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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Conversation with Don MacLafferty

John Bradshaw - Conversation with Don MacLafferty


John Bradshaw - Conversation with Don MacLafferty
TOPICS: Conversations

He's not only a pastor, but he is an author. He is a missionary, a discipler, a trainer of disciples. He has a wonderful story. His name is Pastor Don MacLafferty, and this is our conversation.


John Bradshaw: Don, thank you so much for being here. Appreciate you taking your time.

Don MacLafferty: Absolutely, it's a joy to be here with you.

Here's what I wanna do with you. We'll start at the beginning by having you tell me what you're doing right now. What do you do?

My wife and I, and my wife's name is April. So April and I are full-time volunteer missionaries. And our God-given call and our God-given passion is to disciple the new generations. And we want them to know how awesome it is to trust Jesus Christ and follow Jesus and share Jesus with all the power of the Holy Spirit. And the mechanism to do that is primarily the home, which has been set aside many times.

When I first got to know you, you were leading an organization in Eastern Tennessee called Kids in Discipleship. So that's grown.

Yes.

Be a little specific about the kinds of things you're doing and the sorts of places you're going.

Okay. So the first thing is to call the generations to a revival with Jesus, because a revival is to wake us up and to see the power of the Lord Jesus, to break open our hearts to our need for Him. So we start out with revival, and then we train primarily parents and anybody else that has a calling to be a mentor to be a disciple-maker of their children and of their teenagers, their youth. And then we come alongside those families as they are growing to be disciples, and we encourage them and give them tools to be disciple-makers out into the community.

Yeah. I know you're traveling. There are times you travel to foreign countries, and do all kinds of interesting things, such as, just tell me briefly, 'cause we'll circle back.

Yes. We go into every continent, except one. There's one that we just don't touch, Antarctica. But outside of Antarctica, we go wherever God calls. If He called me to Antarctica, I'd go there too, of course.

Yeah, I wouldn't be a little surprised.

Yeah, but we also go where it's difficult to go. Sometimes we have to go where you can't tell anybody where you're going.

Mm-hmm.

Yeah, and Jesus knows where I'm going, and my wife knows and a few family members, and that's it. And a few prayer partners.

Which is really interesting because if you think about countries like that, and of course, you've said enough, but you say, "Oh, those are tough places".

Yes.

But God is calling you even to those places, what we would call closed countries.

Yeah.

To share Jesus and to teach discipleship to people even behind closed doors.

Yes.

Really interesting. I wanna come back and we'll do this in a few moments, and ask you about this. When we first met and you were teaching people to disciple their children, which doesn't happen much very often these days. I know that's a blanket statement, but this is a great lack. The church is only ever as strong as the home.

Right.

So what you're doing is of the outmost importance, but let's get to that in a moment. We'll go back to the beginning. Where did all this start? Where did you spring from?

Hmm, well, I was born and raised in the first early years in Hawaii. The island of Oahu, Hawaii.

Oh, tough.

Yes. And so that was my first almost seven years.

Was this church work or military or what that had you in Hawaii?

My parents are teachers and so they taught there, and so I was born and raised there. Then we moved to Tennessee.

All right.

I spent a good share of my life in the beautiful south.

Amen.

But then have been all over the United States and also just most recently have been in the beautiful province of Alberta, Canada.

Alberta, Canada. Alberta.

Yes. 40 below zero sometime.

Yeah. That's cold. Hey, so let's talk about this business about ministry because somehow you found up yourself in ministry. That was right after college. Was it?

Yes. During the college years, I had thought that I was going to be an elementary school teacher.

Oh.

And then...

Which is really interesting, considering you end up focusing on ministry to kids.

Yes. Yes.

Yeah.

And I also, to this day, believe that teaching ministry is just as much a ministry as pastoral ministry.

Amen.

So in those years, God slowly, slowly drew me from teaching in a classroom to teaching and preaching wherever God sends me. And He stirred my heart with that. But I had no calling or understanding that I was going to be discipling the new generations. I knew that I loved children and youth and ministry to them but did not understand yet how important it was to minister to their families, not just the new generations.

Yeah. Yeah. Really interesting. So where did the call to ministry come from? Were you in college at the time? Were you a high school senior? Where did you know you God wanted you to be a pastor?

In the middle of the college years.

Oh yeah?

That happened.

Yes.

Yeah. Okay. And so you did your theology training?

Yes.

And what happened next? Where were you called? Where'd you go?

We went, actually, I took about five months out in Tennessee. They lost a pastor and they needed somebody to work with their youth. So I went out in the middle of my college years.

Oh yeah.

And went out for five months, got my feet wet, so to speak.

Great.

And was moved in my heart that this was definitely a calling from God.

So where have you served along the way, in pastoral ministry? Let's cover that and then we'll drill down.

So Kentucky, Tennessee, those states I've been in. And then Michigan.

Yeah.

And then back to Tennessee and I should say in Gulf, all the Gulf States Region. So Alabama, Mississippi, Panhandle of Florida.

Yeah.

And then California. And then God gave me a different call, still ministry, but He tweaked it.

Hm, what'd He do?

Well, at 3:00 AM, one morning, He awakened me from a deep, deep sleep. I had come back from being in, I think in Russia, where I was helping parents disciple their kids to Christ. And He awakened me out of a deep sleep. And my heart was pounding because it wasn't an audible voice, but I knew God was getting my attention. I knew He was awakening me from the sleep. And He called me by name. So I threw on my warm clothes and I went out below the mountain and I said, "God, why did you wake me up? I know you're getting my attention". Now ,my wife and I had been praying for a couple of months and saying, "God, what do you want us to do in our ministry"? Because we loved our ministry, right in Clovis, California. And we also have our global nonprofit ministry for helping disciple the new generations, but both we're growing. So what do we do? 'Cause you can't grow like this permanently without being stretched in a dangerous way.

