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Philippines October 2016

Undisclosed Location October 21-30, 2016

TLI is conducting a non-formal, pastor training program designed to build and strengthen the church in this 7,107-island Southeast Asian nation. The pastors in the program come from various areas around the island. Most of the pastors are responsible for several churches. You are invited to join us in strengthening and encouraging these pastors in this traditionally Catholic country experiencing a growing Muslim influence. Curriculum to be taught: Genesis

Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.

Field Notes   Philippines October 2016

Oct  30th,  2016Sowing for the Future


How will the Church fair if we do not train up the next generation? While pastoral faithfulness to the proclamation of the Word, week-by-week, feed people today, if leaders are not being prepared now, who will be there tomorrow? That is central to my interest in playing a small part in training the next generation. I had that privilege in Digos. The benefits of the privilege to train pastors played out in many ways.

First it was seen in a 14 year-old participant. While most his age would be too intimidated to be in this program, this youth asked good questions and engaged with men and women who could be his parents or grandparents. What is more, the class saw the benefit of his presence, treating him with kindness as they encouraged him. While it may be sometime before he is preaching, he is receiving a foundation of knowledge and an example of caring by his older brothers and sisters. 

Second, it was seen in the two classes with whom I worked. While for the first three days, Sam and I team-taught, for part of Thursday and all of Friday morning I filled in for another instructor. That experience provided me with a broader perspective of the students in this program. The differences in the class dynamics reminded me that this is not just communicating a set of information, but that each of these students are a part of a multiplication effort to train others. 
The third way this played out was in the opportunity to teach with Sam, my son-in-law.  It does little good to travel half-way around the world if I neglect those around me. To teach with Sam allowed me to encourage him both in preaching and instructing others. This extended time together, preparing lesson plans, feeding off one another...and to have someone to finish the week off with our students was a great joy.  While Sam expressed some concern prior to going as to guiding the students in the mechanics of sermon prep, he quickly settled into the role of an instructor and he, like me, is now better equipped as a pastor...ready to encourage others in this high calling. 


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Oct  28th,  2016Preaching the Gospel Through Genesis on the Final Day of Class

I saw two beautiful things on the final morning of class.  The first was how the pastors have grown in the Word.  The second was how the pastors cared for each other.

Chris and I had the pleasure this week of watching joy grow in these pastors as they discovered our God through his word.  Our God and Savior is bigger and more lovely in their eyes than he's been before as they've seen his faithfulness through Genesis.  We rejoiced as we finished our (all too brief) study of the text.  But this class was not just about learning Genesis.  It was about preaching the Gospel through Genesis.  And Friday morning was the time for them to present their sermon outlines for Genesis 12:1-9.

There were some challenges.  These pastors have been taught a lot of error and it takes time to learn another way.  But there was also so much good.  We heard close readings of the text (and context), thoughtful reflection, and God's truth coming from their lips.  They will be taking the Gospel back to their towns and villages on Mindanao having seen in Jesus the fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham!  Beautiful!

The second thing we saw (and increasingly as the week went on) was how these pastors cared for each other.  

Preaching is hard.  And humbling.  And frightening.  Even though we love communicating Gods Word to his people, in most preachers there remains too much fear of being wrong, looking foolish, or (worse) ignorant.  But in our class those fears were assuaged by love.  First, by the love of Christ, whose love does not change based on good or bad sermons.  And second, by the love of the classmates toward one another.  Whenever one was struggling the others would encourage.  And the strugglers took heart (and help) with a thankful smile and humble heart.

I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to serve and discover and worship with these dear brothers and sisters whom I never would have otherwise known.  Because together we have seen more of the beauty of Christ as well as His Body as it builds itself up in truth and love. 

Thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for making this possible!



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Oct  27th,  2016Mushrooming Enthusiasm


Today we again enjoyed a delicious lunch in the home of our host. After lunch, his son-in-law took us to a nearby compound and showed us a room where he is preparing to grow white mushrooms to market to high-end restaurants. 

He had mushroom spores at all stages of development, and bags and bags of pressure-cooked coconut husks on which the adult mushrooms will grow.  I enjoyed trying to learn a little about something regarding which I know virtually nothing!

After our short tour of mushroom production, we returned to the classrooms, where our trainees are showing ever more enthusiasm for the Word of God and expository preaching.  We have been teaching them about both Genesis and Exposition. 

Genesis is authoritative; our thoughts about it are not. 

We have been modeling what it looks like to submit ourselves to the text even as we teach about it. We lead them into the text before we make comments about it. Our questions drive the trainees back into the text. We are teaching and modeling diligence, not merely in finding answers, but in forming good questions that open up the text for deeper thought and insight. Not only doctrines, but assumptions and worldviews change.  

