New pastoral training method in Africa has spread around world

For the past seven years I have been engaged in a mission program called “Timothy Leadership Training International” (TLTI). TLTI was begun in 1997, when “a team of Christian educators from Africa, Europe and North America was formed to meet two challenges. The first was to respond to an urgent call for basic pastoral training coming from thousands of protestant evangelists and lay pastors throughout Africa. The second was to promote economic sustainability within the churches and communities they serve” (from the TLTI website).

Two key methods are integrated into teaching the seven training manuals used in Timothy Leadership Training (TLT). First, with the leader as a facilitator, participants use the inductive method to read and reflect on Scriptures that have a bearing on the particular subject being taught. Second, participants learn how to develop an action plan enabling and encouraging them to immediately put into practice what they have learned. These plans assist the students to develop responsible and visionary leadership in their own settings and provide a method of holding one another accountable.

TLT began in the Reformed church of East Africa and the Anglican Church in Kenya. It has spread not only to multiple locations in Africa but to many locations worldwide, such as China, Cambodia, Central and South America, and the U.S. as well.

Encouraging local leaders
After receiving the prerequisite training in the areas of Pastoral Care, Christian Education, Preaching, Stewardship, the Relationship between Work and Worship, From Harm to Honour in the Family and Sustainable Development to become a Master Trainer, I began training pastors and church leaders in the Johannesburg area of South Africa. This past spring, the first class of Master Trainers matriculated in Johannesburg. Several of these graduates have already begun replicating the ministry in the vicinity of their own churches.

The effectiveness of this training program is measured by changes in both the effectiveness of the pastors and in the life of the congregations. For example, after the course in preaching, a pastor exclaimed, “I have been a preacher for 20 years but this course has radically changed the way I approach the Bible and now my church is eager to receive the Word of God.” Others have testified that the emphasis on pastoral care significantly impacted church attendance. Still others have seen remarkable examples of reconciliation after having taken the course on the family. That is not to say that many have not encountered significant obstacles when trying to implement their plans, but the mutual accountability has enabled them to be encouraged and often they have found ways to overcome these obstacles.

This mission is done in the spirit of 2 Timothy 2:2, “Entrust what you have heard from me to those who will be qualified to teach others.”

This approach of using volunteers to equip local pastors and church leaders in far away as well as nearby places is a far cry from what we once considered to be the work of missionaries. However, I have seen its effectiveness in places such as multi-ethnic church plants and prison ministries in South Dakota as well as in churches of five thousand members in Ethiopia and new church plants in South Africa. An Ethiopian pastor, after taking the course on stewardship, invested in two chickens. The eggs not only improved the diet of his family but, once one hen hatched a brood of chicks, boosted the pastor’s income through the sale of eggs. A South African youth pastor took the same course and then helped his youth group grow and sell tomatoes. This teaches them the principles of economics and has enabled them to fund a youth conference. Both projects show how God blesses us when we use our time, talents and terrain in his service.

The world is changing and we as people who speak the Word of the Lord must look for every new opportunity. TLT is but one. Whether your heart is to reach out in the name of Jesus to people near by or far away, I would heartily recommend that you would consider this ministry or consider supporting someone who is currently engaged in it.

  • John Van Schepen grew up in Southern Ontario. He retired as a pastor in the CRC after more than 40 years and now lives in Keizer, Oregon with his wife, Willie, where they enjoy time with their children and grandchildren. He not only teaches TLT but serves as an interim pastor.

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