Yeah.

And in that early morning, after much, much prayer and waiting on God, no answers at first. And it was cool and chilly. And I was tempted to go back and God kept saying, "I called you out here. So seek me on this". So I waited and prayed under the stars, and I had this Bible out on an old log, like a stump, and it was all zipped up. And I said, "God, whatever you're about to tell me, please anchor it in your word because I have a feeling you're going to stretch my faith with what you're about to tell me next, and I need something to hang onto". And so as I waited on Him that still small voice of God said to my heart, to my mind, "Go to Ecclesiastes three". So I opened my Bible and got my flashlight out and found Ecclesiastes three, which is, "There's a time for everything," God says. And everything's beautiful in His time". Not in your time, John, or my time, but in God's time. And so I said, "I know that passage". And as soon as I said that, and God said, "And that's your danger. You think you know it, but you don't know the timing I'm about to talk to you about". So I said, okay. So I quieted down a little bit and I said, "Then humble my heart all over again. Help me to read it as if I did not know that passage". And so I read through it again and then I closed the Bible and I said, "So what is it time for me to do"? And He said, "It's time for you to resign being a paid pastor". And I said, "Why do you want me to do that"? He said, "I want you to be free to go anytime, anywhere, any cost for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want you to focus on calling the young and old, children, youth, adults to revival and focus secondarily right out of their revival to equipping parents, teachers, pastors, other people who care about the new generations, equipping them to disciple the new generations, so not just sit in church, but to live as a disciple of Jesus who disciples others". You need to have the joy of discipling others while you're a kid, while you're a teenager.

Sure.

So that was the call.

Okay. That opens up a can of worms for me here. I wanna ask you about how you launched into discipleship ministry. But I'm gonna ask the question that everyone's wants me to ask right now. There are some people who hear God's voice telling them to run off with the neighbor's wife, that was God who told me. There are some people hear God's voice telling him to jump off a bridge. Some people never hear God's voice, God ever speaks to them. Both extremes are pretty dangerous spiritually.

Yes. Yes.

You are talking about a very intimate experience with God where He's communicating with you rather directly. How can people enter into an experience like that? How can a person have an experience like that and at the same time know that it's rational and faith-based, and they're not fooling themselves?

Good question. So for me, the most dangerous spot I can be in is to not surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord. So if I want to know the will of Jesus as my Lord, I need to surrender fully to Him. And like not just intellectually, I mean with my whole life. And so even like that early morning, right there at the stump, I was on my knees and I said, "Jesus, I surrender all I am as a person, all I have, time, talent, treasure, whatever, successes, failures, all I am and all I have including my, and this is my most difficult one, my attitude. I surrender my attitude to Jesus is Lord". So that act of surrender is very, very pivotal to knowing the will of God. I also ask in Jesus name who has all power and authority keep Satan from confusing me, push him back so that I can hear you clearly. I pray next through James 1:5-8. God, give me wisdom. You promised it in James 1:5. So I'm asking, and it says, ask and believe and don't doubt. I sometimes would stop with asking it, and over the years, I've messed up on that one, John. I've asked, and then as soon as he gave me wisdom, I started to try to second guess it. And then the hard part for me, because I'm a man that likes to move and act, is to wait on God after I ask for wisdom. And in Jeremiah 33, it says, "Call to me and I will answer you. And I'll tell you great and mighty things you don't know". Well, just as you think about that, if He's gonna tell you great and mighty things you don't know, it means you must pause. If you're not pausing, you're not gonna hear. So sometimes, John, I have asked for wisdom and like, and thank you so much. Oh, and now I've gotta get into my day.

Sure.

So I've asked and run. So if we want to know God's will we need to ask and wait. Like literally, if it's a desperate situation, sometimes on my face before God, in private, on our knees, in a way that for you and me, we know for us, we're humbling ourselves before God. And then just as important as all of these, in Isaiah 8:20 '"To the law and to the testimony. If it doesn't speak according to this, there's no light in them". So I take that principle and I say, whatever is my landing point of what I understand to be the wisdom of God. Then I say, "God, here's your written Word. Now, is there anything in your Word that your Holy Spirit can show me that would affirm my landing point? Or is there anything in your Word that you can use to disturb me that I don't quite get it yet"? And so I ask Him, and then as the Holy Spirit leads me, I go through the Word, looking at principles, testing my landing point to see is it sound to the Word of God?

You have had people tell you you're crazy.

Oh yes.

Yeah. You have to have. There's a danger for Christians. You can find them, "Everything is the voice of God".

Yes.

Everything.

Yes.

And then for others, 'Oh, that doesn't ever happen". So how do you answer somebody who says, "Oh, that's just a little crazy. God doesn't speak like that". Of course He does. How do you respond? There's an education process, perhaps. How do you, or do you respond to that?

Well, one thing is I'm very interested in knowing family, friends, acquaintances, or even strangers. If someone comes out up and really is disturbed by what my conviction is, God's called me to do this next or whatever, then would they pray with me about it? Is there a principle of scripture that maybe I'm neglecting?

Sure.

So I think we have to be open to God giving wisdom through our family, friends, those that walk with God around us and be open to them challenging us. But we should also see, "Are you challenging me out of this position or is it out of fear"?

