Providing theological education to pastors around the world is one way churches in the two Texas Baptist conventions work together.
Participants in a Global Leadership Development pastors mission consortium – an initiative of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary – appealed to participants of a steering committee meeting on August 19 to consider partnering with a seminar in one from many places around the world to train leaders in Christian ministry. .
Among the participants in the initiative are churches that are uniquely or dual aligned with the Texas Baptist General Convention and / or the South Texas Baptist Convention.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Global Leadership Development had 325 partner churches known as “champion churches”. By August 19, the number of champion churches had risen to 354, David Mahfouz, pastor of First Baptist Church in Warren and host of the Pastors Mission Consortium meeting, reported by email.
Not included in this number are member churches of various partner Baptist associations, such as the Golden Triangle Network in Beaumont, he added.
Ira Antoine, bivocational ministry director for Texas Baptists and bivocational pastor of Minnehulla Baptist Church in Goliad, described how his congregation became a champion church.
During their first visits to Tanzania in March and August 2019, Antoine and others saw the need for pastors and ministry leaders to receive training which in turn would enable them to train more leaders in their country.
The visiting team determined that the best way to provide the necessary training in Tanzania is to support churches planted by pastors who have obtained at least a ministry certificate from the Tanzania Baptist Theological Seminary.
The Minnehulla Baptist Church partners with Pastor Benson Moses Mwaikuju for a year, providing 50 percent of the resources it needs. The Tanzania Baptist Convention provides the remaining 50 percent. One of these resources is a bicycle. As a thank you, Mwaikuju named his bike “Texas and Tanzania Church Plant”.
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Churches in Texas can support a church planting for $ 50 per month, Antoine said, encouraging participants to sign in to the Texas Baptist Missionary Adoption Program.
Steve Branson, pastor of the Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio, uniquely aligned with the SBTC, told attendees it took four trips to a small country to be able to see what we really needed there . Communication facilities are a persistent need, which has led Village Parkway to purchase data so Baptist leaders can communicate with each other across the country.
“Each school has experienced a kind of growth despite the [COVID] lockdown, ”noted Peter Vavrosky, a graduate of Southwestern Seminary and President and Director of Trinity Academic. The referenced schools are the 90 seminars in partnership with Global Leadership Development. He attributed at least some of the growth to online resources available for seminars through a theological education portal provided by Trinity Academic.
In many places, student enrollment exceeds the capacity of seminars to provide the infrastructure for online learning, Vavrosky explained. Trinity Academic helps these seminars keep their technology costs low, in part by hosting the necessary infrastructure, including servers and networks, in the United States, he said.
The theological portal includes a main library through Project Alexandria, encrypted storage similar to Dropbox, and secure audio and video conferences. It also facilitates collaboration between champion churches and the schools with which they partner.
The Lake Arlington Baptist Church, aligned with the BGCT and SBTC, began providing financial support to portals in Spain and the Middle East in 2019 and continues to partner with seminars at both locations, the pastor said. Eric Herrstrom by e-mail.
“A church plants churches,” and if churches don’t, then “they’re not functionally a church,” Herrstrom said at the meeting. In one country, seminary students cannot graduate until they plant two churches, he added.
“Missions are theological education, and theological education is missions,” said Mahfouz.
Seminaries and theological education were “abandoned” when the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board changed its approach to missions in 1997 in an effort to “eliminate bureaucracy,” Mahfouz said.
Global Leadership Development has 90 related seminars in all regions of the world, with an estimated combined enrollment of over 27,000 students.
The Global Hispanic Baptist Consortium for Theological Education, the first consortium of Baptist theological schools, was formed in 2013 and now includes 35 seminaries from Latin America and Spain.
Seminars from other regions quickly saw growth among consortium participants and started conversations to form their own consortia, noted Daniel Sanchez, emeritus emeritus professor of missions and World Missions Center Ambassador at Southwestern Seminary.
Possible new consortia include the Portuguese language, Asian Baptists, and European Baptists. An African Baptist theological network has formed, although it is not currently directly linked to the development of world leadership.
Global Leadership Development is looking for mission-oriented churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and engaged in the Lottie Moon Co-op Program and Christmas Offering to become champion churches.
Champion churches commit to partnering with a seminary for five years. Planning, budgeting, vision trips, and discerning the strategic need for a particular seminar occupy the first year of the partnership. Partnerships involve tailor-made rather than standardized agreements.
“For us, this is an extension of our current partnership in Belize, where we have worked to train pastors,” wrote Jim Turnbo, executive director of the Golden Triangle Baptist Network, in an email. “To train the Kekchi pastors in Belize, we are working with an instructor from the Kekchi seminary in Guatemala. Her death from COVID-19 last year impressed us on the need to continually train Indigenous leaders who train others, ”he added.
“The Global Leadership Development partnership allows us to serve with greater missionary impact. When we send a team and run a vacation Bible school, we share the gospel for a week. But when we help solidify the training of native pastors and ministry leaders through seminars, we carry the gospel among a people forever.