My annual visit to Lagos, Nigeria, as a guest speaker at the CLASSIIIC (Christian Leaders’ Strategic Service Intensive Interactive International Course) hosted by Dr. Tunde Bakare of Latter Rain Ministries marked my ninth visit to the West African country.
Over the years, I have developed a close bond with the Christian leaders who participate in CLASSIIIC; however, this year gave me a chance to make many new friends in that a large percentage of the church, business, and political leaders present at this conference were first-timers. In fact, the number of participants almost doubled in the last twenty-four hours that registrations were being accepted.
Students came from all parts of the country and as far away as England. As I always do for this conference, I had prepared and published a new book especially for the occasion. Teach All Nations provided free copies of the new books, Lessons from the Life of David, for all the delegates. Even though I had traveled with three seventy-pound bags filled with books, we were still almost a hundred short of the number needed due to the last-minute influx of delegates. Fortunately, the book had just been made available as an ebook, allowing the delegates to choose whether they preferred the electronic or hard copy of the material.
When I was in Nigeria last year, I began to have some direction concerning the message that I was to deliver to the people of Nigeria on my return this year. So, as soon as I reached home, I began to study and prepare the message that eventually became my new book, Interface. I preached the message in a conference in Myanmar and then also used parts of the teaching in other countries around the world. In India, I was invited to preach at one of the largest churches in the country with an estimated twenty thousand believers in attendance at the service. The Lord had placed the message concerning open doors from the Interface book on my heart for the morning, but the topic was miraculously confirmed as I walked into the building. The first words I heard as I entered the sanctuary were a prayer by one of the staff pastors, “Lord, give us open doors”! After I delivered the sermon, the senior pastor addressed the congregation with a short message in which he quoted the same verse I had preached from and emphasized many of the same points I had brought out, saying, “God has kept an open door before us.” That evening, I preached at another large church on the other side of the city. As the pastor was introducing me, he quoted from one of my recent books, mentioning the exact point that I had on my heart to minister on that evening. He emphasized his point by saying that he was actually busy with something else when he felt led to stop and read a couple chapters from the book.
I had not shared with him what I had planned to preach on, and I’m still not sure how he even obtained a copy of the Interface book since it has not yet been made available for distribution and only a few copies that I have given to close friends are in circulation. In Hungary, I had again felt directed to minister on the message of “Doors, Windows, and Gates” from the Interface book; however, I was struggling a bit with that prompting since I had been focusing on the same massage in so many recent meetings and didn’t want to begin to get into the “one size fits all” rut of thinking that the same message is appropriate for every audience. However, throughout the day, I continued to hear the pastor make references to doors, gates, and gatekeepers. He even made mention of the fact that gates are referred to in Proverbs chapter thirty-one, a passage I had suggested that the single young men read before selecting a wife. Although he had no Idea that I even had a teaching on the biblical significance of gates — much less that I was considering ministering on the topic that evening — he seemed to be peppering his conversation with references to the topic. So, after ministering in India, Sri Lanka, and Hungary with repeated confirmations that I was to teach on “open doors,” Peggy and I took a few days of vacation in Austria before heading back to the US. The hotel where we stayed had the slogan “Open Doors” printed on the room keys!
It was with this continued confirmation from the Lord concerning the validity of the message that I took five hundred copies of a special edition of the new book to distribute in Nigeria. I had been invited to Nigeria to teach at a national leadership conference sponsored by Dr. Tunde Bakare, one of the nation’s foremost leaders in not only the church but also in politics and business. Interestingly enough, I had prepared the books for the convention long before the theme of the week-long meeting was announced. When I received notification that the topic was to be on “Taking Dominion in Every Area of Society,” I knew that God was really at work because the message of the book is how to identify which areas of society we are called to influence and then to determine how to impact those areas. Not only was the topic “right on,” as the week progressed, it became obvious that both Dr. Bakare and I were focusing on exactly the same biblical truths as we taught on what the Spirit had revealed to us concerning making maximum impact in the world we live in. In many cases, we were even using the same Bible verses. We concluded that God was speaking “in stereo” to communicate His message to the nation of Nigeria.
It was in the early ’90s that God began to really speak the word “Africa” into Delron’s heart. It came repeatedly into his spirit with no further explanation–just the word “Africa.” Within just a few months a new area of international ministry developed through Indian Christian University, and he was sent on three trips abroad–one in Nigeria, one in England, and one in Canada. His first mission was to Nigeria to speak in the matriculation service of a Bible college that was affiliating with Indiana Christian University. The miracle of God was that the very day he arrived, the Nigerian Department of Education shut down almost forty Bible colleges because they were not properly aligned with recognized educational institutions–but they could not touch the school where we were ministering because we had all the proper documents in hand. Although only one was in Africa, the other two were with African pastors who have Bible colleges which minister basically to Africans living abroad. We have also realized a great influx in African students at the school in South Bend.
In addition to Delron’s numerous visits to Nigeria, Christopher, our middle son, took part in a youth mission team which went to the country when he was in his teens.
Delron’s 2012 visit to Nigeria was to teach in the seventh annual Christian Leadership Strategic Servanthood Intensive Interactive Interdenominational Course (CLASSIIIC) sponsored by Latter Rain Assembly in the city of Lagos. This year’s CLASSIIIIC–under the leadership of Dr. Tunde Bakare, one of Nigeria’s leading pastors and political leaders–drew four hundred twenty-seven church, political, business, and civic leaders from every part of the country plus a number of international guests.
