In 2012 a young lecturer from the Bandung Theological Seminary – Dwi Maria Handayani – sat in her local church with a growing dissatisfaction with the preaching she was hearing, finding it – in her words – “haphazard, and sometimes not even Biblical.”
She was also a lay-preacher in her church and wanted to be the change. She found within herself a hunger for something more; a growing sense that preaching the Word of God had to be better and more powerful than both what she herself was doing, and what she was hearing from others.
She enrolled with Langham’s Level 1 Preaching Training. The main thing that drew her to it, was the fact that the training is not aligned to any one denomination. She says it was, at that time, also the only preaching training she knew of.
The first seminar was transformational for Dwi: it opened biblical passages for her and freed those to provide the shape and purpose of the sermons she prepared.
“It gave me confidence to be clear, relevant and faithful to preaching what is written in the Bible,” she shares. “But it gave me so much more, because through the training, I realised God was calling to me to be a preacher, not just a lecturer.”
That was the beginning of a leadership growth journey for Dwi, one which is still in progress. As it happens, that Level 1 Preaching Training she attended was the foundational core group when Langham Preaching started in Indonesia – Dwi was there from the start, right at the heart of both the organisation of the work and the delivery of the training, and she went on to do further preaching training with Langham.
Dwi then spent a few years studying a PhD in the Old Testament, as a Langham Scholar. Now whilst maintaining her lectureship, she is also the National Training Co-ordinator for Langham Preaching and part of the National Team for Indonesia.
In a new phase of the adventure, from July 2018, Dwi will move away from direct involvement in the Indonesian work to become Langham Preaching’s Associate Director for Asia – a big step, one where she will be working alongside Paul Windsor, well known Kiwi and International Director for Langham’s Preaching Programme.
Dwi’s passion for the growth in the Asian Church is very evident as she shares her future dreams.
“My vision is to see this kind of training happen in as many other countries across Asia as is possible, because it is so good. So many leaders in the Church do not preach well, and yet if we want to rebuild society, I believe we need to start in the pulpit.”
“In Asia we have so many broken countries, we don’t have money or power, but we do have the pulpit and the Word of God, so I believe that’s where it starts; with Biblical preaching that transforms people’s lives.”
Now that Dwi is so familiar with homiletics, she is very aware of other preaching training approaches/courses available both in Indonesia and across Asia. But she is clear that Langham’s training has some significant differences, that make all the difference.
Langham as an organisation, as well as the training, is not denominationally aligned. According to Dwi in the Indonesian context, this means leaders from all sorts of denominations with different foci can get training without being competitive, and that in fact the training helps to build localised unity and collaboration between different churches.
Another distinctive of the training is that it is transferable and simple, as opposed to complicated. As a trainer Dwi is conscious of how often leaders attending the seminars assume that learning must be difficult to be authentic. They are surprised at the profound simplicity of the content, and that it’s not complicated to immediately implement. She says that other homiletic skills training is often complicated and very difficult for learners.
Langham’s training further focuses on preachers themselves, before their preaching skills. This person-focus is taken a step further by nurturing a grassroots movement of preachers committed to biblical preaching: seminar participants are invited to join Preachers’ Clubs in between the seminars. Here they get ongoing support from local co-ordinators who help them to put into practice what they have learnt, both for themselves and when they step behind the pulpit.
Dwi gets obviously excited about this. It was her experience in 2012, and one which she now facilitates by extension as National Training Co-ordinator for thousands of grassroots leaders in the Church across Indonesia – and soon to be Asia.
“The thing about Langham’s Preaching Training, is it not only develops your skills to preach, it also develops you as a person. It’s first about who you are and then about what you do.”
And the results are telling, because people – especially leaders in the Church – are being transformed.
“Last week we had a meeting of the National Team [for Indonesia] to talk about our vision and mission, about how we can bring growth and change to the Church and therefore to Indonesian society, and I was astounded and very encouraged by the stories I heard from other trainers.
“One trainer shared how a participant said to him ‘I am a pastor for many years, but I actually came to know God for the first time through Langham Preaching’, and another shared a story where one leader said, ‘Prior to doing Langham Preaching Training, I didn’t believe in the Bible as the Word of God, although I was a pastor’. These kinds of comments show me that leaders in the Church in Indonesia are coming to know Christ, and learning how to preach his Word powerfully. This is real growth for the Church in Indonesia, and this good for Indonesian society.”
As Dwi moves into an apostolic role facilitating God’s work across Asia, she is very conscious that she does not work alone. She sees the global partnership in the Church very clearly and believes that the Church in other countries has a significant contribution to make to what is happening in Indonesia and beyond.
“I think that what makes the west great – including New Zealand – is that your ancestors built your countries on the Word of God. This did not happen for countries across Asia; we were built on other values. So, in a way, we [the Church in Asia] look up to you to give us something of what you have, because we did not get that. We now have the Word of God, and we have sermons which we can use to influence our societies, but we learn from you. “
Indonesia is a largely Muslim country. According to Dwi, with a population of about 250 million people, there are less than 70 people with PhDs in Biblical related topics from reputable Bible colleges or theological seminaries. There is a real need for sound, contextual, leadership training for Christians and the Church.
“I encourage you to hold onto the Bible as the Word of God – don’t lose this! And stay focused on Christ. You have the opportunity to spill over into Asia, so do it! And I’m not just talking about money, but about Biblical thinking which affects how you live.”
So gone are the days of “haphazard, not even Biblical” preaching in Dwi’s life – and in the lives of thousands of other Christian leaders across Indonesia. Encouragingly, there is a viral move of God amongst His people, as thousands come to know and follow Christ. From New Zealand, we are both humbled and excited to be part of this as we strengthen, encourage and train grassroots preachers.