One problem resulting from the spectacular growth of the Nepali church is lack of depth. Most Christians are first-generation Christians, led by pastors with little education and almost no Biblical training.
Churches in rural areas, isolated from other Christians, especially need help coming to terms with their growth.
Steve Regnault works with Nepali believers to find innovative ways to study the Bible despite their isolation. Raised by TEAM missionaries in France, Steve first came to Nepal to spend a year helping build the hospital in Rukum. After falling in love with the country, he decided to stay. Today, Steve and his Nepali wife live with their four children in Surkhet, where he teaches in a Bible school. The school was founded by Lil Shris, a Nepali who spent three years in Bible training and, after serving in his church for four years, another two years studying missiology in Singapore. While in Singapore, Lil had a vision of what God wanted him to do: start a Bible school in his own country that would be appropriate for the culture and situation of Nepal. Steve appreciates Lil’s dedication to his country.
“He’s quite an impressive person, because after all that training, he was offered jobs other places, even in Singapore,” Steve said. “But he chose to come back here and start this school because that’s the vision God gave him.”
The school offers leadership training for Christians who want to start or build up their church. Training takes place in a classroom, and the students also spend a month doing outreach in various places around Nepal. Lil hopes to bring a missions focus to the churches so they begin to look outside of themselves and reach out to their neighbors. Steve would like to make the training 12 months or longer, but most of their students are subsistence farmers who cannot leave their farms for that long. One of the biggest problems churches face is how to support their pastors so they can devote themselves to their ministry full time, since many of the rural pastors have other duties at home. Lil and Steve are teaching their pastors and churches about giving so they may become more self-supporting in the future. It is especially important for churches to be able to purchase land for a church building, because in the culture of Nepal, to have land and a house signals that you are a stable and trustworthy person.
Since many of the school’s students live in remote villages, Steve and Lil had to find a way to encourage churches they are unable to visit. They decided to start videotaping the training sessions.
“The videos are not only for the pastors, but also for the church themselves. We’re trying to raise some money for DVD players for all the churches that are wanting to have these trainings,” Steve said.
Steve’s parents, Terry and Elaine Regnault, moved to Nepal in 2005 after working with TEAM in France for 28 years. Among other administrative and supportive duties for TEAM Nepal, they are involved with their son’s ministry.
“One of the unique things about the church in Nepal is it grew up without a lot of outside influence,” Terry said. “There is a real need for teaching, to come along beside the leaders, especially in rural areas where often they have very little even basic education.”
Elaine agrees that the training is crucial for Nepali pastors. “There are so many small churches springing up here and there, with just one person becoming a Christian and then all of a sudden as a new believer, that person becomes the leader of a small group of believers in a village that may be an hour separated from anyone else who’s a believer,” she said. “And so the problem for this new believer arises: how does he lead a flock of people when he himself has no culture of church, little knowledge of the Bible, and sometimes can read very little or is illiterate completely? And yet these are the people that are just on fire for the Lord and doing amazing, amazing things.”
-Written by Megan Darreth
-Photography by Robert Johnson
[Originally published in TEAMHorizons, March 2011]