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



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!

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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The Power of “The Line” in Ethiopia: Pastors Repent for Incorrectly Preaching the Bible

Testimony from Allan Sherer, Pastor of Global Connection at the North Hills Church, Taylors, South Carolina.

Nine years ago I was introduced to TNT training. Through a series of remarkable providences God opened a compelling opportunity to partner with two dynamic leaders in Ethiopia. These two men, independent from one another, became deeply burdened by the fact that the vast majority of pastors in their nation do not enjoy access to biblical training. In response to their invitation, I traveled with Doug Dunton of LRI to conduct TNT training with two groups of leaders in Ethiopia.

Conditions that day were not pleasant. It was cold and rainy and there was mud and water everywhere. I found myself slipping and almost falling multiple times throughout the day.

Allan leading a session during a training in Ethiopia

Yet, those attending the training engaged wholeheartedly. I had the privilege of teaching the foundational principle of everything we do in TNT: “Staying on the Line.” (See the illustration below.)

This simple, yet revolutionary, concept can be summed up in this way:

“We should think of the Word of God as we would think of a line. Our goal as preachers and teachers is to stay ‘on the line,’ avoiding going ‘above the line’ and thus adding to what God has said as well as ‘going below the line’ and taking away from what God has said.”

“They were weeping and repenting because they realize they have not been preaching on the line of the Word of God. They were asking God to help them learn to handle his word properly.”I was aware there was an unusual attention as I taught this simple principle. In fact, the entire day – from around 8:30 in the morning until around 5:00 in the afternoon – was marked by earnest participation. It was compelling and humbling to be with such eager students. Yet, when it was time for the training to end I was genuinely happy to anticipate our warm, dry lodging, comfortable seating, a good hot meal, and best of all, my bed.

The following morning dawned clear and bright. I was eager to see our new-found friends again. As we sat waiting for everyone to arrive, our interpreter said, “Everyone was here until after 11pm last night.” I was dumbfounded. “Why were they here? What were they doing?” I asked. “They were weeping and repenting because they realized they have not been preaching on the line of the Word of God. They were asking God to help them learn to handle his word properly.”

Allan chatting with one Ethiopian leader

“It isn’t about what we choose to say about the Bible. It is about faithfully telling God’s people what the Bible actually says.”Nine years, a dozen trainings, and thousands of trainees later, that simple principle continues to revolutionize the ethos of a nation of pastors and teachers. The interpreter who told me about the late night prayer meeting is now one of our mentor trainers. He has led dozens of trainings, even beyond the borders of Ethiopia. He is passionate about transferring to a generation of preachers a deep conviction that it isn’t about what we choose to say about the Bible. It is about faithfully telling God’s people what the Bible actually says.

This man is one of around 20 mentor trainers distributed all over Ethiopia. These faithful, sacrificial workers cross vast distances, and even risk their lives, to spread the Word that captivated the hearts of that original faithful training group.

“Stay on the line. Preach the Word of God with the heart of God.”

What an amazing joy and thrill to be able to serve and co-labor with these faithful men of God!

Allan and LRI’s Africa ministry were featured on Episode 5 of Dispatches from the Front. Watch a clip below.

Tim Keesee: “What they are doing here is nation-shaking. Training that moves from generation to generation takes work, focus, mentoring, translators, and logistics. Conferences are easy, but multiplying leaders and overcoming lots of geographic and linguistic barriers isn’t.”

A Full 180 Ministry Transformation

Recently, at our Africa Leadership Summit, one of our gifted trainers shared his story on how the Training National Trainers program impacted his life and ministry. Below is the transcript of the above video.

“I am using the principles throughout my teaching and preaching. And I am bold enough to speak. Whether they are denominational leaders or local leaders… I am bold enough to share… I do have a very useful thing which you need. You know, right at the first time of TNT training, I just rushed up, and stood up, and told Doug and Joe, “You will never find me the same person as I was before!”

Before the TNT training, I was preaching and teaching the Word of God for about ten years… But in my past experiences of teaching and training of the Word of God, I only worried about ideas—or, so to say, the felt needs. After finishing structuring my ideas or the felt needs into dividing main points, sub-points, sub-sub-points… Then I am looking to find which passage does fit into my ideas.

But, the reverse is true now. I worry about the Word of God. When I get the passage, I just dig into it, just capture the heart of God. And then I start thinking how do I present this fresh and powerful Word of God. I totally changed. 180 degrees.

Now I have started enjoying the freshness and transforming power of the Word of God myself. My kids are enjoying this blessing. [I] myself changed. My family devotions changed. I think it is easy to expect my children will be changed. My entire ministry changed.

Glory and honor be to the Lord. I am very grateful to have such a wonderful opportunity.”

Learn more about our ministry in Ethiopia.