Hmm, good questions. Good points. You did something that, let me see, not anyone else had ever done. Children's ministry has been around for just about as long as they've been children, but while you were pastoring in a church in Tennessee, you did something a little bit different. Now, In Discipleship is your organization. I got to know you when you were leading something called Kids in Discipleship. Encouraging people, particularly in churches, I visited you while I was a local church pastor.

And that's still the core of what we do, Kids in Discipleship.

That's a departure from the norm. It's not regular old children's ministry and I'm not putting a damper on that, this was different.

Yes.

How did God lead you into this to help you to see the importance of this and then convince you, you really needed to be focusing on discipling kids, it's so important. How did God get you to that? What did you go through?

Yes. I was a youth director at the time in Alabama, Mississippi, Panhandle of Florida, loved working with youth, and I kept running into these kinds of conversations. Parents would come up to me. Don, we did A, B, C, D, E, F, G for our kids. We gave them Christian education, we took them to church. We spent time with them. We played with them, played ball with them, whatever, all these kinds of wonderful things, and we lost them not only to the church, but in some cases they say we lost them to Jesus. What did we do wrong?

Yeah.

Now, I heard this once, twice, but then I heard it again and again and again. And it disturbed me so greatly that my wife and I started crying out to God, "Well, what are we missing"? One day as I was hiking down a trail, literally, I was pleading with God, "God, I may not be the right one to hear an idea about what we can do differently for the new generations but I'm an open guy. I'm open to you. I'm a willing guy, but I may not be the right one. But God, is there anything you can tell me"? And as I'm walking down the trail, I had a very abrupt encounter with God, unseen, not verbal and not audible, I should say, but right to my heart and to my mind, again, engaging both, important, by the way, to engage both. And that still small voice of God said, "Don, the problem is that you are not discipling the kids". And He was confronting me as a pastor, but also I believe he was confronting us as Christians and believers in God. I recoiled on the trail and I was like, "Uh, not discipling the kids"? And I listed to Him everything I could think of that we do as Christians for the new generations. And all kinds of things we do, and programs based. And at the end of it, that still small voice of God said, "Is it possible that a child can go through all of those programs and come out the other side and still not be my disciple"? And I was like, "Ugh". I said, "Lord". I said, "Not only is it possible, it happens all the time".

Yeah.

Are you with me there? Does that make sense?

Oh, am I ever? You hit on a point here, we convince ourselves in church and in church work that a program is sufficient.

Yes, Yes.

And nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes.

Programs may be good, may be helpful, may not be helpful, but no kid was ever converted by a program.

Yes.

No kid.

Yes. So He wasn't finished, and so I was okay, now He got my attention. I was like, "Okay, maybe we don't really disciple so much. Maybe we just do programs for kids and for teenagers and youth. And I said, "is anything else"? I was a little bit nervous, to say. And that still small voice said, "Secondly, you are divorcing children and youth from their parents". And again, I was like, "That's even stronger". I said, "Whoa". I said, "God, I love the family. I love kids and their families. What are you saying"? He said, "Think back to everything that you do with kids and youth and university students". And so I thought all the programs and things that April and I have done with kids and youth. And He said, "Haven't you bypassed the parents? Aren't the parents supposed to be the primary spiritual mentor of the child"? And I was like, (stutters). I didn't know what to say. "Probably, but they're busy". I started giving excuses for them. He said, "You've divorced them from their God given role to disciple their own children".

I wanna find out what happened next, and I know you do too. He is pastor Don MacLafferty. I'm John Bradshaw. This is our conversation. We'll be back with more in just a moment.

John Bradshaw: Welcome back to "Conversations". My guest is Pastor Don MacLafferty. Don, just a moment ago, you were telling me about a conversation you were having with God that ended up transforming your ministry.

Don MacLafferty: Yes.

John Bradshaw: And the lives of countless people. Let's get back to where we were. I wanna hear more about this. Don MacLafferty So God had challenged me on the trail, "You're divorcing parents from their children". And I had said, "Why, why do you say that? And He said, "Because you are bypassing the parent as the primary spiritual mentor". And as I thought through everything that I had done with kids over the years and youth over the years, it's true. We had youth programs and camp-outs, and special programs for them. And where was the parent in that? Well, we had a few, but they were sidelines, side items. In fact, sometimes even the youth team around me would say, "Oh, the parents cause problems. They're getting in the way". Wow. So I was convicted on two fronts and I said, "So God, what am I supposed to do with this"? And He said, "Start a ministry that addresses this. Call the parents back, equip the parents to be the primary disciple maker of their own children". And I had no clue where to begin.

Let me ask you this. What's your response, what's your reaction from the typical parent? When you look 'em in the eye and say, "But you are to be the disciple maker in your family". My imagine is you're gonna get the deer in the headlights thing.

Absolutely.

But isn't that the Bible class teacher at church? Isn't that what church school is for? Oddly enough, it's a foreign concept to many Christian parents. Why is that?

Yeah. A classic example is one pulled me aside, a very educated person and said very quietly, looked around both ways, literally to left and to the right and said, "I love the idea of discipling my children, no one discipled me".

Yeah.

"No one discipled me". And so we to start out with saying, it's all right. Probably most of us on the planet were not intentionally discipled by someone because we've thought programs so long. And so we start out with coming alongside of the parent in a small group setting with other parents, grandparents, or mentors, it could be uncles and aunts or even big brothers, big sisters. But we are really after the parent primarily, and we help them grow as a disciple first of Jesus, an intentional disciple following Jesus wherever He calls you through the written word of God, and secondarily, how do you come alongside of your children so you can be an intentional disciple maker?

