Accessible, affordable resource “an answer to prayer”
By Myra Holmes
Eddie Johnson has been in ministry of one kind or another for 33 years. Currently, he serves as part-time pastor at two congregations in the North Carolina District Conference (NCDC): Beechbottom MB Church in Newland and Darby MB Church in Ferguson. These congregations are small; Beechbottom has six to eight attendees on a typical Sunday morning, while Darby sees 10 or 11.
Still, Johnson serves faithfully and with joy. “Each time we gather, I have the greatest interest in the people who come to know the Word of God,” he says. “I’m happy to be there in both places.”
Until now, Johnson has had no formal ministry training. While he’s studied on his own and “learned a great deal” from other ministry leaders over the years, he’s never been to seminary or even finished his college degree.
But now, through a new partnership between NCDC and The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI), the national training arm ofWorld Impact, Johnson and other church leaders in the community are being equipped for more effective ministry.
TUMI Lenoir began in August 2016 in the facility of The Life Center, a USMB congregation in Lenoir, NC, with 16 students in the first course. Students who see the program through will graduate in four years. In addition, mentors and teachers are being prepared so that another class of TUMI Lenoir students can begin in the fall of 2017.
More recently, Latin American MB (LAMB) churches also affirmed adopting TUMI as their resource for leadership development in the district. Moises Tagle, LAMB district moderator, is leading the program in both English and Spanish, and Mission (Texas) MB Church is hosting the first class. For more on the partnership between USMB ministries and TUMI, read this online story: [link].
An answer to prayer
TUMI Lenoir is “a dream come true” and an answer to prayer, according to Terry Hunt, NCDC minister and pastor at The Life Center. At a dinner during one of the many meetings he attends as district minister, Hunt was introduced to Don Davis, founder and director of TUMI, and shared his vision to equip NCDC leaders with seminary-level training. When Davis in turn talked about TUMI’s low-cost, easily-accessible curriculum and explained that it could be offered as a satellite program in Lenoir, Hunt saw an opportunity. “That was a prayer answered,” he says.
According to the TUMI website, TUMI currently has 257 satellite locations in 17 countries, with nearly 2,950 students; 1,375 of those are incarcerated. As the name implies, TUMI is designed especially for ministry leaders in inner city areas. World Impact, TUMI’s parent mission organization, focuses especially on America’s unchurched urban poor, facilitating church planting movements by evangelizing, equipping and empowering.
Lenoir, NC, isn’t exactly inner city. In fact, Clyde Ferguson, site coordinator for TUMI Lenoir, calls it a rural area. But the reasons TUMI fits so well in urban areas are the same reasons it fits in the NCDC.
Hunt points out that the TUMI Capstone Curriculum, a 16-module, seminary-level training program, can be useful anywhere there is a need for equipping leaders. “Since almost half of our pastors and leaders did not get a chance to attend a Bible college or seminary, this has proven to be an excellent way to provide them the training they need,” Hunt says.
An affordable, accessible education
The NCDC district is small, with only seven small congregations and limited resources, so TUMI’s low cost is a plus. Students can attend TUMI Lenoir for as little as $90 per eight-week class. Books add another $65 to $70, but Ferguson notes that The Life Center provides a library of the necessary books in an effort to remove that potential obstacle.
“We make it affordable,” he says.
In addition, Ferguson says, the curriculum is understandable to those who don’t already have a seminary education. In some curriculum, he notes, the language can be intimidating, but TUMI’s curriculum is in everyday language. But that doesn’t mean it’s not rigorous material. “It’s very challenging,” Johnson says, especially when it comes to test time.
TUMI is perfect for those who, like Johnson, are serving in pastoral roles. But it’s also designed for those serving in other areas of ministry—deacons, teachers, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders—“anyone who feels called to ministry at any level,” Hunt says.
And it’s not only for leaders from NCDC churches; by offering the training to Christian leaders throughout the area, the district is serving their community in a way that, again, answers prayer. “It’s our way of reaching the community,” Ferguson says. “It was the district’s dream to do something that would have a major impact.”
Focusing on God’s Word
At first, Johnson was reluctant to try TUMI. At age 68 and facing health difficulties, he wasn’t at all sure he’d be up for the challenge. But he’d always wanted seminary-level training. “I thought I’d be interested in opening up my understanding even greater of what I already know about the Bible and the Word of God.”
And TUMI has done just that for him. He compares the coursework to “prospecting” the Word of God, looking for “gold nuggets” of truth that he can apply first to his life, then offer to his congregations.
The knowledge he gains is more than head knowledge. Ferguson, who is the primary teacher for TUMI Lenoir, is impressed that TUMI’s curriculum always brings it down to a personal level, challenging students’ daily walk. As ministry leaders understand how God’s Word applies to their own life, Ferguson says, they become better leaders.
Johnson agrees: “I’ve got to shine the light in my own life first before I can look into someone else’s.”
As he digs deeper into Scripture and his own faith, Johnson is able to minister more powerfully at Beechbottom, Darby and in his everyday life in the community. He says the coursework has helped him to study more effectively, quote Scripture more often and lay out the truths more fully when preaching. “Oh, yes, it’s a real help,” he says.
In addition, as he goes about his everyday conversations, the TUMI coursework has helped him to keep the focus where it needs to be—not on his own opinions, but on the Word of God. “I do a little more listening than I do talking,” he says.
Johnson says he didn’t think he’d be able to go as far as he has, but he is already looking forward to continuing his TUMI training. “I love the church. I love people. My greatest hope is that my light will shine and exemplify Christ,” he says. TUMI Lenoir is equipping him to shine that light more brightly.
Photo provided by TUMI Lenoir