Redeeming the Pulpits of Ethiopia

Dear Friends and Partners,

The 2016 statistics are stunning. Really. Over-the-top impressive.

eshete-meseret We equipped three times more pastors in 2016 than just 2 years earlier. Here’s our best estimate: in 2016 LRI-training helped 35,000 pastors learn to better study, teach and preach God’s Word. That translates to 1.7 million church members growing into maturity in Christ, as Sunday after Sunday they’re fed the Word of God.

The 2016 statistics can be boring. They’re hard to relate to, so let me put a face to them.

Eshete Belete is our Country Director in Ethiopia. Eshete is married to Meseret and, as you can see, they have three beautiful girls. In addition to being a teacher, preacher and trainer, Eshete writes some of the most beloved worship songs, sung in many Ethiopian churches.

Here’s Eshete’s personal vision statement: Redeeming the pulpits of Ethiopia through the faithful proclamation of the Word of God.

meseret_rediet_lidya_abigyaEshete told us, “I strongly believe that the true biblical transformation comes about only through the faithful handling and presentation of the Word of God. The Word of God brings Life!”

You can see why we like Eshete. He not only shares our heart, but he’s also an incredibly effective leader. Eshete and his national training team launched 8 new pastoral training groups across the country last year, bringing the total number of groups to 21, impacting over 3000 Ethiopian pastors! Amazing to think that this Movement of the Word began just a few years ago with a handful of pastors.

Eshete is an amazing partner…but so are you! We’re in this together. Thank you for partnering with us in 2016 as you gave and prayed. We invite you to deepen your partnership with us this month so that many more under-resourced pastors might get the training that they desperately need.

Eager to see what the Lord will do in 2017,

Craig Parro

President

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PS: Eshete is why we’re able to do 3x’s more ministry. Eshete plus other Mentor Trainers (national, indigenous, LRI-training graduates) have dramatically expanded our training capacity. This coming year, we hope to add 20 more Eshete-caliber men to our team. Please give today. Your generous gift will help us “on-board” these 20 proven leaders who are even more effective than our own talented staff!

From 12 to 2,000 (and Beyond): A Movement of God’s Word in Brazil

At the 2016 Global Proclamation Congress, we sat down with David Merkh and talked about the mighty ways God has used the Training National Trainers Program in Brazil since training began in 2006. David Merkh serves with Pregue La Palavra (Preach the Word), a ministry founded to expand TNT training in Brazil.

In the video, David mentions several keys to our ministry:

  • LRI’s strong partnership with our Brazilian partners (PIBA).
  • A laser-focus on transformation from God’s Word.
  • Training that immerses students in the Bible.
  • Equipped men passionate to pass this transformation to others (2 Timothy 2:2).

David also mentions the substance and scope of the movement:

  • Training is expanding all over Brazil, even to remote villages in the Amazon region.
  • Training is crossing borders and reaching pastors in Venezuela, Cuba, and Angola (Africa).
  • Our partners are frequently approached to begin new training groups. With their growing team of trainers, they are able to respond to many calls for training.

Learn more about Training National Trainers or partner with our work in Latin America.

God’s Power for Challenging Times: Xavier’s Story

Dear Friends and Partners,

What’s up with Xavier???

That was the question that puzzled Patricio Paredes and Kevin Halloran when they picked up Pastor Xavier Peñafiel for his final TNT (Training National Trainers) week in Ecuador. Xavier’s usual joy was being crushed by a heavy weight.

Here’s why—earlier that week, a thief broke into his church and made off with a brand new sound system and Xavier’s personal computer, containing all of his personal information and documents. This theft felt like the final straw…the latest in a string of major discouragements for Xavier and his ministry.

How could he go on?

Xavier discovered God’s answer as he listened to example sermons from 1–2 Samuel and worked through the text using the TNT principles of interpretation: God uses humble people in impossible situations to establish his Kingdom on earth.

Consider… 

  • Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel 1:1–2:11. God used the remarkable faith of a rather unremarkable (and barren) woman to bring forth the godly leader, Samuel, that Israel so desperately needed.
  • David’s story in 1 Samuel 17. The narrator bends over backwards to show the unlikeliness of David’s victory: David, a mere shepherd boy (who burned with a fiery zeal for God’s glory) was bringing snacks for his brothers, the “real” warriors. Yet God used David with nothing more than a small stone and a sling to topple the formidable giant who threatened both the people and the honor of God.