Give me 2, 3, 4, 5 principles quickly. We've got other things to talk about. I don't want you to share the entire discipleship program, but gimme some points. What are the sort of things you tell parents?

You can't take a child on a journey that you're not on.

Point 1. Amen.

Powerful

Yeah.

So if you want your child to walk with Jesus, walk with Him. If you want your child in the Word, then enjoy Him every day. If you want your child to pray, then pray and not just over dinner.

Right. Absolutely. Okay. Give another couple?

Another one is...

We could talk about these things at length.

Yes.

Maybe another time, but that's...

If you're gonna disciple your child to Jesus, it's all based on relationship. If you don't have time to play with your kid, then your kid probably doesn't have time to pray with you.

Hm-hm. Yeah.

So those are two very powerful things.

Yeah. How did this develop, the discipleship aspect or the training? What did you witness, what did you see, and how did it affect and impact lives?

Well, it started out slow, of course, as everything does from the beginning, you have to have a beginning point. But then I saw a light start coming on in parents' eyes. And here is a classic thing that happened. And this has happened many, many times. One man who was a very busy father, very successful in his own business, never cracked open this book, basically, unless if he was in a religious ceremony or public worship, not privately.

Yeah.

So he got convicted in those small group settings, as we did studies together, he got convicted, "I need to be in this book," but he was a little embarrassed about it. And so one day when he was on vacation, he waited till, he got up early in the morning, he waited till no one else was around, and so he cracked open the Bible for probably the first time outside of a public time, okay? So he's in the Bible like this. Now his kid probably 10 or so, comes down a little later. His dad is so engrossed with what he's finding because he's discovering Jesus for himself. He's actually getting excited about the one that he believes in but hasn't really met in his heart. So he's engrossed like this, and he's studying. And he doesn't notice that his son, boom, boom, boom, coming down the stairs, and he comes right up to him, screeches to his halt, and he says, "Dad, what are you doing"? Like that, like shocked, like literally shocked. He says, "What do you mean? What am I doing"? "You're reading the Bible"? I mean, he was that shocked. Now this is a Christian home. But my friend, it is very easy to be a Christian home, but not be into Christ and not be into the Word. And so the son was shocked to see his busy, busy dad actually breaking open this Book. And the dad kind of got a little red in the face, but he said, "You're right. You haven't seen me in this book, and I haven't been here, son, but I'm going here now because I want to know Jesus for myself. And I want you to know Him for yourself. Pull up a chair". The boy pulls up a chair. Together, they read scripture together.

Oh fantastic.

Now I know some people might say, "Nice, no big deal". No. Big deal.

Yeah.

It shook up that father and son, it shook up their relationship. This led to the father being intimately involved in his son's walk with Jesus. It moved into him taking his son downtown where they lived and serving others that had much less than they did. You see how something that happens in your heart can't stay there. It went from the father to the son, and then together, going out and doing something for others in the name of Christ.

So someone right now is thinking, "Oh man, that's me he's talking about. I haven't read the Bible, I go to church. I'm on the church board. I read the Bible text every so often. People look at me as a pillar, but I'm not. What's your advice to that person?

Hmm.

Then...

'Cause there's a lot of them, Don.

Oh yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. So don't beat yourself up over it.

Okay?

And don't be driven by guilt about it because guilt can even keep us away from this, thinking, "Well, I've already gone through so much of my life. And so why should I start now, and I'm probably not gonna understand it anyway? And there's just a couple simple principles. Before you even break open the Bible, before you even open it, pray humbly and say, "God," you don't have to say these words, but pray for this, the gift of the Holy Spirit say, "I need the holy spirit to be my teacher. "Cause the Word of God says that, Jesus said himself, right in the Word He says, "I don't leave you as an orphan". So like you don't have to read this by yourself. "I don't leave you as an orphan. I send you the comforter". And He goes on to say who the comforter is. It's the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides you to all truth. So you pray for the Holy Spirit before you open the Word of God. When you open the Word of God, know what you're looking for? Now, this was something that I missed out on too much of my life. Even in full-time ministry. Oh, there's so many fascinating topics, so many fascinating things. But then one day when I came to John, gospel of John 5:39. I found out that simple passage where Jesus, He probably didn't have the physical Word with Him. But speaking of scriptures, He says, "These are the scriptures that testify about me, me meaning the savior, Jesus Christ. That simple statement unlocks the whole written Word of God. So if, as you said, if someone's listening right now, someone's watching right now and they're saying, where do I begin? You always begin by praying for the Holy Spirit to guide you into truth. Who's the truth? Jesus is the truth. He said in John:14, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. I am the way, the truth, and the life". So look for Jesus. Now, why is this such a big deal? As you look for Jesus, all of a sudden these pages take on life. Let's pick on a book that I know is one of your favorites, Revelation.

Great book.

The first five words, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ". If someone would just read the book of Revelation, looking to see what kind of portrait is being painted of the true Jesus Christ in this, all of a sudden it comes alive.

That's right.

And it's not just doctrine, but it's truly a painting of who the real Jesus Christ is.

Which is what the Bible is there for, to give us a revelation of God.

The whole thing.

