Kamis, 15 Januari 2015

Stories of the Thirsty

Stories of the Thirsty -- How Little Things Make a Big Difference
By Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International, Special to ASSIST News Service
HOUSTON, TX (ANS) – The more we understand about the principles of the Kingdom of God that Jesus taught, the greater our confidence will be to take initiative and share (or sow) the seed of His word into the lives of others.
For example, when Jesus explained the parable of the sower, the soil and the seed, He gave us powerful lessons in how to live our lives in ways that can honor Him and advance His Kingdom. Then He talked about how the Kingdom of God is like mustard seed and yeast. A small seed can produce a large plant, and a small amount of yeast can affect a large lump of dough.
A new water well is not just about accessThere is a natural tendency for some of us to think that we have to do big and great things, when it's sometimes the seemingly little things that have great impact. I think of a conversation I had with a man more than 30 years ago. I recently reconnected with him and discovered the impact that conversation had on his life, even though I did not realize it at the time. We were waiting for a taxi in Washington, D.C., and I was able to share the gospel and lead a lady to faith in Christ. It was a short and simple encounter; I just asked some questions and shared about the person and work of the Lord Jesus. The lady was obviously open, interested and receptive to the message of God's love and forgiveness.
My friend recently shared with me that he was inspired by that conversation to become more intentional in sharing the Gospel. He recognized that it could be done in a very natural and simple, but understandable way. I learned that he has been consistent over the years in doing what he had observed as I shared the Lord with that lady 30 years ago. He said that on average, he had seen a couple of people per week confess their faith in Christ, by using questions and comments similar to mine. According to his testimony, that is more than 3,000 people who have responded to the Lord and received Him into their lives.  I am always amazed and encouraged to hear stories like his.  It makes me realize how the Holy Spirit can work in some of our seemingly insignificant conversations and experiences.
Churches and ministries in the USAIt seems that in our modern Western culture, we sometimes perceive sharing the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus and leading people to a relationship with the Lord as more complicated than it needs to be. However, when we examine the Scriptures, especially the Gospels and life and teachings of Jesus, we can see that sharing the message can be a very natural part of our lives and relationships. I have come to appreciate the idea of relational, narrative communication. The concept of prayer evangelism has also been an effective way for many.  For example, you can simply ask someone how you can pray for them, then follow up by inquiring how the Lord is answering our prayers. God is especially interested in answering prayers to meet the felt needs of people, so that they know that He is real and cares for them. It often makes them want to know more about Him.
There are many simple ways of sharing Christ. One of those is the idea of a Pray-Care-Share life-style promoted by Mission America Coalition's LOVE2020 strategy. Many tools, testimonies, and articles can be found at www.missionamerica.org. There are probably more people praying for revival and spiritual awakening these days than at any other time in history. Also, there are probably more lost people who are open to talking about spiritual things than ever before. Some have estimated that there are more lost people who are open to the Gospel than there are followers of Jesus who are actively reaching out to share with them.
When we think about the ways and means in which the message of Jesus spread throughout the entire populated world in the First Century, it gives us some idea of how it could happen in our world today. In fact, the places where the Church is growing the fastest and where there are rapidly reproducing disciple making movements, are not necessarily in the modern Western World, but in the more relational, communal, Oral Cultures in African, Asian and Latin American countries. These are places and people groups that often relate more to the times and cultures that we read about in Bible times.
Orality Training for Trainers OT4TSome pastors and ministry and mission leaders are beginning to rethink what we, as the Church in the West, have been doing for the past 400 to 500 years. Maybe it's time to get back to simpler and more streamlined ways of conducting our lives and ministries, in order to make things more biblical, understandable, and reproducible.
The late Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, in his excellent book No Little People, says, "We must remember throughout our lives that in God's sight there are no little people and no little places." It is a temptation to think we must do big or great things, when in reality, it is often the little things that make a big impact. When God is at work in our lives, and we are trusting Him for the results, we can have joy and expectations that our journey is ordained by Him and we are, in fact, salt and light to those around us.  Someone has said that it is the unconscious impact of our lives that sometimes has the greatest significance.
