The Holiday Term at Africa Renewal Christian College is a part of a 2-year Certificate Program for pastors, church leaders and lay-members of the church that desire to be equipped for ministry. The training attracts mature adults that are already serving in ministry and are unable to attend bible college full-time to due family, ministry and work commitments. This mature group of students provides a tremendous atmosphere for dialogue and debate as students learn how to apply God's word to their lives.
Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.
We are nearing the end of our second week of teaching at
Africa Renewal University. In this second week we are taking on our second book
by Alistair Begg and Derek Prime: On Being a Pastor. I remain encouraged
by the students’ responses to each book as they take and submit notes on
assigned chapters – time allows us only to assign some chapters although
reading the entire book is required.
What is most encouraging is the students’ analysis of the
current, often traditional, approaches to pastoral ministry, and coming to a more
biblical approach to shepherding. We are able to assign 3 chapters this week
before their final exam on Friday. Those chapters are: “The Call and the
Calling,” “Goals and Priorities,” and “Pastoral Care.” Although these titles
often communicate a more administrative read, the chapters at hand
are well written of spiritual matters on shepherding in a New Testament church.
Several students are pleading with me to let them keep their books to digest on
a regular basis after the class is over.
As I mentioned in a previous post, at the conclusion of the students’
daily assignment they are asked to give me questions that take the notes a step
further in development and application.
The following questions from the students, and a consideration of
response, aims to answer the questions from the scriptures. The desired end is to show the sufficiency of scripture and
exemplify the significance of expository preaching in local church ministry.
ON CALL AND CALLING
- How can we
think of being fully called to pastoral ministry when we have outside jobs in
order to support our families? We considered Paul’s need to meet his
financial responsibilities in Acts chapter 18 while keeping the desired
ambition to be fully given to ministry.
- How can we
be sure of God’s calling? We considered the subjective “irresistible”
calling complemented by the objective in such books as 1 Timothy chapter 3 and
Titus chapter 1, and exemplified in Paul’s calling and confirmation in Acts
chapter 9 and Galatians chapters 1 and 2.
- Can a
pastor be disqualified? If so, how?
We considered the importance of plurality and accountability among elders and,
again, the books of Timothy and Titus on the meaning of being “above reproach” before
God and people.
ON GOALS AND PRIORITIES
- I am
challenged by the New Testament message to pastors to “proclaim the whole
purpose of God.” How can I better give myself to such a demanding task? We
considered the lifelong commitment to expository preaching and, perhaps, the
pastor preaching the entire book of 2 Timothy to the congregation.
- Is our
natural teaching spiritual? We considered 1 Corinthians chapters 1:18 to 3:14
as a partial answer, along with caution towards leading from the “spirit”
without the wisdom of the scriptures.
- How can
the church motivate young men and women to take part and respond to their
calling in Christ for many pastors in Africa see themselves as those suffering
and thus can’t meet the spiritual needs of believers? What an interesting
question – we looked to 2 Corinthians showing that suffering is ministry
preparation of a kind that best shows the mercy of God.
ON PASTORAL CARE
- How can a
pastor do pastoral care for the entire church and not neglect his primary call
to study and preach? We considered the second priority of the pastor to be
given to mentoring leadership unto a shared ministry among qualified elders.
Again, the Pastorals help us.
As we depart from Uganda on Saturday for the US, I ask you
to continue in prayer for one specific petition: That the sum of courses to be
taken to complete each student’s degree program will practically complement the
high calling of the believer in Christ and especially, the ministry of the
pastors, teachers, elders, and local church leadership.
Well, judgment day is Friday – the final exam. Thank you for
your partnership with us.
Our Training Leaders International team is
starting our second week of teaching in Buloba, Africa providing teaching
support to Africa Renewal University.
I am teaching the class: Spiritual Formation. There are
thirteen men and woman in the class serving as pastors and church leaders in
Uganda. I am using Jerry Bridges, The
Pursuit of Holiness and
Paul's Letter to the Ephesians. These are the
foundation for our class discussions on our call to holiness. The essence of the class objective
is captured in the following quote from John Stott:
God called us to Christ and holiness, to freedom and peace, to
suffering and glory. More simply, it is a call to an altogether new life
in which we know, love, obey and serve Christ, enjoy fellowship with him and
with each other, and look beyond our present suffering to the glory which will
one day be revealed.
The students readily received the view of scripture that calls
to obedience and holiness. This view often stands in opposition to traditional
practices rooted in the prosperity gospel. One of the themes of the class
is 1 Peter 1:15-16: “But just as he who
called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy,
because I am holy.”
The class members have been open in sharing the challenges they
experience in their churches and communities. Although they are pastoring
Christian churches, there is a strong influence of witchcraft and sorcery. The Ugandans are often immersed in dark practices that tend
to blend witchcraft and sorcery with biblical truth. This syncretistic approach
to traditional religious practice distorts the gospel and corrupts worship. In
addition, there are many churches that embrace the health and prosperity
gospel, making it challenging for the pastors committed to the truth of the
A few students asked to talk to me outside of class. One
young man shared with me his testimony and his heart for discipleship. He
was raised a Muslim and converted to Christianity. His parents disowned
him when he told them he became a Christian. For some time, he was
unaware of Jesus’ call to grow as a Christian. After several years living
a self-centered life, there was a clear call on his heart by God. He made
a commitment to follow Jesus and the call to holiness -- He experienced a
dramatic life change. He now has a passion for discipleship and will go
to Kenya to help the church embrace biblical discipleship. He expressed
the class content will be a great help in developing a discipleship curriculum
On Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at Repairer of Broken
Walls Ministries. I shared from Ephesians where Paul blesses God for
blessing the saints with every spiritual blessing. I ended the sermon
with the African hymn, “Tumutendereza Yesa – Let us praise the Lord; Jesus is
the Lamb; The blood that washed me. Thank the Savior.”
