The Ephesians Expositors Team gathered in Cairo in February 2010 to begin preparation for Cape Town 2010. The Bible Society of Egypt provided an excellent environment for almost fifteen hours of close study and dynamic conversation. Together, we worked through an inductive manuscript study, which was new for many of those gathered.
Ajith Fernando wrote afterwards, “It was amazing! Few things on earth can match the thrill of studying God’s word along with other experienced students of the Bible. It was wonderful to learn so much from those who were there and to discuss how best to apply our passages to the international audience.” John Piper expressed his appreciation for the gathering by writing, “Thank you for an excellent study of Ephesians. I loved it. That is the sort of thing I could do all day, every day.”
The goals for the meetings were three-fold: to listen to God for the global evangelical Church by studying Ephesians inductively, to develop a community of leaders and teachers marked by the values expressed in Ephesians, and to lay the foundation for an Ephesians book/DVD resource to be produced after Cape Town 2010.
The meeting included the Expositors Team (Ajith Fernando, Ruth Padilla DeBorst, John Piper, Vaughan Roberts, Calisto Odede, Ramez Atallah, and Rebecca Atallah), representatives of the Programme Team (Grace Matthews and Lindsay Olesberg), David Oginde (Small Groups Committee chairperson), Chris Wright (Theology Working Group chairperson), and Noel Piper (John Piper’s wife). The gathering was invaluable in forming the group into a team that will be able to bring a coherent message from Ephesians to Cape Town 2010.
A highlight was the discussion about how the text applies to various regions of the world. For example, after studying Ephesians 1, which emphasizes Christ’s cosmic enthronement and his commitment to accomplish his purposes in the world through the Church, Ajith shared that the passage is a powerful antidote to the corruption found in Asia. Ruth agreed and added that double standards in the church and violence in the family are all challenged by the Lordship of Christ.
Ephesians 1 speaks prophetically to the prosperity gospel common in Africa, Latin America, and North America. David and Calisto noted that the Church in Africa needs the reassurance from this text that Christ is not an equal and opposite force to the demonic and that God is still in control, even when we suffer. The metanarrative of God’s good purposes described by Paul is desperately needed in Europe and North America, where a sense of grounding truth has been lost. Ramez commented that Middle Eastern Christians are often so concerned about their own problems that they don’t have a world vision. Ephesians 1 lifts our eyes to see far beyond ourselves and to refocus on God’s plan and will.
While in Cairo, the team enjoyed a reception and dinner hosted by the Lausanne Committee of Egypt, a tour of the Bible Society’s Bible World, and an interview with Father Simeon, pastor of the Garbage Village Cave Churches. Additionally, Vaughan, Calisto, John, and David preached in local churches on Sunday evening. The team was impressed by the vibrancy and unity of the Evangelical Church in Egypt.
The gathering was a small foretaste of the richness we will all experience as we gather in Cape Town this October and feast on Ephesians together. Thank you for your prayers for this team and their preparation.