The last month has been a third-world whirlwind. I am sitting in the crowded airport in Johannesburg, South Africa waiting to board a plane for home. A few hours ago I was walking down the main street of Harare, Zimbabwe listening to Christmas music coming from the many stores. There was even a Santa Claus with a tattered red outfit and a lopsided white cotton beard. Just three weeks before, Gloria and I were among the sick, the poor and the wounded in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Dreams come in many forms in the third world. Right now I am dreaming of getting home to Gloria, since these last nine days are our longest time apart in 37 years of marriage. I am dreaming of having our kids and grandkids home for Christmas. While very important to me, this is insignificant compared to the desperate dreams of so many in Cambodia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Unemployment is rampant – over 40% in Harare. Real starvation faces 25% of Zimbabwe’s population. The AIDS epidemic is exploding in all three nations. Cambodia is the hardest hit in all of Asia. Thirty-two percent of Zimbabwe is HIV-positive. South Africa may lose a million people to the epidemic. I dream of a family reunited. Millions dream of a job, a full stomach and living to see another Christmas
Tag: Los Angeles
LA Story Volume 5 Index
The LA miracle is almost nine years old and is growing stronger. From July of 1989, a small group of 56 disciples has multiplied to 7,155 members today – a 100-times growth! Gloria and I knew most of the original team members, since many of them came from Boston and included our daughter Keri. They were great people, but there was not a single miracle-worker among
them. So how did they do what they did, become the first church in the history of the International Churches of Christ to grow beyond 4,000 members, and 5,000, 6,000, 7,000 and beyond? Like the author of Psalm 34, King David, we can only boast in the Lord. Sure, having Kip and Elena McKean lead the LA Church since 1990 has helped; but the success of the church is not because of one powerful couple. It is all God. The above verses describe well what has happened. This issue of LA Story, entitled “LA Confidential,” is about the Los Angeles International Church of Christ. Yes, we are doing some boasting, but it is boasting in the Lord. All of the glory and honor go to him.
“. . . on his way he [Philip] met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians . . . reading the book of Isaiah the prophet . . . Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?’ And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.”
This Ethiopian man, whose name we do not even know, went off alone as a baby Christian to evangelize the “Dark Continent.” He must have been successful, because church historians tell of strong churches existing there in the second century. How could one inexperienced person accomplish this? He didn’t. God did. When will we ever learn that all God needs to accomplish the goal of making disciples of all nations is a few sold-out vessels of flesh through whom he can work?
In 1986, a multi-racial group of 16 brave disciples once again ventured into Africa to claim it for God, starting in South Africa, the land of apartheid. Now less than 12 years later, over 9,300 disciples meet in 37 nations on the continent. Amazing growth? Yes, but it was God. God’s miracles in Africa are inspiring and challenging disciples everywhere.
Nearly all the reporters who talk to me about the International Churches of Christ assume that we are primarily a campus movement, made up largely of students. I inform them that the facts show a very different picture. For instance, college students made up only 18 percent of the church in Los Angeles at the end of 1996. While these reporters would like to present us as a student organization so that they can dismiss us as some odd religious group that is not making inroads into all segments of society, it is time to look at where our campus ministries are headed.
In recent years there has been less and less emphasis given to campus evangelism in our churches. This trend has not been from a conscious decision to neglect the campus works. However, the way that we now build churches has produced this result. We have used our most talented ministry people to lead sectors and have included campus ministries within larger sectors of marrieds and singles. The result has been that the trained and talented leadership needed to convert college students has not been available, and disciples who are students have not had opportunities to be trained in public speaking, teaching and leadership skills.
Disciples converted on campus have profoundly affected God’s modern-day movement. Of the ten World Sector Leaders, five of them were converted as students! Even Kip and Elena McKean were reached while on campus. The book of Proverbs was written by Solomon to his son. From the above quotation, he says, “I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.” Disciples reached as students can be helped to avoid many of the mistakes and sins that have permanently scarred and crippled so many older people.
Life does not end after 50, or 60, or 70, or… So much of age is in the mind and heart. I have been through the black balloons and graveyard humor of my 40th birthday and of my 50th. But I don’t feel much older than I did at my 20th or 30th. Last week one of the evangelists here in LA referred to all of us over the age of 55 as the “elderly.” At 56, I definitely do not feel “elderly.” And I told him so! In this issue of LA Story, called “FEARLESS,” I actually get to write about people who are older than I am, disciples who are over 65 years of age.
In our American society, people plan for retirement at 65. Retirement is designed to be a time of leisure – golf, fishing, travel – or whatever else appeals to you once you are beyond your “productive” years. To most, retirement is the state of no longer doing anything that is useful. Somewhere I read that the average person who retires at age 65 will be dead in 18 months if he/she does not have a dream to keep them going.
Whether we are old or young, sick or healthy, married or single, poor or rich, uneducated or educated, God wants all that we have and are.
Things are so different in God’s Kingdom! We don’t live by the world’s timetable. Our usefulness is not age-dependent. Caleb is a role model of what disciples ought to be. After spending 40 years wandering in the wilderness that killed off all of the unfaithful Israelites, he was ready at age 85 to drive out the giants of the land and claim God’s inheritance. As has been humorously stated from time to time, disciples don’t retire, they just retread and keep on rolling.
February 23, 1996 was my greatest day in my sports career. It wasn’t a day when I set any career record but it was a day I will never forget.
Starting over is refreshing. A new semester in school, a new job, a new home, a new Bible Talk, a new life in Christ after baptism – a clean start. Here we are in January, 1996. This L.A. Story is both a look back to 1995 and a look ahead at God’s great expectations.
Home for the holidays – just close your eyes for a moment and let memories of past Christmas times with family flood in.