Over those three days, a powerful truth began to slowly grip Xavier: if God could use a barren woman and shepherd boy, surely he could use him in spite of his own weakness and discouragements.

God turned Xavier’s heavy burden into a strengthened calling to advance God’s kingdom in a fallen world.

This is why we immerse students in books of the Bible…so pastors experience transformation directly from God’s Word, and so that that transformation propels them to teach and equip others.

Thank you for partnering with us so that God’s glory is displayed in men like Xavier!

With gratitude for you,

Craig Parro

President

PS: While Xavier’s group just graduated the TNT program, our work in Portoviejo, Ecuador is taking off, with two groups already launched and another launching in April. Please, give this month so that our work in Ecuador develops into a Movement of God’s Word in this strategic Latin American country!

Steadfast in the Face of Persecution

Dear Friends and Partners,

Pastor Timur* knew the police were watching him. He’s a Training National Trainers (TNT) student in Muslim-dominated Central Asia hungry for training and passionate to train other house church pastors like himself. He has also lived in the reality that his Christian activities may bring him trouble.

One day police interrogators knocked on his door to search for “drugs and weapons.” Timur knew what they really sought: evidence to halt his ministry work. Feigning innocence Timur told investigators, “I have no weapons or drugs. Feel free to search.”

Timur previously deleted sermons from his computer knowing this day might come. Even so, he soon remembered one sermon on his computer on how to be a missionary—surely a topic that would implicate him! To his dismay, the interrogators found the sermon and fined him $400. Timur currently awaits a trial that may lead to more fines or jail time.

Although exhausted and ‘shell-shocked’, he doesn’t think he’s doing anything extraordinary—just being faithful to God’s call. In the midst of this major trial and uncertainty, he remains strong, steadfast, and committed to the gospel at any cost.

What a privilege it is to know and partner with courageous pastors like Timur! Would you join us in praying for our persecuted brother?

Pray for Timur and other persecuted pastors that LRI is equipping and encouraging in the Muslim world.

Yours in Christ,

Craig Parro

PS: Would you also consider a gift to help further train pastors like Timur in Central Asia?

*His real name has been withheld for security purposes.

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You have infected us…

You have infected us…

Have you ever been described as a virus?

If you have, was it meant to be a compliment?

But that is exactly how the words of one pastor from Central Asia* were meant when he declared: “You have infected us with TNT!” (TNT is the acronym for Training National Trainers, the name of LRI’s pastoral training ministry.)

This exclamation came while pastors were reporting to our staff on the spread of TNT in their country and even beyond that nation’s borders. What’s so amazing about this story is these pastors live in one country. They travel to a second country to be trained through TNT in handling and proclaiming God’s Word, which they then bring back home and pass along to their own countrymen. But then, they travel to a third country and multiply the training there as well! One group of pastors, three different countries, all being transformed by the Word of God through LRI’s TNT pastoral training… AMAZING!

While LRI is not planning to integrate this virus imagery into a rebranding and communications campaign any time soon, the analogy is a highly virulent one. When exposed to a virus, the human body is provoked to react, often in a way that is beyond its control. In a similar way, the Word of God provokes a response in the life and ministry of the pastor. But whereas a virus causes damage and maybe even death to its host, the Word brings life! Once these faithful brothers were “exposed” and became “infected” through TNT, there was a spiritual reaction that was beyond their control. No longer could they help themselves, for they had to reproduce this training in the lives of others. The “virus” had to spread!

It’s as if nothing can stop the spread of TNT, but only because it carries along the Word of God with its power to transform the hearts, lives, and ministries of these pastors. TNT is like a virus, but a life-giving strain that is spreading around the world.

Not to stretch this analogy too far, but may there be a pandemic of the Word through TNT, the likes of which the world has never before witnessed.


*For security purposes, the name of the pastor and country in this story have been withheld.

