I am in Buenos Aires as I write, here for a board meeting of Intituto Biblico Rio de la Plata. Rocky Grams, the director, invited me to participate in the Church Planting intensive class, with about 70 students in the class. What energy there is in a class like this as the students either report on what some have already engaged in or what location they are targeting for a future church plant!
In this context I can’t help but reflect on three axioms that seem to emerge over and over again these days:
1). Axiom #1: God is up to something! There is an unmistakable flurry of activity as it relates to discipleship and ministerial training, bible schools, and extension courses, night classes, Saturday classes, etc. Cuba is racing to meet its need. With 1,113 new students enrolled in their training program this year, added to 3,000 others already enrolled in their extension program called EDISUB, it means that Facultad, ISUM, and more recently Global University are all rushing to find enough professors and materials to meet the need. The Cuba AG has grown from 90 congregations to 9,100 in the past 25 years.
Another country’s relatively new superintendent wants to plant 1,500 or so new churches. Though perhaps an overreach, it nevertheless provoked among the missionaries two obvious responses—who’s going to pay for it? And how do we/they find enough trained pastors to lead these new works? Good questions, very appropriate.
Of course that leads to other questions, such as, “What is the best way to train new workers quickly or efficiently?” Rocky was rehearsing for me something that I had missed in the early days of the Argentine revival. The national executives and missionary leaders were dealing with this question, i.e., how to quickly prepare workers for the rapidly expanding work. They actually tried a “quick fix” type of one week course, but soon realized that it wouldn’t—couldn’t—work. They concluded, “We already have in place all that we need for ministry training, in our bible schools, night programs, and our extension course (IETE).” IETE was essentially “borrowed” from Brazil with Bruce Braithwaite’s help—no need to reinvent the wheel!—and Argentina moved forward.
There seems to be a felt need of returning to resident bible schools these days. Maybe it isn’t for everyone, but we have quite a good number of schools where students live and study on campus. It has its special challenges, but the results evident in the formation of solid ministers are obvious.
Axiom #2: God knows what He is going to do next, so He anticipates His own activity by setting in place all that will be humanly necessary to expedite his work. Remember that what God does is so rapid that unless he helps us ahead of time, we will always be behind him instead of working alongside him.
Usually God’s “Pre-revival preparations,” as I call them, have to do with at least 3 elements: 1) timing (making certain everything happens when it should); 2) positioning (making certain that people are properly in place where they can take maximize advantage of God’s work; and 3) attitude modification (the “one accord” principle), getting our attitudes in line with what God wants to do. Likewise, when we see a flurry of activity relating to bible schools and ministerial training, we can be fairly certain that something good is about to happen in the Church!
I couldn’t help but be excited when I saw 320 delegates to the Educator’s Summit in Managua a couple of months ago. The desire for finding new and better ways to do what we do in ministerial training was evident. A good number of superintendents and execs were present, which is another great sign, and the enthusiasm was palpable. Wow! Something good is about to happen!
Axiom #3: God exceeds our expectations. You think nothing is happening (unless you can read these aforementioned signs of God setting things in place in preparation for what he wants to do), then BAM, it takes off! Don’t you love serving a God who likes “to do exceedingly above all that we can ask or think”?
Who could imagine starting a Christian University during the civil war in El Salvador? John Bueno did. Who could have possibly imagined 5,000 Cuban students preparing today for work in the Kingdom? God did, so instead of allowing the AG there to have a physical bible school, which would have limited the vision for ministerial training to maybe 150-200 students, in the mid-80’s he led the Luis Llanes family to prepare 40 extension courses, which is now EDISUB, their training program. Who would have guessed that the bible school in Buenos Aires would grow from 50+ students to 1,200 today? Only God, and, if the recent prophetic word is correct, they “won’t be able to build big enough for the next wave that God has planned for the school!”
It’s almost scary, but we live in a day where God is targeting the nations as the object of his mercy and love, and in anticipation of all that, he is raising up a formidable army of men and women, trained in the Word, anointed by the Spirit, and ready to preach “this gospel of the kingdom as a witness to all nations” before the end comes and Jesus returns. Isn’t it great to have a part in this great enterprise?