Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Why is there a need for seminaries overseas? by Abby Lindsey

[Introduction by Andrew Lindsey: Last month, my wife, Abby Lindsey, began studies in the Seminary Wives Institute (SWI) of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS). SWI exists for the purpose of educating and equipping the wives of men studying at SBTS so that they may be better prepared for future ministry. SWI offers courses that are designed to give ministers' wives biblically based and practically applied teaching. Courses are taught by SBTS faculty as well as faculty wives and guest speakers. In one class Abby has already completed, she was required to "develop a topical speech in an area of interest." Abby decided to compose a speech on a topic directly related to our primary post-seminary ministry goal. What follows is the content of the speech she prepared. I am posting this article because many people- particularly people from our home town and people we work with here in Louisville- ask why we are here at SBTS. What you are about to read goes a long way toward answering this question.]

WHY IS THERE A NEED FOR SEMINARIES OVERSEAS?

This topic is particularly special to me right now in my life. My husband is currently in seminary preparing, Lord willing, to teach theology in a seminary setting in another country. This has been a dream of ours for several years, and we feel that having seminary-type schools in other countries is essential to the spread of the Gospel and the church. It is my aim in these few minutes to convince you of this as well and to instill in you an excitement about what God has been doing since creation, calling people from all nations to Himself.

Main points:

1. American Christians already realize that foreign missions are important-people must hear the Gospel in order to be saved. What happens after the Gospel is shared and people repent? Where do they go for more knowledge of the Bible? What can they do if they cannot get a personal Bible? Should they grow more mature in Christ after conversion, or should our missions efforts stop at conversion? We have higher expectations in the U.S.; otherwise, we would not attend church every week. We obviously think we need to grow in our knowledge. Thus, we also understand that planting churches is an important function of foreign missions.

2. With that in mind, who should oversee those churches? The missionaries who planted it? They may very well oversee the teaching and functioning of the churches for a long time. Who will step up when for one reason or another the missionaries must return to the U.S. or wherever they came from? We’ve all heard of vibrant churches with great pastors that severely dwindled when the pastor left. That is a common tale on the mission field when the missionaries leave. We do not want this to be the end result of all this labor! Church leadership must rise from the people group where the church is planted. This will better ensure a growing church and one that is more in line with the culture of the people group (i.e. worship in their language, in their music, in their setting). They will feel more ownership of their church and be more likely to serve the body of Christ. [See Acts 14:21-23, concerning when Paul and Barnabas strengthened the church, appointed elders, and left.]

3. These local leaders will need biblical training. We expect no less of our leadership in the U.S. Every church member hopes their pastor knows more about God’s Word than himself. Locals are not ready to take on leadership immediately after their conversion. They need time to learn and study. Equipped teachers for these new leaders are vital. These education settings do not need to be as formal as seminaries are in the U.S. If that is possible, then great, but any setting where sound theology and biblical guidance in matters of preaching and counseling is taught and questions are welcomed is essential.

In closing, I would like to share an example of how this is actually working in Kenya. This story appeared as the top story on the International Mission Board’s website December 4, 2006. The story in its entirety can still be found in the archives. The story highlights Vance and Cherry Kirkpatrick. “Veteran Southern Baptist missionaries, they’ve spent the past 35 years in Kenya. They’re teachers. Vance is a theology professor at Kenya Baptist Theological College. The numbers are intimidating. There are more than 163 million people who haven’t been reached for Christ in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa. That’s 59,000 individuals for every one of the 500-plus Southern Baptist missionaries in the region. In the early 1980s, the Kirkpatricks helped found what today is known as Kenya Baptist Theological College. With just 10 students in its first graduating class, the college today boasts an enrollment of more than 250. Classes range from general theology to Christian music to studies of African traditional religion. Most students graduate with a certificate or diploma in theology; a bachelor’s degree also is an option. Though it’s hard to argue that grounding Kenyan pastors, ministers and missionaries in sound doctrine isn’t a worthy pursuit, what about the payoff? Vance cites a church in Nairobi as a good example. Both the pastor and assistant pastor are graduates of Kenya Baptist Theological College. Church members recently made the decision to send missionaries of their own to an unreached people group about 200 miles away. We checked that one off the list,’ Vance said. ‘More and more of our students are finding ways to be missionaries to unreached (people groups).’ That type of self-motivation and independence is exactly what the Kirkpatricks want to see from the Kenyan church. The alternative, Vance pointed out, can be a crippling dependency. Without theological education, the new church is inordinately dependent on foreign interpretations, applications and emphasis related to their faith,’ he said. ‘We have to make it an African Christianity, not a Western imitation.’”

As the Kenyan church and the Kirkpatricks illustrate, for the spread of the Gospel and the church, for new churches to grow after missionary presence is gone, and for other nations to fan the flame of missions, theological education overseas is vital. I hope you have a new curiosity for this ministry, and I pray this service continues to expand in our missions organizations.

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