Author: Joe Paglia, Director of Operations at Leadership Resources

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Fighting the Prosperity Gospel in Africa through Bible Training

Fighting the Prosperity Gospel in Africa through Bible Training

“…the biggest problem with prosperity theology is not that it promises too much, but that it promises far too little. The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers salvation from sin, not a platform for earthly prosperity.” —Albert Mohler

One of the great deceptions in the world today is prosperity theology. Thankfully, the best antidote to false teaching is the sound teaching of the Bible, and there is great work being done to equip pastors to rightly handle God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15).

I recently conversed with Leadership Resources’ Doug Dunton (Regional Director of Africa) and Joe Paglia (Director of Operations) about how our ministry equipping African pastors in biblical exposition fights against prosperity theology.


How prevalent is prosperity theology in Africa? What are some of the devastating effects you have seen?

Joe Paglia

Joe: Unfortunately, it is very prevalent. Sadly, it’s one of the US’s largest exports. It is a false gospel and not even worthy of the term ‘gospel’—because it is not good news and only draws people away from the one true gospel. Prosperity theology also manipulates a great many who are already struggling with severe poverty. To them, it is an alluring trap that makes their poverty even worse because many send in their last few pennies to a TV preacher and then can’t feed their kids the next day. Prosperity theology wreaks holistic devastation, impacting the spiritual and material lives of victims.

Doug Dunton

Doug: The devastation is hard to measure, and in some way, all are influenced. Everyone has some level of attraction to the prosperity gospel. MacArthur wrote a book many years ago called Reckless Faith that talked about the inability or unwillingness to discern the difference between right and wrong doctrine. This is the issue that we are dealing with. When things come from the west or things blossom from within the continent of Africa, many uneducated pastors have no ability to discern the difference between right and wrong, or good, better, and best.

This is the impact our Training National Trainers program has. Trainees can look at the core principle we teach about Staying on the Line of God’s Word and it becomes very simple for them to discern that most of the time prosperity preachers preach ‘above the line’ [that is, they add to God’s Word]. Pastors are able to discern very quickly and share with us how their mentalities are changing.

Joe: One way we try to help guys discern is by understanding if something is biblical versus biblically true. Prosperity preachers preach verses from the Bible and other passages they choose, but they are not preaching those passages in a biblically true way.

Can you share how Training National Trainers (TNT) is impacting individual pastors?

Doug: A Congolese guy came to a large prosperity church in Kampala, Uganda to investigate how it worked. Immediately following this church, he came to a Jonah session of TNT and was confronted with the difference in ministries between prosperity gospel church and a biblical ministry model as we were teaching in TNT and the book of Jonah. He told us he was going to change his philosophy and reject the prosperity gospel. So, he went back and shared with leaders in his church the emphasis on building a church on expository preaching. They rejected him, and shortly he rejected expository preaching. Now he is trying to duplicate the prosperity ministries he deems as successful.

Pastor John preaching

A story with a happier ending is that of John, a pastor from Nairobi, Kenya. When we studied 2 Timothy and the command to ‘preach the word in season and out of season’, John repented before our eyes and said that he never was concerned about Staying on the Line [that is, faithfully preaching the message of the Bible]. He called himself a “rhema” preacher—and he said he was a good one at that. He said every Sunday morning God would give him a word. He would say his “hallelujahs” and preach whatever came to his head at the moment, and people said they were refreshed by that special word he was receiving. Then he repented and went back to his church. He started preaching Jonah (after studying Jonah in TNT). People looked at him with heads cocked to the side. “Is pastor John OK today?”

“It’s not the same kind of growth, it is growth of transformation and regeneration in people’s lives.”

After a few weeks, people began to realize he didn’t do his rhema preaching anymore. Before you knew it, people started leaving—a lot of people. He came and told us the story and said that even though people were leaving, he was not going back to be the rhema preacher.

Many months passed until my next interaction with John and I wondered, “Was John continuing in preaching the word?” When we talked to him, he shared that he is still preaching the Word. And his church is experiencing growth that he has never experienced in his life before because he is staying on the line. So I asked John where the church growth was coming from, and I love this, he said, “Through new converts.” He’s now measuring growth through professions of faith and baptisms. “It’s not the same kind of growth,” he said, “but it is growth of transformation and regeneration in people’s lives.”

