Instead of waiting to arrive home to write my monthly newsletter, I thought that this time I would write to you while I was still on the mission field. So I’m writing this from Navrongo, in northern Ghana, just a few miles from its border with Burkina Faso. I’ve traveled two days by plane and thirteen hours by car to be here. I’ve gotten closer to the Sahara desert. It is hot and dry.
Today I will teach about one hundred pastors and Christian leaders inside a church building that to most Americans would seem more like a barn. The floor is uneven concrete and the rafters that support the rusty tin roof are exposed. The pastors will sit on rough-hewn benches with no backs.
As I write this, I’m sitting in bed in an “executive suite” of my hotel, the only hotel in Navrongo. I could have selected a “self-contained room” or a “regular room,” but the top-of-the-line executive suite was only ten dollars a night.
The room is about ten feet by ten feet. When the hotel manager first let me take a look at it, he went into the bathroom to flush the toilet and empty the trash can. The carpet is so filthy that I hate to walk on it without shoes. Dust covers most of the broken-down furniture. Dirty cobwebs hang from the ceiling in the corners. The windows are covered by old sheets. A broken lamp lies on its side on the floor in one corner. It is 5:30 in the morning and a man is wailing to Allah over loudspeakers at the local mosque not far away. He didn’t wake me…I’ve been awake since 3:00 AM, living with jet lag.
I’ve lost weight since arriving in Africa eleven days ago, because I also lost my appetite. During a few of my days and nights here I’ve suffered with fever, headaches and diarrhea, even though I’ve done my best to be very cautious of what I’ve eaten. I’ve also fought a head and chest cold most of the time as well, and I lost most of my voice for two days, so I had to teach in a whisper (I had a microphone for amplification).
I miss my family dearly. I spoke with them for three short minutes yesterday by phone.
So why do I do this? you might ask. The reason is because of letters like the one below that I received from a pastor in Tanzania a few days ago, just after our conference there:
Dear David Servant,
You have blessed me in many things. I am a leader of a church in my area of Mirerani. Due to this seminar, I have discovered that it is not only me who was a goat but most of the church members are goats. We have use a lot of time to fill our church with members for the purpose of getting money from them and we are not making disciples. This leads us to many problems in the church. Now I have realized that the main problem was me as their leader because I did not teach them the truth.
Now I have repented and I assure you that I am going from here to teach them all the truth. You have taught us how to do it with the love of God so I am sure of good result for the glory of God.
Pastor David, God bless you mightily. I am healed through your teachings.
His remark about being a goat is a reference to my teaching about the sheep and goats from Matthew 25. His was just one of many encouraging letters I received from pastors who participated in our conferences in Tanzania and Ghana.It is not an exaggeration to say that the lives and ministries of hundreds of ministers were significantly changed, and they will, no doubt, return to their towns and villages to then dramatically affect the lives of thousands of people inside and outside their congregations.
And that is why I endure a little bit of hardship. I don’t write to make you feel sorry for me, because I feel very blessed that God allows me these kinds of opportunities. And the inconveniences that I undergo are of little comparison to the sacrifices that are continually made by the pastors in our conferences.
Shepherd Serve exists to equip pastors to make disciples as defined by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 14:25-33 and John 8:30-32, that is, highly-committed, obedient followers of Jesus. I spend time at every conference laying a foundation that helps pastors to see that Jesus didn’t die so people could remain the same and go to heaven. Rather, Jesus died so that people could be given an opportunity to repent, be forgiven, and be transformed to love and obey Him, so they are ready to stand before His judgment seat. I expose the false concept that there are two levels of Christians—the heaven-bound believers and the more committed disciples. Scripture makes no such distinction, and heart-motivated obedience to Christ is the only true expression of a genuine saving faith.
In our conferences, many pastors begin to realize that their churches are full of people who have never taken the first step in a true relationship with God. Such people are just like the goats of Matthew 25, people who think they are on the road to heaven even though they don’t practice a sacrificial love for Christ’s brethren.
Pastors who realize this naturally return to their churches with a new vision to proclaim the truth and make disciples. Of course, it isn’t always easy. Goats don’t always like to hear that they are goats. But the net result is always some degree of repentance. And the result of that is revival, which manifests itself in acts of obedience, personal sacrifice, and Spirit-inspired good works.The gospel is preached, disciples are made, pressing needs are met, orphans and widows are cared for…all for the sake of the Kingdom, and God is glorified. And it all begins with a pastors’ conferences where simple truth is shared, nothing more complicated than the gospel itself. When people become serious about following Jesus, good things happen.
This is our vision and my driving passion. Thank you for helping to change the lives and ministries of hundreds of pastors in Tanzania and Ghana during my two weeks there. Thanks also to Dave Schlacter and Global Connections of Denver for allowing me to take part in their two Tanzania conferences and for helping with my airfare. The fruit will be multiplying until Jesus comes.
If you are interested in learning more about what I usually share with pastors, you can read a book that I wrote called “The Disciple Making Minister” online.That book will eventually put into the hands of pastors all over the world. I’ve just completed two new chapters on house churches, a biblical concept that I’m also teaching at our conferences that can significantly speed the expansion of God’s kingdom, especially in developing countries where there is little money to build church buildings or send young ministers to Bible School.
December was a very challenging month financially. But the Lord has proven Himself faithful and given us some breathing room through our friends. Thanks to everyone who helped. I head back to Africa at the end of February to teach one thousand Nigerian pastors for a week and then a hundred more pastors in the neighboring African nation of Benin. In the meantime, I’ve got lots of administrative details to take care of, a book to work on, and churches in Georgia and Ohio to speak at. And I want to spend some time with my family too!
From the Executive Suite,