Recently, evangelist David Greco visited our Bible Institute. Having perceived in some of his preaching that God has used him in procuring funds for his radio broadcasts I asked his advice concerning how to increment our cash flow. His first question to me was: “From the U.S. or from here?” My answer was: “Both.” He then shared various creative and effective ideas on how we could achieve more income for operating expenses for the school and also for the challenging construction project we have embarked on during the last fifteen months.
The basis of his advice was: “Make use of what you have. You have recognized teachers and a campus. Make the teaching and the classrooms available to more people who will be happy to pay for the opportunity to be enriched by the teachers’ know-how. Use the name recognition of the school to print covers on Bibles available at a very low price from Peniel Publishers.” Interesting and arresting. Use what you have in a creative way. Make it available to more people who are willing to help shoulder the load.
There are two areas of concern in our participation as Latin American and Caribbean missionary educators that I would like to focus on in this (hopefully) brief article. The first is how to obtain a continual increment in the number of missionaries involved in training and discipleship, especially younger missionaries. The second area of concern has to do with Pentecostal theology and practice in Latin America.
As we focus on the first topic let me say that hand wringing, endless brainstorming or downcast comments on the lack of younger Christian educators will get us nowhere. Let’s take stock of who we are and what we have and put it to use in a push toward more and more effective training all over our region. God said to Moses: “What do you have in your hand?” The leader was eighty years old when he was asked this question. “A rod.” And God showed him a lesson in “value added” (phrase from the leadership gurus). How to transform a rod into a symbol of God’s miracle working power.
What do we have available? Time. If this is the final hour and if we really are training eleven-hour workers, then all of us, younger and older “for export only” people are pretty much the same age—pretty much on the same countdown of days or months or years before the parousia.
Let’s continue to take stock. What else do we have? Intercessors. People who care and who continually ask us for specific prayer requests. How about suggesting they “pray the Lord of the harvest that he send” workers, missionaries, national young people in training and others out to prepare many who will bring in the final harvest. Recently, someone gave us a word that rang true in our hearts: “There is a window of time in which opportunities will open in countries all over the world and we must have educators and disciple makers ready because then those doors will shut for good and we must have people in those countries prepared to evangelize and teach those of their nations and carry on the work.”
What else do we have available in Latin America and the Caribbean? Probably the largest network in the world of viable ministerial training structures and strategies. Most missionaries of other denominations would find it hard to believe that we have almost 60,000 students on the ministerial level studying in 1,200 Bible schools, seminaries, extension or training sites; 2,402 students in ISUM on 15 campuses; over 750 students on the Facultad level in 9 different sites; and countless number of students in Christian universities and students involved in Chi Alpha-related programs like Contacto Universitario here in Argentina. If they could have a little contact with other sending agencies they would value the tremendous base that is in place to touch so many lives all over Latin America and the Caribbean and the whole world. No matter if she is of the survivor generation, a baby boomer, a generation Xer or a millennial, the space is available for any missionary who has a passion to teach. The opportunity for influence is there. Let’s take advantage of it.
What else do we have? Relationship and the opportunity to brush shoulders with each other as missionaries at least three times a year. Let’s take advantage of those times and ask people in another generation mind-set to coffee. As missionaries who have been on the field for a while, let’s share some of the honor and the opportunities for influence with our younger teammates. Instead of just turning down one more opportunity to teach or preach at a retreat, what about recommending a recently-arrived missionary who may just fine his niche. When Sherry and I were in language school, missionary director of the Bible School in Moravia, San Jose, Costa Rica, David Kensinger asked me to teach Pedagogy to the second year class. I was allowed the opportunity to brush up my rusty Spanish after ten years in the U.S. and to learn some Pedagogy de paso.
I remember when Brad and Rhonda Walz arrived here in Argentina. A veteran missionary recommended Brad’s name for the National Missions Committee, and the rest is history! This couple has had immense influence not just in Argentina or in Latin America but in many nations of the world
Five days ago I just returned from a Hijos de Ministros retreat in Misiones, Argentina. 198 of us participated. When you play soccer with young people and eat an asado together they start asking questions and pretty soon they’re asking about attending your Bible School. In the same way, how about taking full advantage of koinonia opportunities to get as many missionaries as possible involved in some aspect of training.
Let’s connect with younger missionaries and help them value the influence they could have if they become a part of the structures that are in place and that are so valued by the national church.
The Cumbres Educativas and the Christian Educators’ Summits are great times to connect with each other, to sharpen our ministry tools and to gain perspective. But how many first or second termers have the cash flow available to attend? If we really want them there, why not put our money where our mouth is and sow some ‘00’ bucks into their account so they can make it? If you are reading this and are ADP, maybe you could spare $100 personal offering to help a younger missionary go to one of these events. I’ve heard of missionaries in other regions that sit on tens of thousands of dollars just to feel safe. This seems unconscionable in the critical time in which we live and minister.
One of the best opportunities in my life to learn and to change and to connect with missionaries and the national church has been Instituto de Superación Ministerial (ISUM). I began as a student right after Sherry and I got married. After a year of marriage, we were on kind of an extended second honeymoon trip to Latin America before beginning ministry in the U.S. What a special time I had in Buenos Aires studying with Alberto Scataglini and Jose Vena and having such renowned teachers as Verne Warner, Floyd Woodworth and Monroe Grams. Five days a week my dad and I lived on the other side of the city. From that moment on, it took me thirteen years to graduate, but I finally made it! I cherish my degree from ISUM for the friendship it afforded with leaders from various countries, for memories made, work invested, educational habits forged during those memorable seminars in Argentina, Uruguay and Chile.
Why are there fewer pastors of large churches or missionaries involved in ISUM as students today? Part of the reason is that very few of them are willing to take an entire month off from their ministry duties. Why not add to what is already working so well and offer two weeks here or two weeks there of ISUM in which a person could take a one subject per week and connect with so many leaders. Then really busy people could at least get one subject under their belts in one week, as is the case with Facultad. If it was possible to flex things a little to accommodate the brethren in Cuba or in Canada or in Texas, U.S.A, why not flex a little to accommodate the needs of national executives, mega church pastors and newly arrived missionaries? What a tremendous opportunity this would be for value added! We have relationship, let’s find opportunities to foment more meaningful and deeper relationship.
I started teaching Sunday School when I was thirteen. I started teaching trumpet to grown Aymara men in Bible School when I was thirteen. Both my sister MonaRé and I started teaching Spanish to ministerial students trice our age when we were in our teens. The opportunities both to continue to train and to teach ISUM came up for me when I was 28 years old and I accepted both.
The point is, someone cared enough to give me a chance. Abraham Lincoln said: “I will prepare, and then my chance will come.” Let’s prepare our hearts to really be a team for discipleship and Christian Education all over LAC!
Let’s help pull down the flimsy barriers that keep more missionaries from participating in ministerial training. In the meantime, let’s give these next years our best shot before the final whistle blows.
Now, on to the second topic of concern. Just kidding. This article is long enough!