LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A training school born in Kentucky for international church leaders and pastors through a partnership with World Hope Bible Institute (WHBI) is equipping these international pastors and leaders with a top-notch theological education in their own language.
Last month, Kentucky Baptist pastors and leaders facilitated a course with materials translated into Kinyarwanda, said John Barnett, a missions strategist with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. It was a first for WHBI to work courses this way in the states.
“It was a historic moment,” Barnett said. “Out of this, other churches are being started in Kentucky. We’re seeing people come to the Lord and seeing other churches become involved.”
Barnett and Doug Williams, part of the missions team with the KBC, launched the training school based in Louisville for international church leaders and pastors. They currently have 11 students involved in leading four Congolese congregations in Owensboro and Louisville.
John Sebazungu, the pastor of Sayuni, is a key leader in the work of starting two of those Congolese churches.
Daniel Kanyandekwe is translating from English to the Kinyarwanda language, Barnett said. “We do the teaching in English and Daniel translates,” he said. “It was only in English and Swahili at first and now it’s in Kinyarwanda, which is a lot better. It’s helping these international pastors and refugees coming to America. It helps them better shepherd their churches.”
Barnett said this is the first time that World Hope has done this type of program in the states and the program is already flourishing. Churches are being born and in the process are becoming Kentucky Baptist churches, he said. “The goal being what if we could go together to Uganda, to the Congo, to help train other pastors as well? It’s a Missions 360 piece. Not only sharpening them for churches here but also having touches with pastors and leaders from refugee camps with a goal to go over and share.”
Fifteen Kentucky Baptist pastors and leaders are qualified to teach in the new pipeline, Barnett said.
"This opportunity gives our pastors in Kentucky the privilege to use their gifts and training to pour into other church leaders that quite literally will impact the nations," Williams said. "Almost 75% of the world’s Christian population lives outside of the U.S. At the same time, about 85% of non-U.S. pastors have no theological training. "
Outside of the U.S. there is one trained pastor for every 2,785 Christians, according to WHBI. "The need for rightly dividing the word of truth is paramount and helping to train doctrinally sound pastors is key," Williams said.
The need for providing theological training is critical, Barnett said, because of church planting taking place around the world.
“One of the biggest issues is that the pastors don’t have access to get deeper theological education that helps them shepherd well,” he said. “We’ve developed a way to do that. Stewart Sheehan of WHBI has developed a way to form a council and work with national churches. As these pastors and leaders go through it, they become qualified teachers.”
Several pastors from around the state had been to Zimbabwe on mission trips, including Barnett and Williams, and that helped bring excitement in opening the door to the training. Barnett served as a missionary in Uganda for six years where he made several important connections.
“We teach the courses here in Kentucky,” Barnett said. “It’s a great way to mobilize. The Congolese church started gathering leaders. Ten pastors were involved in the course and we’re taking them through a theological education.”
Moses, in the WHBI, pastors the work in Owensboro in partnership with Bellevue Baptist. They have grown from 15 to 20 to nearly 50.
Emmanuel, in WHBI, is the pastor and leader of a new church, Comfort Missionary Baptist Church, out of Sayuni with more than 70 members.
New Fellowship/Congregation (Hurstbourne Baptist) has three pastors/leaders who have joined the WHBI courses. They currently have 70 new members.
“The fact that it has never been done with World Hope in the states makes it a pretty big deal and it’s leading to other churches starting and connecting overseas,” Barnett said. “The goal would be they would train them on their own. They’re doing some of that over the internet now.”
World Hope has 14 New Testament courses of theological education that are being translated. Each course takes about 10 hours to teach, Barnett said. They come two Saturdays a month for training from 6 to 11 at night at the Louisville Regional Baptist Association. “Over two Saturday evenings, we can do one course,” Barnett said. “We have finished six courses now.”
Barnett and Williams have done some of the teaching, but they’ve been joined by other Kentucky Baptist pastors, too. He said they are looking into World Hope starting training in other languages in the coming months and years.
“The beauty of World Hope is the material is very transferrable,” Barnett said. “We need to protect these new pastors from bad theology.”