Seth Yander (not his real name) is a 23-year-old who grew up in a Sunni Muslim Turkish family. After experiencing a surprising conversion to Christianity, Yander felt God calling him to become a church planter and grower in his native country, Turkey. Yet in a nation that is 99 percent Muslim and that views Christians as suspect, it is almost impossible for Yander to receive support and training.
Enter Christian Leaders Institute, a free online ministry training program started by Henry Reyenga of Covenant Life Church in Grand Haven, Mich.
“I need a good, solid education, and I believe this organization is an excellent opportunity for me to use,” said Yander, who has completed his Christian Basics Certificate, one of the first seven-credit classes students must complete on faith formation and core doctrine in order to move on to get their diploma.
“We want to be a true mission,” said Reyenga. “We want the currency of calling to be the only thing students have to put forward. We have found that a lot of our students are intrinsically motivated. If someone’s not intrinsically motivated, the first class, Christian Basics, will generally weed them out.”
Of the 15,000 students who enrolled last year, about 10 percent move on to receive their Certificate. The 22 online classes are available for free with support from individual donors, churches, and students, many coming from the CRC and Reformed Church in America.
The Internet allows CLI access to students in over 90 countries around the world. Many come from the U.S., Canada, and South Africa, but there is also an important contingent from nations such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Pakistan.
“In Muslim countries, we can do this training where we really can’t do it on the ground,” said Reyenga.
Reyenga is himself a CRC minister. He founded CLI in 2002 with a desire for equipping bivocational church leaders. The first class began in 2006 with six students. “We’re not a seminary per se, but we try to offer advanced biblical and theological courses.” Although CLI is not affiliated with a particular denomination, many students studying to become commissioned pastors in the CRC are also enrolled in courses at CLI.