To show us Jesus that we can experience Him. If we come to the Bible and say, "This is a living book that can set me alight, change my life". Well, we can start to experience something. I wanna talk with you so much more about the discipling kids, but if we stop there, we'll miss some things. What kind of a crazy man quits his job as a pastor, a perfectly good town, you're in central California, to be unpaid and take this on full time? Well, maybe we have the answer. We know what kind of crazy man, you did. Describe that journey, what it looked like. You're already involved up to here with discipleship and discipling and families and kids and so on. God clearly wanted to take you somewhere else. So you became an unpaid volunteer in a foreign country. Let's step back from the ministry of Don, and talk about the experience of Don for a second. What was that like?

Well, now I wish I could look you in the eye and say that that morning, that the second that God gave me that right to my heart that I said, "Yes, Lord, I'm in". But I was thinking about my wife. I have to be honest. I love and...

I think it's appropriate that you are.

And I was thinking about the fact that now, by the way, we're almost to celebrate 33 years together. So we've been tracking together for a long time.

Fantastic.

And I love Jesus as number one, but she's number two.

Yeah.

And in all the world. And she's also my best friend after Jesus. So I was a little, actually more than a little concerned, how do I explain this to April? And so I was praying about that and I said, "God, I need to see her. I need to look into her eyes. The eyes of the one that I love so so much. And I need to know that I'm hearing you right. Have I heard you right"? So I asked Him a second time, and that still small voice said, "You've already heard me". I wish I could say I stopped right then. But I was really, really nervous. My heart was thumping. I felt that God was definitely talking to me, but was there any nuance? Was there anything that I was missing? I asked Him one more time, "Have I heard you directly"?

This biblical preserver Gideon checked and double checked.

And the answer was yes. So I literally took this Bible and I zipped it up. And now I didn't have to have the flashlight. The sun was just barely coming up and I tracked back. My heart was beating and I knew what I needed to do. And April was just waking up. And she said, "We've been praying for about two months for God's direction on this. Do we have good news? Now, John, how would you answer if your wife says "good news," when you know that what you're about to tell her is, "We're about to leave our paid job and just go wherever God calls next".

Yeah.

Would you be a little nervous?

I'd be a little nervous.

I'm putting you the spot.

I might be a little nervous. I think I'd say we have good news. It sort of depends on how you define that word 'good.'

Yes. I said, "There is good news. And I said, "I think we better pray first". So we now her eyes are big. 'Cause whenever I say we gotta pray first,

She knows something's coming.

'Cause we've had other things that God's called us to do. So we get on our knees together, and we pray, and we get up. And I said, "Now look," I said, "When God called you and me to be husband and wife, we are a team". I said, "I'm about to tell you something that's way out there, beyond anything He's ever asked of us or called us to do ever before". I said, "If God is in this, I trust that He will show you maybe not in the second, but maybe in the days ahead, whatever". Now there was little tears in her eyes. It wasn't that she was discouraged, she was moved in her heart. She knew this was a serious moment.

This is big.

She said, "Okay, tell me". So I told the story that I just told you, and she listened, and I was prepared. I didn't know if she would start crying like weeping because, you know, we have three children, and my wife is a mom, a bear of those children. I mean, she makes sure that they have clothing and education and food and everything, and that's wonderful. She's an awesome mom. And I did not know what her reaction would be. She looked me in the eye, and she's a very quiet and gentle person. She's my opposite. Okay? So on the shyer side and she said very quietly, "This is what God has spoken, so this is what we'll do. And it's almost like, "Can you say that again"? I mean, that's what I felt like saying.

Oh, yeah.

I almost fell over.

Yeah.

Because I was in shock. I was not expecting, "This is what God has spoken, this is what we'll do". And in fact, just even moments later, I was troubled by her faith and I'll tell you why. Because if it was switched around and she came back to me after such an encounter in the Word and in prayer and said, "Don, God's telling us to drop what we're doing and go wherever He calls, would I have said to April, 'This is what God has spoken to you and this is what we'll do.'" I'm just being honest with you. It troubled my own faith journey, but it was also precious and delightful.

Let me ask you this question, Don. So as a pastor, your duties are very clearly defined. You know what you do from day to day? You know what you're building towards each week and then you have your discipleship ministry with that.

Yes.

So you have a full schedule every day.

Yes.

When you drop that and you take a step into the unknown, it would be one thing if you said, "Well, we've got these 50 speaking engagements and these 50 training seminars. And there's no way else I can fit it in, so I need to quit this and do that at full time". Were you stepping into a full schedule?

No.

Or will you step, "Well, then that are we gonna do? We're just gonna follow God".

We had many things happening globally, the nonprofit, yes. But those invitations were based on my timing outside of my pastoring. So it was kind of like half and half.

Sure.

But it's never half and half. You know? So no, it was not going into something that was all pre-planned or prepared.

I can see myself doing that. "Oh yeah. Look, it's the only way we can get all this done and you know the demands on that time. And so let's do that, it will makes sense, but it wasn't that. So that was a step of faith.

Absolutely. And the focus though is not on how big our faith was. The focus is on how mighty is God.

Oh sure.

Is really that's the deal.

Yeah.

Because He's as mighty for you as for me, and for all those watching right now, right?

He's as Mighty.

