It was a very cool morning at 5am when I was picked up to begin the journey to Santiago Panama, approximately 3-4 hours to the west of Panama City.
The drive itself was relaxing. Leaving the city while it was still dark, watching the morning dawn break into the skies, I found some of the stress I carried rolling off my shoulders. Just getting out of the city was a stress relief that surprised me.
I focused down on mentally preparing myself to teach the 12 students expected to gather at the principal church for the Foursquare denomination in Santiago. I had been asked to teach on the Role of the Holy Spirit in Evangelism, one of the most popular seminars I have.
The context in which I teach
Evangelism as understood here has been focused on the conversion event — getting the decision. There is enormous, but unspoken pressure, to get a decision and get it now.
However, what my teaching brings is the awareness of the entire faith journey and all the moving parts in the evangelism story: the conversations, the sermons, the invitations to church, the drawing of the Holy Spirit.
I help people see the process of evangelism and have updated the teaching to help people think through their own process of coming to faith.
These 12 students
As class began, I listened to their stories. Each one had an amazingly unique journey to faith.
One man was interested romantically in a girl. She invited him to church. Over several weeks of taking in sermons, he felt his need for Christ and one day accepted that invitation given at the end of every service.
Another woman had a teenage daughter going to church. She watched the life transformation happen in her daughter. That made her want to study the Bible herself.
So she invited some Jehovah Witnesses who showed up at just the right time. But after a few bible studies with them, she was more confused than ever.
She asked a Christian neighbor (also a stay at home mom) to help her. Over several weeks of informal conversations, bible study, and lots of coffee, her questions about God began to be answered. Before even attending church, she responded to God’s offer of grace and became a Christian.
A third one visited church the day a foreign missionary came. The preachers message hit right on target in her life and she surrendered her life to Christ that day.
12 different stories
I heard 12 different stories, 12 different journeys, 12 different spiritual needs, 12 different places of surrender, 12 different spiritual thirsts that drew people to start following Jesus.
They provided ample material to see the process of evangelism at work. Not one of them came to faith after the fixed gospel presentation that they were all trying to use on other people.
This is part of the richness of God’s work.
This class of 12, along with another class in a outlying village, are coming together to launch a regionwide community ministry that will provide medical care, parenting development, family counseling, and other outreach activities.
This is exciting as it seems that several churches will cooperate to launch something. This doesn’t happen often in Panama (based on talking with long term missionaries and lots of pastors), so this seems to be truly God’s working.
They see that my teaching will help them have more frequent conversations with people while they are doing their mission in the community.
Their next development meeting is in July and I look forward to hearing the outcomes and mission that they are working on.