On the first day of our training in South Asia, we huddled in a small room filled with eager servants of Jesus. Most have sacrificed far more than we have for the honor of treasuring Christ. Actually, it's nearly impossible for us, American Christian teachers, to understand what it has meant for them to profess Christ in a country where the national identity is intricately connected to Bhuddism, where Christians of any stripe make up less than 1% of the population. Then we consider the strategic value of training emerging leaders for Jesus's Church in such a place, each one a steward of the gospel.
But during that initial gathering, one of the students came to me and expressed concern for how Thomas*, a fellow student, tended to handle the Word of God. He voiced a legitimate concern. It's common everywhere for teachers to superimpose their own ideas on the text of Scripture rather than understanding the author's intended meaning and then faithfully communicating to a present audience. So I took his concern to heart. The world is starved for the life-giving power that abides in God's Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If a pastor fails to be a faithful teacher the church will be starved as well.
“It's common everywhere for teachers to superimpose their own ideas on the text of Scripture”
As the week progressed, we invested our time studying the New Testament book of Galatians. Day by day the Spirit of God challenged us with the freedom brought to the followers of Jesus through the gospel. On Friday, the time came for the students' final project, where each trainee preaches a brief sermon on one of the sections of the letter. When it was Thomas's turn to preach, I tuned my ears to his presentation, listening intently for what he would say.
But to my surprise, he faithfully and powerfully handled God's Word as he preached. He delivered what I consider to be one of the most solid, compelling sermons I've heard in a training scenario. The evaluation from fellow students was equally affirming. Then another trainee, clearly also surprised, asked Thomas what had happened. "This week," he answered, "I was convinced that only the Word can set slaves free."
Please pray for these emerging preachers of the Word in this unreached nation.
*Name changed for security purposes