United in the Gospel: Langham Preaching in Bolivia

30 June 2009 |

by Igor Amestegui and Cari Crossley, Langham Preaching

We are pleased to report that the recent Langham Preaching seminar in Bolivia was a great success. 54 pastors and lay preachers attended the three-day seminar, held March 23-25, 2009, in the city of Oruru. Participants came from a wide variety of churches across the evangelical spectrum, and from different departments and villages across Oruru.

Bolivia, like much of Latin America, is heavily influenced by the powerful Roman Catholic Church. However, Oruru, the city where the seminar was held, is also strongly influenced by certain ancient Andean beliefs which have recently been promoted by the current president of the Republic. According to these beliefs, mother-earth is worshipped, and it is witch doctors to whom people turn in their hour of need.

Oruru is also famous in Bolivia for having the largest and most extravagant carnival in the whole country. The carnival dominates the city for several months each year and promotes idolatrous practices. So Oruru presents many challenges for Christians. Yet, remarkably, this is a city where, according to Igor Amestegui (Langham Preaching’s Latin American facilitator): ‘the churches are working together in a united way, like no other city in the country’, and they feel the challenge to be salt and light in their contexts.

There is much to be thankful for in the churches of Oruru: the churches are united in the gospel, pastors are fervent in their faith, and congregations are active in outreach. Yet the level of preaching in the majority of churches is often improvised and very poor. Pastors carry the burden of having a great number of administrative and ministerial responsibilities, leaving them little time for serious study and preparation.

Although many pastors struggled to take three days out of their normal routines to attend the Langham Preaching seminar, all the pastors were extremely grateful for the opportunity to focus exclusively on their preaching ministries. Expositions on Nehemiah gave an example of faithful and inspiring expository preaching. Participants were given plenty of time to develop their own approaches to formulate sermon outlines and to critique each other’s efforts. In this level 1 seminar, participants were introduced to all the basics of sermon preparation, including the question of the role of preaching, how to understand the text, and then how to translate this understanding into a sermon that will both teach and inspire the congregation.

Two Spanish books were given to all participants: ‘God’s Big Picture’ by Vaughan Roberts, and ‘Jesus, the model preacher’, by Jorge Atiencia. As the preaching programme is seen as a long-term investment in people rather than a short-term investment in an event, care was taken that participants would continue to develop their preaching ministries. The participants have been divided into small groups, each with a mentor, and Igor encouraged them to have at least one meeting each month. In addition to this, several of the participants were very keen to form their own “escuelitas” for lay people in their churches.

Due to the particularly keen interest of the pastors, the level 2 training event has been brought forward, and is planned for October 19-22, 2009.