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December 06, 2013

South Asia: Practical Workshops Transform Leaders

Himalayan church leaders learn how to effectively teach and lead their congregations, thanks to much-appreciated equipping classes.

  • The Frontline

    Pastors in remote villages usually don't have access to quality training and mentoring.

Ram Bahadur* is an evangelist. He climbs the Himalayan mountains, seeking out villages where the name of Christ has never been heard and where churches do not exist. Through his witness and that of believers like him, thousands of people in Nepal are finding salvation, making the Nepalese church one of the fastest growing in the world.

Unfortunately, though many are coming to Jesus, these new believers struggle to grow in their faith. They gather in small groups — maybe 20 in a home — and rely on the leadership of whoever has been a Christian the longest. With limited Bible knowledge, these pastors tend to repeat variations on a few favorite ideas week after week.

“There’s very few resources for them to grow up in Christ,” says a TEAM worker based in the area. Because church leaders are not equipped to teach Christ’s commandments, believers are not being transformed through systematic discipleship.

That’s where TEAM workers come in. Through one-week Bible courses, church leaders from Himalayan villages are being trained to effectively teach and lead their congregations. In an informal setting, they study an Old Testament and a New Testament book. They practice biblical interpretation in small groups, using questions like “What is the theme of the passage?”, “What does this passage teach us about God and ourselves?”, and “What difference does this passage make in our communities, churches, and families?” At the end of each day, a model house church meeting is held. Someone leads worship, another preaches, and all participants receive constructive feedback.

These practical workshops are changing lives. According to the TEAM worker, at the end of one such workshop, a man said, “I never thought that I could teach from God’s Word!” Another pastor said, “I’m excited to go to my church plant next week and teach God’s Word.”

Though Bible schools exist in big cities in the region, the TEAM worker says that most of these mountain pastors have never been to the city and will never have the opportunity to go to Bible school. In addition, he says the Nepali church is growing so quickly that Bible schools can’t keep up with the number of pastors and lay leaders needed. Week-long, experiential workshops held in strategically located Himalayan towns fulfill a great need, because he says, “next week they’ll be able to do what they’re already doing — better.”

Though knowledgeable and well-trained, TEAM workers in this area don’t want to pastor churches. Rather, like this TEAM worker, they view their roles as that of equippers of national leaders and evangelists.

“It’s to be a support to people like this,” the TEAM worker says. “These people are on the frontline. We’d like to see them owning ministry, carrying on ministry. Foreigners aren’t in the frontline. We don’t own anything, we’re not in charge of anything, but we come alongside as a brother and as a resource so that they can be successful in the vision that they have.”

*Name changed to protect identity.

- Written by Esther Kline