Nigerian Pastors Receive Strong Biblical Training…
Safia Nana Zakana could not understand what had happened to Pastor James. She attended his church in Abuja, Nigeria, where he preached regularly. But during 2007 something changed. “I found he was different,” she told Chris Wright, who was leading the second Nigerian Langham Preaching seminar. “He used to preach all over the place, but now he never uses illustrations or stories that are not relevant to the text he is preaching from. And he always ties his conclusion to what the text is saying.”
Safia was attending the seminar at Level 1, and Pastor James had attended it last year, and clearly it had changed him. “So when I see him,” Safia laughed, “I’m going to tell him, ‘Now I know your secret!’ Already we are asking him to train us and others in the church in what he has learned.”
|Safia Nana Zakana|
Safia herself was a TV presenter before, so she never had any problem about standing up and speaking before audiences. Her problem was knowing how to handle the Bible well and how to teach it properly to others. She works for RURCON – ‘Rural Church Councillors of Nigeria’ – a teaching and training network that encourages rural church pastors to have a holistic ministry of the Gospel in words and works. So she has lots of opportunities to teach and train others. “I wanted to know how to present the Word of God properly in context – its own context, and our context – so that people can understand it and be changed,” she said. “This seminar is helping me to do exactly that.” And with a final bright smile, “My husband, who works for Christian aid and can’t be here, is so jealous!”
The Nigerian Movement Grows Fast
The Langham Preaching movement in Nigeria started in February 2007 with 150 people at Level 1. This year, 90 of them returned for Level 2 training, while another 160 joined at a fresh Level 1. After taking the original group to Level 3 in 2009, it is likely the movement will have to split into several regional streams. This is not surprising, since everything in Nigerian Christianity is big. The movement is supported by several heads of denominations that number millions of members, some of whom attended throughout, at the invitation of Gideon Para-Malam, the main organizer.
Langham Literature provided books for the participants, and some more were provided as gifts and for sale through Africa Christian Textbooks, run by Sid Garland. Many bought copies of the “Africa Bible Commentary.”
And Langham scholars are involved as well. The chair of the Nigerian Langham Preaching committee is Pandang Yamsat, who is the President of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN). And another Langham scholar, Bishop Cyril Okorocha sent ten pastors from his Diocese of Owerri, and gave a guest lecture one evening.
Making a Difference
Chris Wright, who was the main facilitator at last year’s seminar and returned for this one, was keen to hear from members of the first group if what they learned last year had made any difference to their preaching habits and their churches’ lives. He got some encouraging responses.
Pastor Bitrus Abba pastors a church in the Hausa speaking Kagoro region. “I used to feel so guilty before,” he said, “because I never prepared properly. I would just do a bit on Saturday night or even Sunday morning before preaching. So last year’s seminar made me sit up. Now, I start every Monday morning to study and prepare. Then I do a little bit each evening and put it all together on Friday night. There has been a much better response from my people. Their level of interest is greater because they can see clearly the main message and purpose of each passage. Many more are coming to the mid-week prayer meeting and Bible study.
“During the past year, I have preached through James (in 2 months), 1 Timothy, 1 Corinthians, and parts of Micah and Habakkuk. I have just bought the ‘Africa Bible Commentary,’ which will be really helpful. I find I learn so much as I prepare.
“During the past year we also started a preachers club for our town, and that has met twice, and we will go on meeting and learning together.”
Exploding but Dissatisfied
Pastor Caleb Mutfwang leads a large church in Kaduna, in the northern part of Nigeria. He told Chris Wright that although there is an explosion of church attendance in Nigeria, people are often dissatisfied with church. They look for somewhere where the Word is being taught because they are severely hungry. And they appreciate it when they hear thorough exegesis of the Bible itself. They are not gullible. What had he particularly learned from last year’s seminar?
• “I was conscious that I had often preached out of context. Even though the message might have been true, the supporting text was not appropriate.
• “Secondly I learned the need to stay within the text while preaching it.
• “Then thirdly, I learned the discipline of preparing sermon notes seriously, and not just extempore ‘as the Spirit leads’.
• “Fourthly, our church began to look at more theological themes, like ‘Who really is God?’, and if you do that, you have to be more diligent in your study. We have a fairly educated membership. In my younger days I used to despise theology, but suddenly I have realized through my reading of John Stott and others, that it is not dry. And you can give people good content without being boring.”
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