The Seminar that Shouldn't Have Worked: Langham Preaching in Central Asia
The evangelical church in Central Asia is relatively small and the churches are often quite young. Believers feel pressured by the culture, especially those from a Muslim background who are urged to re-convert. With so few believers, many feel quite isolated. Added to this, governments have introduced new laws to restrict the freedom of foreigners to teach. Corruption is endemic, and economic growth is uncertain.
This is the background to the first Langham Preaching seminar in Central Asia. This was a seminar that ‘shouldn’t’ have worked: the country coordinator was constantly threatened with the loss of her visa to work in the country, and the location had to be changed in the light of new religious laws. In a region where Christians are few and where respect for biblical preaching is low, we hoped that it might be possible to find a small group of pastors and lay pastors who could participate in the preaching training programme.
Remarkably, the local team has reported on the first seminar, describing it as: ‘a great blessing to all who attended. We ended up with around 100 people from every region in the country as well as a few from two neighbouring Central Asian republics. The teaching and preaching from the Langham Preaching team was inspiring. People participated enthusiastically in everything (worship, lectures, group work, discussions, setting up for meals). All the arrangements went well, with a willing organizing team attending to all the details. No unexpected visitors arrived to check on us. It was a great time of fellowship and encouragement, especially for some in isolated and difficult places. Participants committed themselves to further development in preaching, including following up this week’s work in preachers’ groups in their areas. We hope we’ll be able to continue with level 2 next year.’
The two LP facilitators were similarly excited by the launch of the preaching movement in this troubled part of the world. One of the team, an experienced facilitator, remarked that this was one of the best Level 1 programmes that she had ever attended. Her colleague was similarly enthusiastic, and commented: ‘It was noticeable how joyful they were to be together.’ Towards the end of the week, a pastor from a neighbouring republic approached him saying: ‘My three friends have benefited greatly from this week. We would like to request that Langham Preaching offer this in our country: would that be possible? We would love to influence more preachers the way my three friends have been influenced this week!’
Langham Preaching is committed to work with local pastors to establish national indigenous preaching networks rather than simply providing an annual weeklong seminar. To this end, the concept of preacher’s clubs was introduced during the seminar, and participants gathered themselves together in regional groups. On Friday morning, the groups were brought together once again to pray for their commitment to biblical preaching and for one another.
Please join the Langham Preaching staff in praying that the groups will continue to encourage each other forward. And as we begin to look forward to next year’s level 2 seminar, please pray that the door would still be open for similar training to take place in 2010. Please pray for wisdom as we discuss opportunities in two other Central Asian republics. With governments often trying to inhibit the activities of the churches, and also trying to restrict entry of missionaries and teachers from outside the region, this is a critical moment to strengthen the churches by equipping a new generation of teachers.
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Learn more about the Langham Preaching programme.