What could: Turn someone into a proud english-speaking ‘city kid’? Alienate friends and family? Open up lucrative job opportunities? Lead to sexual temptation and family breakup? Cause churches to break down? Bible college?
For some church leaders from rural and tribal backgrounds, education at a Bible college in a city like Manila would seem like an ideal way to grow and strengthen the church, but sometimes it has the opposite effect. OMF worker Iljo joined The Alliance of Bible Christian Communities of the Philippines (ABCCOP) in 2013. With a passion for training she has previously worked with church plants in Quezon province providing training in worship, bible study, teaching and evangelism.
Iljo sees the danger of up-rooting promising leaders as a real challenge.
“They’re put into a new environment and city culture, sometimes without hands-on ministry and then dropped back into their province three or four years later – and they just don’t click anymore.” Iljo remembers one leader trained in seminary, who went back to his home and didn’t fit any more. He’d become proud of his diploma which no one else in his village had. He had English sermons which meant no one understood his teaching. “There is a need for seminary trained leaders, at some levels of church responsibility, but for the day to day running of a healthy church, you can’t afford to send people away for three to four years – local training and a diploma equivalent to half a bachelor’s degree is often enough and much more effective”
“We do invest in the more academic leaders to get them trained to Masters and Doctorate level, the national church needs that.”
“VJ is a very ‘productive’ evangelist, but lives in an area where there are few adult believers, it would have a huge impact on the ministry if he had to be sent away for a long time. If their church had a few trained people, then perhaps they could afford to send someone away for that time away. A church could possibly collapse if people go away too soon.”
“If you get a Diploma or Master’s qualification, you could end up with a well paid pastor’s job in the city – and there are plenty of churches here. Your kids might be able to go to private school. If you go back home, your income might be even less then when you came. We’ve even seen some marriages break down because they were so far away for so long”
“They can continue to work where they are serving. I think that’s the main advantage for us”
The grass-roots training that the ABCCOP group offer is designed to be very practical. Assignments are set so the work can be used in real church circumstances; like preparing a devotion that could be used as a sermon. It teaches the leaders about how to handle the Bible in context, how to preach, offer counselling, set up good church management, develop small groups and make sure they know doctrine – to prepare them from sects that might lead them astray.
One week every quarter, a team from Asian Theological Seminary, train teachers who then go on to train small groups of pastors from urban and rural tribal churches. In 2015, six groups of rural & tribal church leaders were meeting together, this has now increased to 15 in 2017. In 2015 37 students graduated from the teacher training programme, a further 20 graduated in 2016. Unfortunately, the teacher training programme is not running in 2017 due to a lack of funds.
Five organisations, including OMF, World Team and other agencies who were working in church planting were being asked by the churches if they could be part of something bigger, so they would not be seen by the majority churches as a sect, and so they could get together and hold conferences. They formed ABCCOP, The Alliance of Bible Christian Communities of the Philippines.
ABCCOP’s target was to see 616 churches planted by 2016. As of early 2017 there are now in fact 800 churches! With this rate of growth there’s a real sense of urgency in the training ministry to prepare home-grown leaders to impact the local church.
Will you pray for the Philippines?
- Ask God to provide the required funding so that the ABCCOP teacher training programme can continue and as a result the training programme for rural & tribal leaders may continue to grow.
- Thank God for the successful partnership between churches which makes ABCCOP possible. Pray that God would continue to bless this cooperation between organisations.