When you look back in life you realize that there are some moments that literally changed your trajectory. The birth of a child; your wedding; Steve Bartman interrupting the 2003 Cubs playoff game, etc.
One of those moments for me was a text I received inviting me and Denise to join Rick Warren and their team on a journey to Rwanda. It was short notice and not great timing, but it felt like a God idea.
We have worked in Kenya for many years and been there several times. So we thought we had an idea of what to expect in Africa. Especially in a country only 20 years removed from a national genocide that eliminated 10% of the population.
What we found was a country that was unified, beautiful, orderly, and only a few months away from being the first orphanage-free country in the world. A country where the top members of every major denomination and church organization not only worked together but enjoyed each other’s company. I attended a national Thanksgiving service where the President and Prime Minister sounded more like preachers than politicians.
How did this happen? Obviously, a big part of the answer is good national leadership and a great deal of support from a number of outside organizations. But it looked to me like the blessed result of “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)
I know that a huge part of this country’s advancement developed through the working of the PEACE PLAN –
Peace stands for –
- PLANT churches that promote reconciliation
- EQUIP servant leaders
- ASSIST the poor
- CARE for the sick
- EDUCATE the next generation
So a few months later, our Executive Pastor, Bill Brown, and I were out in LA and had lunch with Pastor Rick and his EP David Chrzan and some of his team. In the middle of some good guacamole, we had another moment. (Many holy moments include Mexican food!) Rick said, “Hey, the President of Malawi called and said she wanted us to bring Purpose Driven and the PEACE plan to Malawi. Why don’t you take it?”
I said, “Sure – where is Malawi?” I’m usually up for a challenge. I had the utmost respect for Rick, Saddleback Church, and the team. When the president of a country is involved it makes even more sense. But it also felt like a call from God.
We joked later that Bill thought he said “Maui,” but the truth is we knew that this was a moment that we would look back on from our nursing home and fist bump each other because we said yes. (I will need a three room nursing home – Denise on one side and Bill on the other – as always. And yes, I know that Bill is much younger than me, but he’s aging fast from following me around).
The Saddleback team from Orange County and the Rwanda team have been incredible, helping us figure out the next move. They are working tirelessly to start the PEACE movement in every country in Africa. They’ve gleaned great wisdom from 10 years in Rwanda and have passed it on to us, and we will do the same. They helped us find an incredible couple named Sam and Malla who are leading the PEACE initiative for us as local Malawians. Sam is a member of Parliament and a phenomenal Christian leader already.
Pastor Sean and Tarne from our team have been working with them behind the scenes to lead up to the gathering we had this week of 60 denominational and church leaders from across the country. They actually tried to keep the gathering smaller, but when word got around, there was a hunger for a country-wide move of the Spirit. (Scripture records a small group of 120 believers was the launch team in Acts 1:15.)
So we presented the plan. We explained the Purpose Driven discipleship process to them all, and I interpreted my view of what I’d seen happen in Rwanda, as well as in our church since we started implementing PD in 2003.
The Purpose Driven movement is simply the Jesus plan of discipleship at its very core.
Pastor Rick calls PD an “operating system,” which makes total sense. If we can just get everyone to use the same system (I’m going with Mac!) – it makes everything else work easier.
It was also on that first Rwanda trip that Pastor Rick told me that pastors.comwould publish my book and project called lifeonmission.com. I took the Purpose Driven paradigm and turned it all toward the issue of all of us being on mission in our own world.
Then we turned it over to these leaders to decide how to proceed and to elect a steering team for the movement. They deliberated for several hours. These were representatives of most of the major movements of Christianity in the country. There were some heated moments, and some definite positioning for “our” group to have a representative.
But in the end, they elected nine men and women to be the team we would work with.
It truly seemed like I was back in Acts 1 watching the group pick Matthias to replace Judas as one of the first apostles.
Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Salvation Army, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, and many non-denominational leaders, all collectively selected the people they thought would be their best representatives.
The only reason the Catholics and other groups weren’t there was because of scheduling conflicts. I believe every Christ-follower in Malawi is going to want to be in on this movement of Purpose!
It was a moment.
Like in Acts 2 when they were in the upper room praying for the promised Holy Spirit to come and He did! There were no visible tongues of fire in our meeting, but I promise you they were there!
I was given the task of officially commissioning this group before their peers, so I asked them to come forward so we could lay hands on them. As they came forward, I thought about asking them to kneel, but I was culturally unsure of the appropriateness. Plus some of them were older than me, and I know how hard it can be to get down and back up again. ☺
As they came forward, several turned to each other and decided to kneel.
I have goose bumps writing this even now. It was a show of complete unity and humility.
I was not worthy to pray over them. We are not worthy to work with them. But together we will bring Heaven to Earth and take Earth to Heaven in a country known as the “Warm Heart of Africa.”
Jesus prayed for us to be united in one of His final prayers (John 17: 20-23). It may have taken 2,000 years, but I think it just happened. I saw it in Rwanda; I’ve experienced it in Malawi. Maybe we can bring it back to the U.S. That would be my prayer.
If the “church” could work together…
The reality is that the President who requested Saddleback’s help is no longer in power, but we will be working with the current government and who knows what is to come. We already have some significant business and economic connections working, and we welcome any partnerships that will help bring Heaven to Earth. We will also be working with as many non-government and para-church organizations, as well. But at the end of the day – the church is the hope of the world.
The gates of hell will not prevail.