Schools and souls in Sierra Leone

At dinner tonight, I sat next to Solomon, a United Methodist pastor from Sierra Leone. We talked about church. His country continues to recover from an 11-year civil war. And the United Methodist Church is growing fast. It has doubled in size in recent years, he told me. The church is adding districts and straining to find pastors to meet the needs.

He told me about one of the evangelistic strategies the church uses.

The church builds schools.

It teaches children. It teaches not only standard school subjects, but also Christian doctrine. Many of those children become Christians.

Now, this story will horrify some people. It is all well and good to teach children math and history, we say, but not religion. But I keep hearing the words of Jesus: “Let the children come to me.”

It is an adventurous church that builds schools as part of its evangelism strategy.


7 thoughts on “Schools and souls in Sierra Leone

  1. As I tweeted, my church in Clearfield, PA partners with Solomon’s church in Sierra Leone. We actually sent money to help them complete their new school building about 6-8 months ago. Well, I’m guessing it’s the same Solomon. When he was here in January, he said he would be there (near you) in August!

    We enjoyed having him with us a few days, sharing about his life and ministry in Sierra Leone.

    My conference (Susquehanna) has long been active in Sierra Leone. Through the Sierra Leone Initiative, a number of churches partner with churches there primarily to provide full-time salaries for pastors (plus a few teams travel there each year).

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. A few months ago, I reread Wesley’s sermon “On Family Religion”, and I was interested in his comments about a father’s responsibility to tend to the education of his children. He considered it vital for a Christian father to see that his children were educated by masters who would be concerned for the child’s soul.

    “At all events, then, send your boys, if you have any concern for their souls, not to any of the large public schools, (for they are nurseries of all manner of wickedness) but private school, kept by some pious man, who endeavours to instruct a small number of children in religion and learning together.”

    He continues on and addresses the education of girls. Girls should by no means be sent to a boarding school, he says.

    “The children teach one another pride, vanity, affectation, intrigue, artifice, and, in short, everything which a Christian woman ought not to learn. Suppose a girl were well inclined, yet what would she do in a crowd of children, not one of whom has any thought of saving her soul in such company? Especially as their whole conversation points another way, and turns upon things which one would wish she would never think of. I never yet knew a pious, sensible woman that had been bred at a large boarding-school, who did not aver, one might as well send a young maid to be bred in Drury-Lane”

    A girl should be educated by her mother, or by a mistress who cares for the well-being of the child’s soul.

    As a person who was educated in excellent public schools, and at a state university, I have valued my education. I have also worked as a public school teacher and a substitute teacher since I retired from the ministry. Wesley’s words, and my recent experiences in public schools give me pause. I believe EVERY child deserves a quality education; but I’m pretty sure I can say our public schools today would not meet Wesley’s standards.

    Perhaps it is time to take a cue from our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone, and reconsider the way we educate our children.

  3. Thanks for posting this story. I just finished D. Michael Henderson’s “A Model for Making Disciples: John Wesley’s Class Meeting.” It was published in about 1997 and I found it on Amazon. The class meetings were mixed age/gender groups of 6-8 believers of varying degrees of discipleship that met weekly for encouragement, accountability and discipleship. Henderson says:

    “The class meeting proved to be such an effective tool for radical personal change that it can be acknowledged as the pivotal element of the Methodist movement, the vehicle of change, the medium which enabled the message to be internalized.”

    He talks about how Whitfield and Wesley often preached together, and that Whitfield popularized mass evangelism, but hope those who were “awakened” would pursue discipleship on their own initiative. Wesley instead made sure that those who were interested in discipleship were placed into small groups to pursue growth. He further describes Wesley as uninterested in preaching that called for commitment without specific instruction on how to follow through.

    Henderson’s best point on the role of Christian education:

    “The Wesleyan revolution is an illustration that long-lasting spiritual transformation is not the product of dynamic preaching or of correct doctrine. It comes only through serious disciple-building, in keeping with Christ’s Great Commission to ‘go into all the world and make disciples.’ The class meeting which Wesley developed was the instrument by which preaching and doctrine were harnessed into spiritual renewal. It carried the revolution.”

    If you’re interested in the concept, I’d encourage you to pick up the book – it’s a quick and lively read.

  4. Txcon, if you have been reading this blog for a while you know that John and most of his readers are well aware of the role of class meetings in the Methodist movement. The issue THIS post addresses is more about the education of children and the importance of integrating Christian care/discipleship into the instruction of reading, writing, and the other “basic” subjects. But your post makes me wonder about the age of people who were involved in Wesley’s class meetings (which were PRIMARILY focused on spiritual development and discipleship). I don’t think there was a “nursery” provided for parents while they attended the class meeting. I’m wondering if kids attended with parents, or perhaps they stayed at home with a baby sitter…

    I have had some very positive experiences of children attending and participating in Bible studies that were designed for adults. So this is of interest to me.

    Does anyone know the answer?

  5. Your posts many times lead me back to the beginning where I sometimes need to revisit.

    The primary responsibility of a pastor, preacher, teacher priest or elder is:
    “Feed My sheep.” Jesus said
    (Teach them)
    “Take care of my sheep.”
    (Protect them)

    Peter explains the good shepherd will::
    Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under their care, watching over them because they are willing and eager to serve. The shepherd is to be an example to the flock.  

    The good shepherd has been:
    “approved by God to be and entrusted with the gospel”
    The good shepherd has learned and been entrusted with the precepts ( rules governing behavior) worth more than gold.
    1 Thessalonians 2, Psalms 119, Proverbs 3

    A good shepherd will:
    Preach the Word correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. 2 Timothy 4

    The good shepherd “tells the truth” to his flock.
    ( Christ said, “I tell you the truth” no less than 68 times)

    The good shepherd will gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
    Isaiah 40:11 

    We are also told false teachers:
    Bring destructive doctrines into the Christian Community that cause division, confusion and death.
    False teachers are depraved
    False teachers are doomed.
    2 Peter

    So be a good shepherd, pastor, preacher, teacher, priest or elder.

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