by Ian Buchanan, Executive Director, Langham Partnership United Kingdom/Ireland
Preaching that is good to taste, easier to create and spreads even further
In June 2008 at a Langham Preaching event in Ghana known as NEPS (National Expository Preaching Seminar), Ian Buchanan was able to spend time with three leaders who had applied what they had learnt at previous events to their local situations. Two young ministers were inspired to share training with their local network of pastors, while a third pastor worked to influence his national diocese.
Nana-Atto Hope and Emmanuel Anseh are two twenty-something Methodist leaders who have equipped their local “Bread of Life Society” of Methodist ministers with the skills they learnt at the NEPS conference in 2007. Methodist churches in Ghana require local ministers to meet up in local societies, which are only one part of a larger regional circuit that is, in turn, a part of a cluster of trans-national dioceses.
Last year the Bread of Life Society decided that meeting once every four months for prayer was not enough. But what would be the purpose of more regular meetings? Nana-Atto and Emmanuel suggested that the NEPS course materials and experience could be used as material for more meetings, as a means of helping other ministers with a crucial weekly task – preaching.
The idea was immediately seized upon since the Bread of Life Society is renowned within their Circuit for its innovative new approach to ministry, and maintaining that reputation was becoming ever more difficult.
For the first three meetings Nana-Atto and Emmanuel repeated all they had learned at NEPS 2007 with their group of 15 ministers. For the six meetings prior to this year’s NEPS conference, the group chose, on a rota basis, three or four ministers from the group for monthly Saturday morning expository preaching events. For each sermon given the participants gave their considered assessment based on clarity, relevance and faithfulness to the text.
The success of these local meetings, helped by that historic reputation for innovative thinking, has meant that their circuit is now taking interest in what they have been doing. They now hope to move it upwards into this wider circuit arena after the June 2008 NEPS conference.
It also became clear that both Nana-Atto and Emmanuel had benefited enormously from what they had passed on to others. “We find that expository preaching allows us to give more to the people”, Nana-Atto chimed in with the big grin of a leader who feels he’s finally scratching where people itch. “I see it as a way for me to get more from the Bible than I did before”, added Emmanuel.
But it’s about more than just “feeding” Christians; it’s also about reducing those dreaded preparation tensions. “Now I find that preparing my sermon is so much easier than before”, said Emmanuel. “It used to be very tough for me … but now it flows so much more easily as I can think more systematically about the text”. Nana-Atto immediately agreed with Emmanuel by giving him a Ghanaian style hand shake that clearly reflected their joint relief at finding an excellent de-stressing tool for preachers.
So, more food to give and easier to prepare as well. Now that sounds like a recipe worth imitating by any Methodist circuit.
While two young ministers spent the year revitalizing their local network, one Council Chairman worked to influence the national Methodist Diocese. Revd S.V. Mpereh is a circuit minister for the Medina Circuit and leader of the Ebenezer Methodist Society. He also holds the chair of the local Council of Churches. When ministers met in his quarterly circuit, “S.V.”, as he is known, decided to introduce them to the NEPS 2006 training material.
In one sense S.V is working from the top-down as well as from the middle-up. Last year he asked the circuit ministers to filter down the training into their local societies. That way what is learnt at circuit level can be repeated again once a quarter at society level.
“This way I keep them always learning”, S.V. noted with glee. The challenge of leading a circuit clearly weighs heavily on S.V. as he asks God for wisdom in leading an ever expanding group of ministers. If that was not enough he also ensures that they all get opportunities for practical training and assessment from other local ministers. “I act as the coordinator and that way they all can have a turn” he adds as if this coordinating role was the easiest part of all that he does.
So how many people make up this “Circuit Preacher’s Club”? Sixty was S.V’s emphatic response, “But I want to expand it upwards to a diocesan level this year” and that will multiply the numbers by 26.
S.V is a classic example of a man with ambition and the coordinating skills to match, both of which are so needed when it comes to spreading a grass-roots indigenous preaching movement.
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