The Development of the Live School
In 1998, when it was clear that Project FOCUS required specially trained teams to reach the 100 least reached people groups in southern Africa, WMC Director Willie Crew asked Bill Taylor (then-director Missions Commission World Evangelical Alliance) to put together an international curriculum design and development team of pastors, professors, businessmen, and missionaries to come up with a custom curriculum for five months of class time. All the usual courses were covered: theology, leadership, evangelism, folk religion, and cross-cultural communication. But project-specific knowledge and skills were also covered: community health, perseverance in ministry, Islam, and cell church planting. And there was the realisation that being fully equipped and able to persevere in ministry meant there needed to be a large dose of character development within the curriculum. It also had to be soundly Biblical, nondenominational, non-ethnocentric, and appropriate for any socio-economic group.
Once the curriculum was created and the instructors – all expert practitioners in their fields – had agreed to participate, applicants were vetted and 51 students of various ages and from a wide range of countries on 5 continents were enrolled in the five-month course in Pretoria. After four months of lectures and short outreaches, plus a month of survival training in the bush, these students were sent out as team leaders and in teams—along with 483 other students trained in seven other countries across southern Africa—for four months of outreach to over 40 of the most resistant and least accessible of the least reached people groups across southern Africa. The strategy was a huge success. By the end of that one outreach phase, 33 least reached and unreached people groups had the beginnings of a church for the first time in history.
In God’s providence, WMC had decided to tape all 240 hours lectures. It now used the videos tapes to train another group to keep Project FOCUS going until all 100 least reached had a church. Those graduates, too, were successful. The decision was made to edit and transfer the videos onto DVDs so they could be used by pastors of local churches across Africa to disciple and train their church members to reach the least reached around them. The project took five years, transferring the video from tape to DVD and resulting in the ‘mission school in a briefcase’ called the Live School.
Everywhere the original, English-language version of the Live School was used in southern African, indigenous peoples were becoming full-time missionaries and church planters, not only in their own regions, but in other countries. If it worked so well here, would it work elsewhere? With the belief that it would, the next step was taken: the translation of the curriculum and lectures into various languages, and then the dubbing of the lectures. The Russian version was ready in 2006, Arabic followed the next year, then Swahili two years after that. There are now 11 language versions, with more in the pipeline. Although the curriculum is always the same as it was for the first FOCUS Team, today’s Live School can take two forms: nine-months full-time, five months of class time followed by four months of outreach in the field; or 18-months part-time, involving two to three hours of classes a week and three or four weekends of intensive outreaches done over the course of the 18 months. Uniform training for Live School facilitators has also been created to be used as the need and opportunity arise. And with changing technology, what began as a briefcase of DVDs has now been reduced to a device roughly the size of a mobile phone. No matter where believers are committed to doing the work of the Great Commission, if there is space, electricity, and a television set, the Live School can be implemented.
As of April 2019, there are 2014 Live Schools with 20,289 current students and graduates in 95 countries.