In our work with Living Water International we often hear from the people we serve that we were an answer to their prayers.  Some of our taglines have been, "Giving a cup of water in Jesus' name," and providing "Water, for Life, In Jesus' Name." We have sometimes talked about "Saving Lives and Changing Destinies." Over the years we have heard stories of people who are alive today because of a water well drilled in their community. Communities are often transformed when they have access to clean water and the Word of God.
When we combine effective prayer with caring and sharing, we have a powerful combination. Dr. Dick Eastman, president of Every Home for Christ, has said that he believes that the last of the unreached people groups will only be reached by meeting some felt need, water being the most basic of all physical needs. So, when we think of the neediest people on the planet, both physically and spiritually, their greatest needs are Water and the Word. As water is the foundation for all sustainable development, it is a relationship with Jesus that is the foundation for real meaning and purpose, for both time and eternity.
A few years ago, I was in an East African country at a reception with government, business, and Church leaders, when a well-dressed gentleman approached me and said, "I am alive today because of you." The "you" he was talking about was Living Water International. He went on to explain that when he was a young boy, LWI drilled a water well in his small remote village. It transformed his village, and many others are alive today because of that one well. He was able to get an education and became a successful leader in his business. He attributed his success and well-being to the water well in his village.
Spending more timeThe late Samuel Chadwick, English pastor, theologian and educator, said that the anomaly of the Church was that God seemed to use the most unlikely people to accomplish His most significant work. That would confirm what the Apostle Paul talked about in his first letter to the Corinthians, when he wrote about the weak things, the nobodies and those with few human credentials. That helps us to see that God is an equal opportunity employer. It was a great encouragement to me years ago to realize that God was not as much concerned about our ability, as He is our availability.
In our Orality Training, whether it's in a remote village in Africa or Asia, in a church, or on a university campus in the United States, people come to recognize that the life, Spirit and teachings of Jesus should be the focal point and that His life in us makes it possible to live and minister to others in the power of the Holy Spirit. That realization can level the playing ground, and we see that God can use any and all of us to advance His Kingdom. As a result of our spiritual union with Christ and His indwelling life, our lives can pulsate with divine energy, and the little things we say and do can be used by Him to make an eternal impact and have divine significance.
We have found that orality-based methods and strategies are great ways to demonstrate the principles that Jesus talked about when He said the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, or yeast. We see demonstrated over and over again in Scripture, and throughout history, how that little things have great impact. Whole communities, even entire nations, have been transformed by one life. The stories of the Woman at the Well (John 4) and the Demon-possessed Man (Mark 5) are a couple of examples. It is encouraging and empowering to know that the same God, who lived in Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago, is living in each of us who is born of the Spirit. He is prepared to use each of us to the degree that we make ourselves available to Him, trust Him and act on His Word.
It is exciting to consider all the Lord has in store for those who will join Him in His redemptive activities today. Many significant transformational movements are taking place around the world. Some of those include Mission America Coalition's LOVE2020 strategy, promoting the idea of a Pray/Care/Share lifestyle, the Orality Movement and various Disciple-Making and Church Planting Movements. These principles and movements are not limited to any particular geographical region of the world, but will work any place and with any people group. Important factors are focusing on the timeless, simple, reproducible, cross-cultural and transferable methods that can have a multiplying impact.
For additional information about the Orality Movement and training opportunities, visit – www.water.cc/orality
Photo captions:
1) A new water well is not just about access to clean water, but also about community, relationships and sharing life
2) Churches and ministries in the USA are beginning to discover the power of storytelling and orality methods
3) Orality Training for Trainers (OT4T) preparing to go and reproduce the training and disciple making
4) Spending more time with fewer people, small groups and participatory learning are having a powerful impact
January 15, 2015

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