Yesterday we had an opportunity to preach for several different churches in the area. They only had four translators, so not everyone had an opportunity to preach, but that meant that a couple of us could come along and observe, as well as be there for support. I decided to spend the day with Pastor Jason because I really wanted to see the place he was preaching. Because of the war, many people have lost their homes and villages, and they have needed to be put in Internally Displaced Peoples camps, or IDP camps. We were assigned to one of the biggest, and there were over 400 families, some that had been there for as long as three years.
Earlier in the week, one of the pastors had asked Pastor Jason how he would preach a sermon that is about the glory of Christ to an IDP camp. His answer became the sermon, and he used Mark 4:35-41, the story of Jesus calming the sea. As he preached, I saw people start to lean more and more on the edge of their seat, and when he finally made the point that while they were in the IDP camp they were in the boat like the disciples, I saw all sorts of lightbulbs going off, and they realized that even in the midst of the IDP camp, their hope was Christ. I think one of the most powerful moments was when Jason said that it is better to be in an IDP camp with Christ than anywhere else without Him.
One of the interesting things about the situation in Myanmar is that many world leaders have been made aware of what is going on, particularly with the Kachin people. Pastor Samson said that the UN Secretary of State (?) came to that IDP and was asking about the primary needs. Pastor Samson had told them that while the physical needs were great, their greatest needs were spiritual. He was able to share a bit of the gospel behind the Christian IDP camps, and explain that what keeps people going is hope in Christ. This is one of the reasons why the Kachin people are one of the most strategically placed people in the world now. They can say things to high-ranking officials that would never be received by us.
Today was our final day at the Kachin Baptist Convention. As we look
back at the time spent training with the pastors, many things cross
our minds. One question I think every teacher of any subject asks is
this: “Did they ‘get it’?” Did they learn from hermeneutics how to
faithfully study God’s Word? Did they learn from biblical theology how
the whole Bible fits together and culminates in the glorious person
and work of Jesus Christ? These are questions we ask of ourselves and
the prayers we ask of God.
When we entered the classroom this morning around 8:55 AM, we were met
with the answer to our question and our prayer. The general secretary
immediately pulled me aside to share news with me. One of the pastors
had taken what he had learned from the biblical theology course and
applied it in his personal Bible reading the night before. This
morning, in his joy from seeing Jesus more clearly through the Word,
he asked if he could share what he found with the pastors. In 1 Kings
17 the widow of Zarephath only has enough resources left to make two
pieces of bread for her and her son. But God multiplies it through
Elijah’s prophecy and she, her son, and Elijah are able to survive on
the multiplies resources for several days. This is incredible! But
when you keep reading, you see in the New Testament that Jesus
multiplies a few loaves of bread in order to feed 5,000. The simple
observation: Jesus is greater than Elijah! In his joy he shared his
observations and concluded the one necessary thing: Jesus is bigger
and better. Jesus is greater!
“Did they get it?” Yes. Nothing satisfies the heart of a teacher more
than to know that the subject matter was understood and retained. But
for us, the joy is infinitely greater because this subject matter is
infinitely greater than all other subjects. To know that the pastors
have applied what they have learned brings joy. But to know that the
pastors have applied what they’ve learned in in such a way that they
see the glory of Jesus brings greater joy. As they told me this story
this morning, I smiled and rejoiced with them and agreeing with the
conclusion: Jesus is greater.
The past two mornings in Hermeneutics the team has been teaching the
Kachin pastors how to follow logical connections in the grammar, how
to study different types of Biblical books, and how to follow themes
within passages. Most importantly we’ve studied how to allow the
surrounding Scriptural context of each passage to help determine what
the Biblical authors would want us to take and apply in preaching.
This morning, Pastor Jason ended the Hermeneutics lessons with a
theology of God-glorifying preaching.
The past two afternoons were spent in tracing themes from the Old
Testament Prophets through Revelation. The emphasis has been placed on
showing the Bible as cohesive, culminating in Jesus, and designed by
God to create joy-filled worship in Him.
The pastors have confessed that they have never learned to study the
Bible in a way that allows the Bible to interpret itself. Many also
acknowledge the habit of preaching with little study or regard for the
biblical author’s intent in their sermon passages. Many have never
learned to see the big picture of the Bible and how Jesus is at the
center. Pray for them. They are busy men who are stretched
relationally. Their pastoral duties seem to crowd out time studying
and preparing to steward the Word of God.
This afternoon, Darren was asked to teach a two hour missions class at
the Kachin Theological Seminary one and a half hours before it began!
The M.Div. students had never heard of the 10/40 window before (or
that they were in it!). He pleaded with the students to go or send
missionaries cross-culturally in light of their strategic placement in
Pray that God would be pleased to send from the Kachin many to reach
the unreached so near to them (China, Laos, Nepal, India). Pray that
God would raise up senders who see the opportunities around them and
mobilize the church here to advance the gospel in places it has never
We now have three days of teaching under our belt. The team has started to split its teaching time between the KTC (Kachin Theological College and Seminary) and the KBC (Kachin Baptist Convention). It feels so strategic to reach the present generation of pastors (KBC) and the next generation of pastors (KTC) at the same time. We have really sensed a growing connection with both groups.
In terms of the KBC pastors, we had some questions about how much we were getting through to them on the first day. We thought of two options: (1) at best they were reserved or (2) at worst they were non-responsive. The last two days have proven that the first day they were just reserved because now they are becoming much more vocal, responsive, expressive, and joyful. Benjamin Zander once gave a lecture on how one of the greatest joys of teaching is when you see “shining eyes” in the eyes of your students. We have been blessed to see shining eyes. We have seen their eyes light up with the joy of glimpsing new and glorious things in the Scriptures. Please pray for our remaining time with them. We have two full days of teaching and then one more lecture on Saturday morning.
In terms of the KTC (Kachin Theological College), we believe we are making an impact there as well. I taught a biblical theology class for the seminary and will speak in chapel and lecture for the seminary tomorrow. Darren Carlson spoke in chapel today and then was asked to teach a two hour class. He taught on the history of missions from William Carey to the present and discussed the current state worldwide missions. Darren said that his class had never heard of the 10-40 window before. They certainly never realized they were living in it! Chuck Steddom taught a worship class and gave a greeting to the Kachin in chapel. I really enjoy seeing the way the Kachin interact with Chuck. You can see the tenderness, respect, and love that they share for each other. There is so much history here. Ola Hanson came to the Kachin in 1890 from Bethlehem Baptist Church. Chuck Steddom has done much to keep that connection alive and well. This is his 13th visit. I praise God for the way that Chuck has poured out his life to serve the Kachin for the glory of Christ. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.
finished our first day of teaching today. We ended up teaching through a
translator and were in one group. The team adjusted and all is well. Darren and
Jason did all of the teaching today, working through the first two lessons on
Hermeneutics and then a lesson on Biblical Theology. The hermeneutics course
attempts to get at the assumptions the we all bring to reading the Bible,
believing that Truth stands apart from us and is knowable and yet
general secretary shared a story with us today worth noting. There have been
men showing up in churches who are excellent speakers and who preach very well.
These men come in and sometimes are very harsh in the condemnation over other
religions. Some of them have even been arrested. However, the church has since
learned that most of these men are Buddhists, whose purpose is to divide
churches. When they are arrested they just show a government ID and are
released from jail. It is government backed sheep scattering. It’s