This article by Patti Richter first appeared online for The Gospel Coalition.
. . . entrust these to faithful men. . . . – 2 Timothy 2:2
Alan Ginn spent thirty years minding his own business—his church. Then the Sacramento, California pastor had a change of heart. Taking a few short-term mission trips had created a passion for global pastoral ministry. His church noticed the difference.
“With each trip came a growing realization of the need and opportunity to train rural pastors,” says Ginn. “The Lord worked in my heart to make a shift. He broadened my vision to see pastors trained and equipped.”
In 2007 Ginn made the transition from pulpit to pastoral training. He now works with WordPartners, traveling to places where no formal training opportunities for pastors exist. His ministry serves desperately under-resourced pastors who could never attend a seminary. Week-long sessions, twice-yearly for four years, focus on essentials: how to preach and how to pastor.
Rapid church growth outpaces the development of church leaders in many countries. WordPartners workers encourage church leaders by using a “TNT” strategy—training national trainers. They mentor and teach a group who will then train a “2nd generation.” This model of multiplication is inspired by 2 Timothy 2:2, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
Bill Walsh, Director of International Outreach heard about Alan Ginn while attending a conference in Sacramento four years ago. He became excited about a establishing a partnership with Ginn’s like-minded ministry of investing in the lives of indigenous church leaders.
“Alan Ginn has taken our resources to four countries already. We ship them to him and he takes them with his luggage,” says Walsh.
Ginn welcomes the needed resources and says, “The teachings of John Piper, with his shepherding heart, have helped in a significant way. Books like Don’t Waste Your Life and Brothers, We Are Not Professionals resonate with the hearts of indigenous pastors. The issues are not just North American issues”
With an Asian ethnic heritage—his parents came to the U.S. from southern China— Ginn can travel to many countries without attracting attention. Though he uses some caution in taking books to “creative access” countries in Asia, he enjoys more freedom in other countries in recent years.
Ginn has helped train 28 pastors in Nepal who have passed on their training to another 278 Nepali pastors and leaders. And from that 2nd generation group, a 3rd generation— 81 so far—are now receiving training.
Operation World (2010) reports that the church in Nepal flourishes as a “remarkable indigenous movement” within a strongly Hindu culture. From the first Christian church formed in 1952, Nepal’s believers grew to 200,000 by 1990, during times of persecution, and to some 850,000 Christ-followers by last year. Thus: “Leadership training is possibly the most urgent need in the Church.”
“Nepal has 10,000 churches, but most of them have no resources,” says Ginn.
On a recent trip Ginn carried copies of a John Piper book to study with the Nepali pastors. A Sweet & Bitter Providence includes a theme from the book of Ruth: in social exclusion, there is hope in God. The study proved to be a highlight of Ginn’s teaching time.
“Bitterness is an issue in Nepal,” says Ginn. “Those who experience loss through death are looked upon as second-rate. Hinduism’s belief in karma leads people to bitterness, hopelessness and despair. We saw God’s providential hand through the book study.”
The study in English was “slow going,” says Ginn. “A Nepali translator helped, though most of the pastors know some English.”
TGC International Outreach hopes to publish a Nepali language resource, and the window of opportunity in Nepal appears fully open. Christian literature is freely printed and distributed without censorship. [UPDATE: 3 projects have been published.]
The ability to publish locally averts expenses, delays and difficulties that might arise with the importation of books. At the request of International Outreach, Ginn sought out a Christian publisher while in Nepal. The resulting publisher contact will further their goal of a Nepali translation, though the project will need donors to go forward.
Even with a more relaxed atmosphere in Nepal and other parts of East Asia, great religious strongholds persist. “We’re hitting hard soil,” says Ginn. He appreciates the resource tools that TGC IO provides to help penetrate such ground.
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