High Expectations, High Determination

29 September 2009

Langham Preaching in Colombia

by Igor Amestegui and Cari Crossley, Langham Preaching

Noted for its cocaine trade, conservative politics and mega-churches, Colombia is a vibrant republic in the north west of South America. Although it is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, the Evangelical Protestant Church now represents a sizeable percentage of the population, being some nine to ten percent. As the present Government seems to have a very close connection with the International Charismatic church in Colombia, the influence of the Protestant minority is steadily growing.

In April 2009, 74 pastors and lay preachers attended the first Langham Preaching programme in Colombia. The participants came from a good variety of church backgrounds: Presbyterian, Anglican, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Community of Faith, Assemblies of God and various independent churches. In comparison to other Latin American countries, our Latin American facilitator, Igor Amestegui, said that this was ‘a very select group, with a good level of preaching ability, perhaps the best amongst all the seminars which have been run across the continent’. Much of their ability and enthusiasm for Bible exposition has come from their involvement with the ministry of Jorge Atiencia, who has spent many years building teams of preachers and the establishment of ‘escuelitas’. These ‘little schools’ for preachers fully support the ministry of Langham in Colombia, and the group leaders see that the Langham programme will be a great means of supporting the training of new expositors in the country.

The president of the committee, Dionisio Orjuela, and his wife did an excellent job before and during the event, and Igor Amestegui, Jorge Atiencia and Diego Cardona acted as the facilitators. They gave expositions based on Jesus the preacher, and on the prophet Haggai, and they taught participants foundational skills such as moving from the Bible text to a sermon and how to apply the text. The facilitators were very ably assisted by a team of workshop group leaders who had been well prepared, with a training meeting six months in advance as well as at the beginning of the seminar week itself.

Participants came to the seminar with high expectations: one pastor said at the start of the seminar that he was looking forward to learning how to preach a book of the Bible from beginning to end, and another expressed his desire to be faithful to the teaching of Scripture. Participants greatly appreciated all they had been taught and all that they had been able to practise. At the end of the week, they were encouraged to persevere in their preaching ministries. Everyone received two Spanish books: ‘Jesus model preacher’ by Jorge Atiencia and ‘God’s Big Picture’ by Vaughan Roberts. They left with a determination to carry on working in their groups which they have decided to call ‘schools for preachers’, to differentiate them from the small schools already set up for lay people. There is great enthusiasm to continue with the three-year training programme, and the date for the next level of training is provisionally planned for April 2010.