Zooming to Africa

For the past two weeks I have been teaching in Africa. I didn’t cross the ocean to do this. Instead, through the magic of the internet I was connected to a classroom at the Evangelical Seminary of West Africa where twenty students gathered to study pastoral theology with me for three hours a day.

I am not a professional educator, so I prayed for guidance as I prepared for this. I spent months getting ready for the course, reading and indexing books on pastoral theology, then writing lectures on the science and art of pastoral practice. I’ve been working on this all year long.

It was not easy, but I was glad to do it for these worthy young men who are dedicated servants of the Lord. They are in seminary working on master’s degrees, in addition to holding down jobs and pastoring local churches. It was an unexpected privilege to serve the Lord in this way.

My good friend Dr. Rick Calenberg is president of the seminary. He retired as head of the missions department at Dallas Theological Seminary and promptly went back to Africa to invest in the lives of Liberian pastors and leaders. When he invited me to teach this course, I could not say no.

Because of COVID-related complications that arose back in the summer, we decided that it would be best for me to try to teach through a Zoom connection. The system worked fine, despite a few glitches along the way, due to my clumsiness with technology. Teaching through my laptop required intense concentration, but it was good to interact, back and forth, with these men of God.

The main source of authority for this course was the Bible. It is as theologian Thomas Oden wrote, “Scripture is the primary basis for understanding the pastoral office and its functions. … Pastoral theology lives out of scripture.” Among my first classes was an expository survey of 1 Timothy, a pastoral epistle.

I wanted to convey the joys as well as the responsibilities, of being a pastor. I taught lessons on the calling, duties, and character of the pastor. There were other lessons on worship, church officers (elders and deacons), the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and the priority of preaching. I emphasized pastoral care, discipleship training, and leadership, among other subjects. The last lessons were about the pastor’s family life and self-care and personal renewal.

I hope this training helped shape the thinking of these good men. I hope it strengthened them professionally, emotionally, and spiritually. I  hope it was an eternal investment in their lives, but I also hope that it was an investment in their churches, and their families. I hope it was an investment in the spiritual life of the West African nation of Liberia, for God’s glory.

Pastor Randy Faulkner