American Seminary training Liberians to be more effective church leaders

By May 22, 2006

Liberia (MNN) — Years of civil war have left a vacuum in the West African nation of Liberia. During the conflict western missionaries left the country, forcing nationals to take over churches and do the work.

Pastor Isaac Wheiger attended Cornerstone University’s Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While Wheiger says this was good for the health of the church, it wasn’t good for theological education. He has since gone back to his country to find a vacuum of theological education. “That’s a very huge problem that we have today. The pastors who took over and are still running the church had no basic theological education. So, there is a great need and a leadership gap.”

Wheiger is the National Superintendent for the Wesleyan Church of Liberia. He says many churches have paid to send their pastors to the United States for training, but he says that didn’t work. “More than 90-percent of these people who received these scholarships and come to America don’t go back. So, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, they are taking theological education to Liberia.”

That allows church leaders to get the education they need in their own culture, allowing them to continue ministering in their church.

The President of GRTS Doug Fagerstrom says there’s more to this program than just taking theology to Liberia. “Grand Rapids Theological Seminary is not interested in starting our own schools around the world. We’re only interested in training a core group of indigenous nationals who in turn will develop their own theological schools.”

Wheiger says this type of education will do so much for church growth. “Without any training, the church is accomplishing so much. With training coming in definitely we have hope that even more churches will be planted.” That will allow them to reach out into rural areas of the country where the Gospel has never been heard.

More pastors are needed now more than ever to combat the onslaught of Islam entering Liberia, says Wheiger. “So we are praying and hoping that resources will be put into place to conduct the necessary training in Christian world view and equipping the church and equipping Christian teachers to be able to combat the threats of Islam.” Because, Wheiger says, Islam will take over if something isn’t done.

GRTS is planning similar work in India, China, Taiwan, South America and other African nations. Funding is needed to help scholarship many students around the world.

For information about Grand Rapids Theological Seminary go to http://grts.cornerstone.edu.

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