David Stevens is APT Ministries’ primary trainer for developing church leaders to teach the Thompson Bible workshops in Francophone Africa. He is multiplying his ministry in Africa through those he trains as they assume responsibility to teach our workshops in their own countries.
In David’s excellent book, God’s New Humanity: A Biblical Theology of Multiethnicity for the Church, he quotes Lewis Newbigen from his book, Household, concerning the church…
The idea of the invisible church, in its popular use, derives its main attraction – unless I am mistaken – from the fact that each of us can determine its membership as he will. It is our ideal Church, containing the people whom we – in our present stage of spiritual development – would regard as fit members…
The congregation of God is something quite different. It is the company of people whom it has pleased God to call into the fellowship of his Son. Its members are chosen by him, not by us, and we have to accept them whether we like them or not. It is not a segregation but a congregation and the power by which it is constituted is the divine love which loves even the unlovely and reaches out to save all men. (From God’s New Humanity; p. 152. Emphasis is mine)
As I have reflected on this quote, I highlighted three things above that particularly stood out to me that have a direct bearing on our training of pastors in Africa.
- We stress to the pastors that the Scriptures teach us of “God’s ideal” for the church and that the goal of shepherding is NOT to build a church according to our own personal ideals. So often pastors will seek to build a church “after their own image” rather than the image that the Lord Himself has given us.
- We also remind the pastors that, biblically, we are seeking to develop those in the church to aspire to be like Christ and to grow into “His image” and not any man’s example of his own spiritual development.
- We teach that every church is made up of different types of believers with different needs and at different stages of spiritual growth. ALL need to be shepherded, whether it is easy or hard and whether we like them or not. The members of the body of Christ ALL need to be built up and strengthened in their faith. Or as I learned long ago . . . “We minister to people at whatever level they are at!”
As pastors and church leaders keep these truths in focus and seek to apply them by example and through the teaching and preaching of God’s word then the church (locally and corporately) moves toward the goal of “making disciples (Christ followers) of all the nations.”