How times have changed

With the 2015 annual international CTMI conference starting next week, I was reflecting on how local churches can now benefit so much easier than in the past. I have had the privilege of attending nearly all the conference since 1996. As with today, the numbers of people who can actually attend in relation to the local church (certainly from Africa) was typically quite small.

In those early days for the people who remained behind it was a very long wait before they could directly hear the actual messages preached at the conference. It was frustrating. Phone calls from those attending the event would recount wonderful testimonies of what the Lord was doing in the meetings. Later those same brothers and sisters would return and share their testimonies and some of the notes they had taken but still you had to wait to actually hear the messages for yourself.Audio tape

Those were the days of the cassette tape. That wonder of technology, about the size of a smartphone which could be used to record a full meeting for playback on cassette tape recorders. It was a powerful tool for the gospel. For many churches it was the start of mass distribution of the preached gospel. But it was not instantaneous. The cassette tapes had to be ordered then each one had to be duplicated – a process that took time. Orders were placed at the international conference and then due to costs of postage many of these tapes had to wait for people coming to Africa from Mauritius to bring them out to the local churches. Many times it was several months before those who had waited behind benefitted from actually hearing the preaching from the conference.

Fast forward to the last few years. The conference is now streamed live over the internet and broadcast on radio in many countries around the world. The impact of this cannot be underestimated. I remember returning the first year it was relayed live via the internet. I was in absolute awe at what the Lord had done in our local church in Gaborone. Here were not people waiting to hear from us what had happened at the conference but a church bursting full of testimonies of what the Lord had done in their lives as they came together to hear the live streamed messages. We could all share in what the Lord had accomplished and we were all together in what the Lord was wanting of us as a local church. No delays. No waiting for cassette tapes.

Last year as I sat in the main conference auditorium in Mauritius it really struck me that while there were several thousand of us packed into the venue we were actually the tiny minority. The majority of those participating was actually out there in rooms, halls, lounges and car listening and watching live across vast areas of Africa and the different continents.What a miracle. What an opportunity. What a privilege.

Even though it is so much easier to participate in being part of the conference, there will always be an opportunity to make an excuse not to be part of it. I have heard “ I am just so tired after a long day at work” , “ I do not have internet at home, I don’t want to come out to the church every night” or simply “ I am too busy”. Recently when Brother Miki was sharing in central Africa we heard of a testimony of how some brothers spent six days on canoes paddling to on dangerous rivers. They were desperate to hear the gospel. They would do anything to be part of the meeting.

As a local church we can only grow as we are linked and joined into a bigger vision than simply a local one. Jesus said we must go into the whole world and make disciples. We will not have a vision for this without hearing an apostolic gospel that confronts our selfishness, brings repentance and instills faith for us to give our lives for the sake of the gospel.

Never before has it being so easy to participate in the annual conference. Let’s not miss out.