NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Discipleship resources and training to equip Christians to grow and become leaders was cited as a top need by four international church development consultants of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
LifeWay missionaries serve in four regions of the world in partnership with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. They reported on their 2001 activities and their third year of service Dec. 5 in Nashville.
Ernie McAninch, who, with his wife Lee Ann, has served in IMB’s Western South America region from Quito, Ecuador, will begin serving in Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, while continuing to live in Ecuador.
“Discipleship has to be a continual focus,” McAninch said. He cited a “hunger to grow spiritually” that he has seen as he traveled throughout his region leading training conferences.
McAninch, who served as a missionary in Latin America before joining LifeWay, said he uses the 1.5.4 concept of church health introduced by the LifeWay Church Resources Division to help churches identify strengths and weaknesses and develop plans for growth.
He said he has focused his efforts on training leaders who, in turn, can become trainers in their countries. He now tries to use at least one multiplier in every event he conducts.
Steve Cretin, based in Singapore and serving Southeast Asia/Oceania, emphasized the importance of developing partnerships to publish materials in the countries he serves and to provide training. For example, through a partnership with North Carolina Baptists, volunteers are providing training in Malaysia and Singapore.
Cretin and his wife, Ann, conducted training this year in Myanmar where they saw first hand “the hunger of the people to be taught.”
“All the materials we shared with them over four days will be multiplied as these people go back to their churches and share,” Cretin said.
He noted his greatest satisfaction has come in seeing needs in his region and linking them with resources in the United States to meet those needs.
A remaining challenge in many countries, Cretin said, is “to help them see they’ve got to grow their own leaders.”
Michael Woolridge, based in Nairobi, Kenya, and serving eastern Africa, said he has focused on helping churches strengthen their discipleship ministries. He cited Experiencing God Weekends as a tool where leaders attend, catch a vision for helping Christians grow and return to their churches to implement their ideas.
For the future, he said he will be working with churches to identify what materials are needed in their language and then help them obtain licenses from LifeWay to translate and publish them.
He cited the impact of LifeWay’s True Love Waits sexual abstinence campaign as having a significant impact in Uganda in addressing the AIDS crisis there.
Geoff Bowen, based in the Czech Republic and serving central and eastern Europe, will be returning to the United States this month to serve as a LifeWay church consultant, based in Georgia.
Noting that evangelicals make up only .54 percent of the population in this region and Baptists, only .1 percent, Bowen said, “There are tremendous opportunities in that part of the world.”
He said he has been using the church Model and Process (M.A.P.) developed by LifeWay Church Resources as a diagnostic tool with churches.
He also commended the quick response of LifeWay after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to provide online Sunday School lessons. Acknowledging they were developed for churches in the U.S., he said he knew missionaries who used the lessons in their family worship times.
Luis Aranguren, director of the International Department that includes the LifeWay missionaries, said a study is in process and no decision has been made yet about replacing Bowen.
In other areas, Aranguren said LifeWay resources are now available through local distributors in local currency in more than 65 countries. In the three years of its existence, the department has trained 114 volunteer international consultants from 35 countries to conduct conferences in Spanish and English. Three resident national consultants have been employed in Latin America.
LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. said the LifeWay missionaries and other efforts internationally have been undertaken “because we believe in ministry. We want it to be effective ministry.”