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Why Does Ethiopia Need Expository Preaching? An Interview with a Trainer

todd-kellyI (Todd Kelly) recently joined two colleagues in Ethiopia, Doug Dunton and Sean Martin, to work with the Mentor-Trainers. These men are key leaders of this movement of the Word taking place in Ethiopia and graduates of the Training National Trainers program. (Learn about the movement of God’s Word in Brazil and beyond.)

I had the privilege to speak at length with one mentor trainer named Solomon. Below is a short excerpt with some wording edited for readability.

Todd Kelly of Leadership Resources: Solomon, you said that the people you are training are really eager to receive the training. Why is that?

Training Pastors in Ethiopia

Solomon during our training

Solomon: Because our situation is not good. In our pulpits the preacher and teacher are preaching their own words not God’s Word. So when we say this at our training, they say, “We are in danger, we are in hardship, so we have to come back to the original…to the Word of God.” This is what they say. 

T: That’s very interesting. In some places this could be…kind of a threat… because you are telling somebody that they are not doing it right. But you are not getting that reaction.

S: No, no…because we are facing the challenge in our pulpits. It’s obvious. No one can say that there is not this problem in our pulpits. They can’t say that.

T: So they all recognize it?

S: Yes, they all recognize that this is the problem.

T: Apparently they want help…there’s a hunger for the training?

S: Yes, they have a big hunger…a big hunger to get this training. And when we trained them in the book of Jonah they asked us, “What can we do next?”

T: Yes, you were just telling me how they were frustrated…

S: Yes, especially when they finished the first training. They wanted us to come after two or three months. But we said you have to go back and give this training to a minimum of 2 or 3 people then you come with a report. This is our conviction. This they must do.

T: Solomon, what do you think? They recognize that there is a need. Do they also feel a sense of being empowered? Is their confidence growing as you train them?

S: Yes, especially after we finish the training. We discuss with the leaders and the trainees and they are becoming encouraged and try to work the principles to read the Bible better.

T: Can you think of one or two pastors with a personal story that shows transformation?

S: Yes, especially in Addis and in my area. Before they took this training they were confused to preach the Word of God but now they are able at anytime because they are working hard to understand the Word of God. They work hard.

T: Are you seeing changes in the churches and in the people themselves?

S: Yes, even in my church the evangelists have changed.

T: In what way?

S: When they preach the Word their preaching system is different. Most of the times they preach topical preaching. But now they preach expositional preaching.

T: What do you think is the benefit of that?

S: It’s of benefit for the person who preaches the Word because he understands the Word, he knows the author’s intent and he can get the heart of God to transfer for the hearers so the audience can get the Word of God. It has two kinds of privilege, one for the preacher and the other for the hearer. It is a privilege to know the Word of God!

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T: So, you’ve been involved in this training about 6 years. The first segment of the training ended after 4 years, and now you are one of the Mentor Trainers in the next level of training. What is it that keeps you involved? What benefit are you personally receiving?

S: I remember when we started this training. We didn’t understand what we were doing. After 4 years, we began to understand the main goal of the training. I get from this training how can I study the Word, how can I dig in the Word. It’s opened my eyes to read the Word of God, to be faithful to it and to be a faithful servant of God. I was taught it’s not enough for my heart only, it has to be passed on to the others. I decide that I would do it and God gave me a chance to become a Mentor Trainer. I am very happy because we’re working in the Word of God. This is a very, very good chance for me to challenge other ministers.

T: How do you think about this Mentor Trainer process? How is it different than the first level of training?

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Solomon and some of the other Mentor Trainers

S: In the first level of training we practiced the principles in each book. For example, in the first gathering we used a few principles to understand the book of Jonah. Then in the second gathering some others to understand the book of 2 Timothy. In this next level of training we take all 8 principles at once. They are integrated. This is very helpful to see it this way and when we train we can better help others.

T: How many pastors are you involved in training?

S: We have 4 groups. Each with about 15 pastors…60 total.

T: If we were sitting down with someone thinking about supporting the work in Ethiopia and they asked, “Solomon why do you think it is so important?” What would you say?

S: Do you see the pulpits? Go back and evaluate your pulpits your church, your preachers. And that immediately solves the problem. That is why they see the need immediately.

T: So why is it so important that the pulpits be changed?

S: Our pulpits should be preaching the Word of God, not the history of the preacher or his ideas, but preaching the Word of God.

T: And when they don’t preach the Word of God what are the consequences?

S: You see I served for the last 17 years in the church as a pastor. The life of the people doesn’t grow up. They come to the church every week, but they don’t grow up in the Christian life. This is the problem of the teaching and preaching of the ministers.

T: So they remain as infants?

S: Yes. So we have to change that for today’s church. People must grow spiritually.

T: Are you also seeing an increase in evangelism and church planting as a result of people being fed the Word?

