Wow, what an amazing four days we had last week!
Yes, last week. I know that many of you have been wondering how the training went, and this update is getting out quite late because our internet has been down since then thanks to the greatest internet service provider in the world, Togotelecom. (Can you sense a little sarcasm?) But that’s definitely a story for another day!
Jesus told his disciples to “pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” (Luke 10:2), and we have been praying that same thing and asking you to pray it since we began our work here. Last week we saw the next stage of that prayer being answered. We had new 25 students (5 couldn’t make it for various reasons) at the Oikos School from all over northern Togo who were hungry to learn how to make disciples and start new churches. Many of them already have some experience in church planting, but even they were expressing a genuine openness and a desire to learn and apply biblical principles and practical tools to the church planting process.
A major element that we emphasize in all of our training is the use of the Discovery Bible Study method. It is a very simple and reproducible way to study God’s word in groups which engages everyone through a group discussion about a particular passage. We introduced the DBS method to them very early on and had the students facilitate and participate in several of these throughout the training. Little by little, they began to see and understand how practical and useful this tool can be to make disciples who will obey all that Jesus commanded. (Mt. 28:20)
We touched on obedience a lot during this training because, like in the West, churches often distort biblical obedience into keeping a bunch of man-made rules and taboos. Therefore, we contrasted what walking in obedience to Jesus’ commands (summarized by loving God and others) looks like in comparison to all the extra-biblical traditions that Christians here cling so tightly to. We also contrasted the mere accumulation of knowledge (what most Bible schools provide) with action-oriented obedience to Jesus. As James says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)
We also touched on subjects such as: the great commission, the role of the Holy Spirit and prayer in church planting, praying strategically, and the goal of reaching whole families and households. One of the topics that took a large amount of our time, however, was looking at Jesus’ strategy for making disciples. In this, we talked about the parable of the four soils, studied Jesus’ instructions when he sent out the 12 and 72 disciples (Mt. 10 & Lk. 10), saw multiple examples in Acts of “people of peace” (Luke 10:6, i.e. “the good soil” of Luke 8), and discussed strategies for finding this good soil in Togolese villages. The students did several role plays of this as well, which was very beneficial, but also quite hilarious at times.
When it was all said and done, I think we helped these 25 guys take a giant step forward in getting them ready to make disciples of Jesus and form those disciples into healthy churches. There were several students who shared in front of the whole class how they normally judge, condemn, and criticize the people they are trying to reach because they don’t fit within their traditional “church box,” but that now they have been convinced that this is wrong and that they need to go with a spirit of humility and graciousness. It was encouraging to see the Holy Spirit doing his work through everything we worked so hard to prepare: the teaching, the object lessons, the DBS studies, and the interactive, hands-on elements.
We want to thank you so much for praying for this training, but please don’t stop! This is only the beginning of a year-long journey that we will take with these guys, and there is still a very long way to go.