The topic of the course was discipling the nation with an emphasis on developing “new wineskins” to accommodate the emerging “new wine.” The focus of this study was developing strategies to combine new energy and approaches with existing ministries in effecting every area of society and each realm of national and cultural influence so that the entire nation can experience a spiritual transformation. As part of its contribution to the week, Teach All Nations provided a free copy of Delron’s recent book Discipling the Nations to each delegate.
In addition to the responsiveness of the delegates at the present conference, Delron received many testimonies of how his ministry in previous CLASSIIIICs had impacted their lives. At least two delegates presented him with copies of books that they had been inspired to write after attending the previous trainings. One couple shared with him that their daughter had been run over by an automobile just days after one of his previous visits. Both the mom and dad testified that the lessons they had learned in the meetings were their sustaining force during the ordeal.
Over three hundred business, political, and ministry leaders from Nigeria along with representatives from Ghana and South Africa gathered in Lagos during the first week of September for an intensive course on discipling nations taught by outstanding national leader Tunde Bakare and Teach All Nation’s Delron Shirley.
The focus of the meetings seems to validate the general sentiment of the Body of Christ today—that evangelism is not enough; it must be accompanied by a true development of Christian stability through discipleship. The two teachers tackled the topic by examining the various versions of the Great Commission as it is recorded in the gospels and in the book of Acts to gleam specific clues, promises, and instructions in each version. When all the various elements from each of the passages were examined, a clear pattern began to emerge: Jesus promised the Body of Christ a divine empowering through the involvement of all three members of the Trinity as we go forth to fulfill several different aspects of the Lord’s directive—a mandate which involves both evangelism and discipleship. The question of if we can realistically expect to reach every human and encompass all nations within one generation was a major topic of discussion as biblical patterns and strategies were examined and applied to our present situation. The conference ended with a powerful time of commitment as these leaders went forth with a renewed vision and understanding of how each one can, must, and will play an integral role in seeing that the Great Commission is fulfilled in our lifetime.
The material of the conference will be the subject of the forthcoming book from Teach All Nations—Doable, a title that sums up the discussion and conclusion of the Nigeria conference.
Delron’s trip to Nigeria in September was his second trip to Africa in a period of less than six weeks and his third trip to the continent this particular year. After only sixteen days at home from a trip to Togo, Delron was off to Africa again to teach in the fourth annual CLASSIIIC (Christian Leadership Advanced Strategic Service Intensive Interactive Interdenominational Course) which attracted almost four hundred Christian leaders–including not only pastors but also business and political leaders–from across the country of Nigeria plus a few delegates from South Africa, England, and the US. The theme of the conference was “God’s Template for National Reformation,” and Dr. Tunde Bakare, the host for the meetings, made a point that the delegates not consider the sessions as a conference per se since we were not gathered to confer about any issues. Rather we were gathered to hear directly from God as to what His Word says about how we must go about seeing our nations changed.
Delron’s assignment for the week was to explore what qualities are needed in the individuals who can actually step into the place of making radical change in their communities and nations. He chose this occasion to release his new book People Who Make a Difference which explores the qualities of leadership displayed in the lives of eighteen biblical characters who changed their worlds. Dr. Bakare gave an in-depth exposition on the biblical pattern for implementing change in a nation, and Dr. Jonathan David of Malaysia rounded out the study with a powerfully prophetic series of messages on the spiritual dimension of change–both personally and nationally.
In Nigeria–where Delron was to minister for his good friend, Dr. Tunde Bakare, at one of the nation’s leading churches, Latter Rain Assembly–he found that the Lord had perfectly orchestrated his visit and ministry there. Months before the trip, he had prayed about the messages he was to bring for the conference in Nigeria and had felt directed to prepare a series on teachings on the letters to the seven churches in Revelation with an emphasis on the closing statement in each of the letters, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit sayeth to the churches.” When Delron asked what Dr. Bakare had been teaching during the two days he had missed because his flight from Niger had been canceled, the response was that he had given three lessons on hearing the voice of God–the exact focus of the messages that he had in my heart! How thrilling it was to know that even though we had not collaborated on what we were going to teach, we were bringing the same message–confirming that the Lord had a definite message He wanted communicated to the Christian leadership in Nigeria. Due to the delay in getting to Lagos, Delron’s visit in Nigeria was short but packed. In fact, he was in services right up to nine o’clock Friday night and left directly from the church to go to the airport for the all-night flight to Paris where he had a long layover, allowing me to do a little sightseeing before eventually heading home.
After visiting several other African countries, Peggy returned to America but Delron continued on to the nation of Nigeria where he had been invited by Dr. Tunde Bakare to minister in several meetings at Latter Rain Assembly and to teach in the church’s Bible college. The climax of the week of ministry in the city came at the graduation ceremony of the college that is an affiliate of Indiana Christian University. Almost two hundred graduates were awarded diplomas upon completing their courses of study.
In the commencement address, he challenged the graduates to be aware of the ever-increasing circles of influence they are able to effect: themselves, their families, their churches, their cities, their country, and eventually the nations of the world. He illustrated the message by alluding to a stone that is dropped into a pond to produce ripples that will eventually reach the far shore. Just as the force of the impact from that stone is felt the strongest at the point of impact–where the stone hits the water’s surface–so it is in the spirit realm; the most powerful influence we will ever have is at ground zero, the epicenter of our own lives. What a fitting conclusion to this venture into the far-flung nations of Africa: yes, we did go to the literal ends of the earth, but our impact was on individual lives which will continue to radiate ripples of God’s love into their own worlds.