Training church leaders and Bible teachers to equip God’s people is a vital part of world mission. Phil Nicholson shares how OMF partners with Langham Preaching to help train and support local Bible teachers in Southeast Asia:
One pastor in Mongolia told me he had been preaching for 20 years but had never received any training. He was so excited to learn how to preach better.
Another pastor in Cambodia said he learned to preach by watching Youtube sermons from people like Joel Osteen.
Others say they “borrow” sermons from books or online. Many of those who are called to preach have not completed high school, and in some places the only resource they have is the Bible: there are no other study resources in their language.
As these examples show, training for preachers and Bible teachers in Southeast Asia is a significant need. Outside of the West, where seminary training for pastors is normal, only about 25 per cent of pastors have the opportunity to attend formal training. Many churches don’t have pastors at all and rely in members preaching the Bible each week. They are eager to learn and improve, but have few opportunities to do so.
For the last four years I have been serving as the East Asia Regional Coordinator for Langham Preaching as part of my role with OMF. Langham Preaching is a training ministry established about 20 years ago by John Stott, a British Church leader, to help support local Bible teachers so they can help the church mature. Langham Preaching training seminars are held in about 80 nations.
One of the great privileges in serving with Langham has been seeing the desire of Christian leaders across the region who want to know how to understand and faithfully preach the word of God. Many are deeply aware that they are not well equipped to do this and leave the workshops with great excitement and a renewed commitment to the word of God. They gain confidence to dig into the Bible themselves and discover a message to preach to their people.
The aim of the workshops is to equip teachers to preach messages that are
- faithful to the Scriptures
- relevant to the people
- clear in presentation.
As well as hands-on learning, we arrange “Preaching Clubs” so they can continue to meet in small groups and practice what they learned regularly through the year. Many who attend the workshops go on to train others in their own region and networks as well.
What does this have to do with OMF? Partnering with Langham helps us equip leaders for the locally-led, biblically-based churches we long to see reaching out across East Asia with the good news of Jesus.
So OMF has helped run a number of Langham workshops around East Asia, including in the Philippines, with more local leaders requesting training.
As I meet with pastors across East Asia, I have also learned a lot about missions:
- The fruit of missions: Many of Langham’s local coordinators are key church leaders, are the direct fruit of earlier mission work, and often have been discipled by OMF workers. It is a great encouragement to see the calibre of these men and women and to see the fruit of those who have gone before us in missions. These leaders are deeply thankful towards missionaries and themselves have a commitment to missions that they have caught from those who discipled them. Meeting these leaders has affirmed to me the value of pioneering cross-cultural mission work.
- The needs for training: Many preachers across East Asia want to improve and learn how to share God’s word more effectively, but have few opportunities to do so. There is also a significant need for more practical on-the-job training in the skills of preaching, teaching and pastoral work.
- The role of the facilitator: Training ministries demand a willingness to take a back-seat role, in order to equip people who are able to take on leadership. My role as an outsider is primarily to facilitate, not just to teach or train. I will sometimes travel to a training event to just support local trainers who lead the workshop. Sometimes not everything goes to plan. But they need the opportunities and encouragement to take the lead so the ministry can be multiplied locally and become fully locally-led.
Please pray with us:
• Pray for those who attend Langham Preaching workshops as they put into practice what they learn
• Give thanks for the local leaders volunteering their time to run preaching workshops
• Pray that as God’s word is preached, his church would be built up
• Give thanks for the testimony of one pastor in Southeast Asia: ‘The Langham training has been very helpful, especially at this time. Those who were trained are preaching in their respective locations. Local lay leadership have been required to do all the preaching … because the COVID-19 lockdown has prevented visiting pastors from traveling. ‘
Phil Nicholson is from Australia but has been serving with OMF in Taiwan since 1992. He has been involved in university student ministry, mission leadership and leadership training. He is married to Irene and they have three adult sons.
Phil has served as East Asia Regional Coordinator for Langham Preaching since 2016 and supports that work in nine countries across Southeast Asia.