Southeast Asia Training Provides Practical Skills for Church Growth
by Dr. Larry R. Hygh, Jr.
Chiang Mai, Thailand, February 1, 2011--"I'm here because I'm part of the Discipleship in Training program in Cambodia. My three churches in Cambodia are working to provide training to both pastors and laity," said the Rev. Sophy Lun after his travel from Cambodia to Thailand for one of two United Methodist trainings offered by the General Board of Global Ministries in Southeast Asia.
The first two-week training was the Global Praise worship training. This is the fourth Global Praise training to take place abroad, and the first one held in Southeast Asia. The 62 students include pastors, musicians, and Christian educators from both Thailand and Laos. The event is being sponsored by the General Board of Global Ministries in cooperation with the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD), and the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA).
"Part of the nature of this training is to bring together city and countryside and different economic statuses in congregations," said Jorge Lockward, director of Global Ministries' Global Praise program. "Many of the churches that come from Laos are in very rural areas and some of the churches that come from Thailand are city churches where there is a lot of economic struggle, but not as severe as Laos," he added. "So, having them together and helping them see how we are all one in Christ and in this global United Methodist Church has been very powerful."
During the two-week training, students receive instruction on the structure of worship, nature of the sacraments, discipleship covenant groups, music theory, guitar, bass guitar, drumming, composition, and keyboard. The Rev. Sharon Clapp, GCFA, United Methodist Church Foundation, director of Development and Philanthropic Initiatives, taught participants stewardship during the event.
Clapp said: "My role has been to talk to them about developing a stewardship and a theology of money, giving them some Biblical references. It was amazing to see how many young pastors here represent house churches that are starting up. The future of our church is very hopeful as we seek to be a connectional church and a global church."
The training provides practical experience for participants to use in their local settings. GBOD provided translations of several key United Methodist documents into Thai and Lao, including By Water and the Spirit (baptism) and This Holy Mystery (Holy Communion). The Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards, GBOD, director of Worship Resources, taught Wesleyan Theology.
Burton-Edwards said: "The depth of faith and the desire of our sisters and brothers from Laos and Thailand to learn and practice our Wesleyan theology of worship and our way of watching over one another in love are both humbling and beautiful. Together we learned from one another much more about what it means to grow toward perfection in love in this life of discipleship to Jesus Christ."
Following the Global Praise event, the Academy for Evangelization and Church Growth was held--also for the first time in Southeast Asia. The Academy was conceived, developed, and implemented in Africa by persons selected by African bishops in cooperation with Global Ministries. The major goal and purpose are to provide training for persons to strengthen their skills in evangelizing in the African context; those persons in turn will train other persons.
The same model was used for the training in Southeast Asia. Some participants from Thailand and Laos continued with the Academy, and teams from Cambodia and Vietnam were added.
The Rev. Keith Rae, retired United Methodist pastor and Global Ministries consultant, said the Academy has provided direct training for about 500 persons over the past few years. He said: "These persons have replicated the academies in their own countries. Churches have been developed and strengthened, and new congregations have been established."
Rev. Lun is eager to put his new learning into practice in Cambodia. "We have to teach people to observe what Christ has taught us," said Lun. "Cambodia has many house churches…that's why the small group concept is very important. Cambodians like to go to their friends' houses and have fellowship."
Lun said churches have to take seriously the Great Commission. "We need to continue constantly evangelizing the lost for Christ," he said. "We want to use the cell group concept."
Dr. Larry R. Hygh, Jr., is the associate general secretary, Director of Communications for the General Board of Global Ministries. Global Ministries has personnel, programs, and mission partners in 136 countries. It facilitates international and domestic mission, including missionary service. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the Women's Division, the corporate entity of United Methodist Women, are parts of the agency.
Date posted: Feb 01, 2011