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Having encountered the grace and salvation of Christ, Pastor Prakash longed to serve God with his life, but he hadn’t expected problems like this. Now he paced across the living room floor in the small house where he shepherded a church. The “Jesus Only” movement had grown influential in Kathmandu, Nepal, and half of his church had left to follow a movement that denies the Trinity.
When the church gathered on Saturdays, the remaining congregants would stare at Prakash with confusion. He feared more would leave and commit to Jesus-Only teachings, but how could he stop them when he had no idea how to explain God and His nature from the Scriptures?
Pastor Prakash’s situation mirrors that of an estimated two million pastors outside of North America and Western Europe who have never received Bible training. The dearth of instruction poses a new challenge for the church, especially in light of its recent global expansion.
Considering the four thousand churches worldwide planted weekly, we must think beyond evangelism. Dr. Walt Baker, associate professor emeritus of World Missions and Intercultural Studies at Dallas Seminary, explains that “people seem to be more concerned about decisions than they are about making disciples…. Hundreds of people around the world are coming to Christ. But unless we train new believers in understanding the Bible and in leadership, the church will go off into tangents.”
Fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission involves both evangelism and discipleship (Matt. 28:19). Throughout church history passing on the teachings of Scripture has been the way to sustain churches, transform lives, and further the gospel (2 Tim. 2:2). Now, leaders at Biblical Education by Extension (BEE) International warn, “Today as evangelism accelerates exponentially, the training of pastors progresses only linearly.” Their answer? Developing “trained servant leaders/pastors who can build this tidal wave of new converts into healthy, stable, multiplying churches.”
Who better to equip church leaders than professors at Bible-based seminaries? Yet indigenous pastors face obstacles, such as basic education prerequisites, cost, and transportation. While some will come to schools such as Dallas Seminary, most will find it challenging simply to attend seminaries in their own countries.
To address this need, contemporary missions strategy emphasizes equipping. And many Dallas Seminary graduates are taking the Word to the doorsteps of international pastors.
Some Dallas grads instruct Christian students through formal education outside the United States. Currently fifty graduates from Dallas Seminary teach in international seminaries and Bible schools, such as the Greek Bible Institute and Singapore Bible College.
Others, such as Dennis Mock (MA[BS], 1984), teach through informal education. Mock is president of Bible Training Centre for Pastors (BTCP), based in Atlanta. The BTCP program carries a foundational understanding of Scripture to would-be students. By sending instructors to teach in local villages, BTCP prepares indigenous pastors and Christian leaders with training roughly equivalent to a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies so they can minister and live according to Scripture. Dallas Seminary partners with BTCP by providing a place on the Dallas campus to train their instructors in the U.S. who then teach overseas.
Reproducing national Christian leaders through the power of the Holy Spirit proves to be the best long-term missions strategy because it gives nationals the ability and authority to make disciples in their own countries. According to Dr. Baker no other strategy will last: “Little will really take root unless it comes from [the nationals].”
As we obey Christ’s command to go into the world and make disciples, we must intentionally train new pastors and leaders in the Scriptures and basic Bible study skills. Dr. Baker cautions, “Unless we’re producing leaders whose ministries are based on the truths of God’s Word, [the church] will self-destruct.”
Pastor Prakash faced the danger of losing his entire congregation to a heretical movement. But then he attended local training offered by BTCP, where he acquired a more complete understanding of Scripture and theology, which enabled him to defend the Trinity and rebuild his church on solid doctrine.
Leaders such as Pastor Prakash who are equipped to defend biblical truth and interpret Scripture in their own cultures can effectively teach others to understand and live the Word—spreading God’s message to turf where Westerners may never trod.
David Barshinger, ThM student, is the editor of Dallas Seminary’s student newspaper and an intern for Kindred Spirit Online.