S: Yes. If they change their attitude about the Word of God they can go out and preach it, even for nonbelievers. I saw that for the last 4 years in my church. The people go out and give witness. They are bringing (new) people to church.

T: That is beautiful. In Ethiopia there is a long Christian tradition, but there are also predominantly Muslim areas. Are you seeing any inroads into these areas?

S: Yes, especially in my place. Most people are Muslim because of that they call it Jeddah, named after one of the cities of Saudi Arabia. So we are working there and the ministers are bold enough and strong to share the Gospel. So it’s helpful.

T: The training helps pastors grow stronger and more confident?

S: Yeah, more confident in the Word of God, helping them to deal with other religions and many cults. This is good.

T: Thank you Solomon. This has been so encouraging. I will share this with others and we will pray for you and the team in Ethiopia.

To invest in the churches in Ethiopia with more training in the Scriptures, make a donation below:


When you click to donate, select under Designation: “Anywhere”

Donate # AFF 01/16 (in comments section)

Pastor David Smith Shares Experience with LRI in Ethiopia

Leadership Resources thrives when partnering with like-minded pastors and churches who want to see God’s Word flourish around the world through training pastors.

One such pastor is David Smith of Crete Reformed Church in Crete, IL. David recently traveled to Ethiopia with us and shares his experience in Africa and shares what Crete’s partnership with Leadership Resources has meant for their church.

DavidSmith LRI 5What has been your past involvement with Leadership Resources International?

My partnership with LRI has been on a couple of levels. I’ve known Joe Paglia [a staff member at LRI] since 8th grade, I was his youth pastor. Joe and Mark of LRI have influenced my thinking on teaching the Word of God with the heart of God and being true to the Word of God.

I also did a one-day pastor’s workshop with Craig about four years ago and I saw how we work people through a passage using the hermeneutical principles—and really appreciated it. Last year, our church became an anchor church for LRI’s work in Ethiopia. Then in the fall, I traveled to Ethiopia with Doug Dunton [LRI’s Director of Africa] and witnessed the training firsthand.

What has surprised you the most about the fruit of LRI’s work in Ethiopia?

David Smith LRI 4My first week in Ethiopia we met with the mentor trainers and got to know them. I saw their heart for ministry and love for the Word. I saw their openness to wanting to meet me and get to know me.

We were at a “Meet and Greet” on a Sunday afternoon with a bunch of pastors who had been to past trainings, and there was a guy who had gone through just Jonah (as opposed to our entire program) who took the training he had received in Jonah, went into the bush and found a guy that came to know Christ. This pastor then brought him back and spent six weeks working through the book of Jonah with him. He taught him Jonah using the hermeneutical principles, and that guy went back into the bush and planted two or three churches.

It’s a fruit producing ministry. It’s not intended to stay with just one group of pastors—it’s meant to be expanded. I remember talking with another pastor who, after the LRI trainings he goes through, goes back and takes his elders through the same training.

Another cool story was when we were checking into our hotel one night and we started talking with the porter. He asked us what we were doing in his country, and we said we were with a ministry called LRI and we train pastors in biblical exposition. The porter replied, “Oh yeah, I know LRI. My pastor took me through the LRI training!” Wow! Here’s a porter at the hotel who has gone through some of this training.

David Smith LRI

David Smith PreachingHow did the pastors you work with receive LRI’s training and hermeneutical principles? (See our Dig and Discover Hermeneutical Principle Booklet)

We went to three different places in my time in Ethiopia, and the constant response was,

“We love how you have brought us back to the Scriptures and that everything starts with the Scriptures. So often we have preached from our own wants or desires, or from our denomination’s convictions or teachings, but now we know we need to be teaching from the Word of God and seeing the heart of God in it.”

There’s always a very humble and passionate response, and worship is always the response of the Word that they just heard.

What other ways did you see transformation by God’s Word as a part of LRI training?

When I came back from Ethiopia, I noticed in my own heart a desire to make sure that my church is instilling the same training, the same principles, the same idea of teaching the Word of God with the heart of God into the teachers of our church. We have about ten people who are starting a Fellowship of the Word of teachers within our church this fall. That was definitely a transformation for us that birthed a passion for deeper Word-based discipleship within all ministries of Crete Church.

David Smith LRI 2What would you say to someone considering supporting LRI’s work or being an Anchor church?

If your church is passionate about the gospel and the Word of God multiplying, then LRI is a great ministry you can partner with.

Not only will LRI bear fruit in other parts of the world, but they will also produce fruit within your own congregation. The leaders of your church and individual congregants will see the root and benefit of being committed to the Word and understanding it properly—not only in another country—but in our own local context.

David Smith is a pastor at Crete Reformed Church in Crete, IL. He has ministered for over 27 years and is ordained in the PCA. When he isn’t with his wife and three kids, David enjoys riding his motorcycle and home improvement projects.

See David’s experience receiving training himself in the Fellowship of the Word program:

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