The Church Will Thrive—If Eager Leaders Are Prepared

GATEWAY invites you to help future leaders blossom.

Dave Martin had reached that point in his life when he was asking God, What next?

After almost 37 years as senior pastor at Hershey (Pa.) Evangelical Free Church, he says, “I had the sense that Hershey Free needed a new voice—younger, fresher, newer—to lead this congregation.

“I was not actually sure what I would be doing. But I did feel strongly that whatever would be the next phase of my life—even if it was driving a taxi in Harrisburg—God would be taking care of us and would use us in some capacity.

“That was when I heard about GATEWAY.”

EFCA GATEWAY Theological Institute was still in its infancy back then, in 2008, but training up-and-coming leaders was exactly how Dave, 61, wanted to invest the next chapter of his life.

Watching future leaders blossom

GATEWAY launched in 2007 as alternative theological education for those who lack the time and resources to attend a traditional seminary. Courses are led by facilitators in local churches or via video conference. Since its launch, more than 1,300 students have participated, with graduates leading powerfully and effectively in their local church, and more than 150 going on to receive EFCA credentialing.

According to Dave Martin, the power of GATEWAY lies not only in developing known leaders in churches but also in discovering new leaders—watching them blossom as they learn to rightly divide the Word of God and put it into practice.

In fact, that’s part of what excites Dave most: the sheer number of believers in local EFCA churches already involved in ministry “who want to know that when they teach others, they are being faithful to Scripture.”

A small amount of money shouldn’t stand in the way of leaders who so earnestly desire a fuller, richer, deeper theology from which to minister.

In the classes he facilitates as GATEWAY director in the Eastern District, he sees everyone from young, eager leaders to recent retirees, from local church elders seeking greater spiritual ballast to business women considering a new avenue of ministry.

During phase-one classes (meeting monthly for a year), students dig in to better understand the gospel. During phase-two classes (lasting three years), they focus on skills and strategies for ministering the gospel.

The Eastern District might have five to eight different classes in session over the course of a year. Dave facilitates some of those or coaches other facilitators. It’s a part-time job that can feel full-time now and then. To cover his costs he raises personal support, which is augmented by a small amount from a district fund. That fund also covers a stipend for other facilitators.

Bringing training right to you

As he travels back-and-forth across the district, Dave has seen how the Lord works in situations far different from where he’s lived and ministered for the past 37 years. “GATEWAY got me out of the parochial, central-Pennsylvania milieu and put me in other places and other cultures that were brand-new for me.

“My first class was in inner-city Baltimore. That ignited in me a passion to see leaders trained from all kinds of backgrounds—giving them theological grounding where they are living, working and ministering. I was enriched by how the Lord was using them.

“That’s the genius of GATEWAY: It takes theological training to where they are.”

When students can’t afford the $300 annual fee, Dave rustles up scholarship money. And he knows that’s the same commitment in other districts across the nation. A small amount of money simply can’t stand in the way of leaders so earnestly desiring a fuller, richer, deeper theology from which to minister.

Powerful GATEWAY investments:

  • $300 to launch one future leader for an entire year of learning
  • $15,000 to revamp the Spanish GATEWAY training, equipping EFCA Hispanic leaders to prepare for ordination
  • $25,000 to hire an academic dean and placement coordinator, who could bring much-needed focus to the many diverse EFCA communities

In the past, Dave occasionally got discouraged about the state of the local church and its future. But now—after watching leader after leader gain confidence in understanding and living out the gospel? “The church is not just going to survive but thrive,” he says; “it’s going to be in the hands of good, sound, devoted leaders. And there’s a lot of them out there.

“God will continue to use His people and bless them, and the gates of hell will not prevail.”

We need your help.

Consider making a year-end gift to help create a pipeline of equipped, theologically sound church leaders. Your gifts provide scholarships to eager students and small stipends to facilitators as they invest in the Church’s future.

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