Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Return from Kenya

Gabriel--one of the Expository Preaching student preachers
A typical Nairobi street scene

Dr. Frank Cummings leading a Biblical Counseling workshop
On Sept. 9 I returned from almost 4 weeks in Kenya. The trip featured a lot of variety: Expository Preaching TOTs; Biblical Counseling TOTs; Biblical Stewardship conference; and 1 Timothy TOT. Further, except for the last 3 days, the weather was quite cold and wet--colder, in fact, than it was in Wisconsin! That was a surprise.

The Expository Preaching and Biblical Counseling TOTs were the most eye-opening. This summer I was introduced to Dr. Lori Carrell, a Professor of Communications at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Dr. Carrell also works for the Center for Excellence in Congregational Leadership at the Green Lake conference center. Her particular interest is sermons, concerning which she has researched and written extensively. Her survey data indicates that average sermon preparation time generally is in the 12-13 hour range. In Kenya, however, the pastors indicated that they spend only about 1-3 hours on sermon preparation. I also discovered that most of the pastors had never really done much in-depth analysis of biblical passages. In the Expository Preaching TOTs we spent most of our time analyzing both OT and NT passages (generally ranging from 6-10 verses), so as to be able to preach them. At the conclusion of the 2nd TOT, one of the pastors remarked that, when the TOT began he couldn't understand how anyone could spend 15 hours or so preparing a sermon. However, he said that now he understands, and he now sees the importance of good analysis of a passage and preparation. I also learned that, to be most effective, I should eliminate the general Expository Preaching conferences, and turn the TOTs into 5-days instead of 3. I would also like to return to the same participants next year to build on what we learned this year.

The Biblical Counseling TOTs were similarly eye-opening. My friend, psychologist and counselor Dr. Frank Cummings, made his 2nd trip to Africa. He expertly led the 2 Counseling TOTs, and was well-received and liked by the participants. In fact, he will be traveling to Uganda next month to lead another Biblical Couneling TOT in Lira, Uganda with our Uganda national director, Martin Odi.

We learned that, although many of the pastors had been doing "counseling" for many years, most of the counseling really amounted simply to advice-giving. As with the Expository Preaching TOTs, the Biblical Counseling TOTs were very "hand-on" affairs. Most of the participants' time was spent doing simulated counseling, either as counselor, client, or critiquing observer. The workshop manual that Dr. Cummings and I prepared was very well received. One participant indicated that he learned far more from the experience than he had learned from an expensive counseling course he had taken some years earlier. Again, as with the Expository Preaching, Dr. Cummings and I both agreed that turning the counseling TOT into 4 or 5 days, and returning to work with the same participants and build on what was done this time, would be most effective. We also saw certain revisions that would be helpful in the order and contents of the workshop manual, which Dr. Cummings is now making.

All in all, this was a productive trip, in which we as well as the participants learned a lot. By God's grace, that will lead to more effective and fruitful work in the future. Much remains to be done in all of these areas, but a solid foundation is being laid. Thank you for your prayers and support. They make this all possible. God bless you.

Report from the field--Kenya

1st Expository Preaching TOT Participants
Bishop Kamau and his wife
The following is the report I filed while in Kenya last month:

Many of you know that 1 Timothy and Biblical Stewardship are two of our "foundational" courses which we typically lead off with when we go to new venues. In April we did 1 Timothy in Embu and Nyahururu, Kenya. In this trip I led off with a 1 Timothy TOT for 18 participants who had attended those conferences. It was, I think, probably the best 1 Timothy TOT I have been involved in. The discussions throughout were lively and dealt with important issues and problems facing the Kenyan churches. At such TOTs the participants all give 2 oral presentations, which the rest of the group then critiques. These are a rare opportunity for pastors to have their substance and style assessed by their peers, and proved to be a very valuable exercise. One participant had the right attitude when he wanted to quickly move on from what he did right to hear "the other side of the coin," because he said that's what he knew he needed to hear in order to improve.
We then moved to the Kirinyaga District of Central Kenya for a 1 Timothy conference. It was very powerful. Three bishops were present, which was a very good sign. The Kenyan EPI leadership team has caught the vision. Now, wherever I go in Kenya I can count on well-trained Kenyan pastors from the EPI-Kenya leadership team to come and teach with me. Four of them--George Kariuki, Ernest Mwilitsa, Bob Mwangi, and Thomas Mwai--taught at the Kirinyaga conference and were excellent. One issue we still face, however, is getting the conferences to be more interdenominational. My East African national leaders and I will address that issue (among other things) when we meet in Kampala, Uganda in October.
Bishop Simon Kamau, general overseer of the Christian Foundation Fellowship (CFF) church took charge of me for the weekend. We attended a traditional post-wedding ceremony (his daughter had been married a few months ago), where the bride's side of the family visits the groom's family for a day of formal inter-familial bonding and feasting. I drank some of the traditional Kikuyu porridge ("mokeo") which was not too bad. I was requested to make some remarks, and was able to campaign that the bride (who is now expecting) name their first-born son "Jonathan." (My arguments had nothing to do with the fact that I am named "Jonathan"!) I preached at Bishop Kamau's church and at an open air meeting. Although I am neither called, nor particularly comfortable or competent at such evangelism, Bishop Kamau was gracious in his assessment of my remarks (I suppose such graciousness is one reason why he is such a good and well-respected bishop).
We then did the first of the 4 remaining TOTs we have scheduled for this trip: 2 on Expository Preaching and 2 on Biblical Counseling. I am particularly excited about the Expository Preaching TOTs because: (A) there is a great need for good preaching in East Africa (most preaching here is topical and has little to do with expounding what the Bible says); (B) it is an area I am particularly interested in, since persuasive communication was one of the areas I extensively studied and applied when I was a lawyer; and (C) the TOT process is where I see the greatest and most lasting impact among the African pastors taking place. As we worked through several passages to try to identify good propositions and organizational sentences, at first no one seemed to "get it." The next day, however, something seemed to click, and the 19 participants started coming up with very good propositions and organizational sentences (which are important for understanding the thrust of a passage and organizing the sermon well so as to preach it persuasively). We then added the important aspects of specific application and issue-or-problem-based introductions. All of these things are, essentially, new concepts here--but will make a substantial difference in their preaching.
The Expository Preaching TOT ended on a relatively high-note. The last day I preached and was critiqued by the participants. One of the participants made a point about my introduction which caused me to see that it had really not been formulated properly to correspond with the main point of the sermon. That has forced me to re-analyze the introduction and revise it. That participant probably had never analyzed such things before. The fact that he was able to improve me makes me extremely happy! The 2 students who preached did creditable jobs. There is room for improvement--but they both showed good promise. If they apply what they learned, I foresee good things for the churches. I am now in Embu, Eastern Province, doing a conference on Biblical Stewardship with George Kariuki, Bob Mwangi, and Robert Mwango. Bob told me that he had talked with one woman who was so discouraged that she wanted to leave ministry. After hearing the first few sessions, she said that she felt restored and would carry on with renewed purpose. We thank the Lord for that! We also have seen something that is, unfortunately, all too common here: only 1 of the approximately 70 pastors had a personal, household budget, and only about 5 had formal church budgets. Our materials address that. We include both information and sample budget forms. As Pastor Bob taught the people, they all committed to develop personal and church budgets. That, of course, can make a huge difference in their lives and ministries. Thank you for your continued prayers and financial support. "Slowly-by-slowly" (as we say here in Africa) it is making a difference. God bless you.