Local learning: how do OMF and Langham Preaching collaborate to train pastors in East Asia?

Encouraging and equipping local leadership is one crucial step in establishing healthy, growing churches. This is an important aspect of OMF’s work to see biblical, thriving, locally led churches across East Asia.

Five years ago, I was seconded by OMF to work with Langham Preaching as their East Asia Regional Coordinator. Based in Taiwan, I work with local pastors across East Asia to train other pastors, church, and lay leaders, to preach God’s word. Several other OMF members also work with Langham Preaching as Regional Coordinators, training facilitators or helping organise events. So why is there this strong connection and commitment from OMF to invest in the work of another organisation?

A hunger to know and teach God’s word
Less than 1 in 4 pastors in the Majority World* have the opportunity for formal theological training. Many churches lack pastors and depend on lay preachers. Langham Preaching was established 20 years ago by British church leader John Stott to address these needs, and to build local movements of biblical preachers who can grow churches on the foundation of God’s word. Today Langham Preaching works in about 80 nations, including several countries across East Asia. I accepted an invitation to work with Langham Preaching, as it matched my own desire to help people grow in their understanding of God’s word. One of the great privileges of this ministry is seeing the desire of leaders across the region who want to know how to preach well. Many are aware that they are not well equipped and are excited as they gain confidence to dig into the Bible themselves and to know how to prepare to
preach to others. One pastor in Mongolia said he had been preaching for 20 years but had never received any training. He was so excited to finally learn how he should preach. Another pastor in Cambodia said he learned to preach watching easily accessible YouTube sermons from people like American televangelist, Joel Osteen, because there was no formal training available. Others say they ’borrow’ sermons from books or online.

Since many preachers have limited education and few resources, the Langham training is designed to be very practical, involving fun activities, and learning together in groups through discussion and practice in preparing sermons. The training is also appreciated by those with higher levels of theological training.

A homiletics lecturer shared:
‘By using the student-centered learning approach [from] Langham, students can [now] understand better and the learning process is much more enjoyable.’

Transformative training
The following testimonies illustrate how the training transforms the preaching of those who attend:
‘This method is very suitable for lay preachers and for villages where there are minimal resources, especially when the average congregation members can’t read or write. I will also share this method with all the church leaders in the district and lay preachers. I really hope they can learn how to prepare simple and practical sermons in their
own regions.’

‘Langham’s training helped me to equip church members who have just believed in Jesus, to study the word of God thoroughly. I can provide them with the confidence to begin their own biblical family service, and they don’t just rely on the pastor to learn, they talk and ponder the word with their families. It also helped me to find Jesus in the passage and the connection with the gospel. Previously I have been concerned with the formation of character, rather than conveying the good news of Jesus.’

‘It is exciting to see people have more confidence in preaching God’s word, and to take what they have learned and share it with others. The goal over the next few years is to train more local facilitators so that most of the training can be done in local languages by local leaders. ‘

Serving together
Langham’s experience in cross-cultural training and OMF workers’ knowledge of local languages and culture come together in helpful ways. In early 2021, Cambodia held a Level 3 training (how to preach from the Old Testament). Normally international facilitators, working through translation, would do at least a part of the training. Due to travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic, this time the training was done completely in Khmer by Yuzo Imamura, an experienced OMF member, along with a few local pastors. The result was summed up in the following testimony from a participant: ‘I finally understand how to prepare for the expository preaching while I did not understand it at Level 1 or Level 2.’ A key to this was the use of the local language and teaching methods. Collaboration is a key value within OMF and essential to effective mission. Seeing OMF, Langham and local church leaders working together to equip servants of God’s word is an encouraging example of this value across East
Asia today.

Philip Nicholson
Langham Preaching
East Asia Regional Coordinator

* Majority World – Where the majority of the world’s population lives – Africa, Asia, South and Central America