Historical Overview

Two Million Pastors Urgently Need Training

At the dawn of the Third Millennium, we face the urgent necessity of equipping two million pastoral leaders! They have responded to God’s call on their lives–they are gifted–but many lack adequate ministerial training. These wonderful servants are pastoring millions of believers in Africa, Asia, the former Soviet Union and Latin America. Trainers of Pastors International Coalition (TOPIC) was born out of the heightening realization among pastoral trainers that a task of this magnitude cannot and will not be accomplished if we all continue to “do it alone” on an organization-by-organization basis. TOPIC explores possibilities for concerted, cooperative action among pastoral training agencies to significantly resource this great need.

After a Church is Planted, What Next?

TOPIC seeks to answer the question: “After a church is planted, what next?” Simply planting a church without making provision for its health often stunts the growth-life of the congregation. Church growth without church health is biblically inadequate and missionally ineffective. TOPIC aims for healthy, growing churches through the provision of essential ministry training to the ill-equipped pastoral leader.

The Movement is Born

Leaders of 99 Western-based Christian organizations involved in the non-formal training of pastors worldwide gathered for the first-ever Trainers of Pastors International Consultation (TOPIC). The meeting was called by RREACH International and co-hosted by the Billy Graham Institute of Evangelism in December 1997. Many of the participants were convicted of “the sin of doing one’s own thing,” when it was clear that more would and could be accomplished with an organized, cooperative effort. Twenty-four organizations declared “coalition-level” commitment to the TOPIC vision. Others chose an “affiliate-level” status, while yet others wanted to stay in an information loop. Everyone agreed that this should not simply be a “West-to-the-Rest-of-the-world” approach. If large numbers of pastoral leaders were going to be equipped, it would take a truly international, grassroots movement.

The transfer of vision took place in March 1999 at the TOPIC Manila Consultation, in the Philippines, also sponsored by RREACH International. At that time, 122 participants from 96 organizations representing 50 countries affirmed the vision of TOPIC and launched it as an international coalition with 44 partners and 50 affiliates. On August 2000, the United States of America Internal Revenue Service recognized TOPIC, Inc. as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization.

Steering Committee:

Pastor James Arnold (Denton Bible Church Missions, Denton, TX)
Rev. Ian Benson (The Missionary Training Service, London, UK)
Dr. Flip Buys (Mukhanyo Theological College, KwaMhlanga, South Africa)
Dr. Wilhelm Daiker (Center for International World Missions, Bornheim, Germany)
Mr. Philip Flores (Discipleship Training Institute, Laguna, Philippines)
Dr. Bob Gilliam (T-Net International, Aurora, CO)
Dr. Bobby Gupta (Hindustan Bible Institute, Chennai, India)
Rev. Dr. Dominik Israel (Programme of Pastoral Development, Methodist Church in India, Anand, Gujarat, India)
*Mr. Stephen Kemp (Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, IL)
Bishop Michael Kyomya (Anglican Church of East Africa, Kampala, Uganda)
*Rev. J. Paul Landrey (TOPIC International Director, Omaha, NE)
*Dr. Dennis Mock (Bible Training Centre for Pastors, Inc. Tucker, GA)
Rev. Célestin Musekura (Africa Leadership & Reconciliation Ministries/ALARM, Dallas, TX)
*Mr. Craig Parro (Leadership Resources International, Palos Heights, IL)
*Mr. Jeff Reed (Center for Church Based Theological Education, Ames, IA)
*Dr. Ramesh Richard (RREACH International, and Dallas Theological Seminary, Plano, TX)
Rev. Gerald Rowlands (Church Planting International, Queensland, Australia)
Dr. Norberto Saracco (Facultad Internacional de EstudiosTeologicos/FIET, Buenos Aires, Argentina)
*Rev. Dale Schlafer (Center for World Revival and Awakening, Eastlake, CO)
*Dr. Henry Tan (LEADWave Inc, San Diego, CA)
Rev. Hans Martin Wilhelm (Project Nehemiah Ministries, Norkem Park, South Africa)
Rev. Randall Wittig (Desarrollo Cristiano Internacional, San Jose, Costa Rica)

(* Board of directors)

Other Milestones

• 1998 was a year dedicated to praying, discussing, and verifying the validity of the TOPIC vision and mission with those involved in grassroots pastoral training initiatives within the “majority world” (i.e., that part of the world within which the rapid growth of the evangelical church is calling for help). The TOPIC Coalition’s “Basic Precepts” were drafted.

• 1999 October 14 – Zambia one day national consultation. 200 participants.

• 1999 October 12 – 15 Philippine national Consultation. 60 participants.

• 2000 Jan – Bangladesh national Consultation. 74 participants.

• 2000 May – The newly formed TOPIC Board of Directors, met for its first meeting in San José, Costa Rica. This was the site of the TOPIC Iberoamerican Consultation. There were 92 participants, representing 74 pastoral training organizations, coming from 17 countries.

• 2000 November 28 – Philippines day Conference. 96 participants.

• 2000 November – Higuerote, Venezuela Pastors Conference. An “ad hoc” organizing committee was formed. Its purpose was to establish an interdenominational pastoral training center on the north coast of the country by February 2001.

• 2001 January – Guatemala. An “ad hoc” committee has been formed and will be looking into the possibility of establishing a regional pastoral training center in Puerto Barrios, Izabal, Guatemala (a port city on the Gulf of Mexico).

• 2001 Feb. 19-22 – Katmandu, Nepal. 1343 participants, 5 countries (Nepal, India, Sikkim, Bhutan and Myanmar (Burma)). Goal: 5 to 10 pastoral training centers in Nepal by 2002.