John has now become the coordinator for the group of pastors who are partnering with us from Go Ye Africa. He has become an influential leader due to the strength of his conviction.

TNT is addressing the prosperity gospel and helping strengthen churches by fostering convictions rooted in the Word of God.

TNT is addressing the prosperity gospel and helping strengthen churches by fostering convictions rooted in the Word of God.

What other aspects of TNT fight against prosperity theology?

Joe: The whole training program fights prosperity theology as we develop biblically literate pastors, but the principle Text and Framework has a special power in helping pastors see what may be negatively influencing their interpretation of the Bible.

The second workshop we do is 2 Timothy. Paul wrote to his beloved son, Timothy, who was fighting for the survival of the Ephesian church. Elders were departing, people were attacking him, and he was suffering and in despair. This book confronts the prosperity mentality because Timothy’s situation doesn’t match the promises of prosperity. This book’s message to persevere in gospel ministry and faithfully preach the Word amidst suffering is a game-changing book for many pastors. Other books we study bring up suffering (Mark, Habakkuk, Ephesians), helping expose wrong frameworks in regard to prosperity and showing God’s power to preserve us in difficulty.

What resources have helped your ministry in Africa?

Doug: The one thing we try to get in the hands of every TNTer is a Bible with a reference column. Sometimes giving them a study Bible too early in the training process will tempt them to preach the notes and take their attention off of seeing the text clearly—that’s why this Bible is so helpful for us.

We have also used a variety of resources from The Gospel Coalition’s Packing Hope program including:

  • The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper
  • A Sweet and Bitter Providence by John Piper
  • God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts

We have given the ESV Global Study Bible as a graduation gift to several of our groups and are thankful for TGC-International Outreach’s partnership and making it available. [The Gospel Coalition has also made the eBook available of Prosperity? Seeking the True Gospel.]

The Gospel Coalition - International Packing Hope Resources

What are some ways we can pray for Africa?

  • Pray for more African brothers and sisters to embrace the true gospel and reject the lies of the prosperity movement.
  • Pray for the spread of God’s life-giving Word through churches across the continent of Africa.
  • Pray for many more gospel workers to be equipped to rightly handle God’s Word and enter the harvest fields.
  • Pray for many prosperity preachers to repent and desire to minister the Word faithfully.
  • Pray for our 32 key trainers in Africa to expand our ministry of equipping pastors to teach God’s Word with God’s heart.

What our students are saying:

Francis, Church Planter in Togo

“The training helps to avoid heresies and helps focus on the word and avoid your framework. Most of the time in Africa, because of the background in Animism, we try to enforce our points of view on the text, instead of letting the text speak to us. We want to speak on behalf of the text.” Watch Francis tell his story.

Alex, Pastor in Ethiopia

“This training changed my perspective of seeing God’s Word, studying God’s word, and passing it on to others. This precious word. The change is very personal. The training is very personal. If it changed me, if it really convicted me that I’m loosely handling God’s Word for my life and for my ministry, there are also other people who are easily distracted by a lot of eloquent speakers. They can copy many different sources, but that doesn’t give life. That is the major thing I’ve experienced in my life. This training leads me to focus on the Bible text.” Watch Alex tell his story.


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How an Unlikely Answer to Prayer Has Blessed the Church in Honduras

Paul Adams of Leadership Resources recently shared a ministry update at College Church in Wheaton, IL on our work training pastors in Honduras. Watch Paul share his story above or read below.


I have a friend named Omar, who’s a dear, humble pastor in the town of Zacapa, Honduras. He’s a small guy with the boyish face of a twenty-something-year-old, even though he’s in his 40’s – not necessarily the outward appearance of someone you’d think of with a lot of influence.

But influence was what Omar was praying for.

About 5 years ago, Omar was deeply concerned that pastors around him weren’t preaching the truth of God’s Word to their people. Incidentally, when Leadership Resources first began working in Honduras, one of our partner missionaries told us that the greatest challenge for the church there was the off-the-wall teaching coming out of the pulpits every Sunday. Omar saw something similar and prayed, asking God to somehow let him have an influence on the pastors around him. You see, he had been to seminary, but because that school wasn’t looked upon well by his denomination, Omar was largely marginalized by his fellow pastors.

