Several years ago I met Alistair Begg at a conference. We talked for a few moments, but we kept in contact over the years through email. Several times he asked me to come up to the BASICS Conference which his church Parkside puts on. Last year I finally went. I didn't realize that when he was asking me, it meant Parkside was taking care of all the costs. But it was God's plan for me not to go until last year. Parkside owns several houses around the church that they use to house their missionaries. They put me in a house with Kep James who was really their first missionary and who has been in Boliva since the eighties. Kep is an awesome guy with an amazing ministry. He planted a church in the city of La Paz and a few years ago he transitioned the church to a local Bolivian. So it was cool to pick his brain as I am going through that process right now. Before I left the conference last year, Parkside approached me about partnering up with us to do ESI in Cajamarca. I was so excited about this for numerous reasons. If the local pastors here can be equipped and get a good grasp on the gospel, no one can even imagine the impact this could make in our region. Beyond anything I had ever hoped for. Besides that, we have had several pastors and leaders from other churches throughout this region come to the church and ask us if we could train them on how to preach the Bible like we do. The problem was, I couldn't. We just aren't equipped to do that or have the means. Well now through ESI, that is possible. One pastor who had approached us several times is from an area called Bambamarca, which is a good distance from here. This is getting ahead of the story, but he is signed up and will be going through the training. So let me explain ESI. ESI is a ministry that Kep developed in the past few years to help equip local church leaders. It is a three year program that works to encourage and train faithful servants to build a biblical model of ministry, as Paul outlines in Romans 15:14, “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness (godly character), complete in knowledge (biblical understanding), and competent to instruct one another (ministry skill).” So the training equips and mentors church leaders to reflect Jesus in their Character, Bible Understanding and Ministry Skills. One of the things I love about it is that, it focuses in on the gospel. It focuses in on the main issues. It focuses in on the majors. You know like grace alone, justification by faith alone. The things that are salvific. All the other stuff, all the peripheral, all the issues that don't lead to salvation, are not emphasized. So it breaks down barriers. It allows us to work with any denomination. What has happened here in Peru and South America for that matter (that is why Kep had this vision to establish this ministry), there is a line. That line is the gospel. So many churches operate above that line or below it. Meaning that if you are below the line, character and godly living doesn't really matter. Correct doctrine and theology surely don't matter. Cause correct doctrine (if applied to the heart) always leads to and produces godly living. But if you are below the line, you don't want that. These are churches indifferent towards doctrine. Below the line is liberalism and various other issues. Below the line you have no guidelines. If you are above the line, you have added to the simple truth of the gospel. You have added man made traditions and called them law. It is the legalistic churches. These are the churches that add to what it takes to be Christian or to be saved. Many of these pastors don't even know they are above or below the line. Many of them have not been trained in any way, shape, or form. Many of them have heard a story and that is all they know and they just repeat that. They don't know how to study on their own or apply the Scriptures on their own. Many have been "schooled" by what they see on "Christian tv". So Kep saw the need to help out the local churches. So out of his church he started this program. The program has expanded. There are now ESI centers in 5 Latin American countries. Last September, I believe, Parkside flew 2 of our guys and another pastor who I knew was doing training in a region north of us, down to Southern Peru to learn how to do this training. It looked as if we were only going to have 5 or 6 guys in the Cajamarca region doing the ESI. But we had 19 pastors and leaders signed up in the region north of us. But a few days before Edwin (the director of ESI in Southern Peru) ordered the material I got an email from the pastor in the northern region saying he will not do the training cause he wants a good relationship with his sending church. Only God knows what took place in that situation, but it is sad that for whatever reasons, the gospel and the training of men in the ministry was deliberately hindered. But I know God will deal with that and the repercussions of it. But we had 5 or 6 guys here so I was still excited. Well, things have developed. The city heard about this training and approached us asking if they could help out in any way. It is so the Lord's hand. We now have 30 church pastors and leaders who will be coming every Monday to the municipalidad (the city has given us a facility to host this) and going through this training. This is a huge blessing. There are several guys who will be coming from different churches that are over an hour away. This is exciting for us as a church. This week we had an elders meeting and we went over the vision and direction of the church. One of our passions is for people to have a high view of the Scriptures. We feel that we need more biblical churches. We need churches committed to the preaching of the word. We feel that is the means God has ordained to reach and feed His people. The minute we start diverting from the Bible and using gimmicks to reach people we have strayed from the plan of God. The Apostles didn't use gimmicks. They preached the word and that was the pattern that was laid down since the beginning. They didn't make it up. But now man thinks we are wiser and we use drama and other gimmicks in church. We think that is going to save people. Isn't it amazing that the Apostles saw anyone saved? How did that happen? They didn't have movie equipment or anything like that (I am saying that tongue in check). Alistair always says, don't play any movies cause the people are gonna want to see the movie and not listen to you. That is some great wisdom there. I went to a church for years that would play movie clips during the sermon and once the movie came on, all I could think about was the movie and I would want to get home as fast as I could to go watch it. I wouldn't even remember what the pastor was talking about. My fellow elders feel the same way. So we have this strong conviction that the word of God is to be the center point of the public gathering. We feel we need more churches who have a high view of the Scripture. Well through ESI, there is no doubt this will begin to take place in the churches of those who go through this training. We don't need to plant more churches in this area, we need to equip and train the pastors who have congregations and churches that are already established. Sure many of them are off theologically. Many of them I would not step foot in. But the great thing about ESI is they will learn the gospel. They will learn how to live the gospel. And they will learn how to minister the gospel. Of course there will be some issues and practices that we might not do in our church, but once again those are the peripherals. Some guys will be way over on one side of the spectrum and other guys will be way over on the opposite side of the spectrum, but it's ok cause once we get them clear on the gospel and in agreement on the essentials we can build on that. Everything else will fall into line. Augustine said, "In essentials unity, essentials liberty, but in all things charity (love). To quote Alistair again he says "Let the main things be the main things." He also says "the main things are the plain things." I like that. So I got a little sidetracked there, but Monday Edwin will be flying up and we will introduce ESI to all the applicants and to the mayor and city officials. I am super grateful and thankful for Adolfo and for his drive and vision to help get this going and all the work he has already put in, not to mention all the work that is still to come on his part. I am grateful that Parkside is flying Edwin up to be at the kick off of this Monday. Not only that, but Parkside provides all the material for each person going through the training. Each person receives a personal library that runs about $600.00. Many of these books for this program Parkside had translated. It is such a blessing for these guys to be able to get these books. I am excited to see how the Lord uses this. Our church is excited to see how the Lord uses this. Looking back I can see how the Lord's providence led to all of this. God began orchestrating this years ago. As I see that, I am so expectant to see Him do amazing things here in Cajamarca. I will be leaving this area soon. Sooner than later. I am really on my last days here. So to see this established before I go gives me a great joy and peace. The Lord does His work. Oh, one more little piece of exciting news, ESI will be happening in Chile as well. More to look forward to!
Soli deo gloria