Jesus gave a challenge in Matthew 28 to “go and make disciples of all nations”. He understood the ability to change many lives through the power of multiplication. By making disciples who learned and then taught others, the Gospel message traveled great distances and the early church was established. Much like Jesus’ example, we are charged to make disciples. This was only one of the many teachings and messages shared with pastors and seminary students who traveled to Calcutta, India from various areas of India and Bangladesh to attend the Evangelical Church of India (ECI) Calcutta Diocese Pastor’s Conference.
The need for pastoral training in this area is great. Many pastors have the education equivalent of an Associates degree but little formal Biblical training. In all, 150 pastors and seminary students attended this conference for free due to the generosity and graciousness of many. Because of meager incomes, these pastors would not have been able to attend were it not for those donations. Planned jointly by Marcus and Bishop Isaac Mangalara of ECI to fill a critical need, the teaching and preaching topics consisted of the power of the gospel, leadership tools, discipleship, effective teaching, bringing out the best in leaders and the promises of God. Some pastors who attended last year’s pastor conferences in Nepal and Bangladesh Marcus led were also able to further their training this year in Calcutta.
There were many powerful moments during our time in Calcutta. One such moment came during one of the the worship services. We met in a large covered auditorium that was open on the sides to let the breeze in. To say that it was hot in there is an understatement! There was a short singing time, followed by Marcus’ sermon. As usual, he prepared his sermon ahead of time, but in this case, God decided to intervene and have the sermon take on a different meaning and message. After the sermon, there was time for prayer and more singing. What erupted from the group was nothing short of a heavenly moment with 3-4 different cultures and languages worshipping together in their own way without hesitancy. To this day, I can’t quite find the right words to describe it.
Another moment came after the conference when one of the pastors from Bangladesh posted on Facebook about his experience in his heart-felt best English. “Dear friend Marcus Carlson and Jessica Carlson. I have greatly and profoundly thankful to you. I am blessed been attended the pastor conference. Yours teaching touched my heart and yours teaching changed my mind and heart and removed wrong things from mind and heart because your teaching was based on our experienced what we suffering time to time. That’s why we received deeply your teaching in heart. I want to share one thing your teaching is like a medicine and it was working gradully in our heart that cured our heart. Now i am thinking right way for few certain things for the ministry. I hope i will try to be a servant of God’s kingdom. It seems me to me that God has sent you by filled with Holy Spirit from America. Wow so wonderfully has worked you mission trip for us. Now I am returning back to Bangladesh with joy and I feel so happy in my heart. Please do this ministry constantly for us. Thank you Marcus and Jessica for the blessed conference. God bless both of you constantly my dear friend” (comments written here in unedited form).
We will never know exactly the impact our teaching and leading will have in these pastors’ lives, churches and regions. What we do know is that we were given an opportunity to bless a group of people who will go out and continue to bless others. Our hope is that the magnitude of this blessing be realized and expressed by us in the days and months ahead and know that you were used by God to make it possible. What is the church but the people? We get so worried about all the things that are not truly the church: buildings, equipment, furnishings, kitchens, supplies etc. that we forget that the church is us – the people who go out and do the work of Jesus in our communities, our state, our nation and our world. The church is you. The church is all of us imperfect human beings in relationship working to encourage and love one another so that we can go out with God’s grace and share the love of God with others. Be the Church in your corner of the world.