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28 June 2016

Stephen Gaukroger in new role at Haggai Institute

Stephen Gaukroger in new role at Haggai Institute

Stephen Gaukroger is director of Clarion Trust International and has recently been appointed to the role of ambassador for Haggai Institute which works to train and equip Christian leaders in the developing world to share their faith with their people.

Tell us a little about Haggai Institute and your role in it

The Institute was begun by John Haggai, a contemporary of Billy Graham. John was a travelling evangelist, but felt that his ability to do evangelism in the developing world was hampered by his lack of knowledge of the culture and language. He thought it would be better to train indigenous nationals, especially at a senior level, to share their faith and live it out in their context.

John's dream was to train people in this role, identifying them and having them trained by people from the developing world so that the training and the teaching and equipping was done by nationals so it avoided the paternalistic patronising approach. The model removed some of the expenses of travel and training and isn't to minimise the role of the Western missionary, but to say that that model is better targeted at specific areas of expertise, medicine and so on. Evangelism is surely better done by the local people: I think he was years ahead of the game in understanding this.

With Clarion Trust I've been doing huge numbers of overseas training of pastors and leaders to equip them in either a theological context or others. Because of this the Institute here in the UK asked if I'd be interested in helping them in an advisory capacity. I flew to Atlanta to meet John Haggai, and then to Maui to their training centre. And it's amazing!

They are training thousands and thousands of very high ranking independent indigenous people. I met the head of one of a national air force, a leading thoracic surgeon, people from Zimbabwe, India, China, who'd been selected to come on this course. They have 24 intense days of training in evangelism and a little bit of theological training. 20 or 25 per cent are in full time ministry as pastors, but the vast majority are in some sort of senior position in politics, education, or medicine etc. In order to come on the course they fill in an application form, they have their expenses paid and they commit to training 100 other people in the three years after the course when they get back home. HI have got 9,000 people on the waiting list!

It's staggering and brilliantly done. The principle of the training college is Indian, the deputy principle is Filipino, the visiting lecturer when I was there was Egyptian – they are top rate guys with top rate qualifications. I think it's an untold story, people don't know a lot about it, they've probably never heard of it in the UK, yet they're doing a job that I think no one could fail to get excited about.

They're identifying key people in strategic locations in the developing world and investing in them to get them excited about sharing their faith in their context – how could I not want to enthuse about that?

I speak on HI's behalf and I'm very excited by the idea that you invest money in some of the best and brightest minds in some of the developing countries in the world. Can you imagine asking a thoracic surgeon here to take a month off work? It's a huge commitment on the part of those going on the course, which they willingly do because they haven't had any training or development. They've now got people in government positions around the world, and heads of denominations – I love what they're doing: investing in a value for money way, making a real difference for the kingdom around the world.

What role can the Institute play in the UK?

There are increasing numbers of people from the developing world coming to live in the UK, so I think there's an opportunity for people who are British residents but whose background in overseas to experience some of this training. I do think the UK Church is wealthy – not compared to the US Church, but compared to many other Christian communities – we do have financial resources and if we do want to invest in world mission, I think this is a really productive way.

I want to encourage the UK Church to pray about training British nationals, I want the Church to give financially to local nationals and I want to encourage folk who've come here to think carefully about their own nation and how they can be supportive. There are people here in the UK who are looking for ways to invest in the nation of their birth and I think this is a really helpful way for that to happen. We do have an increasingly wealthy immigrant middle class in the UK who have a burden for the part of the world that is their origins.

We're going to have a significant number of wealthy Syrians and Iraqi's here in the UK in the future who came over as economic migrants and did great work here and made a great contribution to our economy and made quite a bit of money because they're hard-working and entrepreneurial – they may want to contribute to re-building Syria and Iraq and I think this provides a vehicle for some of that to occur.

So this is an investment opportunity for the UK Church?

Yes, and I've got a larger biblical agenda myself that is to re-calibrate some denominations and churches in the UK to think about overseas mission in a more thoughtful way. Rather than some of the old-style mission societies that were saying to people: "William Carey went overseas to India and we're looking for people to go and do evangelism in country X," which might be the right thing, but it might be a hugely expensive and non-productive thing to do.

It would surely be more productive to invest in some gifted Christian leaders who already speak the language and understand the culture and don't need three years of language training, but just the skills and the support to see their world of politics or education or commerce or medicine to be touched by the claims of Christ. Surely they're in a better position to do that than any Western ministry, whereas you could imagine that people could be needed to go from the UK and work with pastors to train leaders in a way they don't have access to. That's investing in leaders, but not doing evangelism – I train leaders in China, but I don't speak Mandarin so there's no point me trying to evangelise in China, I couldn't do it. But I can train pastors in evangelism and mission, and they can train their people which I think is a much more productive use of my time. So I want to re-calibrate the way we think about mission.

What is the main thing that you're most excited about for the Institute and its role in the global Church?

That it focuses on equipping nationals to win their own country to Christ and focuses mainly on high influence nationals to win their country for Christ; people in positions of great significance being equipped to win others of great significance and so shape the culture and values of those nations. There's unbelievable potential for good in the developing world.

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