We are entering into a new season of shared ministry with our sister churches in Somerset, New Richmond, Baldwin, River Falls and Prescott, aka, the St. Croix Valley LEAD Team. Driven by a shared vision and the support of our churches through giving, we have two initiatives that we are actively working on.
One is to see that our Spanish speaking neighbors in St. Croix County have the opportunity to be active disciples in their own language. The second, which I will focus on in these thoughts, is to create an African-led, disciple-making church planting movement in northern Uganda. This is our second round of training in this region and my level of excitement and anticipation is high for three reasons.
The first reason is the sense of clarity that exists in what we are doing.
We are seeking to secure and enter into a covenant with forty leaders and equip them to not merely plant churches, but to participate in a movement of church planting that will be sustainable through local leaders not dependent on Americans (or other non-Africans for that matter). By movement, I mean that, God willing, we will disciple leaders who will disciple leaders who will disciple leaders in keeping with the Apostle Paul’s command to Timothy to take what had been entrusted to him and pass it along to others who will teach others (2 Timothy 2:2). We are not training; we are establishing leaders and entrusting them to ministry consistent with FCCers, who have participated in our Antioch leadership courses.
We identified three challenges toward this clarity: getting the right people to the table, key leadership that will be working with participants in between training visits, and a structure (with an identifiable leader), who will be the keeper of the vision on the ground and oversee the entire effort. Knowing what we are seeking to accomplish and the type of people it will take to see this movement realized has brought a focus that is quite helpful.
The second reason for my excitement and expectation is grounded in the partners we are working with. There are three of them I will highlight here.
The first is the St. Croix Valley LEAD team network of churches that I previously mentioned. Building on years of friendship, partnership and shared theological convictions, it is a treat to work together in cross cultural ministry. Together we have resources, such as a teaching team, greater ability to share in the financial burden associated with this task, and multiple views for greater discernment as we walk together.
The second key partnership is with Training Leaders International (TLI). TLI offers us quality materials, coaching and on site teammates to make sure that we are using the curriculum in such a way that it maximizes the opportunity before us. The aim of TLI’s curriculum is empowering the 40 trainees to understand and communicate any passage of the Bible as they will be trained in the many genres of Scripture. Mike Evans, formerly the pastor of FCC New Richmond, will be our key contact and participant of behalf of TLI.
The third partnership is the one I am most excited about, perhaps because it is newer and seems to have the missing piece to move us from merely training to equipping a movement. This partnership with Four Corners Ministry (FCM) offers much to our dreams and in the providence of God, we are offering important for their dreams to establish a church planting movement. Here is what they bring our way. FCM has a healthy working model of a locally led church that is continually moving away from American dependence and toward desired sustainability. Their church is led by a Ugandan pastor and elders. We want to see this take place in the movement we are seeking to create and have lacked the capacity to move toward that desired end. FCM will happily add to the TLI trainings equipping to assist these church leaders on how to raise up elders, lead meetings, perform baptisms and communion, and a number of hands on practical tasks that will result in churches that are well led. They will also form regional clusters like our LEAD Team that will help them grow in a position to help one other in these tasks making a movement more likely. FCM is excited to partner with us because of what we bring to the table in terms of helping leaders understand and communicateScripture. Together, we believe this partnership will result in the desired gains for the church of Uganda. FCM will also provide encouragement and accountability for participants in between the trainings we give three times a year.
The third reason for my excitement and expectation is the scope of what we are attempting.
Unlike the first training we offered in Uganda, we will be teaching these cohort inEnglish. We are heartened in that it appears that there are 40 people who will be qualified and committed to receiving the teaching in their non-native tongue (for a few, their fourth or fifth language!). This is because we have at least two (and perhaps as many as seven) different language groups. So we will teach in English, materials will be translated into their native tongue so that they may in turn teach others under their care and plant churches more effectively as a result. The Madi people group (who guarantee there will be at least two groups, along with the Acholi) leaders we are in contact with are from South Sudan and have been driven into a refugee resettlement location in Adjumani, Uganda, which is very close to their border. The hope is that these leaders will be strengthened so that when peace is secured, they can plant healthy churches in their homeland.
John Blum, an FCC elder has been integral in the formulation of this round of trainings, serving as the overseer of the due diligence process we are in. He and I will be heading, God willing, to Gulu in late January along with Mike Evans of TLI to work with their key leaders then give a three-day "dress rehearsal" with what we are hoping 40 qualified leaders. If all goes well, at the end of our time together, we will give participants an offer they know is coming--to enter a three year partnership, resulting in an African-led, disciple-making church planting movement among the Acholi, Madi, and who knows how many other people groups.
Thank you FCC, in praying for and funding this vision…this work has just begun, who knows where it will lead!