Zebras at a Waterhole in Okaukejo, Etosha Pan, Namibia . PHOTO : J . Rieck

Monday, July 30, 2012

What Model should we use for training Pastors in Namibia?


This past week (Monday 23rd July – Friday  27th July)  I have had the opportunity to help  to  teach  25 pastors of the Copperbelt Ministerial College (CMC) in Ndola, Zambia.   While Pastor Kabwe, the  College’s academic dean was teaching Pastoral Theology,  I taught Anthropology  and Hamartiology -the doctrines of  man and sin.   

The students (currently at a first year level of training) are already mostly involved in pastoring  churches. Many of them are pastors of Pentecostal churches. They have become deeply aware of the spiritual needs of their congregations, and they really want to be good shepherds  of their flocks. This warms my heart. Most of them have had little or no formal training. 
Most of them have  no  personal libraries to speak of. 

C.H. Spurgeon, in his “Lectures to my Studentshas a chapter entitled,  To workers  with slender apparatus”. In this  chapter he discusses the importance of  ensuring  that  a pastor is  furnished with  the best books  to sustain him with  mental nourishment, so that his soul may not be starved! Thankfully,churches  elsewhere in the world have seen this need  and have started to provide  much needed  reading material to  this,  and previous generations  of men that have been trained in institutions similar  to CMC and LMC  (Lusaka Ministerial  College).

It is heart-warming to see good books and  good men pouring into Zambia to train the  Zambian  men who  aspire to  the pastoral  office.  Zambia  is a good example of time, money and manpower invested in effective  pastoral  training over many years now. Most of the men  who have  come to train national pastors  have come   from the USA and the UK, but increasingly  it is now the trend to see  men from the African soil  training their men    who aspire to the pastoral ministry.

The training takes  place one week at a time in quarterly intervals. This system  seems to work best, since  the men  who come for training are thereby not taken out of their  churches, as is the case in a residential program.  Once the men have been instructed for that week, they return  to  study  and to write their assignments in fulfilment of the course requirements. 
  
The Namibian Challenge

All this challenges  us   to consider  the nature of  pastoral training in Namibia.  Most of  our trained pastors   have been  educated  outside of our country, and all these occupy  pulpits in the city  or towns.  A small number have been trained  in  Namibia  in the context of a local, residential  college. The  weakness of this  college is that it has no clear Baptist ecclesiology. One of our men  is presently engaged in a  distance learning program, whilst serving in an internship  in  his local church. This  requires  exceptional discipline.    

Our greatest need for pastoral training  at this stage lies in the  rural areas of Namibia, where pastors  would have to  use the vernacular languages  to communicate with their flocks.  It is the men that lead the rural churches that need  training in pastoral  skills  most.  
To begin with, they may need  English  lessons, so that they can  have access to all the good theological literature which is so richly   available in that language. Namibia (due to her history) is  not nearly  as fluent in English as the Zambians are. This also makes teaching  pastors in English difficult, though not impossible.

It seems to me that  the best system  available at this stage is  the model which the Zambian churches have adopted for pastoral training. It has its shortcomings, to be sure , but there is no perfect system at this stage. And ultimately, it is not going to be the training we provide, but the call and gifting from  God Himself that shall  sustain a man in the pastoral ministry.     

The other challenge is  to have a vision  for  the upgrading  of  the pastoral skills  of   denominational  leaders  of our country. Ultimately the church  of the Lord Jesus  Christ  consists   of all churches who   seek to truly  love  God with all their  heart, soul, mind and strength. 

It seems to me that God has blessed Reformed Baptists with skills, people and resources to share   the vision for a biblical,   God centered ministry  with other pastors and churches   to  the betterment of their own denominations. The Zambians  are presently using this opportunity effectively to sow into  the  wider church of God.  This too is  within our reach in Namibia.  

So, please pray  with us and for us  as we  long to see the  length and breadth of Namibia filled with  the knowledge  of the  Lord, and if you  can help in any practical way, please let us know!

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