A Lasting Legacy of Sound Biblical Teaching

20 February 2014 |
Langham-trained Tewoldemedhin Habtu

Langham-trained Tewoldemedhin Habtu reflects on the impact of his ministry as an instructor of biblical studies at Africa International University. “I think it’s God’s doing,” he says. “It’s just God using us in the way He wants so that we can glorify His name, extend His kingdom, and bless His people.”

Tewoldemedhin Habtu says he first felt God calling him into full-time ministry in the 1970s, just as he was wrapping up his university studies in business administration.  “God was rewriting my life into full time ministry, and I had to follow in His leading,” he simply says. He went on to pastor a church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for 14 years—and 10 of those 14 years were during Communist rule, when the church had to disperse into smaller groups and meet in secret.  “It was a difficult time, but then God’s presence was with us in so many ways, he remembers. “The church, not only my church, but the church in Ethiopia grew during that persecution.”  What came next can only be God’s doing: a chance meeting with John Stott that laid the groundwork for Dr. Habtu’s future ministry and impact on the church in Africa.

“I am going for a meeting”

By the late 1980s, when Dr. Habtu was finishing up his studies at the Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (NEGST), his vision to see the African church strengthened by better-trained pastors who can faithfully teach God’s Word was taking shape—as was his plan to pursue his Ph.D. It was around that time that he was invited to meet with John Stott, who was visiting NEGST for the first time and took interest in the future doctoral student. Dr. Habtu recalls Stott saying, “I am going for a meeting” with the Langham Board and “I will speak with the leadership there and see what can come out of this.” The result? Dr. Habtu attended seminary with Langham support. “He was a pastor at heart,” Habtu says of Stott. “Whenever he visited the seminary, he wouldn’t leave without meeting [the students], taking time with us and encouraging us in our studies. He was a great father, a great supporter in that sense.”

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Leaders in training: Students walking on the Africa International University campus in Nairobi, Kenya.

It’s a great privilege for me to be used by God in this way

Today, Dr. Habtu is back at NEGST—now Africa International University—where he lectures in the Biblical Studies department and serves as Dean of Community Life, continuing to live out the call God placed on his heart almost 40 years ago.

“I have really enjoyed my teaching ministry here at AIU. It’s so gratifying, in terms of impacting the lives of church leaders . . . [there are] so many pastors who have studied here and gone back to church ministry. In so many ways you could say how theLord has blessed the teaching ministry that I’m involved with here. It’s a great privilege for me to be used by God in this way.”

In addition to teaching at AIU, Dr. Habtu also served on the editorial board and wrote for the landmark Africa Bible Commentary, the first-ever one-volume commentary written by Africans for Africans that continues to impact millions as it is translated into different languages. “In fact,” Habtu notes, “I went to South Africa for about 5 months to write for the Africa Bible Commentary, and it was the Langham Writing Program which sponsored me and gave me the funds to do my writing and editing.”

The training of leaders at this level is very strategic

The work and ministry of Dr. Habtu is helping to fulfill John Stott’s vision to see every pulpit in every church occupied by a conscientious, Bible-believing, Bible-studying, Bible-expounding pastor.

“The passion of Uncle John, as you are aware, was to help the majority world to train Christian leaders and theological leaders at the highest level,” he says. “With the church growing in Latin America, Africa and Asia, the training of leaders at this level is very strategic. What Langham Partnership is doing is very crucial in terms of the growth of the church in the world . . . You may have heard the statement that the African church is a mile wide and an inch deep. But I think that’s being reversed now with trained Christian leaders going out, taking leadership in churches in Africa, and impacting the church with sound biblical teaching.”

Dr. Habtu is one of more than 300 Langham Scholars, each equipping a new generation of bible teachers in the Majority World by leading seminaries, writing books, and serving the global church. We praise God for how He is multiplying the ministries of these faithful servants to impact millions of lives for Christ around the world.