This workshop introduced our trainees to Expository Preaching. That means we have taught them to seek 1) the author’s meaning in a passage, 2) how that meaning fits into the message of the whole book, 3) how that meaning fits into the message of the whole Bible, and 4) what significance that message has for us in each of our settings. That produces a Primary Claim—the sermon in one sentence. After that we teach them to form sermon points that support that Primary Claim sentence.

Our trainees vary in experience and aptitude. Some are senior pastors who know the word well, yet are very sensitive to the Spirit and willing to change as they receive fresh light from the Scriptures. Others seem as if they have never read Genesis. Still others, familiar with the best-known stories from Sunday School, are eager for fresh insights. Some come from a tribal language, and struggle to read the text in Cebuano or Tagalog, as well as to understand my questions in English. Nonetheless, the Holy Spirit is working in them all.

This happened in Sam’s class this morning: The class was wrestling to come up with a Primary Claim sentence for Genesis 32:22-32, in which Jacob wrestled with an angel (who seems to have been God Himself). When progress slowed, Sam suggested that they pause and pray. Shortly after doing so, the Primary Claim sentence and its subpoints fell into place! We thank the Holy Spirit!

We also thank God for each of you who have been praying for this training, as well as each partner who has given to make it possible. It is our great joy to do this!

God bless you all!



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Oct  27th,  2016Looking to the Text for Answers


The air in Digos can be thick with humidity, the classroom tight with sixteen people packed in a 12x15ft room, all the while struggling to communicate the art and science of how to preach Genesis in English to those for whom Tagalog is more familiar. Yet in that chaos God's gracious blessing comes as teachers and students see the Gospel in the story of our beginnings.

I am impressed how these 50 students, most of whom are serving as pastors across Mindanao, gather several times a year for week long training. Their desire for training is expressed in hard work and attentive engagement in class. 
This session on Genesis was taught with a view toward sermon development. Divided into four groups, there were 14 appreciative students in my class whose joy of discovery was expressed in shaken heads and audible gasps. While some students came with a rudimentary grasp of Genesis, many expressed an appreciation of this book's foundation for all of God's Word. As the week progressed, they increasingly looked to the text for the answers to questions rather than giving a rote response. 
One feature that has added to the enjoyment of this experience is co-teaching with Sam, my son-in-law. Whether talking through lesson plans or feeding off one another in class discussions, the complementary team teaching enhances this opportunity. 


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Oct  26th,  2016Grace Rains Down on Digos, Philippines

Sun_Over_Digosb772f85525Ways the Grace of God Landed on our First Day of the Genesis Training in Digos:

 1. God has given me a diligent, affable, godly team of trainers with whom to train. We had gotten acquainted online, but first assembled as a team at breakfast in our hotel, on Sunday morning in Manila. After worshipping together at a church that Dick and I knew, we flew together to Davao—a trial of patience, as our flight was delayed two hours by a mechanical problem. We got to our hotel about bedtime. Thus, we barely knew each other when, on Monday morning, we began to teach four classes of pastors. Yet, it became quickly evident that this would be a delightful team of trainers. We get along great.

 2. Our gracious host, brought TLI into Digos to train his fellow pastors.  He has gathered fifty pastors from this and surrounding provinces to feed on God’s word, and to learn to do Expository Preaching. He makes sure we are safe and our needs are met. He picks us up from our hotel on time each morning with a smile on his face. Then, after a morning of teaching he feeds us a feast in his home. At the end of the day he drives us back to our hotel with another smile, bidding us rest well.

 3. The trainees, who attended the first three workshops, are back for more, eager to learn, and tender to the leading of the Spirit. The sweet humility with which they gobble up what we have to teach is refreshing. They are so eager to grow!

 4.  The training began with a General Session in the main sanctuary of our host church. I introduced the team members. Then I showed the influence of the book of Genesis on the opening words of the three Jewish Gospels: John, Mark and Matthew.

I was whetting their appetites for their first TLI training in an Old Testament book, for most of them are far more familiar with the New Testament than the Old.

I told them that, in Christ, Abraham has become their ancestor, as they’ve been grafted into the olive tree of Israel which sucks on the sweet roots of the patriarchs.

5. Air conditioning in Jason’s classroom was not working at the beginning of the day. By God’s grace it was soon fixed and that class too got relief from the humid heat. 

6. I’ve heard today some testimonies of good results from previous TLI workshops. God has been at work to change lives and deliver people from bad theology.

 7. At the end of the day, of the four classrooms where we have been teaching, three were on schedule. The fourth class is a lesson ahead already!


It is a joy to serve Christ’s body in this way. Thank you, partners, for all you do to enable us to do so, including your faithful prayers.


In the grace of Christ,

Gil Zinke
Team leader of this October 2016 trip
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