Oh yeah, no question. We ate breakfast, and we determined as we ate breakfast and prayed again, that if we played around with this conviction, even for a moment, even for a day, John, just knowing ourselves that we may have friends or family that we share with, and we could get discouraged because the very things that you asked me about a little bit ago. So people could say, "That's crazy. You have three kids. They're still going through education. What do you think you're doing"? And so I threw on a suit and tie and went that morning to my boss, and I said, "This is what has happened". I told the same story I told you. And I said, so look, this was like November 22nd, 2016. And I said, "Look, we're about to close the year out. So I'm gonna take these last five or six weeks and tie off properly here because I'm an equipping kind of pastor. So there was equipping things that we're right in the middle of and also with the area that we're in. And then I offered to be a volunteer while you're looking for another pastor, but it will be on the basis of as I can, because I will be now with the focus that God's given me globally. So my boss knelt down and prayed with me and he said, "I believe that God is moving in this. I'm very concerned, though, I have to be honest with you". He said, "I'm very concerned who's gonna provide for you".

Sure. He said, "Is in discipleship, your ministry going to pay you something"? "No". "Are they gonna pay a stipend"? 'No". I said, "Our ministry is a give model. We don't sell anything. So I just give". Hmm. He said, "I'm gonna register my concern. Who's gonna take care of your family"?

Well, those questions were answered, and I'm looking forward to finding out some more of those answers. So, when we get back on the other side of this break, I wanna ask you, how did things open up when you stepped into the water? I want you to tell me about how the Jordan just opened up for you. Then we'll talk a little bit about what you're doing now. You've got some books you've written. I wanna find out about, then there's plenty to talk about. This is a story of great faith in a great and a mighty God. And what I'm hoping today, is that Don's experience with God will encourage you to have a wonderful close experience with God of your own. We'll be right back.

John Bradshaw: Thanks for joining me for "Conversations," where my guest is Pastor Don MacLafferty, who, moments ago, put his toes in the Jordan River. I wanna find out what happened, Don, when you decided, "That's it, I'm quitting my job. I'm gonna travel to another place to take on an entirely faith-based volunteer role. What did you experience? I mean, immediately, the money poured in and the speaking assignments stacked up on top of each other or how did it play out? Because this was a step into the unknown.

Don MacLafferty: Yes. It wasn't quite that exciting. So.

John Bradshaw: It never is.

Don MacLafferty: It was exciting in a different way.

John Bradshaw: Exciting that we didn't have those things happen, so that is exciting also.

Don MacLafferty: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. So how do you see God work this thing out and establish this and confirm, "This is really where I want you".

Well, first of all, people didn't know that we were taking this step and when they did hear we were taking the step, they assumed that our ministry was paying for us. So no, money came in, well, almost nothing came in. And we went into our first month. I mean, it's like going off of a cliff, John. And we have three kids in school and all the normal medical things and everything that all the families have. And so we had some rough months, but then just really testing our faith. And the other question was where are we supposed to operate?

Sure.

And so we did this to God. We put our hands up. I work with all ages and I like symbolism so... When you put your hands up, it's a message to God. "I give up to you, I surrender". When it's like this, "I'm holding on, I'm holding on to my security and everything". So my wife and I did this to God. We said, "We'll live anywhere on the planet where you want us to operate this ministry, and we'll go. And we were a little nervous about that. But we said, "We will, by grace. By the grace of Jesus Christ, we'll go". So slowly but surely, as months pass by, God started taking care of us in an unusual way. Sometimes there would be a knock at the door, and someone would say, "Would you like some vegetables"? "Oh yes. We would like some vegetables". You get the idea.

Yeah.

Sometimes there'd be a check in the mail, whatever, but very slowly. But God always provided just what we needed for rent, for the basic things. And then one day as we were praying, and this was a whole another story in itself, but one day as we are praying, He made it clear to us that we should go to Alberta, Canada. And that's a whole adventuresome story. My wife, by the way, does not do well in cold. And so we really asked God and she asked God, "Is this really you"? And again, through prayer and waiting on Him and the steps that we've already talked about, testing in the word of God, being vulnerable to the word of God, it became clear, "No, He is calling us to go to Alberta, Canada". So my wife's the detail person. So she did all the detail work, and I worked with her on that. She made a lovely notebook for both of us as a couple, and also our daughter. We had one daughter still living at home, our youngest daughter. And so got that all ready. Everything was in readiness to go to Canada except for one thing, and the one thing left was the most important thing. And that is we had no invitation from Canada, for a special visa for us to go, not as a visitor but to live there. Okay? So, I said, "So God, what do we do"? So our daughter needed to go into school. It was coming right up to the fall. We are weeks away and still nothing. We call our lawyer up in Canada, who is overseeing the process, the move process and all the detail work. And how long will it be? "Oh, another five, six months". So we take this back to God. "So God are we supposed to put a hold on this"? And as we pray, God says, "I have urgency for you to go to Canada". I said, "Well, God, if you have urgency please bring this in the mail". Nothing. Day after day. Now we're just here, again, it's just a couple weeks out of school. I said, "God, what do we do"? "Put your feet in the Jordan". I said, "You're not asking me to go illegally across. That's not right.' God's almost, I can picture Him chuckling, "No, not in the illegal. Go by faith up to the border of Canada". "Without my paperwork"? Yes. Without my paperwork. So we put everything into the van, we had to get rid of some things, everything we possessed into a little truck I could drive. So I mean, no one's paying for it. So I mean, I have to drive the moving truck. Before, when I was a paid pastor, people would move me. We pack, they move. Now, I'm packing and moving. And my wife's driving our little van behind us, and we go a thousand miles up to the border. And every day we check our email and with expectation that something will happen, good from the lawyer. Nothing, nothing, nothing, mile after mile. But guess what? On the very morning, we're two miles away, literally, from the border to cross into Canada, guess what happened? Just guess.

You got an emails saying, "Here's the paperwork, download it and go to the border. And we're gonna welcome you to Canada".

