Today I listened to seven Ethiopian student presentations. Each student had been assigned a passage from the Gospel of Mark at random and then given a list of questions to prepare the “bones” of a sermon: an outline of the passage, connections to the rest of the book and then the rest of the Bible, a connection to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and finally several points of application. I was honestly blown away that students who have chaotic lives and many responsibilities, who are not being graded or earning a degree, nevertheless invested significant time into putting together earnest presentations.
Just before lunch, Pastor Tesfaye, our national partner who had been translating the Amharic sermons into English for me, gave us all this analogy: “We have a show called Ethiopian Idol,” he said. “On this show young musicians, dancers, and artists get the chance to perform and be critiqued and coached by senior stars. In this way the young performers are being excellently trained and improve greatly. How much more should we be doing this in the church?” he asked. “And yet,” he lamented, “there is no one to sit in the back when you preach, take notes, and help you grow. Today,” he told the students, “you took part in something even better than Ethiopian Idol. What an opportunity. What a gift.”