It’s the third-largest country in Africa with an area the size of Western Europe and a population of 62 million people. Since 1964, it has changed its name three times, has experienced six or more wars and coups, and struggles with safety and stability. And with 80 percent of its citizens living in extreme poverty, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) certainly presents a challenging set of responsibilities for the local pastors.
In September 2007, DR Congo was one of four locations in the Francophone Africa region where Langham Preaching ran further seminars offering practical training to help pastors preach with faithfulness and relevance in a war-torn, poverty-stricken nation.
More than 150 participants attended preaching seminars (for training Levels 1 – 3) in Burundi, DR Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, and Burkina Faso, led by Langham Preaching facilitator Gordon Woolard. “In Congo we have eight Anglican dioceses participating,” said Gordon. “At least four of the dioceses have follow-up day workshops to discuss what they have learned in our seminars. And we are encouraging each diocese to form preachers clubs.”
Delegates at preaching training
The seminar program has been greeted with great appreciation, as it supports local pastors in dire need of proper biblical education and resources. In particular, the DR Congo preaching seminars have initiated future plans for locally based movements.
Muhindo Isesomo, country coordinator for the DR Congo, has realized firsthand the unique needs for the pastors in this area. The political unrest and lack of transportation have made it difficult to organize any training other than that conducted locally, by local pastors. And a woeful lack of resources means that sharing literature – to the point of sometimes tearing apart French Bibles so that several pastors can use them at the same time for sermons – is commonplace. Muhindo and others are set on organizing a “training of trainers” event – equipping graduates of Langham Preaching’s Level 3 training to conduct future training for pastors in their local towns and region. This particular plan for Langham-sponsored training has been successful in other countries, equipping pastors who might not otherwise receive any formal training.
“Basically, we are trying to identify a handful of people who, having completed the three levels, and who having understood the importance of preaching from Bible passages, could be trained to then develop Level 1 programs in their own region of town. We feel this would be really valuable, rather than having an expensive central program for a new Level 1. It pushes the training to a local level, which we think is a good idea,” Muhindo said.
Langham Preaching facilitators in Burundi
In Burundi, Langham Preaching launched a new program with Level 1 training for 23 participants from six churches. The conference was translated for some participants from French into Kirundi, the native language for Burundi. 50 participants have since been divided into eight small clubs. Each group has a leader and they meet once a month. They review the Langham Preaching material and contribute to each other’s sermon content. Afterwards they will discuss how the sermon went.
All agreed that limiting the training to small groups was indeed the most effective method for maximum impact. But it did pose another issue: how to keep up with the growing demand for God’s Word in this area, especially with several different native languages present. “We are pleased to help our sisters and brothers to improve their preaching and the Langham Preaching system is appreciated by everyone who is following it,” said facilitator Florence Kamegeri.
The last Langham Preaching training in Côte d’Ivoire encountered low attendance due to a national crisis, so this past September’s attendance of 33 was met with thanksgiving. This was also the third year for the training at Abidjan where previous Level 1 and 2 events were conducted. “I’m thankful that we had evangelicals from across the spectrum in attendance as well as several general secretaries from the Francophone International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) movement. Langham is getting to be well-known in other countries as the general secretaries return to their campuses across Africa,” said Gordon.
Preaching training was also successful in Burkina Faso, said National Committee Chairman Roland Tamini. “We have the idea to plan two review meetings this year, in January and in May,” he said. “We will also plan a weekend meeting for the pastors who came from outside of Ouagadougou. We also have the plan to create a network of groups of participants to do review of the material they’ve received.”
It’s clear that the training in the preaching movements is having a positive impact on the life of the church. “There were some British missionaries who had worked in Congo and had returned to England,” said Gordon. “They visited the Congo again and went to a church where the preacher had attended a Langham seminar. They asked afterwards where he had learned to preach this way, since they had never heard someone remain so close to the text of Scripture. I think this speaks well of the Langham Preaching material, and does credit to John Stott’s lifetime commitment to expository preaching.”
The countries in Francophone Africa are consistently listed by the United Nations as the “least livable” places to live in the world. * By God’s grace, through the pastors and their local congregations, Langham Preaching hopes to change those statistics by sustaining the preaching movements in all four countries in 2008, as well as developing a new program in another French-speaking country, Rwanda.
*UN Human Development Index, http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0778562.html
Visit the Francophone Africa photo gallery of events
Read Gordon Woolard’s report on Francophone Africa
Read the report on the Africa Preaching Consultation
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