By Laura Pearce
In Rwandan churches, it’s common to hear pastors teaching the prosperity gospel and salvation by works (especially tithing). Prophecy, rather than the Bible, is often treated as the primary way to hear from God. Most pastors in Rwanda have little or no Biblical education. The lack of Biblically literate, spiritually transformed leaders has meant a general lack of discipleship and genuine faith in many Rwandan churches. Therefore pastoral training and leadership development continue to be critically important for the growth of the Church in Rwanda.
The Pastoral Training School of New Creation Ministries exists to meet these fundamental needs. During our student interview process, we regularly find that only 40 to 50% of the pastors have a clear understanding of the Gospel. When asked, many say they were saved when they stopped a certain behavior (like drinking or stealing) and began going to church. Most experience persistent fear that they will lose their salvation by failing to meet God’s standards.
Every two years, the Pastoral Training School (PTS) accepts a new cohort of pastors. The excitement among our staff is palpable as the new students stream onto campus for the first time. We are excited about the opportunity to educate, disciple, and equip Rwandan pastors.
The four-year program includes classroom teaching, one-on-one discipleship, and real-life application. We provide high-quality education with the goal of transforming hearts, patterns of thinking, and ways of life. Meeting students where they are, we travel to their homes and churches to provide on-site coaching for family issues, church leadership, and preaching. In addition to studying theology and ministry, students receive training in agriculture and animal husbandry which enables their families and communities to move toward financial sustainability.
But most of all, we are excited to introduce them to Jesus.
The first course in PTS is called “The True Gospel.” In it, we tell the story of creation, the fall, and humanity’s desperate need for salvation. Then, we tell the story of Jesus who is the only source of righteousness and peace with God. These three weeks are bathed in prayer. We feel a deep sense of urgency and gravity as we answer questions and challenge long-held beliefs. As a staff, we collectively hold our breath, waiting for the moment.
It always comes, sometimes at the end of week two, sometimes toward the beginning of week three. There is a moment when the teaching clicks, when the Holy Spirit illuminates hearts, when the truth invites a response. This is the moment that we work and pray for. This is the moment that makes all of the sacrifices fade into the background. At this moment, there is an unparalleled joy as we welcome these brothers into the family of God.
One student, Samuel, said after his first term in PTS, “I’m no longer afraid of physical or spiritual death now that I’ve come to know the True Gospel.” Our prayer is that every Rwandan will experience this same freedom.
In January, we will accept a new cohort of thirty-five pastors. We estimate that only fifteen of them are believers. Would you pray with us? Pray that these pastors would understand the Gospel clearly and would believe. Pray that they would find peace and rest in the finished work of Jesus. Pray that deep, discipleship relationships would be established and would bear fruit in the lives of these pastors, their families, and their churches.