Shortly after he began to pray, Omar got a phone call from the leader of the churches in his region. He said, “There’s going to be a training next week, and the denominational committee has asked us to find two representatives from each region to go. Do you want to go? Because nobody else wants to go.”

The next week Omar was a part of a group of about 14 pastors that was introduced to the training of Leadership Resources. How excited do you think Omar was when he found out that this was a 4-year program designed to equip pastors like him to train other pastors to understand and preach God’s Word faithfully? That week the group explored the book of Ruth, learning simple, transferable principles to help them discover the message of the book and to teach it faithfully to their people. Omar was so thankful to learn those simple tools he could pass on to others.

Soon after Omar returned home, he was invited to give the devotion at the next pastor’s meeting. In front of 67 pastors, Omar unfolded the beautiful message from Ruth of how God was working His plan of redemption, even in the spiritually dark time of the judges. When he was finished, all of the pastors clapped, and there was a total reversal in the leaders’ and pastors’ attitudes toward him. And there was a receptiveness to the training Omar had received as well.

That was just the beginning – though it wasn’t always easy.

At one of his first trainings, a pastor came who had been in ministry for more than 35 years. When he realized who would be leading the training, he said, “Omar? How is Omar is going to teach me? He’s just a child to me.” With God-given wisdom, Omar said to him, “No, it’s not going to be I who teaches you. It’s going to be the Lord speaking through His Word.”

When the training was over, the pastor came to Omar to ask for forgiveness. He said, “I see that I am like the child.” He even expressed regret over his years of ministry. He said, “I’ve really just been wasting my time, wasting 35 years of just preaching nothing.” Thankfully, that pastor continued on with Omar – not just in training but also in warm friendship.

A photo before Omar’s graduation with his training group.

After four years of training, it’s been amazing to hear how God has been using Omar and the rest of the group we trained in Honduras. At last count, Omar and 12 others had trained 260 pastors and church leaders throughout Honduras. And those 260 had passed the training on to more than 211 others. That’s a total of about 500 pastors and church leaders.

Do you think God answered Omar’s prayer?

Well, He continues to do so. Omar has 12 trainings lined up this year. And I’ll see him again in June as we continue to work more deeply with him and others, in hopes of seeing a movement begin – seeing pastors learning, discovering, preaching, and strengthening the church in Honduras – and beyond – with God’s life-giving Word.

Thank you, brothers and sisters, for giving me the privilege to get to know and work with precious brothers like Omar. Through your partnership and your investment in God’s kingdom through missions, you have a part of what God is doing all around the world through dear, humble servants like Omar.

PS: Your gift today will enable us to train more “Omars” in many nations to the Glory of God!

Should We Focus on a Movement—Or Transformation?

One major goal of Leadership Resources’ training in biblical exposition is to launch indigenous-led movements of God’s Word in the countries where we work. By God’s grace, we have seen movements spring up in many countries where we work. But should a movement be the main focus of our work, or is there a more fundamental focus we should start with?

Doug Dunton recently asked an Ethiopian Mentor Trainer named Alex if he focused on a movement. We loved his answer so much we shared it below.


My focus is the true transformation in individuals. My desire is to see people experience the riches of God’s Word. The Spirit that is released as they are faithful when they dig into God’s Word. That is my desire–to see pastors, teachers who are being faithful to the Word of God. For nurturing their lives, and at the same time, building up the church. That’s the conviction.

This training changed my perspective of seeing God’s Word, studying God’s Word, and passing it on to others. This precious Word. The change is very personal. The training is very personal. If it changed me, if it really convicted me that I’m loosely handling God’s Word for my life and for my ministry, there are also other people who are easily distracted by a lot of eloquent speakers. They can copy many different sources, but that doesn’t give life. That is the major thing I’ve experienced in my life. This training leads me to focus on the Bible text.

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Pastors’ Confidence in God’s Word is Growing in Ukraine

Dear Friends and Partners,

Is it possible for the gospel to advance in Ukraine when a smoldering civil war keeps erupting?

