Gospel radio in the French-speaking world
The growth in understanding of the gospel of grace, which is happening today in many parts of French-speaking Africa, is undoubtedly due to the influence of Bill Clark’s radio programme Echos de la Vérité. For a number of years this was broadcast over Radio ELWA in Monrovia, Liberia, but this station was unfortunately destroyed during the civil war in that country. However, many African countries are now following the lead of European countries in licensing private local radio stations. As a result, Echos de la Vérité can still be heard in some parts of French-speaking Africa.
The programme is also broadcast over Family Radio in Florida, which beams it towards West Africa on short wave. It can also be heard in many other parts of the French-speaking world — including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and the French West Indies. As a supplement to the broadcast, cassettes are offered to those listeners who request them. These cassettes also have a wide influence.
A preachers’ training course is operating for the growing number of pastors and evangelists who, realizing their need for a clearer understanding of the teaching of Scripture, have expressed a desire for a Bible study course to help them to this end. At the moment there are nearly 200 pastors and evangelists doing this course and for many of them this is the only theological and pastoral training they have ever received. Others, who have graduated from theological colleges, have testified that they have come to understand the true gospel through the preachers’ training course.
Course conferences are organized as part of the course. In addition to their teaching value, these courses enable the students to get to know one other and thus provide long-term mutual encouragement. Students whose correspondence work show that they are serious in their desire to study are invited to the conferences, which are held periodically in Benin Republic and Ivory Coast. Speakers include not only teachers, but also the students themselves. The latter are thereby encouraged to put into practice what they have learned from Scripture, and to preach the gospel to others. There are plans to hold similar conferences for students in Haiti.
Individual churches, whose leaders are enrolled as students in the preachers’ training course, also organize their own local conferences. The preachers at these are usually other students. This has enabled the members of the various churches to hear other preachers who proclaim the same message as their pastor. Many have testified to the rich blessing they have received at these local conferences.
Teachers of the course visit individual churches at the invitation of their pastors and leaders, and spend time encouraging both pastors and people. Many of these churches are in isolated areas which are not easy to get to — some of their students have to travel for as much as four days to attend the conferences. Visits by those from outside and overseas are greatly appreciated. They are often a ‘big event’ in the village or town.
There is little doubt that almost all the churches which proclaim clearly the doctrines of sovereign grace in French-speaking West Africa have come into existence as a result of the combined ministry of Echos de la Vérité and the preachers’ training course. The existence of these churches is a living testimony to the fact that we have a sovereign Lord, who saves his people and fulfils his purposes through means which appear insignificant and unimportant in the eyes of men. Echos de la Vérité is not a mission, and it does not employ the ‘missionary methods’ which are considered important, and even essential, in some circles. However, God has been pleased to use it in a powerful way, as he alone can.
There are certain characteristics which mark the churches influenced by Echos de la Vérité in West Africa (and elsewhere in the world).
1. They are not connected by any denominational ties. There are no committees, no presidents or hierarchy. They are all churches which stand firmly on the gospel of sovereign grace; this gospel is clearly proclaimed from every pulpit. They do, however, have close ties of fellowship with one another and give mutual encouragement and help to one another. They may be isolated geographically, but they are closely linked in the gospel they preach.
2. In every church there is a real and solemn sense of worship, acknowledging the greatness and the holiness of God. In spite of the tendency in African culture for rhythm, music and ‘atmosphere’, the worship in these churches reflects their understanding of the holiness and majesty of God. There is a calmness and depth in their worship.
3. Most of their pastors have to earn their living by cultivating the land or practising some trade or commerce. Their church members do what they can to support them, but often this is not sufficient. They receive no financial help from missions or any other organization.
Faithful preachers needed
There are still many towns, villages and even capital cities, which have not been effectively reached with the gospel of God’s grace. Much work remains to be done and there are still many opportunities for mission work. By this we do not necessarily mean that we need more missionaries from the West. What we need is men whom the Lord of the harvest has called and equipped to work in his harvest-field, whatever their colour and nationality. It is an unfortunate fact that many missionaries come with more means and equipment than gospel! They appear to be concerned to produce the ‘results’ which the organizations which have sent them look for. What we need is faithful preachers of the gospel! The results are in God’s hands alone.