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8 Things You and Your Congregational Leaders could Learn from the Church in Ethiopia

Last month, PLI took its board and some of its friends to learn from the Church in Ethiopia and to observe PLI’s training, expertly designed and developed by Dr. Scott and Lori Rische, PLI’s international directors. (Similar to PLI’s Leadership Essentials in the U.S.). It’s estimated that there are 25 million evangelical Christians in Ethiopia. PLI (and its generous partners) have been providing biblically-based leadership training to the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (Jesus dwells here!), a Lutheran Church body for the last 12 years, and the Ethiopian Kale Heywet (Word of Life) Church senior leadership and spouses for the last 3 years. Both are 10 million members strong. Both are growing rapidly. Both endured persecution that bolstered their unity. Both afford much from which to learn.

As we listened and learned we discovered… 

  • Unbridled courage and conviction among their leaders. 
  • A willingness to make extensive sacrifices for the Gospel to spread. 
  • A willingness to faithfully follow the leading of the Spirit. 
  • An eagerness to join hands in multiplying missionaries in Ethiopia and around the world
  • They are an encouragement of enormous proportion!

Here are 8 things you and your congregation leaders could learn from the church in Ethiopia:

  1. Church leaders are facing heart-stopping challenges in the midst of tribalism, political unrest, conflict and division, and yet they count it a cost worth suffering to lead their congregations in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  2. The baptized people of God own the Mission of God. They are the “engine” driving the rapid spread of the Gospel (mostly in the rural areas of Ethiopia) all while being desperately under resourced with pastors and leaders.
  3. The leaders of the Ethiopian church are praying for the desperate condition of congregations in the United States that God would resurrect new life in the church in the US. AND they are sending missionaries to plant churches here to strengthen the mission work in the U.S. 
  4. The church body leaders are less interested in counting buildings or members and more interested in counting transformed lives that can change Ethiopia.
  5. Mekane Yesus grew from 20,000 to 10 million people in 60 years. Miraculous! They believe God could work similarly (again!) in birthing a vibrant new future for the church in the U.S. 
  6. They’re committing energy and resources to reaching the younger generation or they fear they’ll lose the true essence of Christianity swayed by false teachings and secular worldviews.
  7. The communist incursion (the Red Terror) in the 70’s inflicted great suffering upon the church in the 1970’s, but it forged a depth of resilience and strength of faith that has helped fuel its rapid growth.
  8. Theological training and development of skills without cultivation of character development produces a bad leader.

You can make a gift to support the training of these indigenous leaders or include this work in your congregation’s mission budget.

Here’s what they said…

Our focus is not on getting more members. Our focus is on transformed lives that can change Ethiopia. 

My wife and I have never before had the opportunity to learn together. I could see it on her face. I could sense it in my heart. It’s a gift from PLI that we waited too long to receive.

In Ethiopia, it’s the people that own the sharing of the Gospel. In the US, people seem paralyzed to act. 

Mekane Yesus grew from 20,000 to 10 million in 60 years. Only God can do this. 

Our vision in Kale Heywet is not more buildings. Or more members. Our vision is transformed lives that can change our society.

PLI is waking us up (again!) to what’s important in the church. It’s so clear. God’s mission and God’s vision.

Everytime we come to PLI training, it’s exactly what we need. 

We made major structural changes in the denomination before PLI. PLI’s “Change for the Sake of the MIssion” teaching could have saved us a lot of problems and pain. 

PLI cares about our marriages. Those of us that are married…they invest in our marriages. They see us as partners. 

It’s like PLI is waking us up from amnesia. PLI reminds me of things I used to know and value about God’s mission and vision but had forgotten.

Our people are praying for U.S. churches to reawaken.

Reaching the younger generation is a priority for us in this country. If we lose this generation, we lose our country.

The communist occupation brought great suffering and persecution upon the church. The church went underground and met in small groups. Now, I fear we’re becoming complacent. 

PLI focuses us on what truly matters.

We set our watches for 10:02. (Read Luke 10:2). We all stop and pray that God would send more laborers into the harvest. –PLI trainer Rev. Al Doering, Houston pastor, referenced their church planting network.

So, here are 3 questions for you and your team of leaders:

  1. What’s most encouraging?
  2. What challenges you the most?
  3. If you were going to make an action step from learning from the Ethiopian leaders, what would it be?

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