The labourers are few…
The Harvest is great, but the labourers are few…
Christianity is growing across the world exponentially. Maybe we do not notice it in the West, where Christianity is gradually losing ground, but there are other parts of the world where we see exponential growth. Ordinary population growth is part of the reason, but it is also the result of effective evangelism, for it is never guaranteed that children of Christian parents will also grow up to be Christians themselves. Evangelizing both within and outside of the family is necessary if the number of Christians is to increase. When Jesus sends his disciples to “the ends of the world” in the Great Commission, he refers to an expanse of both geography and time. The idea is both about reaching out to all corners of the world and about passing on the Good News from generation to generation so that the Word remains alive among us. It is an enormous task, one Jesus handed over to his disciples and that we are now involved in today. Christianity is never more than one generation away from disappearing.
We must rejoice in the global growth of Christianity, but at the same time, there is also cause for concern. As more and more people become Christians, the need for more trained and skilled church leaders who can carry congregations and make sure that the Gospel is preached in a good and healthy way increases. Unfortunately,the training of new church leaders lags far behind the actual need, both because of economic and structural challenges. Often congregations are without trained leaders, which can be dangerous because lack oftraining often results in poor teaching or even heresy. We see many examples of so-called “mega-churches”, where preachers highlight themselves as miracle-makers and build a theology around themselves – a theology which is not rooted in the Bible but based on verses taken of context. Many of these preachers enjoy great personal wealth, and their luxurious lifestyle contrasts with the many poor people who gather in their churches, hoping to see material prosperity in their own lives. They are theological quacks, illustrating how it is dangerous when the Word of God is distorted and misused. That is why it is so important that we are able to meet the demands for trained church leaders and that we are able to lay a solid Biblical foundation.
Our most important task in The Relay Trust is to train church leaders who can carry their congregations. We do this partly by developing training resources, partly by developing digital systems that can deliver training, and partly by building infrastructure, including educational institutions, in the poorest parts of the world. The Anglican Church forms the basis of our work, and our goal is to reach the 200 poorest Anglican dioceses – the vast majority of which are found in Africa. The vision is to support the training of at least 40,000 church leaders during the next 20 years. This may sound like a big number, but it is just a small contribution to the great global challenge we are currently facing.
Rev. Bahago teaches in Port Loko
It is in the light of our vision that we welcome the training that has just begun in Sierra Leone. We have launched a pilot project, where we provide training for almost 70 church leaders, all of whom will go through a two-year programme which largely focuses on practical skills. These leaders have all had different training backgrounds. Some have a formal theological education, while others have gone through several shorter courses. The training they have now started prepares them for the pastoral responsibilities they face in their churches. While solid theological knowledge is important and also included in the training, it is just as important to have a heart for ministry and the necessary practical skills to serve in the church. The training has been developed by Timothy Leadership Training, and together we are now working on further developing their training resources. The training takes place in short three-day modules during which a facilitator guides the students through a series of reflections. Based on the reflections, the students prepare action plans for simple practical steps they can take, which they will implement over the course of a few months. At the end of this time, they will bring back their experiences to the larger group in order to learn and reflect together. The facilitator then leads the group through new reflections, which result in new action plans, and so the training continues over the two-year period.
The dioceses of Bo and Freetown have just ordained new priests, and there are many more waiting to be ordained. All these newly ordained leaders will now get to participate in the programme. We are grateful for the collaboration with Rev. Bahago, who facilitates the training, and for Timothy Leadership Training, who has welcomed the idea of further developing the materials into a digital format. We have received much positive feedback from the first participants, and, as they share with their colleagues as well, many more are now eager to join in. Together we are facing a large task, and we must be grateful for each small step we take.