It was a warm Monday in March and people were already lining up. It was the first day of the CLC Pastor’s Summit in Monrovia, and you could feel the anticipation in the air. James Cooper, CLC’s store manager, had done a great deal of work in preparation for the summit and was carefully checking registration documents and handing out name tags. In the bookstore itself, Assistant Manager Isaac Dweh was overwhelmed as pastors poured in to see the resources that were now available once again in their country. This was going to be a momentous event, and the expectations were high.
Only eighteen months before, CLC had reopened their bookstore at a strategic location on Ashmun Street in the historic Providence Baptist Church. From the very first day that the store opened, pastors had come in seeking resources and additional training and counsel on what books to buy. CLC’s first objective was to get the store open and functioning well, but pastoral training was also a high priority. In a country where many pastors and church leaders would never be able to attend seminary, training was highly valued. The books that CLC was now making available would often be the only significant theological resources that anyone had had access to in many years. Dr. Tony Hart, Senior Pastor of Montco Bible Fellowship in Lansdale, Pennsylvania and President of the Grand Old Gospel Fellowship (GOGF), had already facilitated some pastoral training in Liberia in the past and was planning to return to Liberia in 2014. Dave Almack, US Director for CLC, arranged a unique partnership with Dr. Hart and the GOGF and with Dr. Samuel Reeves, Senior Pastor of Providence Baptist Church to be joint hosts of the conference. The event was held at the spacious Providence Baptist Church, and over 250 people registered to attend. During the intense week of training, nearly 280 people came out to hear Dr. Hart speak and to receive the powerful training.
The training was held from Monday through Friday and covered topics like: The Spiritual Life of the Pastor, Expository Preaching, Biblical Counseling and Doing Theology. All the attendees were encouraged to take extensive notes and much of the training was interactive. On the day that Tony taught on sermon preparation, he presented the concept of expository preaching in a very compelling and impactful way. Each student was taught how to outline a section of Scripture and teach the primary points of the passage. This was in contrast to the typical topical sermon preaching that many had been doing for most of their life. What a delight it was to see person after person working through this exercise and having “aha” moments all over the auditorium. Tony took time to look at many of the individual outlines that had been created and gave personal feedback. At the end of this session, he chose three pastors as examples of having done a very good job in grasping the concept and preparing a particularly effective outline.
At the close of the week, a curious thing took place. On Thursday night, Dr Hart, Liz Patton (CLC’s Regional Director for Africa) and Dave Almack all got quite sick. It seemed like Satan was not happy with the training that was taking place and was doing everything he could to oppose it. Despite this setback, Dave Almack was miraculously able to be a part of the events on Friday morning and began to recover much quicker than he had expected. This was very important, as he was able to participate in the closing session where dozens of pastors shared the impact of the training and what it would mean for their ministries in the future. Following this time of sharing, Dave handed out copies of the New Living Translation Life Application Study Bible and the CLC Bible Companion. How precious it was to see the pastors accepting these resources with joy and to know what a difference it would make in their lives. The study Bible has excellent notes to help illuminate the Scriptures and to provide input on how to apply the text to real life. The CLC Bible Companion actually has outlines from every book of the Bible that will provide a wonderful foundation for the expository preaching concept they had just learned.
As the powerful week of training came to a close, Pastor Reeves surprised all the summit participants by asking for a commitment for participation the following year. He also suggested that they commit to bring a friend. As a result, over 500 preregistrations were completed as a part of the summit evaluation process and plans are being made to make this an annual event. Please pray with us that we will have wisdom in being good partners and that we will be able to make many more vital Christian resources available in the years to come. It is amazing what an impact a week of training can have in the life of a person, a church and a country.