BereanSafari Dean, Eric Miller, and 1 Corinthians study group
Phelisters Nalyaka is a woman with a strong personality, and an even stronger commitment to Jesus Christ. She is a Pentecostal pastor in one of Nairobi's largest slums--a tough ministry challenge for any person, but especially so for a woman. She is also a Bible study coordinator, helping other pastors and church members to delve deeper into Scripture and to live out the truths they find there. Phelisters is also a friend. It has been a privilege to get to know her over the last 6 years and to encourage her in the vital ministry God has given her.
The Gospels tell us that Jesus had an important ministry to large crowds of people. He announced the arrival of God's Reign to multitudes. He displayed the presence of that rescuing, restoring Reign as he healed many of their diseases and delivered from oppression by evil spirits.
But the Gospels also make it clear that Jesus invested a very large portion of his time and energy in a very small group, the twelve. Despite their all-too-human weaknesses and limitations (which the Gospels also go out of their way to describe!), God used this small group as the human launchpad for what eventually became a massive movement.
The Book of Acts describes how the small group at the heart of the Jesus movement grew and diversified, adding a "booster stage" (to continue with my old-fashioned rocketeering metaphor) to the movement. People who were truly at home in bicultural living--like Barnabas, Stephen, Philip, Paul, Silas, Timothy, Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos and others--played a key role in carrying the Jesus movement far beyond the geographic and cultural limitations of Palestine.
As the movement expanded and diversified, one of the things that remained constant was its leadership development strategy. In the leadership letter our Bibles identify as 2 Timothy, Paul urged Timothy to take what he had learned, to identify "faithful people who will be able to teach others as well," and to entrust the life-changing message to them. Like Jesus, Paul had the chance to speak to large crowds. But, also like Jesus, he focused on the formation of key people who would take the movement forward.
One of the joys of my annual return to Kenya for the BereanSafari leadership training event is precisely the chance to go deeper with some faithful people, both in the relationships we have been building over the last 6 years, and in our shared understanding of what it means to follow--and encourage others to follow--Jesus today.
This year's BereanSafari brought together more than 70 participants from 8 countries. They included university students, student ministry leaders, pastors from small rural churches and pastors from large urban churches--and even an up-and-coming Christian rap group (the Super Concaves)! Together we spent a week delving into the New Testament in four different study groups, lead by African and Western faculty members from 4 different countries. It was a rich, rich, experience.
I had the privilege of working once again with Phelisters and a small group of her colleagues in slum ministry. They had requested that one of the study groups focus on Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth, so that is what we did together. We had fascinating discussions, both about the message Paul sent to the first generation of believers in Corinth, and about its relevance to the pastoral challenges these leaders face in Kenyan churches today. We laughed, struggled, encouraged one another, sang our praises to God and devoted ourselves to prayer. And, at the end, we all agreed that the Lord had blessed us with an amazing time together, preparing each of us to return to our various ministry challenges with renewed dedication.
Thank you for making it possible for me to encourage Phelisters and her colleagues. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the challenges of ministry before me, I think of Phelisters, Richard, Alex, Alois, Peter, Dina, Joseph, Kanai Jay, Linus, Chris and the others. They are serving selflessly among some of the most overwhelmed people on our planet. What a privilege to play even a small role in encouraging them, and equipping them to rise to the challenges they face. They are truly "faithful people who will teach others," to whom it is a joy to entrust what I have received--and with whom to discover together the new things God has for us all!
May the Lord also bless and encourage you today, making you a blessing and encouragement to those you are privileged to meet and to serve.