HOUSTON, TX (ANS – May 25, 2016) – What we might think of as chance encounters, may be better described as God’s redemptive connections. Years ago I came across a small booklet titled “There are no accidents with God.” Another author who has had a significant influence in my life is DeVern Fromke and his book, “Seeing God’s Purpose in Everything.”
It makes a big difference in our lives when we can keep our focus on the Lord and not be too distracted by the circumstances of our lives. A story we sometimes use in Orality Training is from Matthew 14, when Jesus walked on water. The disciples were terrified and thought He was a ghost. Jesus told them, “Take courage, do not be afraid, I am here.” It is interesting to consider that the Lord is present with us in times of trouble, yet we sometimes fail to realize or recognize who He is and His presence with us.
In the midst of the storm when Jesus showed up walking on the water, Peter said, “Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water. Jesus said to Peter, “Come.” Then Peter got down out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind and the waves, he was afraid and beginning to sink, and cried out, “Lord, save me.” Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. Jesus said, “Peter, you have so little faith. Why did you doubt me?”
As followers of Jesus, we all sometimes take our eyes (or focus) off of the Lord and begin to pay more attention to the waves – the circumstances, problems and difficulties in our lives. When we become too preoccupied with our own circumstances, problems or troubles, we are likely to miss God’s divine activities. We may fail to recognize those chance encounters that could turn into life changing opportunities, both for ourselves and others.
I mentioned the Lord in a conversation with a women who responded by telling me how confused she was about religion. I replied by saying, “It sounds like what you need is inner peace.” With surprise and excitement in her voice, she said, “Yes, that’s exactly what I need.” Well, that brief encounter and conversation resulted in my having the opportunity of sharing how we can have peace with God through a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and, as a result, know the peace that passes understanding.
Another story that we use in Orality Training is “Jesus Calming the Storm” from Mark 4. During that storm, Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat and the disciples went to Him and woke Him up and said, “Rabbi, don’t you care that we are about to die?” Jesus got up, rebuked the wind, and spoke to the waves and said, “Quiet, be still.” Then the wind died down and there was a complete calm. Jesus said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid, where is your faith?”
Some of the important lessons in that story come out when we ask questions like, “Does His Word still have power today to change things and change lives? Do our words have power?” Participants in Orality Training are often amazed and surprised at the many lessons and applications we find in a few short, simple stories from the Word of God. For example, just in the story of “Jesus Calming the Storm” we find lessons of how God gives instruction and direction to His followers, lessons of obedience, the uniqueness of Jesus (His humanity and deity), prayer, power of the spoken word, fear and faith, and many others.
Realizing the power of telling true stories from the Word of God gives people confidence that we don’t have to be great storytellers, because we have great stories to tell. When we tell those stories, the Holy Spirit touches hearts and changes lives. God can use those chance encounters and conversations to save lives and change destinies. It really levels the playing ground for people to realize that every believer and follower of Jesus can participate in God’s redemptive work in the world today.
On a recent trip to a Sub-Saharan African country we heard some amazing reports of the impact of these principles. One pastor, and leader of a network of churches, told how the Orality Training that he received in 2013, has accelerated his church planting and disciple making efforts. This pastor leads a church that has now started approximately 200 branch churches. This is among an unreached people group in the region. When inquiring about the size of the branch churches, we were told the average is approximately 40 members each, or around 8,000 total. There are many lessons that we in the Western World and the North American context can learn from the rapidly reproducing church planting and disciple making movements.
Movement mobilizers understand the benefits of small, simple, reproducible systems and structures. International, cross-cultural and transferable concepts are also important features. Following a recent Orality Training for Trainers (OT4T), a small team of mission leaders got together to pray and brainstorm about next steps. Those leaders immediately developed a strategy to foster an Orality Network and movement for their entire country. It was a confirmation of the power and impact of the principle of the Kingdom of God that we learn from Jesus’ examples of the mustard seed and yeast that He used, recorded in the Gospels.
A dear friend of mine likes to point out that the Lord Jesus never instructed His followers to build empires or organizations, or even to plant churches, but to plant seeds and make disciples. When we plant the Seed of the Word of God in fertile hearts, and make disciples, churches and movements will result. It is God who is building His Church and advancing His Kingdom, and each of us as His followers has the privilege of joining Him on the journey. It may just be the simple, short conversations that God uses to transform a life and begin a ripple effect that results in a movement.
The story of the Samaritan Women at the Well, recorded in John 4, and the Healing of the Demon-possessed Man, in Mark 5, are great examples of the impact of one transformed life. Whole communities and regions were impacted. The Lord of the harvest is still doing those kinds of things today. He is still doing exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think, according to His power working in us.
For more information on Living Water International, the Orality Movement, or Orality Training opportunities, visit – www.water.cc/orality
Photo captions: 1) Small, Simple and Reproducible. 2) Relational, Communal, Oral Cultures. 3) Jerry Wiles in Africa.