Yesterday we concluded a nation-wide conference with a graduation of seventy Antioch Institute students. These students came from five provinces of Cambodia where they have been receiving training for the last three years. The students come from more than twenty denominations and church associations and have completed sixteen different courses as well as practical ministry assignments. They study topics from basic Christian doctrine to church planting, conflict management, and other practical ministry skills such as how to do weddings, funerals and other Christian ceremonies. One of the most crucial ministry assignments is that each student must re-teach everything they have been taught to other local believers and church leaders in their area. The results of being obedient to the Word of God is fruit in ministry: Last year, even before graduation, these students/trainers started more than two hundred new congregations among people of another religion. These seventy were then able to train nearly one thousand other believers in the same courses. We believe this is our Biblical mandate from 2 Timothy 2:2 and Matthew 28:18-20.
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”(Timothy 2:2)
The Apostle Paul’s pattern was to teach and disciple many leaders, and then they would be expected to re-teach others, who would disciple others. This does not mean to build a control network, but to disciple others out of relationships and natural contacts in the communities. This is what we expect of our students: to be trainers.
“Then Jesus cam to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)
From Matthew 28, we take many truths, but we highlight that trainers need to “teaching them to obey everything” which Jesus has commanded. For too long there has been a knowledge divide between “leaders and lay-people”. We expect our students to not keep any knowledge for themselves, but to help others know everything they know about Jesus. This also requires that leaders be life-long learners. Most importantly, it requires that everything we teach, we do. . . we obey!
At the graduation we had a wonderful collection of older trainers and new ones. Thousands of leaders have graduated from our training programs over the years. One of our early graduates, Visna, spoke to the new trainers about the discouragement they will face in the ministry when discipling new leaders. He encouraged them to be persistent. Visna, was from our very first graduating class from more than a decade ago and since then has mentored leaders in starting hundreds of churches in central and northern Cambodia.
Most of the current graduates have also started multiple churches in the three years that they have been in training. The way that we focus on practical application of Biblical truths, the growth of the church is a natural by-product of trainers who are obedient disciples of Christ. It is a joy to partner with these leaders and see their maturity and fruit in ministry to continue to blossom. There is no trace of sadness on the day of graduation, even though leaders come from many different provinces of Cambodia, because they will be always welcome to train more and to develop their own training schools, in which we will assist them. So, we will see each other in the harvest field soon!