For the next few months,
TLI will be highlighting one of our teaching sites around the world. This first
installment highlights our work in the west African country of Ghana.
When companies, the government, and even churches in southern Ghana want to
punish someone, they send them to the north.
In general, the south is more populous, richer, and at least nominally
In the Upper East Region (the equivalent of a state) where our training is
held: 72% of the population is non-Christian (46% Traditional Religion; 23%
Muslim; 3% Other), 16% Catholic, 6% Pentecostal, and 4% Protestant. Both Christianity and Islam are experiencing
rapid growth, and we see new churches and mosques every time we are in Ghana. There are areas within the Upper East region
that are primarily Traditional Religion and there are areas primarily Muslim,
but there are no areas that contain a Christian majority. Traditional religion still exerts a strong
influence in the area. To give one
example, one of our students' grandfather built a community altar and his
father continued to take care of it.
Now, as head of the family, our student is facing social pressure to
continue to maintain and practice the religious rites. Whenever something bad happens, such as a
drought, it is seen as evidence that the community is being punished for our
student's failure to appease the spirits, having abandoned them for a
We began teaching in this area in January 2015 in partnership with Community
Life Church in Forney, Texas. Community Life Church had been interested and involved
in northern Ghana since 2006. When
Community Life Church first began supporting ministry in northern Ghana, they
found Christianity rapidly expanding both in numbers of conversions and number
of churches being planted.
However, the rapid expansion of the gospel was beginning to cause
difficulties for the churches in Northern Ghana. While a good problem to have, so many
churches were being planted that there were not enough biblically literate
people to pastor them. Newer Christians
were being called upon to be leaders.
The nearest place where Christians could receive biblical and
theological training was Accra, a twelve hour journey by car. In addition to the distance, because Accra
was comparatively richer than the north, many who went south for education
In the vacuum of theological and biblical training, false teaching and
errors began to creep into the church.
In the absence of biblical knowledge, many were filling in the gaps with
their previous religions' beliefs about God(s).
Works oriented views of salvation and relating to God are especially
prevalent. Each of the four times we
have been to northern Ghana, we have been asked questions about earning your
salvation based on Philippians 2:12 (it is quite impressive how students
managed to work in a question about Philippians 2:12 in a class on Genesis
Community Life Church wanted to help meet the need they saw for theological
education in northern Ghana. They had the
desire, resources, and determination.
They saw themselves as lacking an effective curriculum and knowledge and
experience of how to be effective at training leaders in an international
setting. So they asked to partner with
Training Leaders International in order to help train pastors in northern
Ghana. Training Leaders International
has benefited from Community Life Church's knowledge and experience in northern
Ghana, as well as their pastors and staff who have made wonderful teachers.
Our students are hard at work strengthening the church in northern
Ghana. In a little over a year and a
half, our students have planted 18 churches.
Most of our students are either recent church planters or are being
prepared to be church planters. So many
church leaders have requested to take our training that in January 2016 we are
adding two additional classes, which we project will bring our total number of
students to over 100.
One last, quick story illustrating the importance of our training. One Sunday I was preaching at the church of
one of our students. Like many
preachers, I began by saying something along the lines of "if you have
your Bibles please turn to..." I would
estimate of the two hundred or so people there fewer than twenty had a
Bible. After the service, I asked the
pastor about it to see if my observation was correct. It was.
For various reasons, including illiteracy, poverty, and the difficulties
in getting a Bible in their own language, fewer than 20% of the families in his
church had access to a Bible. That
means, for the vast majority of his congregation the only thing they knew about
Christianity comes from the pastor's sermons.
That puts a huge responsibility on the pastor to be able to preach the
Bible well. As a result of our work in
northern Ghana, are students are becoming better at reading, understanding, and
preaching the Bible. The churches in
northern Ghana are strengthened because of it.
Paul Smith is an
International Trainer with TLI and Site Director for Ghana. TLI has teaching
trips to Ghana scheduled in January and June of 2016. If you are interested in
teaching in northern Ghana, click here. For a list of other TLI trips
and needs, click here .