Wednesday, August 16

Grass-roots theological training on the mission field

When New Directions came on the Baptist missions scene nearly ten years ago, many people felt the IMB abandoned overseas theological education. TE continues to be a "hot issue" in missions and has recently come to the front again. Much of the Summer 2006 print issue of IMB missions magazine, The Commission, seeks to clarify the IMB's position on overseas theological education. IMB reporter, Kristen Hiller, writes about one of three major methods that TE is carried out in the Baptist overseas context. Our TE training in Guayaquil was chosen as an example for the "grass-roots" method of TE. Below is her article that appears on page 22 of the magazine...

Grass-roots: Feeling God’s Presence
--by Kristen Hiller

Sunlight pours through the glass ceiling of the Fundacion Clemencia, flooding the great room where a small cluster of elderly residents clap their hands and sing: “Santo, santo, santo!” or “Holy, holy, holy!”

Had Jose and Adriana Salazar not taken in these abandoned elderly in Ecuador, they probably would not have gotten food, shelter, and a chance to hear the Gospel.

The Salazars have spent the past five years establishing the Fundacion Clemencia, where they minister to the neglected elderly of Guayaquil, while also balancing their own theological studies.

Since 2003, a partnership between International Mission Board missionaries, workers with Serving In Mission, and national church planters has produced the Theological Education by Extension program allowing people like the Salazars to study theology while leading house churches.

"TEE is really filling a need that’s not being filled by the traditional seminary approach,” says Guy Muse, IMB strategy coordinator for this part of Ecuador. “Our goal, of course, is that we would like to see everybody, every single believer, trained theologically.”

As opposed to the traditional seminary approach, TEE allows students to stay in their local churches, study at their own pace, and meet each week for discussion and lecture, Muse explains.

“We don’t train and then send out,” Muse says. “We send out and then train church leaders as they actually do the work.”

The TEE curriculum is comprised of four levels of study, each taking about two years to complete. TEE enrollment averages between 70 and 100 students, who meet at various times and places throughout the week.

Those who have completed earlier levels of the program now teach others who are new to theological study.

Although Muse and other missionaries initially served as instructors in the program, TEE in Guayaquil is now led almost entirely by Ecuadorian church planters.

“As national believers completed levels, missionaries just stepped out of doing all the teaching,” he explains. For the program to continue long-term, Muse says it must be led by national teachers.

After studying in both a traditional seminary as well as the TEE program, house church leader Carlos Perez Flores says the TEE curriculum is a better match for the social and economic reality of the Ecuadorian people.

Xavier Alvarado, president of the Ecuadorian Baptist Convention, says only 20 percent of pastors in the convention have received any kind of theological training. By using the TEE program, Muse says 90 percent of those leading house churches have been trained.

Flores says that since national believers must work at secular jobs in addition to their ministry roles, TEE allows them to further their theological training while providing for their families in a secular workplace.

“If we want to reach the multitudes we need people who are able to transfer practical concepts to people’s lives,” Flores says. “We must be able to train others who also have families and work, and who also want to serve the Lord themselves.”

Muse estimates only one in 10,000 of those living in Guayaquil have the financial and social means needed to attend a traditional, live-in seminary.

“That’s not the world these people are living in,” Muse says. “We need to take theological education to them. No one’s neglecting theological education--it’s just a different way of doing it.”


Anonymous said...

Good article Guido!

Thirty years ago George Patterson was on the proverbial cutting edge. Anybody that is serious about TEE must read Patterson's "Tu y Tu Casa" and "Obedience-Oriented Education".
Please see for more information.

Many of us went to traditional seminaries for training. I am thankful for the education that I received but...if I had to do it all over again I might like a shot at getting a TEE education.

The salient question for all of us should be: "Are we making disciples?" If not, then we are being disobedient to the Master's Master Plan!

Can't believe you go me to take the bait again.


GuyMuse said...


Glad you took the bait. I figured at least one M or former-M out there would!

Interesting observation about the question needing to be "are we making disciples?"

During our last team meeting we discussed at length the problem we are currently having where "discipleship" and "TE" are being used as synonymous terms.

Making disciples is what we are commanded to do. In our own context we are finding that a number of our people are substituting their TEE studies for genuine discipleship. As long as the 'grass-roots' TEE is actually making disciples, it is fine; but when TE begins to take the place of a genuine obedient walk with the Lord, and something that people do to learn more information about the Bible; then we need to take a second look at how we are making disciples.

abrasseau said...

You are welcome for the link. Your point about compassion is heart felt and definitely not a simple answer, not to mention the answer is not necessarily universal.

A 10-40 Window Missionary said...


Praise God that you have National Christians who can carry on TEE where you are.

In our patch of the 10-40 Window we have next to no TEE because people do not see it's sad.

Gordon Cloud said...

I found your blog through the SBC aggregator. I love to hear what God is doing through our missionaries.

TEE sounds like a great idea. I can see the practical and effectual value of it.

God bless you in your labors.

George Klineberg said...

Great article and comments. I agree with you completely concerning the problem of TEE taking the place of discipleship. What are your thoughts about discipleship taking the place of TEE? If discipleship is done correctly, do we need TEE? Just curious what your thoughts on this are.

GuyMuse said...

Antonio--thanks for the comment and the link to my blog, you have a good blog going, keep up the good work!

10-40M, one reason TEE works for us is that it is very simple. All the answers are at the bottom of the page. The idea is to help people learn. Most people we work with want to learn and are eager to study something they can succeed in.

Gordon--enjoyed reading through several of your blog entries. Keep up the good work!

George--Your question about discipleship taking the place of TEE is a good one. Sounds like a good subject for you to blog about! :) I don't know the answer myself. We see the need for both in our own work. I guess if discipleship were done correctly like in NT times with the early church, there would not be a need for a TE program. But we aren't there yet, and for the time being, there is a great need for TEE.