Steve Jennings is the pastor of Immanuel Church of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. Steve graciously agreed to travel to Cambodia and teach HeartCry missionaries and pastors on the topics of "The Doctrine of God's Word" and "The Trinity." HeartCry is thankful for Steve's willingness to teach and the dedication of the the HeartCry missionaries and pastors to study and mature spiritually. The article below is Steve's report on the conference he led.
After arriving in Phnom Penh, Cambodia last week, I asked my host and the organizer of the pastors’ conference I had been asked to teach, Pastor Chhinho, two questions in order to get a sense of the group I would be speaking to. The first question was, “what is these pastors’ greatest theological need?” To which he responded, “Everything. But especially the basics. The foundation.” The second question was, “what is these pastors’ greatest pastoral need?” To which he responded, “to be able to understand and teach the Scriptures.”
It was appropriate then that over the next two days as this conference got under way that we were studying the doctrine of Scripture. Preaching, discipleship, counseling, music, prayer, church life - all of these things are built on a right understanding of how God reveals himself and what is the nature of that revelation. The future of the young church in Cambodia depends on getting that right. Embracing all of the Bible as words that are God-breathed, and therefore carrying the highest authority and necessarily without error, is a foundation which these pastors can build everything else on. Resting in the sufficiency of Scripture will protect these young congregations from the many voices that will try and lead astray. Working with confidence in the Spirit-driven efficacy of Scripture is what will steer these pastors towards faithfulness. The church in Cambodia needs pastors who not only use their Bibles, but who know what is the nature of the words those Bibles contain.
All theology is immensely practical, so the last two sessions on the matter of Scripture were spent on how to interpret Scripture and how to preach Scripture faithfully. The questions that the pastors gave throughout showed that they were engaged with what they were learning, while also making it clear that this sort of training is needed.
The last day was spent on the doctrine of the Trinity, for which God gave them and me much grace. After two long days of learning they were clearly tired and by this time I was quite ill will a fever! But we persevered on this glorious truth that God is one and God is three. It was fitting to follow on the heels of the doctrine of Scripture with the Trinity as a clear example of something difficult to understand that we embrace as true because of our proper view of the Scriptures. The Trinity generated a lot of questions and few rabbit trails which we overcame. The “aha” moments for them seemed to come when we got to the point of discussing the roles of the Trinity, particularly in redemption and in prayer. We ended that topic with a time of considering how the knowledge of the triunity of God should impact various aspects of their ministry and shape the worship in the churches they lead.
It was amazing to see the dedication of these brothers, many of whom had come from outlying areas to attend. In order to be at the conference they slept on the floor of the classroom, packed in tightly during a season when it is quite warm. They diligently took notes and compared notes, one was even recording the sessions with his phone! The language barrier made it difficult to interact with them very much, but those that I did interact with were thankful and encouraged. One young man from the south of Cambodia who is working on planting a church there, expressed how energized he was by the teaching and how eager it made him to faithfully know and teach the Word. If this is what most of the group came away with, and they went away better equipped to do that, then we have great reason to be thankful and humbled that we could be involved in some small way in what God is doing through Shalom Ministries and others like them who are focusing on planting healthy, gospel-centered, Christ-exalting churches across Cambodia.