Yes! Yes! Yes! One of our three trainings in Ukraine takes place at a Baptist seminary in L’Viv. Four years ago, the seminary contemplated closing its doors with only forty students enrolled. Today, this seminary is bursting at the seams with 400 students—10x’s growth in only four years!

God is also using TNT training to strengthen the Ukrainian church. One of our Mentor Trainers, Bova, told LRI staff, “You are such a refreshment because you are so confident in God’s Word. The joy and liveliness you bring is great. I want to be just like you.”

Confidence in God’s Word is contagious. Ukrainian pastors’ confidence in God’s Word is growing, propelling them to train others. Here are three quick glimpses:

  • Pastor Andre

    Andre has trained his church’s preachers and Sunday school teachers in Jonah and 2 Timothy. The challenge of aligning schedules means he trains multiple groups of two or three, but Andre sees it as a benefit and opportunity to go deeper. “They’re changing,” Andre said. “They see the Scriptures differently.”

  • Pastor Albert trains a group of five men who collectively shared our Genesis training with a youth camp. His trainees (affectionately called his “Timothys”) are sharing the training at other youth camps as well. “People are tired of experts,” Albert remarked, “but the biggest expert is the Bible—and that is what we want to teach.”
  • Pastor Albert

    Another pastor in our Poltava group replicated our training in Jonah at his church’s three-day retreat.

Confidence in God’s Word is growing! God is using TNT training to strengthen pastors and churches in Ukraine. These three men are a microcosm of LRI’s vision: seeing the Word of God flow powerfully through every church to every nation!

Would you pray with us for the Ukrainian church’s confidence in God and His Word to grow and for the gospel to spread?

Thank you for your prayers and support. None of this would be possible without you.

With gratitude,

Craig Parro

President

PS: Our work in Eastern Europe is new. In addition to three groups in Ukraine, we also equip pastors in Bulgaria and Serbia. Such a strategic part of the world, with much need. We don’t have enough partners to continue and expand the work. Would you please consider a gift today to support Movements of the Word throughout Europe? Thank you!

 

Does Passing On TNT Training Work in the Real World? An Answer from the Jungles of Brazil

Dear Friends and Partners,

You’ve probably played the Telephone Game where a message is whispered from one person to the next. By the end, the final message has morphed into something entirely different, often hilariously so.

I think about the Telephone Game when I’m asked: how much gets lost as your training is passed on to other generations of pastors?

Travel with me to an Amazon village where a TNT (Training National Trainers) graduation took place two years ago. Your mental image is probably pretty accurate: The church has a tin roof—hardly any sides to the building—sitting right along the river. An alligator actually came out of the river during the training. David Merkh, with a twinkle in his eye, told us, “And now he’s starting TNT among the alligators!”

The pastor of the host church was 3rd generation TNT—in other words, he was trained by a pastor, who was trained by a pastor, who was trained by our LRI team. This 3rd generation pastor, who belonged to a remote tribe accessible only by boat, was chosen to give the final message.

David Merkh (see video below)

David Merkh, one of our 1st TNT graduates, told us the story. David is now the leader of TNT in Brazil and so was invited to the graduation. When he first saw the pastor, he wasn’t impressed, thinking: “Hmm, so they chose this guy? I wonder did he really get it after these 4 years???”

The pastor then began to preach from the book of Acts and David was blown away! He told us the pastor “powerfully and boldly preached, explaining the text within it’s context—getting to the heart of God in the passage, and applying it directly to our hearts. He did not mince words.”

This barely-educated pastor, a young man, wasn’t intimated by David and the other leaders coming all the way from São Paulo. Said David, “No, he just said ‘this is God’s Word, it’s God’s authority.’ It was very, very powerful.”

David confessed to us how embarrassed he was by own his lack of faith. He told us, “I guess I wasn’t trusting the training.”

The explanation for the powerful transformation in this young tribal pastor is God’s Word. God’s Word has come to us across many generations and has never lost its power. Thank you for partnering with us to launch Movements of this powerful Word!

With gratitude in Christ,

Craig Parro

President

PS: We have TNT training on-going in 40 countries. Some are significantly under-funded. Please, would you send a gift today so that we might impact remote tribal pastors as well as church leaders serving in the largest, most densely populated cities of the world?

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