One of my favorite missions writers, Tim Keesee, has produced a book, along with a superb set of videos entitled "Dispatches from the Front." In comparison, this short update from Uganda is more like a yellow "Post-It from the back." I liken it to one of those small yellow notes because of its brevity, and 'from the back' because it is not I who is laboring on the 'Front lines' of gospel advance - but the students that I have the privilege to teach for two weeks. In others words, I am at the 'back' laboring to equip them to fight the good fight of faith at the 'front' of gospel ministry in Uganda.
My course, Introduction to Biblical Counseling, began with four days considering foundational issues that face all who would be faithful in interpersonal ministry of the Word. I challenged the 12 ministry students (many already engaged in church service) with the apostle Paul's admonition to "Watch your life and doctrine closely" (1 Tim 4:16). Counselors who would be pleasing to the Lord need to be both wise in their handling of the bread of life, and also good examples.
As the week has progressed, we have occasionally wondered if any metals had been won by Uganda's athletes at the Rio olympics (they are unusually strong in the track and field events). So far, none. However, I have endeavored to challenge these students with the reality that they are called to a much greater race, and do so for a much more lasting and glorious prize (1 Cor 9:23-25, Heb 12:1). It would be my greatest joy if they leave the class at the end of the second week encouraged to follow Paul's example and "do it all for the sake of the gospel."
Today, three students came to me prior to, or just after class to review their first written counseling assignment...even though it is due tomorrow. It was, of course, encouraging to me that they were well along in completing the project, but mostly I was pleased that their work gave evidence of their eyes being opened to the sufficiency of God's Word for counseling. I had given them the challenge the first day to gain the 'understanding' referred to in Proverbs 20:5 - "The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out." I see the beginnings of that Spirit-given wisdom growing. All the TLI teachers with me here at Africa Renewal University pray and yearn for the same.
Perhaps, in the Lord's kindness, gold will be 'won' right here...as the students come to treasure God's counsel, and joyfully confess with the psalmist, "The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces."
The Course, “The Work of the Pastor” is a unique course for it aims at bridging the gap from the classroom to better pastoral practices in the church. The emphasis is on critical discernment of traditional practices to a better way of shepherding the flock of God from the scriptures.
assignments take the form of, first, analyzing assigned chapters, second,
charting in two columns, current practices and a better way, and third, concluding
with 2 questions on further development directly related to the chapter content, going a step further to applying the “better way” in one’s current church
What has been encouraging is the observation that: study
and preaching often becomes secondary to expressions of praise at the Sunday
service; preaching and teaching needs to be central to worship. Here are a few quotes [with some minor grammatical edits]:
WHAT WE ARE DOING WHAT WE CAN DO BETTER
Churches today don’t teach the the word, they just
talk about miracles and money
Churches need to preach and teach the word as the main
activity of worship
Our reading emphasized that biblical counseling must meet
the deep needs of the people, first at the preaching and teaching ministry from the
pulpit; we are not thinking that way
Our reading emphasized the need for expository preaching, with teaching, to meet the deeper needs of God’s people. We have not thought well of the importance of preaching and teaching together in the sermon.
There is a neglect of the young people and families by not
giving them an understanding of the Bible in youth and family ministry
Equipping the young people and families in the Bible needs
to be a priority
Churches are not proclaiming the word of God in an
understandable, direct, and authoritative way
Study, preparation, and proclamation of the word needs to
Raising godly leadership has not been a priority in our
More emphasis needs to be given to developing gifted men
and women for the shepherding of the church
These are examples of the kinds of questions being asked in the last part of the assignment: "How can the African church
proclaim the Word of God in an understanding way?" "What can we do when the
church leadership do not consider preaching with teaching as the most important
ministry of the church?" "How can the church find and raise up godly leadership?"
One student wrote, “May God bless the author of this book
because all the things he wrote are very clear and explained well.”
I am in my 3rd day of
teaching at Africa Renewal University
in Buloba, Uganda. The class responses remain yet to be seen given that we are
at the start of the course.
What has been
encouraging has been the indigenous leadership response. The Dean of Theology
and the Administrative Dean, both were curious about the books I received and
brought. They were positively arrested by The Master Plan for the
Church by John MacArthur, in a seeming spirit of having thought little
about biblical pastoral ministry. They both expressed that this book will be
significant for training staff and pastors at ARU. The Administrative Dean
asked for a personal copy expressing: “This book is excellent.” I am expecting
a similar response to On Being a Pastor by Derek Prime and Alistair
Begg, the book designated for the second week’s reading and embrace.
The challenge we often
encounter in Africa is associated with animistic roots worked out in American
Imported Pentecostalism. The two ARU administrative overseers wanted me to make
sure that I do follow through on logging The Master Plan for the Church into
the library for future use among staff and students, thus the plan for the volume
of books at the conclusion of the course.
It may be that the
greater influence will be among the staff at ARU, rather than the students;
Influencing leadership is always the greater long-term effect as Acts 11:19-26
resulting in Acts 13:1-3.
And for an entire year they [Barnabas and
Saul] met with the church and taught considerable numbers (Acts 11:26)
Now there were at Antioch, in the church that
was there prophets and teachers (Acts 13:1)
I am especially
encouraged because the complicated challenge has been to bridge the gap between
the classroom and local church pastoral practices. Students have delighted in the
classroom courses while remaining unchanged in church pastoral practices. Thus,
the leadership response is the greater encouragement, something I did not
directly expect for my focus has been towards the course and students.
I will bring specific
details of staff and students as the the course, “The Work of the Pastor”