Dan and Susan Steere - July 9, 2018
It was an inauspicious beginning for the week: only three students showed up for class on Monday. As I taught, I battled a bit of discouragement. But God had his own plans. The following day, we had nine attending and maintained that number through the remainder of the class. It turned out that Monday was a national holiday in Ghana – Republic Day – and we had not been aware of it.
The Surprising Impact of Ecclesiology
Despite the discouraging start to the week, the students themselves were eager to learn and their interest and many questions were greatly encouraging to me. This is a class made up of pastors, bishops, and teachers. These leaders each influence hundreds of believers, not to mention fellow pastors and church leaders. The two bishops supervise a number of pastors and two of our students were actually teachers in the Shiloh Bible Training Centre which trains over 100 pastors each year. The impact of our instruction is significant.
Ecclesiology (i.e. Doctrine of the Church) may seem a rather mundane topic for a class. However, we had a wonderful time because the topic itself ties into so many other topics. Many of the students in the class were relatively new to the MINTS program and had not taken some of the foundational classes. I found myself going back repeatedly to give these students the necessary background for understanding what was taught in the curriculum. We talked about Biblical interpretation, the gospel of grace, faith vs. works, the process of sanctification, and many other areas. As a result, this week ended up being a lot of fun for me and answered a lot of the students’ questions about a whole range of theological issues.
By their own testimony, the students were surprised by how relevant the material was to their work within the church. They heard things they had never considered before. Frankly, much of the African church acts as if Christianity began within the last 50 years or so. There is very little understanding of Church History or historical theology and consequently little awareness of the issues and challenges the Church has confronted – and triumphed over – in past centuries. In a sense, the Church here in Ghana is starting from scratch when they don’t need to. They just have had no opportunity to receive and assimilate the 2,000 years of the common heritage of the Church.
This week, I had the great blessing of introducing them to some of that heritage, specifically as it related to Biblical interpretation and the nature, role, and mission of the Church. For the first time, many of them realized that the Church is God’s mechanism for advancing the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. They caught a glimpse of the Grand Narrative of God’s eternal plan, beginning in Genesis, moving through the Old Testament and climaxing in the New Testament with the advent of Jesus Christ and continuing through the work of the Church. The solemn majesty of God’s wisdom and the joyful culmination of His plan in the universal rule of Christ encouraged their hearts that their ministry had a greater goal than mere worldly success and human acclaim. And as I verbalized these wonderful truths, my heart was once again lifted up in praise and thanksgiving to God for his amazing grace.
It was a good week. What could be better than bringing glory to our Heavenly Father by teaching his children about his plans and desires? I’m so thankful for this privilege and eager to return in September to continue the ministry God has given. Please join me in thanking God for his blessing on these two weeks and begin to pray for the classes and conferences that are coming up in September. More about that soon.
For Christ’s Kingdom,
Dan and Susan Steere
ELI - West Africa