No, nothing happened. Nothing happened.

Nothing at all?

No, nothing. I'm two miles away. And I said, "So God, home, which we don't even have anymore, home is as a thousand miles behind me and we're two miles away. And God, there is nothing from the lawyer. I have no legal way to cross. What do I do"? And a still small voice of God says, "Keep putting your foot in the Jordan". I said, "So what does that mean"? "Go to the border and present your papers".

"But God," I said, this is all just direct with God. "God," I said, "My wife has lovely notebooks with everything but the one main thing that we have to have". "Go put your feet in the Jordan". So we hop into the trucks and we go. We're going up there and of course they wave me. They see me in the big moving truck, they wave me over, 'Cause this is not gonna just be, "Show your passport and come for visit". So they wave me over. They know I need to have a sit down visit with the officers. So our little family troops in there, we present our lovely notebooks, and they go through it, and the man is impressed. He says, 'Wow, your wife has done such a wonderful job". I'm starting to sweat a little bit because I know what's coming. And his brow furrows, and he says, "But you are missing something, sir". You don't have your proper paperwork from our government to allow you to move here. You're not visiting. Correct? I said, "No, we're not visiting". "You're moving here, right"? "Yes, sir". "And you don't have it". "No, sir". Then follow me. Oh, I thought I was in trouble. And so we followed the officer. He gets up, and I don't know, are we gonna go into some kind of clinker for a while? I don't know if we're in trouble. I don't know. And so he leads us right outside and he goes right out to the truck. "Is this your truck"? "Yes, sir". "How far did you come"? "A thousand miles". He shakes his head like this. I can tell he is getting ready to tell me something and I can feel it's not good.

Yeah. These people are not paid to have sympathy or compassion.

Absolutely.

He's paid to apply the law.

He's not paid to get me into Canada. He's paid to keep me out unless if I have proper documentation.

Correct.

Absolutely. Right. And I'm glad you brought that out because you'll understand what happens next. He shakes his head and he says, "Sir, there is absolutely no way. It is impossible for me to get your family into our country. There is no way I can even conceive of that you can get into this country with the paperwork that you have. You're missing the primary document". And he walks away. I mean, that's it?

Yeah.

Case closed. He walks away and I literally, you know, we can pray without talking out loud. And so I send up a prayer to God and it goes like this. It's very simple. "Help. God, I need help. Here's my wife, here's my daughter". And bless their hearts, they're watching him walk away. And I know they're thinking, we're thinking, are we going back a thousand miles? No. God told us to go here. And do we feel like a fool? Yeah, we feel foolish. But it's what God told us to do. And so I said, "God, I need you to intervene. I need your help right now". And as soon as I said, amen, the officer, remember this is silent prayer, the officer spins on a dime and comes like an about face. And he comes marching right back up to me. Strange because I never said a word out loud. And he says to me a question that my Canadian friends say is never asked by an officer. He leans forward, and he says, very kindly, "What were you hoping that I would do for your family"? Officers are not trained to figure out what we are hoping they would do for our family.

No.

And so I thought, I don't know if he's a believer or not. And I said, "Sir," I said, "I don't know if you're a believer in God or not". But I said, "God has moved us on our heart to come up to Canada and do a special ministry to strengthen the family and help families mentor their children to know Jesus and to walk with Jesus". He said, "Hmm". That's all he said. There's no flicker on his face. I don't know if he's a believer or not. "Follow me," he says. Just like that, curtly, "Follow me". So we go back in there. He says, "Please have a seat". For one hour, he works on it, bless his heart, trying to find out what he already had told me is totally impossible. Two hours he works, three hours he works. And then he gets another agent, and then another agent. So three agents are working, our officers are working, and four hours, five hours, after five hours, and we are praying and praying and praying. He says, "MacLafferty family, please come forward". We come forward. And he has our passports there and he goes.

No way.

He says, "Welcome to Canada". And he found us a way. That's a whole nother story, but he found us a way. And then I said, "Sir," I said, "Again, I don't know," I just dropped my voice, "I don't know if you are a believer in Jesus Christ". But I said, "May I pray a prayer of Thanksgiving right now"? Bless his heart. He looks to the left, he looks to the right. And by the way, that's not the context of going into Canada in that setting. I mean, they're not used to having people pray, certainly not out loud.

Oh, absolutely.

Are you with me there?

A hundred percent.

So, he's nervous.

I think I know the very border crossing that...

Probably. We won't say it, but yes. So he's nervous about it. And he says the third time, "Follow me". So we go out and I thought, I hope I didn't like upset him or something. And we go out there and I said, "Sir," I said, "Again, I don't know if you believe that God even is real or not, but God, the living God of heaven and earth, He just worked a miracle through you as an officer here at this border, because you had told me that this was impossible and He found a way". And the man was shaken up, visibly shaken. And he said, "What you don't know is the other part of the story". He said, "Just a few months ago, my wife and I, who have been followers of Jesus Christ, we gave up on our church. We just got discouraged. We gave up on the Lord Jesus Christ. We just said He doesn't exist because He is not intervening in our life, we don't see any evidence of His existence. And we have given up on both church and God". And he said, "Today, just seeing that what happened," and he said, he looked us in the eye, he said, "I know personally that I knew of no way to get you in. It was impossible". He said, "I know that God lives. And today, as soon as I get off of my shift, I will go home to my wife, and I will tell her the story, and we will believe together, and we will make our home a place of worship".

Fantastic. God is able, isn't He?

He is.

