Thursday, July 27, 2017
Monday, July 10, 2017
The Republic of Liberia struggled for many years due to civil unrest and war and faced many challenges. The post-war (almost 20 years of civil war) economy and infrastructure have been the greatest of these challenges to this point. The country continues to reel from the devastation of the Ebola virus that claimed over 5,000 lives in Liberia. Public education was very intermittent during the war years. This means that today there are many men and women who do not even have a high school education.
The Assemblies of God in Liberia feel that the church is the answer for the oppression that citizens of Liberia are facing. Yet even the church struggled during the war. Many pastors were among the one million people who fled the conflict, becoming refugees in other countries. Various rebel groups destroyed churches, Bible school facilities, and confiscated church property. But there remained a remnant that were able to continue the work. In 2012, there were about 350 to 400 A/G Churches spread across the country.
It was at this time the national church established a goal of planting 800 churches by the end of this decade: 2020. Since 2012, there have been between 100 and 150 new churches planted making a total of about 450 to 500 churches. In January 2016, the national church re-launched their 2012 church planting initiative of planting 800 churches by 2020, naming the project Vision 2020/4x1: 1) every church, 2) will plant at least one church, 3) send at least one student to the Church Planter School or Bible School, 4) within one year.
In strategic planning meetings, the national church leadership identified several problem areas to overcome if any traction would be made in planting 600 new churches (before 2016 there were 100 to 150 churches planted, thereby reducing the total number from the 800 projected in 2012). The leadership team realized that they must establish specific goals if the project would prove successful.
There were three immediate goals established during the strategic planning meetings:
- Establish an Assembly of God presence among the 5 unreached people groups and the 3 to 4 groups with very little attention in respect to the gospel
- Launch a campaign whereby each established church would plant one church and send at least one student for pastoral training within one year
- Establishment of national fundraising events to cover costs of this project
Even though the challenges were many, the national church determined to find a way to successfully navigate each of them and fulfill their vision of planting 600 new churches in Liberia by the year-end of 2020.
The existing Bible school, Liberia Assemblies of God Bible College, was not producing enough graduates to offer the number of trained people needed for this project. LAGBC offers a BA and a B. Th degree that would be more than adequate in training students for church planting, but, given the fact that either degree required at least 4 years of classroom training, there would not be a pool of qualified candidates to fill the needed positions before the year 2020.
There are many potential candidates within the AGL churches – Sunday School teachers, deacons and deaconesses, young people feeling a divine call to the ministry, and others who would recognize the need and make themselves available to the Lord for His work. But they would need training.
The leadership agreed that some type of program could be developed that would meet the present need. The team came up with the idea of the Church Planter School. Church Planter School would offer courses that would give students Biblical and practical knowledge that would enable him/her to launch a new church plant with the help of a sectional presbyter and the district leadership team. By design, the school would run for a short period, six to twelve months at most. Each new student enrolling would also be required to sign a pledge that he/she would plant a church within one year of graduation.
The graduate of the Church Planter School would receive training along with their own personal textbooks that would serve them in their first training and would allow them to build their own personal library for future use in the ministry. Upon graduation, the national church would award them with the basic level of credential. The leadership felt that being a credentialed minister with the Assemblies of God in Liberia would give the church planter validity in the eyes of those to whom they were ministering.
Over 150 students enrolled in the first offering of the Church Planter School. On Saturday, July 8, 2017, the first 58 graduates received their certificates of completion. Almost 100 more will graduate within the next few weeks. Six months ago, we were all wondering how it would be possible to train 650 workers for this project. Today, we realize that we not only can reach the goal, but with God’s help we can overcome every challenge!
Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. John 4:35 (KJV)
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Responsible – “to have control and authority over something or someone and the duty of taking care of it, him, or her” (Definition of “responsible” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
I have heard this word used almost all of my life. “That man is truly responsible.” “She is a responsible person.” “Those young people are not responsible.” When you think about it, the word really carries a bit of weight, maybe more than we realize or would like to think.
We trusted that the news media were responsible in their reporting of the 2016 US Presidential campaign during the past 11 months or so, and we hoped that the political aspirants were making campaign promises in a responsible manner as well. At the end of the campaign, when the election was held, we all realized that the media was not very responsible after all. We all listened to the mainstream media, on both sides of the issue, declaring who was correct and who was not, only to find out that they, the media, were not being totally responsible in their reporting.
What happened to the days when news reporters did just that - report the news? When did journalism shift to the place of trying to become the guiding light for society and its mores? Perhaps it began with the sitcom, “All In The Family,” (which ran from 1971 through 1979) where Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin presented society a mirror with which to view itself. No one can deny that they actually did change some of society’s values through the everyday lives of Archie Bunker and family.
It was in 1972 that we were introduced to yet another in your face event: the Watergate scandal. Watergate, according to Wikipedia, was a major political scandal that occurred in the United States in the 1970s, following a break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. in 1972, and President Richard Nixon's administration's attempted cover-up of its involvement. When the conspiracy was discovered and investigated by the U.S. Congress, the Nixon administration's resistance to its probes led to a constitutional crisis.
Gone are the days of Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, and Walter Cronkite - reporters you could trust. It seems to me that news reporters today don’t look for the story to share with us; they try to manipulate the story and, thereby, direct us. In my opinion this is journalism at its worst. I don’t buy a paper or listen to the evening news in order to tweak my moral compass. These mediums are not responsible for that task.
There is another side to the word responsible, and it has to do with us, the receivers of information. All one has to do is follow Facebook, Twitter or a myriad of other social media networks for only a few minutes to find information from around the world. Social media is full of information, and much of it is false information. But do we let that small fact bother us? It doesn’t seem so. People are frightened by the most ridiculous reports – from failure to forward an e-mail, to not posting a certain story on their own wall. People gobble it up hook, line and sinker – true or false; it really doesn’t seem to make a difference. We don’t even let it bother us that the same report has been making the rounds for the past several years. We ingest it like fresh manna.
We must all take the word responsible to heart. Give us responsible reporting. Let us be responsible in our acceptance or rejection of what we hear. And let us be responsible in how and what we communicate to others.