New Project Launches in Southeast Asia
by Jonathan Lamb, International Programme Director, Langham Preaching
Chiang Mai Seminars on Biblical Preaching
In many parts of Asia, the church is growing rapidly. But there are also countries where the challenges to Christian witness and to church growth are substantial. Countries of the ‘Mekong’ – such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam – have small Christian communities, often facing the challenges of religious pluralism and even hostility from their governments. Add to that the turbulence associated with natural disasters (the cyclone in Myanmar, the tsunami in Thailand, the earthquake in neighbouring China), along with the limited resources available to the Christian community, and this part of Asia represents one of the major challenges for Christian witness.
OMF International and Langham Preaching have together launched the Chiang Mai Seminar on Biblical Preaching (CSBP), with the first event held in the first week of July this year. Gathering 30 pastors from Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand, this is the first of a series of four events seeking to establish indigenous preaching movements in these countries.
The Thai church is slowly growing, but is still very small. In central and south Thailand there has only been sustained Christian activity for the past 50 years. Yet despite its youthfulness, the church is planting new congregations in different regions and there is a strong desire for discipleship and leadership training. Several of the Thai participants in the CSBP are working in village communities and amongst tribal groups, and the Chiang Mai project is designed to resource Christian workers in these demanding locations.
The Kingdom of Cambodia (formerly Kampuchea) emerged from the intense suffering of the 1970s with a shattered economy and a vulnerable church. But for the past 20 years there has been growing receptivity to the gospel, and in the last 10 years there has been remarkable church growth – there are now over 250,000 believers. But in a population of 14 million, many of whom have never heard of Christ, there is much to be done both in mission and in training. Sophea was one of several pastors who travelled from Cambodia to the CSBP. He now aims to launch a preachers’ club for the eight leaders in the church in Phnom Penh. In due course, we hope to work in fellowship with these and other churches to develop a Cambodian Preaching programme.
A small team from Myanmar also reported on the ongoing development of preachers’ clubs, following the work of the School of Bible Teaching run by Crosslinks over the past two or three years and in which Langham Preaching has been involved. One pastor reported on the development of a preachers’ fellowship which attracted some 25 participants month by month, with the opportunity to work on their sermons linked to the allocated Bible passages in the lectionary. Many church buildings have been damaged by the cyclone, and much effort is being given to caring for the many thousands of people impacted by the disaster. But despite the many challenges in the country, these are small but positive signs of the steady indigenisation of the preaching movements.
The next CSBP event will be at the end of October 2008, with a week-long programme encouraging participants to preach from the Old Testament, supported through Thai and English books, and continuing the emphasis on the nurturing of small preachers’ fellowships in each country. Please pray for the development of the 2009 programme, and our hopes for the subsequent extension of training in neighbouring countries.
Visit the LPI photo gallery to see more pictures from the CSBP.