the Good Story (the gospel) of Jesus when it is shared in ways that people can understand, respond to, and share with others. I am continually reminded that we in the modern Western World often make the gospel and sharing our faith more complicated than it needs to be. I’ve often noticed over the years that just mentioning the name of Jesus in a conversation can open a door for a fruitful, meaningful and often life-changing experience.
I recently reconnected with a friend that I got to know 30 years ago. He told me about a conversation we had and something he learned that has had an impact on him and many others since then. He learned to use a couple of questions in sharing the gospel with others. Using those questions has been instrumental in him introducing the gospel and engaging people in conversations that have led to an average of one person a week coming to the Lord over the past 30 years. That would be more than 1,500 people who have indicated their desire to confess their faith in Jesus and follow Him.
It is amazing how God can use such simple things to greatly impact so many lives. Those two questions that my friend learned and has used so effectively over the years are:
1. “I bet you’ve been thinking more about the Lord lately, haven’t you?” (He then shares his testimony and the Good News of Jesus). Then he asks,
It is such a delight to see the reproducing life of Jesus worked out in and through common, ordinary people who come to Jesus and follow Him, and to discover that we can all be vessels, instruments of His redemptive activity in the world today. The same God who lived in Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago is living in each of us who is born of His Spirit.
For information about resources and training opportunities, visit www.water.cc/orality.
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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.
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