The men and women craned their necks because the roar of the rain on the tin roof made the speaker’s voice difficult to hear. They didn’t want to miss a word. On the front row, I sat in a white, plastic chair in that dimly-lit room feeling grateful that the Lord would allow me the opportunity to experience this encouraging time.
Last week, I, along with two other pastors from the US, had the opportunity to travel to Liberia to train a group of about thirty pastors. Over the course of the week, we did an overview of every book in the New Testament, as well as discussing the spiritual discipline of prayer and the elder qualifications from First Timothy 3. During my time in Liberia, I found myself convicted and encouraged about the state of the Church there.
Hunger for the Word
One source of encouragement from my time in Liberia was the pastors’ hunger for the Word of God. Though the leaders came from a diverse theological background, all of them were united in a desire to grow in their knowledge of the Scriptures.
Many of the brothers and sisters sacrificed to attend the training. This was in the middle of Liberia’s rainy season, so traveling to Monrovia was difficult for most. They came anyway. One woman had to wake up at 5 AM each morning to start her journey to the capital city for our training. Not only that, but for the first three days of training, she had to wade through waist-deep water, change clothes, and then continue her trip to training because the road to her village was flooded.
Why would she bother with all of that just to hear three nobodies teach for a week? Why would busy pastors leave their families for a week to attend a training where they simply sat for hours on end listening to us teach book after book? Simply put, they have tasted the goodness of the Word, and they hunger to become more faithful teachers of the Bible.
An Expectation of Reproduction
In the United States, the goal of learning is often for the accumulation of knowledge. In other words, learning can be quite selfish. The aim of learning can easily become focused on the individual with no regard for that person passing along their knowledge to anyone else. Within Christianity, though, growth in discipleship carries a weight of reproduction. We are called to take what we have learned and entrust it others. This is the goal of every Christian, but especially pastors.
Second Timothy 2:2 says, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” This is a principle that the pastors at the training are dedicated to. Back in April, we did an Old Testament overview for the church leaders, and we were able to hear stories of how they used the material in their churches or schools.
The Church in America could learn a great deal from these believers in their desire to disciple the people around them. How often have I read a book or completed a Bible study and not thought about who could I pour into? The church leaders in Liberia were a breath of fresh air as they demonstrated what it looks like to be disciple-making disciples.
A Glimpse of Heaven
People flock to bookstores in order to purchase stories about men, women, or children who allegedly visited heaven, but if you want to catch a glimpse of heaven, you just have to go worship with Christians from a different culture. Though the forms of worship may vary between cultures, the common theme between Liberian worship and our worship is the object. Jesus Christ is the object of our worship.
Worshipping with brothers and sisters in Africa allowed me the opportunity to get a little sip of the glorious picture of Revelation 7, which describes a heavenly gathering of folks from every nation, tongue, and tribe who are united in singing praises to Jesus. With the constant bickering between Christians on social media, it’s easy to become jaded about the unity of the Church, but worshipping with those in a faraway land is a reminder of Christ’s promise to establish his Church across the nations.
While there is much in Liberia that should excite us, they also have many problems, so our brothers and sisters there need our prayers. The economy, which has not been strong in the past, has weakened even more recently. Many in the country are barely scraping by. Also, the spread of prosperity gospel is apparent across all of West Africa. This false teaching preys on destitute men and women who are looking for a way out. Pray that the Lord would raise up many faithful Christians who would be equipped to combat this message of superficial hope.
If you are feeling disillusioned about the state of Christianity, broaden your vision. Yes, there are problems with the Church all across the world because we are all sinful people. But the global Church is one portrait of the Lord’s faithfulness to accomplish his purposes. Look out across the nations and behold his glory.