Located near Pretoria, South Africa, the Reformational Study Centre (RSC) has existed since 2008. Within a modest set of offices, equipped with shelves of biblical reference books, Bible commentaries, theological books, and periodicals, a team of staff and volunteers, headed up by the Rev. Jopie van der Linden, is busy with the gathering and distributing of theological resources via the internet to English-speaking pastors all over Asia and Africa. In addition to this on-site team, there are other staff and volunteers helping out from all parts of the world, and that includes here in Dunnville as well.
Our missionary, Rev. Ryan Kampen, lives in Dunnville but carries on with this full-time work remotely for the RSC.
What follows are some of the main projects in which the RSC is involved, as well as a description of Rev. Kampen’s task.
Many churches in Asia and Africa are busy developing indigenous leaders, but their pastors, whose financial resources and theological education are limited, need guidance in and material for sermon preparation. Therefore, the Study Centre has been building its database of scanned pages from commentaries and other study books, and through a growing network of contacts, receives requests for such material and in turn fills what requests it can from week to week, emailing the requested pages to the missionaries, to help them better understand the Scriptures, for their own sake and that of their churches.
Those who have been submitting their requests over the last years come from various theological backgrounds, and thus not only from a Reformed persuasion. Requests come from Roman Catholic and Anglican priests to Seventh Day Adventists and Pentecostal ministers to those who were ministers simply by virtue of being the only males in their congregations with the ability to read. For although they preached the gospel with sincerity and love, some of these men did so as those who remained untrained preachers. The common denominator is that all are in dire need of help in studying the Scriptures.
And so, there has developed a growing digital database of Reformed sermon preparation materials, which has come to be called the Preaching Library.
For the Living Word project, trained and qualified pastors are providing sermon outlines containing the building blocks for the untrained preachers to make their own sermons. By this the RSC aims to supply the young churches with simple but comprehensive expository and application notes on the Scriptures.
The number of those who could benefit from the Preaching Library and Living Word projects is legion. Even if the number of ministers who would use the Library and sermon outlines had been only 20, each of those ministers is preaching to 100 listeners (and in many cases significantly more). That would mean that each week, well over 2,000 people are sitting under preaching that has been enhanced by Reformed material, originating from the Lord via the Preaching Library! As it happens, this Library now receives hundreds of weekly requests for sermon preparation resources. Through the faithful labours of some employees and many volunteers alike, over 8,300 English-speaking ministers are benefitting from regular use of the Library and the growing number of sermon outlines. And that suggests at least 830,000 listeners are benefitting from the Library and sermon outlines every week, with the number only growing!
The need for the material we seek to provide is greater now than ever before. There has been a major uptick in the growth of Christianity in Africa, Asia, and Latin America over the last 100 years. In Africa alone, statistics suggest that in about a hundred years, Christianity has grown from 7.5 million Christians to 504 million. That means there are 10,000 converts a day. And so the need for new pastors is frightfully massive! Yet nothing happens by chance, and thus we rejoice that where the Lord has ordained a great need for biblical teaching, he has also supplied opportunity to help fill that need by means of modern technology. Our trust then remains in the power of his Word and Spirit to use also the resources of the Living Word and Preaching Library to great profit in his kingdom!
From the start the Centre received dozens (later hundreds) of requests for material on subjects like pastoral care, ethics, and church government. Before long it became obvious that the need was equally great for material on all kinds of Christian subjects. In time, also these requests could be addressed. This led to the creation of the Christian Library website (christianstudylibrary.org).
The aim of this project is to build a digital library of Reformed material for all subjects under the sun. The RSC has organized it in such a way that the user can find the right material as quickly as possible. There are hundreds of categories that can help the user make his search very specific. And every article that is uploaded has a summary with keywords, to facilitate good searches. Each article is also set at a specific difficulty level: basic, popular, semi-technical and technical.
What kind of material is made available? All kinds! We upload material from Reformed and Presbyterian ministers; we process articles from back issues of church magazines; we make links to material from websites with Reformed material; we provide translated material, and transcribed audio files.
This website has more than 12,000 articles and transcribed audio files available at present. One of the benefits of this service is that the user does not have to search through 50 different good websites or get lost in Google search results, but only needs to search on the Christian Library website to find biblically sound material all over the Web. Many of the ministers we are helping have their day jobs, working from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and thus have to do their work of ministry in the evenings. The quicker their search for helpful material, the better.
Please check out this resource, and witness the value it holds not only for Africans and Asians, but North American Christians as well!
The Timothy Project
The RSC has been busy with another service that makes use of the same technology as The Preaching Library: the service known as The Timothy Project. The name comes from what Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”
The Timothy Project aims to provide a comprehensive library of theological resources, derived from theology handbooks, reference works, and other books as well as articles. Copyright laws are such that up to 10% of a book’s contents may be copied and distributed privately.
The RSC has a staff of about 16 people, and more than 80 volunteers from all parts of the world. And at the moment we are working with over 8,300 ministers in more than 65 developing countries. Both our work and our reach, however, are completely in vain without the guidance and blessing of the Lord. So we ask also you to prayerfully support this work. If it is our heavenly Father who opens doors for the spread of the gospel, and instills the desire for people to grow in the riches of Christ, then we must be on our knees. There are still many more pastors across the world who really want to study the Word. Since our Lord sees and guides everything, please wrestle in prayer with us. Pray that the Lord would guide us as workers to provide the right material and find more of his servants in the young churches. Pray that the ministers would benefit from our labours and grow in faith and the ability to preach the pure gospel.
May the Lord of the church preserve and increase the spiritual wealth of his gospel, according to his exquisite grace and kindness in Christ Jesus!
Our Missionary’s Role
With the number of the main projects of the RSC, it becomes apparent that there are many ways to be involved in the work. When it comes to the task of Rev. Kampen, the designation “gatekeeper” has been used as a job description. It denotes the responsibility of ensuring that the various materials submitted for publication on the Christian Library are Reformed. Our missionary is also supervising and contributing to the Living Word project (see above).