Yeah. Those border stories. They're doozies. What an amazing experience. You got into Canada, this thing started to go, we don't have too many minutes. So briefly, and I wanna ask you about some books you've written.

Yes.

Tell me the kind of training opportunities you've had since that time.

Oh, God just worked in such a precious way. Across Alberta and other parts of Canada, God opened the door to start having revivals and then to do discipleship training. And then, of course, we've continued to work around the world as well, in every continent except the Antarctica we talked about.

Yeah.

So God is just moving. And even during these days of pandemic, God still opens the doors for revivals and discipleship training, both online but also in person.

Yeah. Fantastic.

God's moving.

You know what I wish, and I don't wanna sound like a subversive saying this, be careful, do your thing, wear your whatever, keep your distance, whatever, whatever, but there's still a way. There's still a way for God to work. It may look different.

Yes.

You may not be able to do it exactly the same, but there's still away. The people who've thrown their hands up in air and said, "Everything's off, can't do nothing". I think their God is far too small. There's a way to get certain things out, and thank God many people have been able to go forward in ministry and church and so forth.

And we do it respectfully.

Oh, a hundred percent.

Whatever, yeah.

Yeah. We must. You gotta respect the context, but the idea that doors are shut.

No.

Oh, I think God is just God.

They're opening faster than ever.

Yeah. Amen. Hey, so you wrote some books.

Yes. Tell me about those.

Yes.

And I won't even ask you why, 'cause I know that writing books a lot of work, but God has given you experiences. You put 'em on paper. So tell me about.

Yes. And it's a joy to tell you about them because I don't sell them.

You don't sell them?

I only give them away.

Oh, okay.

I'll give them to you. I'll give them to your ministry. I give 'em to whoever wants them so...

Fantastic.

So, these are the last five books, and I'll just tell you about them just real quick. One is "Follow". "Follow". "Follow" is a book about how to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Every chapter is a step to do with Jesus. This is not just for your own devotions, John. If I trust you with this, if I give this to you as a gift, it comes with a challenge. Go and read this with somebody that God calls you to disciple. Maybe someone who has a religious experience, but doesn't have Jesus as their disciple maker in their life.

Awesome, all right.

Okay. So that's done. This next one "Discipling the New Generations". Our daughter, Julie and I wrote this together. For four years, we prayed and wrestled with God about how to do this. The first five lessons are for parents and mentors. The last 20 lessons are for parents, mentors, and their children and teens.

Nice.

Okay.

All right.

And the next one is "Live Like Elijah". This little book is taking the powerful lessons of Elijah in the old Testament and showing that the same God who lived back then lives just as much today. And just as He provided for Elijah with nothing, it shares the last three years of our life, how God provided for us in crazy ways. Like sometimes in the snowstorm we'd have a knock at the door and someone would say, "Could you use a bushel of..". I know what it was, it was apples. And I said, very calmly, even though I really needed the food, right then, I said, very calmly, "Yes, we could use some apples". I said, very politely, "Thank you very much. That's very kind of you". And as soon as I shut the door with a bushel of apples, I said, "April," I said, "God, has answers our prayers again and provided". So it's just full up stories like that.

Yeah. Fantastic.

The next one is called, "Come Home". "Come Home". In this time of pandemic, even though we are home more than ever, maybe it's time that we come home with our hearts to what God wants to do in our homes. Because, John, God has vision for our homes, it's for our families. This book can be used just for you personally. You and your wife could do it together. You can invite other families together. If you're not comfortable doing that in your home, you could do it online in a small group style. Okay?

Cool.

And then the last one just came out. "Schools in Discipleship"

Nice.

"Schools in Discipleship" is full of recipes of how a school can work with a home to disciple the kids intentionally. These little recipes can also be used in lots of other avenues or venues with children and youth ministry.

Outstanding. So anybody wants to get a copy of these books, what should...

They're downloadable for free.

Okay.

On our website, indiscipleship.org.

Okay, indiscipleship, clearly one word, and it's just spelled like it sounds.

Yes. And then we also give them away in boxes of a hundred.

Yeah.

If you tell me how you're going to use 'em because we don't wanna sacrifice to send you a box of 100, and then you put it in storage.

Yeah, that's a crime. Don, we have about a minute left, just a little over a minute. I've gotta get you to tell me in a minute, how do you understand the gospel? I mean, 60 seconds is not long enough, but you'll find a way. What's the gospel?

The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ. And in Colossians 1:27, "The mystery of the entire gospel is that Jesus Christ lives in you, lives in me, the hope of glory". And next verse, verse 28. "And because of that, we find our completeness in this Christ. He is our savior. He is our Lord. He is our righteousness, and we are enough in Christ".

Amen. Amen. Don, it's been fun. It's not over, the journey's, I mean. God brought you all the way back across the continent to Eastern Tennessee.

Yes.

And there's a whole lot more ahead. Thank you very much. May God bless you.

Thank you.

Your family, your partner in ministry, April, the kids, and those you meet and interact with. Our prayers are with you always. Thanks so much.

Thank you. It's been a joy to meet with you.

The website again is indiscipleship.org. Yeah, indiscipleship, one word .org. You can find out more about what Pastor MacLafferty is doing, his ministry, how to support him, how to get the books which will change your life and the lives of others. Thank you so much for being part of our program today. I hope you've been encouraged and blessed, and that it's gonna be your mission inspired by God to be a disciple of Jesus and a maker of disciples. He is pastor Don MacLafferty. I am John Bradshaw, and this was our conversation.
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